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Old 11-05-2013, 02:24 PM   #1
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Asking those who have experienced both: to "TJ" or to "JK"

I know that a "search" of what my title is asking would bring me a lot of responses, and I have read some, but each week I am certain there are several Jeepers who make the transition. SO I would like some "fresh" perspective (and old ones too ).

I have always wanted a Jeep but it was never practical at the time, but I am now in a position in my life to finally purchase one. This Jeep will not be a DD but more of a recreation vehicle to run around in by myself or with the family and enjoy it. Because of this, I will not be looking to purchase a NEW JK.



I have been doing a lot of research over the last few years, mainly on these forums. Originally I was set on a TJ, but then I began to venture into some of the JK forums and liked some of the features/upgrades that they offer. I have committed myself to a few things:
  • It will be a 2-door.
  • It will be a Rubicon
Why a Rubicon? Well I do like the standard features it has since they are something I would not want to add on myself. I live in WI, so I won't be "rock climbing". The majority of my time would be on the back roads of the Federal/State Forests and my personal land.
Regardless of TJ or JK, I plan to add a mild lift to support 33" tires (probably just a leveling kit for a JK). I may also upgrade bumpers too, but nothing too severe. I am mechanically inclined and do like to work on machinery.


I have narrowed my search to the following:
  • 2004-2006 TJ Rubicon
  • 2008 JK Rubicon
The reason I choose 2008 for the JK is because I never like to purchase 1st year production vehicles. Also that is about as new as I am willing to spend.
Pricing in my area puts the TJ Rubicon anywhere from $12-14K and the 2008 JK around $20-21k. Typically the JK's tend to drop a little more as they sit awhile so I would probably be able to get one a tad less. I won’t be making my purchase until next spring so prices may also come down a bit. And “yes” I know that a new ‘Sport’ model wouldn’t be much more with the low financing, but that is not an option.

So for those that have owned a TJ and transitioned to the JK (or maybe there are some who went the other way), would I be happy saving $$ and buying a TJ or should I put it all out and go with the JK?

Tell me your experience…….

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Old 11-05-2013, 02:42 PM   #2
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I have an '04 TJ although not a Rubi..... I have a '12 JK Sport .......and a '14 JKU Polar....I LOVE my jeeps. But the only one I will take "off-road" is the TJ.

First I am used to it off road....even though it was 6 years old before it went off road much. For many years it was my DD...and kinda still is.

They (TJs) are MUCH easier to work on than JKs IMO and also more parts available at a reasonable price...IMO for your intended use.....TJ

Good Luck!!!!

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Old 11-05-2013, 02:55 PM   #3
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Having owned 3 TJs and now a JKU, I would say JK. But being you said this was not going to be a DD go with the TJ. The TJ just seemed easier to work on. Plus you said the TJ sells for less which will leave more money for the endless upgrades and little things that almost all Jeep owners find themselves buying.
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Old 11-05-2013, 03:14 PM   #4
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Between the options you listed, TJ all the way.

If you had your heart set on a JK, it would have to be a 2012+. Read about the 3.8 vs 3.6 and you'll understand why.
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Old 11-05-2013, 03:37 PM   #5
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I wish to point out that you may have made an error.

The 4:1 low range that a Rubicon model has is specifically there for rock crawling. In every other type of terrain, especially dead sand/loose mud/loose snow, the 2.6:1 low range of the other Wrangler models produces more wheelspin to clean the treads and works better.

Having said that, the I-6 engine of the TJ has more low RPM torque and works better in the rocks when rock crawling. The V-6 of the JK works better around town and on the highway.

For 33-inch tires, you will need at least 4:10 gears, 4.56's are better. 4.88's can be used with an automatic transmission which has a higher overdrive gear than the 5-speed or 6-speed.
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Old 11-05-2013, 05:31 PM   #6
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Between the options you listed, TJ all the way.

If you had your heart set on a JK, it would have to be a 2012+. Read about the 3.8 vs 3.6 and you'll understand why.
I agree with this......

Now if I had the option of a JK with the 3.6 I would take that over a TJ.

