Words/Photos: Mercedes Lilienthal
What do you get when you combine 20 years of Jeep’s legendary Wrangler Rubicon off-road performance with the perfect place to celebrate its history?
The best off-roading experience possible for any enthusiast!
The 57th-annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, was a stunning backdrop for Jeep to bring its latest and most capable Rubicon lineup to the masses: the 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 20th Anniversary editions. We tested the trio to see how they stacked against their predecessors.
What Makes a Wrangler Rubicon a 20th Anniversary Edition?
The 20th Anniversary Wrangler Rubicon is offered in two model types: the Hemi-powered 392 and the electrified 4xe. Additionally, Jeep offered both special editions with a Level II upfit kit by American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) and only 150 were available. However, they sold out within the first hour of the unveiling.
The most significant visual change of the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 20th Anniversary lineup is a differently designed, yet iconic, all-black seven-slot grille. A low-profile triple-hoop grille guard is affixed to a front steel bumper while a rear steel bumper rests below a full-size spare beadlock-capable wheel (which matches the other four). It’s good to note that the 392 and 4xe wheel designs differ. Exclusive 20th Anniversary decals round out the lot. A tailgate-integrated on-board air compressor is a stock Rubicon 392 20th Anniversary feature (however, it’s not present in the 4xe special edition as its pedestrian backup speaker resides in the exact location).
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe 20th Anniversary model comes from the factory with 33” tires while the 392 takes it up a notch with 35” rubber. The special edition Level II upfit Rubicon is Jeep’s first-ever factory-backed 4×4 with 37s on it. No matter the tire size, the 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 20th Anniversary is available from the factory in nine different exterior colors, while the 20th Anniversary 4xe has 10 options.
Each 20th Anniversary interior boasts bright, blocky red-and-black leather seats, a red leather-wrapped instrument panel, and fire-engine red seat belt straps. A 20th Anniversary shift knob pays homage to Jeep’s 20 years of Rubicon production. A roll-up 83-piece tool kit is also included if trailside adjustments are needed.
Hemi-Envy: The Wrangler Rubicon 392
Armed with 470 horsepower and 470-lb.-ft. of torque, the 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 20th Anniversary packs 392 inches of incredible power in its Hemi V8 powerplant. To date, it’s the highest-horsepower stock 4×4 Jeep has ever produced.
In addition to its normal 392 features, the 20th Anniversary edition adds a variety of upgrades and features to make this beast the envy of many. The Xtreme Recon package comes standard, which includes 17×8” beadlock-capable wheels wrapped with 35” BFGoodrich KO2 all-terrains, wheel flare extensions for additional protection, and a 4.56 rear axle ratio. Additionally, Mopar-supplied items like a jack spacer, hinge-gate reinforcement (a great feature to support the added weight of the onboard air compressor), and a tire relocation kit are included.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 20th Anniversary features 11.6” of ground clearance (up half an inch from the standard iteration). This particular variant also boasts 34.5” of water fording ability for successful water-crossing potential. A front-mounted camera also helps drivers navigate through tricky sections of terrain when traditional spotting isn’t possible. A large bronze and matte-black-accented decal adorns the hood while a small “20” accents the end of each RUBICON hood side sticker, signifying this head-turning off-roader.
The MSRP, including its optional upgrades and a $1,795 destination charge for our Sarge green test model, creeps close to six figures, landing at $95,385. While it’s not the cheapest of the bunch, it’s undoubtedly the most powerful and super fun to drive.
A Best Seller: The Plug-In Hybrid 4xe
On the other end of the spectrum of the go-fast-and-loud 392 is the electrified 4xe Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Currently the best-selling PHEV in the country, Jeep added this as the second option for the 20th Anniversary edition lineup.
Boasting the same 375 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque as the standard 4xe 4×4, the 20th Anniversary 4xe has a lot of the same stuff as the aforementioned 392, but it rolls on smaller tires – 17×7.5” beadlock-capable wheels wrapped in 33” BFGoodrich KO2 all-terrains to be exact. It also has 32” of water-wading potential and 11.2” of ground clearance. Unlike the special edition 392, the 20th Anniversary 4xe doesn’t come with the Xtreme Recon package or the integrated air compressor.
Both interiors have the same red and black color scheme, with black and chrome-accented controls and dash bits. Whereas the 392 special edition sticks to a traditionally powered mill, the 4xe combines an ICE engine with two powerful electric motors and a large battery pack to give immediate power whenever needed.
Three 4xe drive modes (e-save, electric, and hybrid) allow users the opportunity to save battery charge for later or choose between an all-electric mode for a near-quiet off-roading experience or a hybrid mode for optimal fuel economy. Like the standard 4xe, the 20th Anniversary 4xe features 21 miles of all-watt driving fun. MSRP, including optional equipment and a $1,795 destination charge, is $81,150.
American Expedition Vehicles’ Level II Upfit Kit
Leveling it up and adding American Expedition Vehicles’ Level II upfit kit to either the 20th Anniversary 392 or 4xe would give anyone major bragging rights as the owner of the most off-road capable stock Rubicon ever manufactured.
What’s the price tag? The 20th Anniversary Wrangler Rubicon 4xe AEV Level II upfit will set consumers back an additional $21,983 MSRP. The 20th Anniversary Rubicon AEV 392 Level II upfit will lighten their wallets by $20,135 (both exclude a $995 logistics charge).
However, when you figure the cost of buying a robust lift kit, bigger wheels and tires, body armor and a top-notch WARN winch and auxiliary lights among several other things … that cost doesn’t seem so steep. American Expedition Vehicles’ Level II kit features tons of high-end upgrades like an AEV front skid plate, tire carrier, rear bumper, off-road jack base, and WARN ZEON 10-S winch and AEV 7000 Series off-road lights integrated into their EX front bumper.
Additional niceties include a ProCal SNAP module, vehicle build plaque, steering damper, Mopar performance wipers with integrated washer jets, and a 2.5” DualSport RT suspension system with Bilstein 5100 shocks. BFGoodrich KO2 all-terrain tires and AEV 17” Savegre II wheels finish the look plus the 4xe Level II upfit kit comes regeared with a 4.56:1 axle ratio.
All these upgrades increase the Level II’s ground clearance to 14.2” and give it an impressive 50-degree approach angle, 33-degree break-over angle, and a 43-degree departure angle (which we used during our time with it, especially on Moab’s famed Wipeout Hill). The AEV Level II upfit also features 37.1” of water-wading depth. Our Hydro blue AEV 4xe tester has a $995 logistics charge and, with its Level II upfit kit price, comes to a total MSRP of $103,133.
The Lunatic Fringe’s Legacy
“Twenty years ago, a small group of enthusiastic Jeep engineers affectionately known as the ‘Lunatic Fringe,’ with grit and determination, and their personal credit cards, designed, engineered and developed the most capable Wrangler yet – the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, and over-delivered on everyone’s expectations because they knew it was what Jeep customers wanted,” said Jim Morrison, senior vice president and head of Jeep brand North America.
“Today the Rubicon model represents about a quarter of overall Wrangler sales. That same spirit of determination and ingenuity that led to the creation of the Wrangler Rubicon lives on in these new 20th anniversary special editions, which for the first time, bring available 37s to the Wrangler, providing unmatched capability.”