Jeep Wrangler Rubicon vs. Land Rover Defender

September 13th, 2019 by

Let’s compare the 2019 Jeep Wrangler and the all-new 2020 Land Rover Defender. Both are SUV royalty at the moment; they are direct descendants of vehicles that invented the genre. The 1941 Willys MB Jeeps were the feisty military vehicle that helped America win World War II. 

There is the 1948 Series 1 Land Rover, the prototype built on a modified Jeep chassis, which turned off-road capability into a useful tool for civilian agencies, farmers, and explorers around the world. They’ve been attached to the hip ever since, related in both form and function. Until now.

The 2020 Defender and the 2019 Wrangler take a radically different approach when it comes to delivering the ultimate off-road capability. The body-on-frame, live-axle Wrangler is an improvement; it relies on a tried and true off-road engineering hardware and concept. The unibody, independent-suspension Defender is revolutionary as well. 

The Jeep is analog. The Land Rover, digital.

Both the Defender and Wrangler are available in a short- and long-wheelbase form on a two and four-door vehicle and in a variety of trim levels. The new Defender rides on an aluminum-intensive unibody platform based on the one underpinning the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, and Land Rover Discovery. The Wrangler comes in two- and four-door. 

The base engine for the Wrangler Rubicon is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, which produces a 285 hp at 6,400 rpm and it delivers 260 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. The optional powertrain for the Jeep is called an eTorque. The eTorque offers a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that produces 270 hp at 5,250 rpm and delivers 295 lb-ft at 3,000 rpm. 

The Defender’s engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which delivers 296 hp at 5,500 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque from 1,500 rpm to 4,000 rpm. The killer engine in the Defender lineup is the JLR’s new 3.0-liter straight-six, which possesses a 48-volt mild hybrid system, an exhaust gas-driven turbocharger, and an electric supercharger. 

The Badged P400, produces 395 hp at 5,500 rpm, and it has a 406 lb-ft of torque which delivers anywhere from 2,000 rpm to 5,000 rpm. While the entry-level Wranglers can be ordered with a manual transmission and a part-time four-wheel drive, the Defender only comes with an eight-speed automatic and a permanent four-wheel drive. The six-speed manual transmission for the Wrangler only comes in a V-6 engine. 

Customers can order an optional eTorque powertrain for the Defender. Both the Defender and the Wrangler Rubicon have two-speed transfer cases, but only the Jeep allows does the front, center, and rear differentials can be locked. A locking center diff and an active locking rear differential are available as options, along with a new configurable version of the Terrain Response 2 which allows drivers to tailor the powertrain and suspension settings.


The Wrangler Rubicon has a 44-degree approach angle, while the Defenders has a 38-degree approach angle. The Land Rover has a departure angle of 40 degrees and a higher ground clearance of “11.5 inches with the air suspension at its highest setting versus 10.9 inches—and better break-over angles—31 degrees for the 90. In comparison to the 27.8 degrees for the short-wheelbase Rubicon, and 28 degrees for the Rubicon Unlimited,” according to 

For some serious off-roading, the 18-inch steel rim and 255/70 tire is an excellent choice. The two areas where the Wrangler Rubicon is more optimized for off-roading than the Defender is in its gearing and the wheel travel. With the eight-speed automatic transmission and the four-cylinder engine, the Wrangler has the same 4.71 first gear, and it also has a 4.10 final drive ratio as the four-cylinder Defender. 

The difference between the two is in the transfer case gearing. There’s a 4.00:1 ratio which gives the Jeep an impressive 77.2:1 crawl ratio. The Defender has a 2.93:1 transfer case which provides it with a 56.6:1 crawl ratio.

Land Rover insists that the Defender has 19.7 inches of wheel articulation. It’s a rough calculation which suggests that it would give a Ramp Travel Index (RTI) score of about 560 for the vehicle the Defender 90 and about 480 for the Defender 110. This test is based on how far it can travel up a 20-degree ramp before the contrasting front wheel lifts off the ground, which is standardized for variations in a wheelbase.


How would a Wrangler Rubicon versus a Defender showdown go? The Jeep will have an edge over the Land Rover in the off-road scenarios that are extreme. Small physical size and extreme articulation are helpful. 

The Defender will be the better smoother, all-arounder, quieter, and it’s more accomplished everywhere else. There’ll be a price to pay, however. A base Land Rover Defender 110 is priced at $49,900 (plus destination fee). A Wrangler Unlimited with a similar powertrain—starts at $41,545 (plus destination fee), and for that price, the Jeep comes with locking diffs that will cost extra on the Land Rover.

Come see for yourself if a Jeep at Hollywood Chrysler Jeep is the right SUV for you.

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