Those are good prices on the TJ Rubi's you are finding. They go for a couple grand more than that around here.
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Old 11-06-2013, 06:03 AM   #7
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I wish to point out that you may have made an error.


For 33-inch tires, you will need at least 4:10 gears, 4.56's are better. 4.88's can be used with an automatic transmission which has a higher overdrive gear than the 5-speed or 6-speed.

Yes, an auto transmission is what I would prefer to get
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Old 11-06-2013, 06:07 AM   #8
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Between the options you listed, TJ all the way.

If you had your heart set on a JK, it would have to be a 2012+. Read about the 3.8 vs 3.6 and you'll understand why.

Yes, I have read several threads regarding the issues of the 3.8. Since I won't be doing an hard off-roading the "lack of power" doesn't bother me, but the high oil burn/consumption reported by some does make me concerned.
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Old 11-06-2013, 06:27 AM   #9
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I have an 04 TJ and a 13 JK. The reason I waited so long to get the JW was the 3.8 engine in the 07-11 model. I started looking in 09 but the engine seemed under powered during every test drive. My daughter drives the 04 TJ now but on the rare occasions where I can wrestle the Jeep away from her I will tell you it is a real treat to drive. For your purposes the TJ may work better. I do know from experience that 04 is a good year. We just passed 100,000 miles and it has rarely been in the shop. Good luck with your search and please keep us updated on your decision.
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Old 11-06-2013, 06:33 AM   #10
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I'd look at a TJ Rubicon.....or a +2012 JK Non-Rubi based on what you listed.
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Old 11-06-2013, 09:42 AM   #11
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I have an 04 TJ and a 13 JK. The reason I waited so long to get the JW was the 3.8 engine in the 07-11 model. I started looking in 09 but the engine seemed under powered during every test drive. My daughter drives the 04 TJ now but on the rare occasions where I can wrestle the Jeep away from her I will tell you it is a real treat to drive. For your purposes the TJ may work better. I do know from experience that 04 is a good year. We just passed 100,000 miles and it has rarely been in the shop. Good luck with your search and please keep us updated on your decision.

Thanks MBeshada. You are exactly who I want to hear from since you have experienced and currently own both models.

I actually thought I would get steered towards the JK because of the upgrades and ride quality, but the TJ seems to be preferred. Getting some great insight here.

Keep the comments coming JEEPERS!
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Old 11-06-2013, 07:25 PM   #12
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One thing noone has said, is to look at a 04-06 TJ Unlimited Rubicon. Great reliable engine, slightly extended bed for a better ride and payload, 3500lb tow rating, and still great off road manners. TJ downsides tend to lie with the 4 speed auto. Though the same can be said of pre 12 JK's as well. I loved mine ('06 Sport Unlimited) and still wish i hadn't gotten rid of it, but our 12 JK and 13 JKU have alot of creature comforts that the TJ just didnt have.
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Old 11-06-2013, 07:53 PM   #13
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The TJ is more fun to drive. My Tj seemed more agile and sporty. My JK seems lethargic and too large. That is my perception.
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Old 11-06-2013, 08:56 PM   #14
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I'm driving my old '97 wrangler with 177000 miles on it. Not a single complaint. I'm 18 years old, with not a whole lot of previous experience working on cars, and I can absolutely back up the comments made about the ability to work on TJs. As for the ride, I personally enjoy it. Rough? At times it sure is. But I've driven JKs, including the 2013 model. I like them, but it's too smooth for my tastes. If I were you, I'd choose the 04-06 range. What you're going to be doing with it makes mileage less of a factor, and fun more of a factor. I know a guy who bought his son a TJ, and he himself owns a 2013. There are weeks at a time where he'll just trade keys with his son because he loves driving the old TJ. He says it's more fun. And The straight 6 is something that you'll never need to worry about as long as the oil gets changed every once in a while. If you haven't guessed, I love my TJ. And if you get one, you'll love yours. Haven't heard of anyone owning a TJ and not liking it. So I'm totally biased... I VOTE TJ! Duh... And Sorry for blowing the page up guys!
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Old 11-06-2013, 11:51 PM   #15
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I own an 04 TJ and the girlfriend has a 14 JKU. I love them both but the better builder's platform is the TJ and it's not even close--a simpler, mostly single-wall tub makes mounting armor (rocker guards and corner guards) easier and it will be much stronger in the end. The JK's tub is mainly double-wall and the rear corner is not a constant radius. This makes the JK heavier and essentially requires nutserts to be used for nearly every connection, as opposed to thru-bolts with a backing plate in regards to properly executed TJ armor. The JK's doors terminate much lower as well, leaving the door sill a tiny sliver compared to the TJ's. Thus, the mounting surface area is much smaller (and weaker) with the JK.

