Willys Wheeler vs Rubicon

Willys Wheeler vs Rubicon

Last Updated June 12, 2023 | Meghan Drummond

Jeep’s Wrangler options continue to expand, and though it’s wonderful to have so many choices many Jeep lovers aren’t sure which Wrangler package is best for them. The good news is that if you’re looking for an off-roader that can do it all, a Jeep Wrangler is a great choice.

The Rubicon is one of the most popular Jeep upgrade packages, and we’ve already written about how the Rubicon stacks up against the Sahara. Willys Wheeler is another popular Wrangler option that many off-roaders are interested in and, of course, they want to know how it stacks up against The Rubicon.

Rubicon and Willys Wheeler front of vehicles

Willys Wheeler vs Rubicon: Specs

Ultimately, no Jeep Wrangler limited edition is going to be as geared towards off-roading as the Jeep Rubicon. It’s in the name! The Rubicon Trail is a favorite of off-roaders for the challenge it presents both mentally and technically. Jeep’s Rubicon will always be manufactured with that standard in mind, and Jeep reserves some of its best performance upgrades for the Rubicon each year.

The Willys Wheeler harkens back to the Jeep Wrangler’s history as a military vehicle and borrows some of the vintage styling while updating it and offering new safety and performance options. This rugged-looking Jeep has a lot of off-roading capability as well.

There are tons of customization options available for both the Willys Wheeler and the Rubicon. You can add a lot of performance packages to either, but we’re going to compare the base model of each just to keep things fair.

2018 Willys Wheeler vs Rubicon Specs
SpecsWillys WheelerRubicon
MSRP $30,395 $33,645
Off-Road Features Rock Rails Electronic Front Sway Bar Disconnect, Rock Rails
4x4 System Command-Trac Shift-On-The-Fly Part-Time 4WD 4:1 Rock-Trac Part-Time 4WD System
Axles Dana 30 Solid Front Axle and Next Generation Dana 44 Heavy-Duty Rear Axle Next generation Dana 44 Heavy-Duty Front and Rear Axles
Engine 3.6-Liter V6 24-Valve VVT Engine 3.6-Liter V6 24-Valve VVT Engine
Horsepower 285 Horsepower 285 Horsepower
Gear Ratio 3:73 4:10
Wheels 17” Black Wheels with 32” BF Mud-terrain T/A Tires 17” Aluminum Wheels with 32” BF Mud-terrain T/A Tires
Towing Capacity 3,500 lbs 3,500 lbs

Willys Wheeler

Willys Wheeler is a sharp-looking vehicle. Its appearance harkens back to the older style Jeep Willys, but it is equipped with considerably more comfort and safety features. Though the Willys Wheeler is absolutely and obviously inspired by the original Willy’s CJ it has an updated and modern look.

The Willys Wheeler comes standard with all of the great off-roading features we’ve come to expect from a Jeep Wrangler. It comes standard with electronic roll mitigation, electronic stability control, and Hill Start Assist.

Rubicon and Willys Wheeler interiors

If you decided to take a Willys Wheeler off-road on the drive from the lot to home, you wouldn’t be disappointed. Though the Willys Wheeler isn’t as off-road optimized as the Rubicon, Jeep has included enough off-road features to make the Willys Wheeler a great off-roader. The Willys package includes extras like rock rails that make it more equipped for off-roading than your average Jeep Wrangler.

The Willys Wheeler comes standard with the same 32” mud terrain tires that the Rubicon comes equipped with, which is a fantastic set for getting out and getting dirty. Perhaps most importantly for its off-road potential Willys Wheeler has a Trac-Lok Differential Rear Axle. This improves the traction more than a conventional differential axle and helps substantially with off-roading.

Willys Wheeler also comes equipped with all-weather slush mats and sport bar grab handles, which are fun interior features that come in handy.

The Willys Wheeler is a great mix of off-roading performance and everyday capabilities. Despite its rugged appearance, the Willys Wheeler is also comfortable. Both the steering wheel and shifter are leather-wrapped, and the vehicle has eight speakers you can listen to satellite radio through.

The Rubicon

The Rubicon is what we compare other Jeep Wrangler performance packages to for a reason. This Jeep is designed to off-road, and if your dream is to rock crawl serious trails, then this is the package for you.

No other model of Wrangler features the electronic front sway bar disconnect. This feature allows you to disengage the front sway bar at low speeds and lets the front wheels of the Wrangler drop. This is obviously a huge benefit for off-roading.

The Rubicon is really designed with rock crawling specifically in mind and already is at a 4:10 gear ratio, a perfect setup for rock crawling thanks to the torque.

The Rubicon has Tru-Lock differential on both the front and rear axles, as opposed to the Willys conventional front axle differential. The Rubicon also has a heavy-duty front and rear axle.

Though at its heart, the Rubicon is a rock crawler, the Rubicon still boasts all of the comfort features that the Willy’s does and a few extra ones like embroidered seats.

Willys Wheeler and Rubicon Similarities

  • Rear Axles Both have a Next Generation Dana 44 Heavy-Duty rear axle.
  • Engine A 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine comes standard in every Jeep Wrangler, including these two.
  • Transmission Six-speed manual transmissions are the standards for both with additional options available for an upgrade cost.
  • Tires/Wheels Okay, so technically the Rubicon’s wheels are aluminum and Willys are black, but other than that it’s a similar off-roading setup in both vehicles.

Willys Wheeler and Rubicon Differences

  • Front Axles Willys Wheeler’s front axle is a Dana 30 rather than the heavy-duty Dana 44.
  • 4WD Systems The Rubicon’s rock-trac system remains reserved solely for Rubicons.
  • Gear Ratios Willys Wheeler comes with a 3:73, the Rubicon comes with a 4:10
  • Differentials Though both have a differential on the rear axles, Willys Wheeler has a traditional front axle.
  • Comfort Features The Rubicon also comes standard with air conditioning and LED headlights. Both are available as upgrades for Willys Wheeler and the four-door Willys does get standard air conditioning.

Side by Side of Willys Wheeler and Rubicon

Which Wrangler Is Right for You?

Either of these Jeeps is a great combination of off-roading features built onto the already exceptional framework of the Jeep Wrangler.

If rock crawling is the type of off-roading that you’re the most interested in, you should probably lean towards the Rubicon. It really does already have all of the features you’d want to go rock crawling, and even if you can add many of the other features with aftermarket Jeep parts, the electronic sway bar is a feature that is exclusive to the Rubicons.

The Willys Wheeler is perfect for people who enjoy off-roading, but who prefer trails or mud and who love the look of this military-inspired Jeep Wrangler Limited Edition.

Both of these vehicles are still Wranglers, meaning with just a little retooling you can optimize them for highway or trail depending on where your next venture takes you.

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This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.