Expedition Portal and Jalopnik have published an article covering the ten best used vehicles for backcountry exploration. The author, Scott Brady from Overland Journal, based these opinions on five primary categories: Capability, Capacity, Durability, Reliability, and Value. Naturally, the Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Rubicon is ranked at the top of his list.
Although my backcountry exploration focuses more heavily on rockcrawling capability, I took the same factors into consideration when I made my own decision to buy a Wrangler versus any other vehicle on the market. My experience with various Land Cruisers, Grand Cherokees, Samurais, Sidekicks, pickups, and other SUVs led me to decide on the Rubicon for my needs, and so far I am completely satisfied that I made the right decision.
The entire article is well worth reading, but the following excerpt explains why the Wrangler belongs on the list:
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JK was a game-changer for Jeep as an overland vehicle. These vehicles have proven to be reliable, supremely capable and easily modifiable. More so than any other vehicle on this list, you could take a stock Jeep Rubicon Unlimited and drive nearly any road, anywhere in the world, without modification. From the Rubicon Trail to the jungles in Guatemala (I have done both with them). They are simple, robust and have considerable interior storage space. They are also available on most continents now, including South America, Australia and Africa, so service infrastructure is improving. However, the Jeep Wrangler is a bit harsh and unrefined, so driver fatigue will be higher and NVH will take its toll on longer road sections.
- Class-leading capability
- Simple design and highly modifiable
- Ready for a round-the-world, right from the factory (Rubicon trim)
Summary: Jeep surprised us all with this runaway hit. It is the real deal.
- Rough and tumble nature results in more driver fatigue
- Limited payload (about 1,000 pounds)
- Difficult to mount roof loads
Editor's Field Experience: Editor has owned or long-term tested a half-dozen variants of the JK Unlimited. One was owned for two years and driven the length of Mexico and Central America to the Darien Gap. Current fleet includes the long-term test Overland JK. Overland Journal had an 18 month long-term test JK. We have yet to experience a single warranty claim with any of these vehicles.