The TJ is simpler in about every way and if that's your thing, I'd recommend going that route. Manual locks, windows and seats, along with far simpler wiring makes the TJ a piece of cake to own and work on....and yes, I know the JK can come with manual locks, windows and seats. But if you've been under the hood and behind the dash of both, you know the differences in terms of the sheer amount of wiring.

Engine-wise, I love the 4.0. I've driven plenty of 4.0's, 3.8's and 3.6's with different gearing and tire options, and with all transmission options. The 4.0 with NSG370 6 speed is a strong combination but the 42rle auto is sorely lacking due to the poor gear ratios. The same transmissions stuck with the 07-11 JK's. The 3.8 feels relatively lethargic compared to the 4.0, especially with the 42rle but it's not bad with the 6 speed. Take this into consideration--if you get the auto, you'll need to plan for deeper gears or will just have to live with the crappy combination of 33's, 4.10 gears and the 42rle. If you get the 6 speed, you'll be just fine. The new WA580 5 speed auto and 3.6 in the 12+ JK's is a massive upgrade over the 3.8/42rle. MASSIVE. I wouldn't even consider an older JK now.....personally, it's either an 03-06 TJ or 12+ JK and that opinion was formed with more than enough experience.

I love driving our '14 JKU but I like it for entirely different reasons than my TJ....it's quieter, easier to get in and out of, and has a lot more cargo/people space. I would never even consider taking the JK where I have full confidence in taking my TJ, though. It would get destroyed while the TJ would emerge just fine and ready to drive home. To me, the TJ is worlds more fun to drive, as well....but that's my TJ, which is a bit of an odd animal. I wouldn't choose any TJ over the JK.

For your usage, it doesn't sound like the strengths of the TJ will really matter for you. It doesn't sound like you'll need much (if any) body armor, nor does it sound like your build will really be anything out of the ordinary. I think either vehicle will work fine for your usage so just go test drive them both. If you can find a pristine JK Rubicon with the NSG370, I would probably go with it for your usage--stronger factory axles than the TJ.
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Old 11-07-2013, 05:47 AM   #16
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That's what I've have been reading, that if you want a 07-11 JK, it's best to go with a manual.

The 2010 JK Rubicon I fell in love with is a manual. And it's a beautiful blue.

I have been very tempted to drive it, and see what kind of deal I can get on it. But I'm still loving my TJ, especially with the Currie "stuff" on it.
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Old 11-07-2013, 08:07 AM   #17
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I own an 04 TJ and the girlfriend has a 14 JKU. I love them both but the better builder's platform is the TJ and it's not even close--a simpler, mostly single-wall tub makes mounting armor (rocker guards and corner guards) easier and it will be much stronger in the end. The JK's tub is mainly double-wall and the rear corner is not a constant radius. This makes the JK heavier and essentially requires nutserts to be used for nearly every connection, as opposed to thru-bolts with a backing plate in regards to properly executed TJ armor. The JK's doors terminate much lower as well, leaving the door sill a tiny sliver compared to the TJ's. Thus, the mounting surface area is much smaller (and weaker) with the JK.

The TJ is simpler in about every way and if that's your thing, I'd recommend going that route. Manual locks, windows and seats, along with far simpler wiring makes the TJ a piece of cake to own and work on....and yes, I know the JK can come with manual locks, windows and seats. But if you've been under the hood and behind the dash of both, you know the differences in terms of the sheer amount of wiring.

