Jeep Wrangler Sahara Vs Rubicon: Which Off-Roader is Right for You?

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

In America, there’s no more iconic off-road vehicle than the Jeep Wrangler.

For several decades, the Wrangler has been the poster vehicle for off-road adventure. The freedom SUV that allows drivers to venture places most cars dare not tread.

For 2024, the Jeep Wrangler has been overhauled and two of the most iconic trim levels continue to be offered, Sahara and Rubicon. Not just famous, these are also two of the more popular trim choices amongst consumers. But which one is the better choice? That’s what we’re here to help with.

To start, we’re narrowing the field down to two specific models. There are various trims with similar names, such as the Sahara 4xe, two-door Rubicon, and Rubicon 392. Forget about those Jeeps though, as we zero in on two popular Wranglers in an apples-to-apples comparison. We’re going to examine the four-door, gasoline powered versions of the Jeep Wrangler Sahara vs Rubicon. Below we’ll evaluate them through eight key categories to help you make the best possible Jeep Wrangler purchasing decision.

Exterior Style

jeep wrangler sahara vs rubicon which off roader is right for you

As two of the more premier Jeep Wranglers, both trims have two-piece fender flares. The Sahara’s flares are body colored while the Rubicon has special flares that are body colored as well. Other key exterior features found on both trims include LED headlights, taillights, and fog lights, a fuel tank skid plate, a transfer case skid plate, a Sunrider soft top, and tow hooks. Rock rails are standard on the Rubicon and optional on Sahara.

The Sahara and Rubicon can be had with a body-colored three-piece hardtop. The Rubicon also features another roof choice, the Freedom Top. While on the topic of Rubicon exclusive features, it also has a hood with integrated air vents. The Sahara counters with optional side steps that help with entry into the Wrangler. These steps cannot be ordered for the Rubicon.

On a wheels and tires front, all four-door Sahara’s have 18-inch gray alloy wheels with 255/70R18 all-terrain tires. The Rubicon has smaller 17-inch black alloy wheels that allows for larger sidewall, more aggressive 285/70R17 all-terrain off-road tires. The Rubicon has two other 17-inch wheel choices as well, with even more aggressive 315/70R17 off-road tires as an option.

Interior and Cabin Space

jeep wrangler sahara vs rubicon which off roader is right for you

Inside, both vehicles have premium cloth seats standard. The Sahara can be upgraded to McKinley trimmed seats while the Rubicon has optional leather seats. The cloth seats come with manual adjustments, but both the driver and passenger seats can be power operated, for an additional cost, in either trim. The Sahara front seats come heated as standard equipment, while that’s an additional cost option in the Rubicon.

Regardless of trim, legroom inside is listed at 41.2-inches for front passengers and 38.3-inches for those in the rear. Headroom is dependent on the roof installed. The standard soft top includes 42.6-inches of headroom up front and 41.7-inches for those in the back. With the optional hard top, headroom shrinks a bit to 40.7-inches up front and 40.2-inches in the rear.

Powertrain and Fuel Economy

jeep wrangler sahara vs rubicon which off roader is right for you

When comparing the Jeep Wrangler Sahara vs Rubicon, there are some noticeable differences with the powertrain. The Sahara (4xe excluded) now only comes with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It makes 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Power flows through an eight-speed automatic transmission and is good for 21 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.

The Rubicon comes standard with a 3.6-liter V6. It makes a bit more power at 285 hp, but less torque with 260 lb-ft. on tap. The standard transmission for this engine is a six-speed manual. Equipped as such, it’s rated to deliver 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. The eight-speed automatic transmission is available for the Rubicon as is the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo.


jeep wrangler sahara vs rubicon which off roader is right for you

A Jeep’s drivetrain is ultra-important when off-roading and this is where the most difference is found between the Jeep Wrangler Sahara vs Rubicon. The Sahara comes standard with a 3.45:1 rear gear ratio, and third-generation Dana solid front and rear axles. The axles are open and the Sahara’s four-drive system is the Command-Trac NV241 shift-on-the-fly part-time transfer case. The 2024 Jeep Wrangler Sahara starts at a curb weight of 4,406 lbs.

