Jeep Wrangler Sport vs Rubicon: 2021 Guide

| Last Updated: May 20, 2021

So, you think you want the biggest and baddest 2021 Jeep Wrangler on the block, huh? You want to go off the beaten path where few other vehicles dare to roam by scaling inconceivably steep trails, getting deep into the mud, and turn previously impassable areas into a venerable superhighway for those that are properly equipped to handle it. Clearly, you need a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon to make this dream happen, right? 

We hate to shatter your hopes and dreams of off-road conquering mania but maybe, just maybe you don’t actually need a 2021 Wrangler Rubicon. Maybe, all you need to achieve your off-road dreams is the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sport. 

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There are tons of options and trims in the Wrangler lineup between the base 2021 Wrangler Sport and the top-of-the-line 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon comparing these two trims is actually fairly enlightening. 

Confused? Don’t worry! We’ll cover everything you need to know so you can make the right decision and get yourself out onto the trail in the best Wrangler for you. 

Let’s get rolling! 

Jeep Wrangler Sport vs Rubicon

Let’s just get this straight, both the Jeep Wrangler Sport and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon are remarkably effective off-road, right off the dealer lot. The real differentiation factor with the Rubicon it’s aftermarket style off-road-focused upgrades and its uplevel cockpit that some argue make it worth the premium in price over the Jeep Wrangler Sport. 

It’s also crucial to remember that these vehicles sit at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes time to the Jeep Wrangler lineup with the Rubicon starting around $14k more than the Sport. 

Jeep Wrangler Sport

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Pros

Jeep Wrangler Sport

Lowest priced vehicle in the Wrangler lineup

Decent amount of equipment, even for a base vehicle

Solid standard engine and powerful optional motors

Choice of transmissions (manual or auto)

Incredibly capable off-road, right off the lot

HUGE aftermarket available so you can build your dream Wrangler from the ground up

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Takes off-road capability and dials it up another notch with unique equipment

Long options list, including many that are specific to the Rubicon

Killer good looks with Rubicon specific wheels, body elements, and 33” tires

Upgraded interior appointments and technology

Cons

Jeep Wrangler Sport

Basic amenities, including lack of power windows and door locks

Small tires that are begging for an upgrade

Black plastic fenders and bumpers

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Big time price hike over Sport

Options easily take it over $50k

Not a great starting point for upgrading since you’re paying for the extra equipment

Best For

Jeep Wrangler Sport

Someone who’s looking for the most capable off-road vehicle for the least amount of money and/or is building a custom rig from scratch. 

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Someone who wants the most capable Jeep Wrangler and arguably, the most capable off-road vehicle sold on dealer lots with little need to upgrade beyond factory engineering.

What is Standard on a Jeep Wrangler Sport? 

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sport comes fairly well equipped for the relatively low starting price of under $30k (2 doors) and under $34k (4 doors). For this relatively low cost of entry, you get a good selection of standard equipment, including: 

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  • 3.6L Pentastar® V6, producing 285 HP and 260 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Available eTorque mild hybrid system
  • Available 2.0L direct-injection turbo engine with 270 HP and 295 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Available turbodiesel 4 cylinder
  • Six-speed manual or automatic transmission
  • Command-Trac® 4×4 system with two-speed transfer case
  • Available SelecTrac full-time all-wheel-drive system
  • Dana® solid front and rear axles
  • Zipperless Sunrider® soft top
  • 17-in. Black wheels
  • Tow hooks
  • Uconnect® 3 with 5-in. touchscreen
  • Bluetooth® streaming audio
  • ParkView® rear backup camera

What is Standard on a Jeep Rubicon? 

Bumping up to the Rubicon brings a host of improvements to the Sport trim. These upgrades focus on the 4 wheel drive system, chassis, and tires to make one of the most potent off-road vehicles on sales today:

  • 3.6L Pentastar® V6, producing 285 HP and 260 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Available eTorque mild hybrid system
  • Available 2.0L direct-injection turbo engine with 270 HP and 295 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Available turbo diesel 4 cylinder
  • Six-speed manual or automatic transmission
  • 33-in. all-terrain tires
  • High clearance fender flares
  • Tru-Lok® electronic locking differentials
  • Electronic front sway bar disconnect
  • Dedicated Off-road mode
  • Dana 44 heavy-duty locking front and rear axles
  • Electronic sway bar disconnect
  • Off-road rock rails
  • Available full-time Rock-Track® 4:1 low transfer case
  • Uconnect® 3 with 5-in. touchscreen
  • Bluetooth® streaming audio
  • ParkView® rear backup camera

Relevant Characteristics Between Jeep Wrangler Sport and Rubicon

These 2 trims share more in common than they do apart but the small details are what really make the differences here. The Sport is a jumping-off point for a build, while the Rubicon is a factory-engineered option that performs like a custom rig but has the benefit of factory backing. Each has its own personality and flavor.

