Jeep Hard Rock is nearly perfect

In my never-ending quest for the perfect outdoors vehicle, I’ve found a contender. It’s not absolutely perfect, but it’s pretty darn close.

The vehicle fairies dropped another four-wheel-drive at my office a few weeks ago, and this one was a beauty. It was a Jeep Wrangler, but not just any Wrangler. This one was a Rubicon, which is an upgrade package, but there was more. In addition to the Rubicon package, this one had the Hard Rock upgrade, too.

The Hard Rock gives you a bunch of stuff you don’t get on just any four-wheel-drive. It has Next Generation Dana 44 heavy duty front and rear axles, an electronic front sway bar disconnect, rock rails to protect the body panels, and a whole bunch of skid plates along the underbelly to protect the important pieces down below. In addition, it also has Jeep’s 4-to-1 Rock Trac part-time four-wheel-drive system and Tru-Loc differential front and rear axles.

That’s all technical speak for a heck of an off-roader. Basically, this thing comes from the factory with a bunch of the stuff people often spend thousands of dollars on to make their vehicles excellent rock-crawlers. The price tag, which is just a hair over $39,000, is higher than most other Jeeps, but it’s worth every penny. Especially if you find yourself needing that sway bar disconnect or the locking differentials. To add those things later, you’d end up with more than $39,000 in your ride.

The one I drove was properly equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. You can order it with the five-speed automatic, but why would you? The manual was a ton of fun to drive, and it gave me complete control over how much power I was sending to the wheels.

The one I drove was also the two-door version. You can get the four-door Unlimited for a little more money, but again, that two-door was loads of fun. It was responsive, zippy, and felt like it would climb a tree if I needed it to.

It’d be tough to stuff an elk carcass into the cargo area, though.