Engine-wise, I love the 4.0. I've driven plenty of 4.0's, 3.8's and 3.6's with different gearing and tire options, and with all transmission options. The 4.0 with NSG370 6 speed is a strong combination but the 42rle auto is sorely lacking due to the poor gear ratios. The same transmissions stuck with the 07-11 JK's. The 3.8 feels relatively lethargic compared to the 4.0, especially with the 42rle but it's not bad with the 6 speed. Take this into consideration--if you get the auto, you'll need to plan for deeper gears or will just have to live with the crappy combination of 33's, 4.10 gears and the 42rle. If you get the 6 speed, you'll be just fine. The new WA580 5 speed auto and 3.6 in the 12+ JK's is a massive upgrade over the 3.8/42rle. MASSIVE. I wouldn't even consider an older JK now.....personally, it's either an 03-06 TJ or 12+ JK and that opinion was formed with more than enough experience.

I love driving our '14 JKU but I like it for entirely different reasons than my TJ....it's quieter, easier to get in and out of, and has a lot more cargo/people space. I would never even consider taking the JK where I have full confidence in taking my TJ, though. It would get destroyed while the TJ would emerge just fine and ready to drive home. To me, the TJ is worlds more fun to drive, as well....but that's my TJ, which is a bit of an odd animal. I wouldn't choose any TJ over the JK.

For your usage, it doesn't sound like the strengths of the TJ will really matter for you. It doesn't sound like you'll need much (if any) body armor, nor does it sound like your build will really be anything out of the ordinary. I think either vehicle will work fine for your usage so just go test drive them both. If you can find a pristine JK Rubicon with the NSG370, I would probably go with it for your usage--stronger factory axles than the TJ.

That is some excellent incite Imped..... THANKS!
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Old 11-07-2013, 03:41 PM   #18
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I've owned Wranglers made in 89, 95, 99, and now a 2010. I'll keep the 2010 for my needs, but the TJ Rubicon is evens things out a lot.

Most pre-2010 Wranglers came with the weaker Dana 30 rear axle. all 2010 and newer models have the stronger Dana 44 as standard. Most TJ's are geared pretty high. The standard was something like 3.07 I think with a few came with 3.55's. Working from memory here, so I could be off a tad on this, but it is pretty close. JK's come with 3.21 or 3.73 gears, 4.10's are an option on Rubicons of any vintage. All Rubicons also offer the Dana 44.

The 3.8 V-6 gets bad mouthed, but it has 10-20 more HP and more torque than the older 4.0. The 4.0 has the torque at lower RPM's which is a consideration. But combined with 3.07 gears it won't do what a 3.8 will do with 3.73's. The newer 3.6 is even better, especially with lower 3.73 gears.

For a long time I THOUGHT I wanted the Rubicon. But the more I researched them I came to the conclusion that most of the features would never be used and would only cost more. The only option I'd ever use, and it would be rare, is the locking diff's, and better aftermarket options exist for less money.

For me, the 2010 JK is every bit as capable off road as the older versions I've owned. The on road ride and other comfort features aren't even close. This new Jeep is very civilized compared to the older versions I've owned. I don't see why the JK version of the Rubicon would perform any less off road compared to the TJ Rubicon. It comes down to how much you want to spend.
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Old 11-07-2013, 04:48 PM   #19
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Most pre-2010 Wranglers came with the weaker Dana 30 rear axle....
All but a very select few (I've only seen 2 actually DOCUMENTED. 1 by JP mag and one somewhere else) jk's came with a Dana 44 rear end anything made after the second week in production back in 2006 on the 07 jk has a Dana 44 rear end. There has been no strengthening of the Dana 44 rear end since production started