Jeep Wrangler Sport vs. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

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Engine(s)

Jeep Wrangler Sport

3.6L V-6 : 285 HP & 260 TQ

3.0L Diesel V-6 : 260 HP & 480 TQ

2.0L I4 Turbo : 270 HP & 290 TQ

Hybrid 2.0L I4 : 375 HP & 470 TQ

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

3.6L V-6 : 285 HP & 260 TQ

3.0L Diesel V-6 : 260 HP & 480 TQ

2.0L I4 Turbo : 270 HP & 290 TQ

Hybrid 2.0L I4 : 375 HP & 470 TQ

MSRP

Jeep Wrangler Sport

$28,475+

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

$42,375+

Fuel Economy / MPG

Jeep Wrangler Sport

22 City – 29 Hwy (Diesel)

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

22 City – 29 HWY (Diesel)

Transmission(s)

Jeep Wrangler Sport

8 Speed Auto 

6 Speed Manual

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

8 Speed Auto 

6 Speed Manual

Towing Capacity

Jeep Wrangler Sport

All 2DR Wranglers: 2000lbs

All 4DR Wranglers: 3500 lbs

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

All 2DR Wranglers: 2000lbs

All 4DR Wranglers: 3500 lbs

Differential

Jeep Wrangler Sport

Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Tru-Lok® electronic locking front and rear differentials

Rear Axle Ratio

Jeep Wrangler Sport

2.72:1 low-range gear ratio

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

4:1 low-range gear ratio

Axle Types (Dana #)

Jeep Wrangler Sport

Dana M210 and M220

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Dana 44 Front and Rear

Stock Tire Size

Jeep Wrangler Sport

31″

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

33″

Similarities and Differences 

At their core, these are both Wranglers that are born to run in the mud and dirt. The difference comes down to just how comfortable each model is with this task. The Sport is a little more old school and requires more driver input to get over the rough stuff while the Rubicon is set up from the factory with tons of off-road focused tech that makes getting over the roughest of conditions almost too easy. 

Jeep Wrangler Sport and Rubicon Differences 

Let’s start with the mantra, purpose, job, task, whatever you want to call it of these two vehicles.

The Sport is an entry-level option that offers all the Jeep goodness we love with a good whack of off-road capability. The Rubicon is a factory-engineered behemoth that wraps seriously upgraded off-road goods seamlessly into the overall Wrangler package. 

Starting at the corners, we see a huge change right off the bat. The Sport comes standard with 31-inch A/T tires, while the Rubicon rolls with 33-inch, A/T terrain tires. Rubicon also rolls with fender flares that are designed to accommodate more suspension articulation and make it easier to further upgrade your rig later on down the line. 

Keeping with the off-road upgrades, the Rubicon offers super tough Dana 44 front and rear axles vs. the (still tough) Dana units on the Sport. The Rubicon really ups the ante with cab accessible, electronic front AND rear electronically locking differentials that make scrambling over the toughest of obstacles easy. 

Two completely different 4 wheel drive systems are offered here. Rubicon offers the Rock-Trac NV241 two-speed or an optional full-time transfer case with a 4:1 low-range gear ratio vs the standard part-time CommandTrac system or optional SelecTrac systems available in the Sport.

Rubicons also come with Off-Road Plus mode as standard equipment which adjusts throttle, transmission shift points, and traction control to give drivers even more control offroad. 

Rounding out the ultimate off-road gear are electronically disconnecting sway bars that allow the suspension to perform frankly incredible feats of articulation and capability and hardcore rock rails that protect your Rubicon when crawling.

Inside, you’ll find a higher level of stock equipment that includes such gear as power windows and doors, as well as a larger touchscreen infotainment system and additional Rubicon design touches. 

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Jeep Wrangler Sport and Rubicon Similarities

Starting under the hood, these two trims are identical. You can get a variety of engine options that range from the punchy Pentastar to the fuel-efficient diesel that serves up torque-rich power with ease. You can even row your own gears with a 6 speed manual with either trim or go with the ZF sourced 8 speed automatic that fires off rapid shifts with absolute ease. 

Each of these rigs comes in either 2 or 4 door variants and is available with a huge variety of sun-worshipping tops. Each is also capable of losing the doors and folding down the windshield when you really want to feel that wind in your face. Towing and payload capacities are identical as well. 

Both come with a 4 wheel drive system, some version of traction assistance, and both rigs also run a version of axles from the folks at Dana. The braking system, suspension designs, and general body structures (minus the rock rails) are shared between the two trim variants. You’ll also find air conditioning as standard equipment on each unit, as well as some version of touchscreen and standard backup cameras as well. 

