JK Wrangler Rubicon vs Sahara

JK Wrangler Rubicon vs Sahara

Last Updated June 13, 2023 | Andrew Boyle

Are you already part of the amazing Jeep community but looking for an upgrade? Perhaps you are completely new to the world of Jeeps and are considering buying your first Wrangler. No matter what the situation is, you really can’t go wrong with a Jeep Wrangler JK! With over 75 years of history, Jeeps are some of the most well-loved vehicles to this day.

Once you get a Jeep, there’s no turning back. The Jeep community is filled with passionate off-roading aficionados, a dash of healthy competitiveness, a little bit of mud, and tons of fun. If you’ve got your heart set on a Wrangler, two of the most popular options are the Wrangler Rubicon and Sahara. But what is the difference between the Rubicon vs Sahara?

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Rubicon vs Sahara: Specs

When comparing the Jeep Wrangler Sahara vs Rubicon, it all boils down to one thing: Off-road performance. The differences between the Rubicon and Sahara are mainly related to how the Jeep handles off-roading. There are a few visual differences between the two as well, but they are very similar in appearance.

If you're looking for a Jeep Wrangler for purely aesthetic purposes, then your best bet is probably a Sahara. While the Sahara is less expensive than a Rubicon, there are plenty of interior and exterior packages available so you can customize your Jeep exactly how you want it. If you’re looking for a Jeep Wrangler that’s ready to go off-roading straight from the factory, the Rubicon is the way to go. Here is a comparison of the specifications for the two-door 2018 Wrangler JK Rubicon and Sahara models below!

2018 JK Wrangler Sahara vs Rubicon: Specs
Specs Sahara Rubicon
MSRP $30,445 $33,645
Off-Road Performance Front Stabilizer Bar 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
Top Black Sunrider Soft Top Black Sunrider Soft Top
Mechanical - 3.21 Front / Rear Axle Ratio
- Next Generation Dana 30 Solid Front Axle
- Next Generation Dana 44 Heavy Duty Rear Axle
- Conventional Differential Front and Rear Axles
- 4.10 Front / Rear Axle Ratio
- Next Generation Dana 44 Heavy Duty Front Axle
- Next Generation Dana 44 Heavy Duty Rear Axle
- Tru-Lok Differential Front and Rear Axles
Suspension Heavy Duty Suspension with Gas Shock Performance Suspension
Engine 3.6-Liter V6 24-Valve VVT Engine 3.6-Liter V6 24-Valve VVT Engine
Horsepower/Torque 285 horsepower/260 lb.-ft. of torque 285 horsepower/260 lb.-ft. of torque
Transmission 6-Speed Manual Transmission 6-Speed Manual Transmission
Wheels 18-inch x 7.5-inch Polished Wheels with Granite Crystal Pockets 17-inch x 7.5-inch Polished Mineral Gray Wheels
Fuel Economy
17/21 17/21

2018 JK Wrangler Sahara

Sahara Wrangler JK 2018

First becoming available for the 1992 YJ Wrangler, the Sahara model has been a popular choice for Jeep enthusiasts for the past 25 years. For the 2018 JK Wrangler Sahara, power door locks and windows are standard. With body-color fender flares, the Sahara has a sleeker and more uniform appearance. Deep tint sunscreen windows add some extra privacy and style. Power heated mirrors keep you safe in the winter and don’t sacrifice visibility. A grille that matches the body color and has fine silver metallic accents graces the front of the vehicle. Remote keyless entry and a security alarm are also standard for the Sahara. “Sahara” embroidered seats add a unique touch to the interior of the Sahara. Rather than a 16-inch or 17-inch wheel found on most JK Wrangler models, the Sahara features a larger 18-inch wheel that makes the Wrangler look even more aggressive straight from the factory.

Sahara Interior Wrangler JK 2018

When it comes to the four-wheel-drive system, the Sahara features the shift-on-the-fly Command-Trac 4x4 System that is standard for all Jeep Wranglers minus the Wrangler Rubicon and Rubicon Recon. The system is equipped with an NV241 GII transfer case and has a 2.72:1 low range that’s perfect for off-roading and crawling over rocks. With Hill Start Assist standard on the Sahara, you don’t have to worry about rolling back when starting your Jeep up on a hill. The Hill Start Assist will keep your brakes active while you begin to accelerate your vehicle.

The Sahara is equipped with a front stabilizer bar, Next Generation Dana 30 solid front axle, Next Generation Dana 44 heavy-duty rear axle, and conventional differential rear and front axles. While these are great for the everyday driver, those who plan on doing some serious off-roading probably need something a little more heavy-duty. This is especially important if you plan on lifting your Jeep or equipping a larger than stock tire. That’s where the Wrangler Rubicon comes into play!