07-11 is definitely better in a manual. If you want to regear an auto, that is fine too at that point, but stock it's a little under geared with the auto
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Old 11-07-2013, 07:02 PM   #20
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Most pre-2010 Wranglers came with the weaker Dana 30 rear axle.
Wrong. Very few 07's (and only 07) came with a rear Dana 35 as opposed to the standard 44. The Dana 30 is a front axle only and comes standard on everything that's not a Rubicon. It's worth noting that all JK 30's are HP as opposed to the factory LP TJ axles.
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Old 11-08-2013, 12:15 AM   #21
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It's also worth noting that no matter what jeep you get, if you don't jeep wave, you're wrong.
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Old 11-08-2013, 12:55 AM   #22
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I own a 2006 TJ Sport (Last year of TJ production). I've also had a 1979 CJ5, 1997 TJ, 1988 Cherokee, and a 1996 Grand Cherokee. Sister have a 2000 Liberty, and my brother a 2011 JK. I've had the joy of being able to drive them all! However, I would easily pick my own TJ over any of them. The agility level in them is incredible!

My current TJ is definitely just a large toy!

It's honestly completely up to you on what you want to do in them. JK's look nice on the road, and can off-road, but.. TJ's really kick butt when it comes to off-roading. I get awful mpg, and it only gets worse when going in quicker speeds-like highway/interstate, but I literally can go through/over anything. My brothers JK is nice going down the highway and it gets pretty good highway mpg. However he uses it more to just take to and from work. He likes to tow his boat around in it because JK's have a larger tow weight (roughly 2000 lbs. TJ's are closer to 1300 Lbs.)

Either one you choose, you will love forever. There are no wrong choices when it comes to Jeeps!
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Old 11-08-2013, 12:45 PM   #23
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I drove a JK, I like the TJ better but its more of preference.

I understand JK is designed to attract a broader audience.

TJ is more DIY friendly on the repairs...

One of the biggest things I notice is how much the aftermarket stuff is for the JKs. Expensive!!
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Old 11-08-2013, 01:16 PM   #24
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If it is an off-road toy, and not your DD, I'd go TJ. I've owned both and the TJ is smaller and more maneuverable than a JK off road. Not by a ton, but by enough to make it somewhat more fun to me. I like the low end of the 4.0L engine better than the low end of the 3.8L. The 4 speed auto is plenty stout, though I'd choose the 5 speed manual for the fun factor. Some of the individual components of the TJ are a bit less costly to monkey with or replace, though not enough so to make a real difference to me. I suppose you could replace a body panel or seat more cheaply on a TJ, but how often does that really happen? Add up ALL the extras like wheels, tires, quality lift, shocks, possible gearing, lights or whatever and you don't end up with a huge pile of cash that will be truly life-altering.
Buy what makes you grin the most if this is a toy. That's my suggestion.

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Old 11-08-2013, 04:20 PM   #25
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I don't want my original post to give you the perception that this will be mainly an off-roading Jeep. In fact quite the opposite. What I was explaining was the type of off-road terrain I would be going on when I do go. I have an 80 mile trip just to get from my home to our land/cabin.

The comments have been great and you are all giving me a lot to think about with this decision.
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Old 11-08-2013, 04:42 PM   #26
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I don't want my original post to give you the perception that this will be mainly an off-roading Jeep. In fact quite the opposite. What I was explaining was the type of off-road terrain I would be going on when I do go. I have an 80 mile trip just to get from my home to our land/cabin.

The comments have been great and you are all giving me a lot to think about with this decision.
Uh OH...I posted way early and said TJ...as I thought the Jeep would be used at the destination.....not driven to and from.....keeping that in mind.

IMO it would now be JK '12 or newer and I know that doesn't fit what you had initally asked. But 80 miles in a TJ or even an LJ Rubi is not gonna be fun unless it is you and only one other person or animal. IDK that I would want to go that route if I had to take dog and wife for example.

And yeah a HT becomes ALMOST a must (on a tj JK ST are as quiet as TJ HTs) unless this is 80 miles of 2 lane backwoods highway...than the TJ could be acceptable again but still 80 miles in a trail capable rig is not gonna be fun and gonna be costly fuel wise. Going to a JK would help somewhat.