The Rubicon is a more off-road focused trim and comes with a 4.10:1 rear gear standard, or optional 4.56:1 or 4.88:1 gears available. It features a third-generation Dana 44 heavy-duty solid front axle and third-generation full float Dana 44 heavy duty solid rear axle. The Rubicon also has Tru-Lok electronic remote locking for both the front and rear axles. For even more off-road capability, the front sway bar can be electronically disconnected.

The four-wheel drive system in the Rubicon consists of the Rock-Trac NV241 OR part-time shift-on-the-fly transfer case with a 4:1 low-gear ratio. There is also an optional full-time version of this transfer case available. Standard curb weight of the Rubicon lists at 4,449 lbs.

Cargo and Towing

jeep wrangler sahara vs rubicon which off roader is right for you

Although a Wrangler is more known for venturing off-road with its roof and doors off, it can still carry and/or tow quite a bit. Standard on the Rubicon and optional on the Sahara is the Trailer-Tow Group. It includes a Class II hitch receiver, four-pin and seven-pin adapter, 240-amp alternator, 700-amp battery, and auxiliary switches. This package, along with the Wrangler’s standard Trailer-sway control, allows the Sahara to tow upwards of 3,500 lbs. The Rubicon can haul even more, rated at a max of 5,000 lbs. when equipped right.

Regardless of trim, cargo capacity is set at 31.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats. Fold those down, and cargo space expands to 72.4 cubic feet.


jeep wrangler sahara vs rubicon which off roader is right for you

Even though the Wrangler is off-road focused, it still comes with a few on-road safety features. The Sahara and the Rubicon both come with forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control (automatic transmission only). Optional on either trim are blind spot monitoring, rear park assist, and rear cross traffic alert.

Tech and Features

jeep wrangler sahara vs rubicon which off roader is right for you

On a technology and features front, we’ll start with the similarities between the Jeep Wrangler Sahara vs Rubicon. Both trims come with dual-zone automatic climate control, full LED ambient interior lighting, push-button start, remote engine start (automatic transmission only), eight speakers, a 115-volt outlet, a 12.3-inch infotainment system, and a 7-inch customizable digital driver information center.

On either trim, it’s possible to get an optional forward-facing camera, nine-speaker Alpine audio system, navigation, or SiriusXM Guardian connected services.

As the comfort orientated model, the Sahara has a standard heated steering wheel, while it’s an extra cost option on the Rubicon. The Rubicon can add 8,000 lbs. Warn winch for those planning deep treks into the woods.


jeep wrangler sahara vs rubicon which off roader is right for you

Pricing for a four-door Sahara starts at $49,620 including destination charges. There are several option packages which can push pricing north of $60,000.

The four-door Rubicon starts at $51,190 including destination charges for manual transmission models. Adding the eight-speed automatic transmission pushes the price up to $55,690. Like the Sahara, the Rubicon can be built with a whole host of options which can quickly escalate the price point.

Jeep Wrangler Sahara vs Rubicon: Verdict

jeep wrangler sahara vs rubicon which off roader is right for you

Choosing between the Jeep Wrangler Sahara vs Rubicon comes down to two key factors. What one plans to use the Jeep for and budget. For those looking for a capable Jeep that will spend some time off-road, but be used mostly on-road, we recommend the Sahara. It’s has more creature comforts standard, is better on gas, and comes with more less aggressive off-road hardware. It’s the perfect Jeep for top-off trips to the beach and moderate forest trails.

Those looking for a more hardcore Jeep, the Rubicon is well equipped from the factory for more serve off-road trails. It too still has a dose of comfort and convenience, but the mechanics are better suited tackle the tough stuff. One can also check off more boxes to make the Rubicon even more capable. On the other hand, if price is a concern, the entry-level manual transmission Rubicon should deliver years of fun.

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