2018 JK Wrangler Rubicon

Rubicon Wrangler JK 2018

Getting its name from the Rubicon Trail in California, the Wrangler Rubicon has been around since the 2003 TJ Wrangler. While the Rubicon compared to the Sahara is a bit more expensive, the Rubicon offers additional features that are especially important for off-roading. On the 2018 JK Wrangler Rubicon, manual doors and windows are standard for the two-door model. However, the Power Convenience Group is standard on the four-door Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited, which includes power door locks, power windows, power heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, and a security alarm. The Power Convenience Group can be added to the two-door Rubicon for an additional cost. The Rubicon features accent color fender flares, although body-colored fender flares are also available as an add-on. The interior features “Rubicon” embroidered seating, similar to the Sahara seats.

The features that really set the Rubicon apart from the Sahara are the Rock-Trac 4x4 system, Tru-Lok front/rear locking differentials, Dana 44 heavy-duty axles, and a front sway bar disconnect system. The Rubicon also has the performance suspension system with high-pressure monotube shocks and tunable valves. This is a notable upgrade from the Sahara, which comes equipped with the standard heavy-duty suspension with gas shocks.

Rubicon Interior Wrangler JK 2018

These additional features are going to make your Rubicon immensely better for off-roading. The Rock-Trac 4x4 system has a 4:1 low gear ratio that gives you more torque at the wheels and allows you to slowly crawl over rocks. The Dana 44 Heavy-Duty axle not only reduces the joint angles of the driveshaft for better ride quality, but it also increases ground clearance. Traction is also increased with the Tru-Lok electronic remote locking differentials. With the sway bar disconnect system, you can disengage the front sway bar automatically when driving in 4LO mode under 18 mph. This allows the front wheels of the Wrangler to drop and compress further, giving you more control of the vehicle when off-roading. The Rubicon has a 73.1:1 crawl ratio for better rock crawling and off-road performance.

With Hill Start Assist also standard on the Rubicon, driving up a hill with your manual transmission Jeep is no problem. Both the Sahara and Rubicon also feature some basic creature comforts such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, air conditioning, 8-speaker sound system, and a center console with locking storage. The Rubicon has 17-inch Polished Aluminum Mineral Gray wheels with 32-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires that will be able to handle all your off-roading expeditions. As with the Sahara, there are several additional packages that can be added to the Rubicon if you find that the standard features are lacking.

Sahara and Rubicon Similarities

  • Rear Axles: Both the Rubicon and Sahara have Dana 44 heavy-duty rear axles, but they have different front axles.
  • Tops: A black Sunrider Soft Top comes on both the Rubicon and Sahara, although hardtops are also available in the body color or black.
  • Engine: A 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine comes standard on all post-2012 JK Wrangler models including the Rubicon and Sahara.
  • Transmission: A six-speed manual transmission is standard for both the Sahara and Rubicon, although a five-speed automatic transmission is available for an additional cost.
  • Audio System: Both the Sahara and Rubicon have the same audio system with eight speakers, an audio jack input for mobile devices, steering wheel mounted audio controls, and SiriusXM capabilities.

Sahara and Rubicon Differences

  • Four-Wheel Drive Systems: The Sahara has the Command-Trac system, while the Rubicon features the Rock-Trac system.
  • Axle Ratios: A 3.21 axle ratio is standard for the Sahara, which is lower than the 4.10 axle ratio for the Rubicon.
  • Front Axles: While both the Sahara and Rubicon have the same rear axles, the Rubicon is equipped with a Dana 44 axle in the front as well. The Sahara has a standard Dana 30 solid front axle.
  • Differentials: Since the Rubicon is geared toward off-roading, it features Tru-Lok differentials for the front and rear rather than the conventional differentials found in the Sahara.
  • Electronic Front Sway Bar Disconnect: Only the Rubicon features the electronic front sway bar disconnect, which comes in handy on the trail.

Rubicon vs Sahara: Which Is Right For You?

If you’re looking for an off-roading Wrangler straight from the factory, you can’t go wrong with the Rubicon. With a 4.10 front and rear axle ratio, Next Generation Dana 44 heavy-duty front and rear axles, performance suspension, and the Tru-Lok front and rear locking differentials, the Rubicon excels at rock crawling and trail riding. For those who plan on off-roading frequently, the Rubicon definitely outscores the Sahara. But if you don’t really plan on doing much off-roading or rock crawling, then the Sahara is the better option. While the Sahara can still be a good off-roading vehicle, the Rubicon is much more suited for the tougher terrains than the Sahara.

With the Sahara, you can get that classic Jeep look at a lower price than the Rubicon. If you’re really torn between the Sahara vs Rubicon and aren’t sure if you will be off-roading in the future, keep in mind that you can always buy aftermarket Jeep Wrangler parts in the future to enhance your off-roading experience! For those who plan to use their Wrangler as a daily driver, you can’t go wrong with the Sahara. However, if you want to go straight from the car dealership to the trail, then the Rubicon is definitely the way to go. No matter what you decide, any Wrangler is a great choice! There’s no vehicle more fun than a Jeep, whether you drive it on the highway or off-road.

Source: 2018 Jeep Wrangler Brochure, Jeep

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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.