Good LUCK!!!
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Old 11-09-2013, 01:22 PM   #27
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I have a 03 tjr as well as a 13 jkr and I have to say that the driving experience is quite different between the two so my best advise is to get out and test drive examples of both
buy what makes you happy other folks opinions are fine but its you that will be living with the decision so take your time and chose what you feel best for you and your situation
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Old 11-09-2013, 02:32 PM   #28
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I have had a 2003 TJ and now have a 2012 JK. Both had or have merits. The TJ is fairly easy to work on but the fact is you will work on it. Mine came (very used) with oil leaks on the engine and axles, bad shock/brakes, plus the need to fix various front suspension bushings and steering damper to resolve moderate death wobble. In other words it was a maintenance project but after several weekends of repairs I had a reliable TJ that I sold a couple of years later with 137,000 miles on the clock. In your neck of the woods (Wisconsin) it will be a trick to find a TJ that is not afflicted with serious rust problems. Just be prepared to spend time (money) on a vehicle that is 8 to 14 years old before any possible modifications you might be persuaded are necessary after reading too many threads on this or other similar forums. In my opinion, you have no real need for a Rubi unless rock crawling is in the cards (the cool factor has had me looking for one at times...) Also as cool as wide tires might appear, they are worthless in winter's snow where narrow is good so be careful in that regard. Also, the 3 or 4 speed automatics on the TJ's are Ok for trail riding, but are not the greatest on-road performers out there when coupled with the I-6 engine. A 5 or 6 speed manual is a good choice on the I-6 if you are so inclined. My TJ had a 5-speed manual and hardtop.

As far as the JK goes, 2012 and above are far superior in the drivetrain department as compared to the 2007-2011 versions. The 3.6 engine produces excellent power and torque while being quiet and relatively fuel efficient. The 3.8 is a bit of a disappointment even compared to the I-6. Coupled with the 5-speed auto, the 3.6 is a very good combo. The 5-speed auto transmission is what sold me on the 2012 after renting one in Colorado for some high country trail riding. It has a very good manual mode that I used extensively to control ground speed via engine braking. The electronic braking acts to create a limited slip differential function that was more than adequate on moderate trail rides in Colorado. The JK rides quieter and smoother than the TJ plus has much more torque and power on the highway. However, my JK has had rainwater leaks, transmission cooler line recall, and a defective clock in the radio. The leaks around the doors, hardtop and body seams are the most annoying and I am still not sure if they are resolved. Even with those problems, I prefer the JK but had no regrets with the TJ. These are just more facts interspersed with opinions that might help you buy a Wrangler. Good Luck with your decisions.
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Old 11-09-2013, 06:56 PM   #29
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Location: Middletown, IN
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I've owned 3 TJ's, and now have a 14' JK Rubicon. I like the Rubicon a lot, and don't see any reason to ever get rid of it. It really suits my needs now later in life. I don't wheel like I used to, and I enjoy the heated seats,power locks,power windows and other comforts. However, IMO, the TJ was more of a "JEEP" than the JK will ever be. Easier to work on, less "stuff". Just a solid, reliable machine.
Just my 2 cents
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Old 11-09-2013, 09:52 PM   #30
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Some pretty good feedback here. Most of it seems to lean towards the TJ. I myself have never owned a TJ but I do own a 2007 JK 2 door X model with a manual trans and 3.21 gears. Is it underpowered? Sure. Does it still get up to highway speed before the end of the on ramp? You bet. The ride is not Cadillac smooth, but it's not unbearable either. I've taken it on trips before with no issues. You don't need 4.10 gears. I wouldn't mind something deeper than my 3.21 but it is still pretty liveable. I daily drive my Jeep.

Keep in mind that on a TJ you will need a lift to run 33's. On a JK you don't. It will help, but not necessary. In fact a JK on factory 255/75/17 tires (32's) will be a lot more capable out of the box than a TJ. I run 33x12.5x15 on my JK and while a lot wider than the factory tires, they are just about the same height. I added Rubicon shocks and springs for $100 and gained about an inch of ride height. My JK sits about even with a TJ that has a 3" lift. So in terms of cost to fit the tires you want, it will cost significantly more on a TJ.

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