Before we take this Jeep out for our review, we ride with a Sales Associate to fill up the tank.
It’s a cold day, so we sit hunched forward, waiting at a red light, angling the Rubicon’s swivel vents to pump hot air out.
“The cold air makes me yawn,” he says, “I don’t know why.”
It reminds us of a friend who sneezed whenever the sun was too bright out.
This in turn makes our driving buddy think of a show that talked about how the brain can only handle so much information at once. It’s busy processing everything we see, smell, hear and feel. The song on the radio. The hum of the engine. The guy talking in the car next to you.
“It’s a good point,” we say, “That’s why we’re taking photos of this Jeep’s options list. No way we’d remember all this.”
Driving in this Rubicon feels like you’re in a tractor-trailer. You sit way up high. We pull up next to a Chevy Blazer and it looks tiny. Heading down a two-lane road when another car approaches we line up in our lane and hope for the best.
When you get out and look at it, the Rubicon really doesn’t look all that big. But when you’re inside, you feel like lord of the highway. You feel invincible. You feel like you’re driving a Jeep.
This particular Rubicon is pretty well loaded up: 6.5-inch touchscreen; 40 gig hard drive; GPS navigation; roll-back soft-top; optional four-wheel drive mode (at up to 50 mph, no less); massive off-road tires—it’s both modern and primitive.
And as we said, today is cold. Old North Carolina cold. The kind of cold that makes you wonder how people made it out here in the days of log cabins and kerosene lamps, when going off-road meant going pretty much anywhere.
Sure, today’s Jeeps are tough. But we don’t have anything to tow today, and no one we know of is stuck in the mud. In our mind, the best way to test out this Jeep is to stay warm and do some driving. One good way to accomplish both of these is to head to Escazu.
Although it sounds like a South American jungle-based society, Escazu is actually a popular artisanal chocolate maker in Raleigh near Peace University. Our thinking is that on a day this cold, we want the best hot chocolate we can possibly get.
Stepping inside and checking out the chocolate list, we know that we have come to the right place. Something like two pages of chocolate drink options give us plenty to ask about. Beyond a glass window we can see some sort of mechanical vat mixing an amount of chocolate that could fill several bathtubs.
The smell of crushed cocoa nibs teases at our nose, and there are all sorts of exotic looking grinders and roasting apparatuses around, hinting at the factory that lies behind the front counter space. The display case shows off the brightly colored truffles and confections of the day, several of which we’ve tried before.
We leave with a historically Spanish hot chocolate in hand, brewed with all sorts of elements we can barely remember: star anise, maybe, some chilies for sure. It’s rich and complex and kind of puts the whole day in a warm chocolatey haze, like we’re breathing out warm chocolate steam and thinking warm chocolate thoughts.
We drove around east Raleigh testing a principle that we’ve recently heard about, that music sounds better louder. The Alpine 9-speaker sound system with all-weather subwoofer confirms this theory to great effect. Somewhere between 80s hits and Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” we decide that we like this Jeep.
It’s big, it’s comfortable, and you can do anything in it. A lever by the shifter lets you switch into four-wheel drive at the drop of a hat, at any speed up to 50 mph, as we mentioned before. It has a 4.10 axle ratio which is a special feature that makes it excel at delivering low-end torque. Low-end torque comes in handy when you’re towing super heavy things or crawling through the muck and grime of off-road conditions.
It has all these little “Easter Eggs” around of tiny Jeeps or Jeep features buried into the interior design that you don’t even notice at first glance. It’s like those old 3D paintings where you stare at a bunch of colors for forever, and then all of a sudden the hidden image leaps out at you.
When it comes to Jeeps that are straight-up awesome from the grille to the tailpipe, you have to list the Wrangler. Its flat surfaces and sharp corners tap into something deep inside of us, something rugged and adventurous. Something related to pyramids and waterfalls and Jurassic Park if that were a real place. The Wrangler is to many people the most Jeep Jeep.
It’s the four-door, most off-road centered version of the Wrangler Unlimited you can get. It looks tough, it feels tough and everything about it screams original Jeep. When you open the doors, there are cloth latches at the bottom that help them slam shut. When you want to control the windows, a center set of toggles lets you flick the switches up like an old World War II bomber.
Getting out, especially if you’re a bit shorter as we are, kind of feels like jumping out of a helicopter. There are handles, of course, to help you down, but it makes us feel alive to jump out (we are writers, after all). The 2015 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon offers the rare gift of making you connect with the more visceral aspects of life, the things you can feel and grip and hear and see.
Heck, we don’t even like camping but after a few hours driving around we were Googling on our smartphone, looking around for hiking spots and thinking about buying a tent. Driving the Rubicon makes you feel like that kind of person.
Oh, and if you don’t know, Rubicon is a name that basically means you run things like a boss. It goes way back to ancient history with Rome and Julius Caesar and all that. The Rubicon was a river in Italy that no one was supposed to cross. The proverbial line in the sand, as it were. Caesar crossed it as a gesture of defiance, setting himself up for his run to become emperor. Simply put, the Rubicon is for going places that most people aren’t supposed to go.