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2021 Jeep Wrangler with Xtreme Recon Package quick drive review: Bigfoot hunter

Lifted and off-road ready, Jeep's upfitted Wrangler is ready to take on Ford's Bronco and its trail-dominating Sasquatch Package.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4x4 Xtreme Recon Package
The Xtreme Recon Package is only available on the four-door Wrangler.
Craig Cole/Roadshow

It was a long time coming -- like, forever and a day -- but the new Ford Bronco is here, giving off-road enthusiasts another excellent way to get a little more dirt in their diets. But the folks at Jeep were not about to sit on the sidelines and watch their frenemies in Dearborn one-up them with a more capable rig, which is why they developed the Xtreme Recon Package for the popular Wrangler Unlimited.

Like Broncos fitted with the available Sasquatch Package, Jeep's $3,995 options group gets you several off-road-focused enhancements, most importantly, 35-inch BF Goodrich KO2 all-terrain tires mounted to 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels. To support the mammoth spare, Wranglers fitted with this package also gain reinforced swing gates. I mean, the last thing you want is the back door falling off while you're out on the trail. Aside from all that, you get a 4.56:1 axle ratio and a 1.5-inch suspension lift complete with unique shock absorbers.

These meaty 35-inch all-terrain tires will get you just about anywhere.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

The Xtreme Recon Package is only available on the four-door Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited models, including the fire-breathing Rubicon 392. In comparison, the Sasquatch upgrade is available across the Bronco model range including on both two- and four-door variants.

Despite its somewhat limited accessibility, the Xtreme Recon Package one-ups competitors in certain metrics. It promises best-in-class approach and departure angles, ground clearance and water-fording capability. In these areas, the Wrangler beats a Sasquatch-ified four-door Bronco and even the fancy Land Rover Defender 110.

Off-Road Specs

Wrangler Unlimited w/ Xtreme Recon Bronco 4-Door w/ Sasquatch Defender 110
Approach angle 47.4 deg 43.2 deg 38.0 deg
Breakover angle 26.7 deg 26.3 deg 28.0 deg
Departure angle 40.4 deg 37.0 deg 40.0 deg
Ground clearance 12.9 in 11.5 in 11.5 in
Water fording 33.6 in 33.5 in 35.4 in

The Xtreme Recon Package is available with two powertrains, either a 3.6-liter V6 bolstered by a mild-hybrid system or a 6.4-liter Hemi in the Wrangler Rubicon 392. The smaller offering is much less dramatic than that thundering V8, but it's still incredibly effective, delivering 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of twist. This example's eTorque-enhanced Pentastar engine is dynamite, super smooth and plenty potent, with a linear powerband and good thrust. The eight-speed automatic transmission is a jewel as well, shifting just about perfectly, making for a powertrain dream team.

Inside, it's standard Wrangler fare.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

The EPA says you can expect 19 mpg in the city with this Wrangler and an optimistic 24 mpg on highway drives. Combined, it should average 21 mpg, though I'm barely getting 8 mpg in mixed use, which is a little disappointing, though not surprising.

The Xtreme Recon Package makes the already beastly Wrangler Rubicon even more of a dirt demon, but how livable is this setup on pavement, when driving between trailheads or to after-school activities? The elevated ride height and massive tires produce a ride that's bouncy and jiggly, though it is nicely compliant. This is also a vehicle that needs constant attention to stay in the center of its lane because the steering is, at best, a rough approximation. Stiff crosswinds will make this Jeep veer for oncoming traffic or the ditch if you're not careful.

Still, it's not all bad. Like standard Wranglers, the Xtreme Recon is remarkably comfortable for the off-road capability it provides. Despite the elevated stance, there's only a whiff of roll in corners. Engineers have done an extraordinary job civilizing this vehicle's horse-and-buggy-inspired chassis, making those live axles livable in everyday use. Sure, the boxy body and $4,095 Sky One-Touch power-folding roof conspire to produce a fair amount of wind noise at speed, but it's nowhere near unbearable, plus those knobby BF Goodrich tires barely make a peep on pavement, which is a huge surprise.

The whole package looks pretty good.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Inside, you get the same great Wrangler cabin that's been offered since the JL generation launched in 2018. Soft materials abound, the various switches and knobs are not only chunky and easy to use without taking your eyes off the road, they feel like quality, too. The optional, $1,995 8.4-inch dashboard screen with the Uconnect 4C Nav infotainment system looks great and the software is as responsive and easy to use. Downsides to the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with the Xtreme Recon Package are few. It's a steep climb getting onboard, so bring a step stool if you're vertically challenged. The front seats aren't particularly comfortable and the rear bench is tough to get into and out of because of the annoyingly narrow door openings.

The Jeep Wrangler is a huge moneymaker for its parent company, Stellantis. One look at the window sticker and it's easy to see why this is such a lucrative product. The Rubicon model already starts in the mid-$40,000s, but this example checks out for $67,645 including $1,495 in destination fees. That MSRP is inflated by a range of options, from the $4,095 folding roof to the $3,995 Xtreme Recon Package to the $1,745 steel bumper to $1,695 for leather-trimmed seats, to name a handful of extras. Of course, if you have your eye on the V8-powered model, you'll have no trouble eclipsing the 80-grand threshold, which is, well, ludicrous.

But as they say, you've got to pay if you want to play. Hardcore off-roaders that lust after a turn-key mudslinger backed by a factory warranty will be well-served by a Wrangler Unlimited with the Xtreme Recon Package. Aside from being one of the most capable vehicles available today, its delightful powertrains, upscale interior and passable on-road dynamics make it an easy recommendation, even as competitors, like Ford's Bronco, turn up the heat.