As winter becomes spring, the Jeep community gathers in Moab, Utah, each year for Easter Jeep Safari. As a journalist, I usually end up in Moab before the crowds, to enjoy the latest that Jeep has to offer. Sure, the Jeep concepts each year are the big draw, but this year I also got a special treat, in the way of a drive of a full-production Jeep like no other.
I was lucky enough to drive nearly every version of the 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 20th anniversary on Moab’s famous sandstone, including on obstacles like Wipeout Hill, back to back. That included the 4xe on 33s, the 392 on 35s, and the ultimate MacDaddy of all factory of-froaders the AEV level II upfit on 37s. While all were super-impressive, the 4xe AEV 20th is the one that really blew my mind.
Only 150 of the Amercian Expedition Vehicles (AEV) upfitted versions of the Wrangler Rubicon 20th Anniversary Jeeps will be produced. And yes, the 2023 Wrangler Rubicon 20th AEV edition is by far the most off-road-capable Jeep to ever carry a full factory warranty.
Let’s dive into what the ultimate Jeep Wrangler is all about.
2023 Wrangler Rubicon 20th AEV Level II
Easy, easy is what the 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 20th AEV level II upfit is all about. The Jeep is like a cheat code in a video game — it just lets you do as you wish. Sure it is still a Wrangler, meaning it is loud, has no dead pedal for your left foot, and wanders a bit at highway speeds, but off road, it’s nearly unstoppable.
Here’s what the $21,000 AEV level II upfit gets you; 37-inch BFGoodrich A/T KO2 tires, Warn VR EVO 10-S winch, Mopar performance wipers with integrated washer jets, and AEV 17-inch Savegre II wheels, 2.5-inch DualSport RT Suspension System with Bilstein 5100 shocks, 7000 Series off-road lights, EX front bumper, rear bumper, front skid plate, tire carrier, off-road jack base, ProCal SNAP module, vehicle build plaque, and steering damper. The 4xe version is also regeared to a 4.56:1 axle ratio.
I drove the 4xe version of the AEV upfitted Wrangler Rubicon 20th and was just blown away by how comfortable and capable it is off road. I drove it almost entirely in full-electric mode when off road and was amazed at just how smooth and easy it was to drive. If you’re a left-foot braker — when performance driving — like me, then you’ll be happy to know that the technique works great with this Jeep, even in electric mode.
No, I did not get to drive a 392 version of the AEV upfitted 20th-anniversary Wrangler Rubicon. Yes, I have no doubt it would have produced massive smiles. But, I believe the 4xe is the ultimate AEV upfitted Wrangler Rubicon 20th. It’s a more refined package that is not only better to live with daily, but also produces massive torque at all speeds and can off road in near silence.
4xe Over 392
It’s hard not to smile when you dip your toes into the skinny pedal of a Wrangler with a Hemi 392 V8 under the hood. The growl emitted from the tailpipe is addicting. But, it also has a serious drone that wouldn’t be my choice for everyday driving and long road trips.
All-electric mode with a Wrangler Rubicon 4xe is so smooth and easy to drive, and it’s super quiet and just plain different than any internal combustion powered off-road vehicle. You just hear the tires on the rocks and the suspension, and a little bit of the steering and driveline upfront, but it’s really quiet and just a really great way to experience off-road travel.
The 4xe also offers the same 470 pound-feet of torque, and plenty of horsepower, while offering way better fuel economy.
2023 Wrangler Rubicon 20th
Every 20th-anniversary edition Wrangler Rubicon gets a black with a dark red accented interior. Overall the look is really nice, but it doesn’t work great with some exterior colors. The leather-wrapped dash panels are probably my favorite quality 20th interior touch. With that said, the sporty red seatbelts have to be good for at least a few horsepower.
All Wrangler Rubicon 392 20th editions come with a rear tailgate air compressor — and all Wrangler 392s going forward as well. It is a really nice option — which can also be added to other Wrangler models — that is integrated well. The only drawback is that it makes the tailgate quite heavy to open and close, which could be a bit troublesome when needing to fill tires on steep off-road terrain.
From afar, it’s nearly impossible to tell if a Wrangler is the 20th-anniversary edition. The only way you’re going to know is the 20th logo on the side of the hood, the top of the hood, the top of the gear selector, and the plaque on the inside of the tailgate. And of course, the black and red interior that is only found on the 20th.
All the 20th Wrangler Rubicons are impressive Jeeps, but If I had an extra $113,823+ laying around I’d try to get my hands on a 4xe AEV version. I know, little chance, as I don’t remotely have that kind of coin and these very limited-edition vehicles will no doubt transact for much higher than sticker price. I can still dream, and feel grateful I got a taste of its awesomeness.