Wrangler Sport interior (Photo credit: 2021jeep.pricemsrp.com)

Advantages of Jeep Wrangler Sport 

Envy is the enemy of contentment but you shouldn’t be envious if you choose the Sport over the Rubicon! For a starting price of under $30k, you get a completely capable off-road rig that offers tons of fun in the dirt, as well as the top-down fun that Jeep owners love. 

If you’re on a budget or looking to build out the ultimate Wrangler from scratch, this is your best option for a number of reasons: 

  • A lower starting price than the Rubicon allows buyers the opportunity to fully customize their rig with the ample selection of items from the aftermarket that can turn the Sport into a Rubicon-style rig.
  • The sub $30k starting price allows buyers who simply can’t afford the high cost of the Rubicon to join the Jeep family and still have a vehicle that lives to play in the dirt and get a good slice of Jeep goodness as well. 
  • No lack of standard features, including goodies like a touchscreen audio system, backup camera, and air conditioning.

Advantages of Jeep Rubicon 

If you have the budget and are looking to go off-road regularly, the Rubicon is a no-brainer. Yes, it has a starting price that is much higher than the Sport but that higher price brings in off-road gear that amps up the Rubicons capability into something that is positively stratospheric when compared to typical SUVs. Plus, it’s all factory-backed! 

This is the most hardcore of Wrangler models and it’s worthy of the price of entry for a variety of reasons:

Photo credit: carbuzz.com
  • Packs in serious off-road capability by adding in bespoke features that are unique to the Rubicon trim such as the Rock Trak 4 wheel drive system with ultra-low, 4:1 transfer case, locking diffs, sway bar disconnects, and 33-inch tires.
  • Brings additional electronic trickery like “Off-Road Plus” which brings 21st-century engineering together with old-school off-road tech. 
  • The Rubicons are highly desirable in the used market and generally fetch more money than modified Sport Wranglers due to the assurances of factory warranties, etc. 

What About the Sahara?

The Wrangler Sahara is a “love it or hate it” type of affair for most Jeep lovers because it’s designed as the most street-friendly, luxury-focused trim in the Jeep lineup. Make no mistake, it’s still incredibly capable in the dirt but gives up some off-road bragging rights to retain its more hybrid personality. It falls in between the Sport and Rubicon on pricing. 

You’re going to find features like 18-inch polished wheels, a 3-piece folding hardtop, and exterior LED accents as standard equipment on the Sahara vs. additional off-road-focused gear on the Rubicon.

Inside, features like heated seats, a power driver’s seat, leather, and upgraded 7-inch head unit come standard further the Sahara mission as an off-roader with a soft side but the availability of full-time all-wheel drive makes this vehicle ideal in road situations where inclement weather may make driving difficult. Again, this is set it and forget, much like a traditional road-focused SUV. 

Photo credit: moparinsiders.com

If you’re mainly concerned with purchasing an all-weather vehicle vs. a rock crawler and want something that happens to be pretty nice inside yet still offers that top-down Jeep fun, the Sahara could be your ride.   

Bottom Line

Here’s the thing; you can’t really go wrong with either of these machines! 

If you’re looking to build an off-road-focused rig over time and are starting with a low budget – the Wrangler Sport is a fantastic option for you. You get a ton of trail running goodies and a decent amount of standard equipment to make this base Wrangler feel better than it should for the sub $30k price. 

If you want the best Wrangler model for running up the toughest trails, right off the showroom floor, then the Rubicon makes this type of adventure easy! This is not an aftermarket special but a fully engineered rig with deeply integrated systems that allows someone with little off-roading experience to take on nearly any trail and have the backing of a factory warranty. 

Which rig is best for you will depend solely on your goals and your budget! 

People Also Ask

Still, have questions? Here are some common musings by other folks just like you who are looking to make a decision on which Wrangler is best for them:

Is a Rubicon Higher Than Sport?

Yes, the Rubicon rides 1” inch taller than the Sport

Is a Jeep Rubicon Worth The Money?

Absolutely! You get some seriously focused off-road equipment and Rubicon trims retain their value better than Sport trims. 

Is a Jeep Rubicon Safe?

In general, safety ratings on the Jeep Rubicon are surprisingly good for such a top-heavy, focused off-roader. Recent improvements in active driver assistance features, as well as strengthened front/side crumple zones, allow the Wrangler to pull a “GOOD” rating in all but one of the IIHS Crash Tests. 

Who Worked on This?


Brian

Editor

A master of organization, Brian helps keep everything running smoothly for Your Jeep Guide.

No Jeep yet but we’re working on that!

Cory

Writer

Cory loves his XJ and frequently thrashes it through the hills. He’s constantly fixing something.


“What fenders?”

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