Jeep enthusiasts are always looking for ways to make their vehicles more capable off-road. There are many ways to achieve this, but two popular options are purchasing a Jeep Wrangler Xtreme Recon or building an aftermarket Jeep. Both options have their pros and cons, and in this blog post, we will explore the differences between the two.
The Recon is a high-performance version of the Jeep Wrangler. It comes with many upgrades, such as 35-inch BF Goodrich KO2 all-terrain tires, a two-inch lift kit, and Dana 44 axles with electronic locking differentials. The Xtreme Recon also has a unique look, with a hood that features functional air vents and a raised hood scoop. The Xtreme Recon is a great option for those who want a Jeep that is ready for off-road adventures right out of the box.
On the other hand, an aftermarket built Jeep is a Jeep that has been modified by its owner. This can involve adding aftermarket parts, such as a lift kit, bigger tires, and a winch, or it can involve custom modifications, such as building a custom roll cage or installing a V8 engine. Building a home-built Jeep can be a rewarding experience for those who enjoy working on cars, but it can also be time-consuming and expensive.
One of the main differences between the two options is cost. The Jeep Wrangler Xtreme Recon has a package cost of $3995 whereas an aftermarket built Jeep can be anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the modifications that are made and if installation costs are included. While the Xtreme Recon is more expensive, it comes with a factory warranty and is designed to perform well off-road right out of the box.
Another difference is ease of installation. The Jeep Wrangler Xtreme Recon comes with all of the upgrades pre-installed, so there is no need to spend time installing aftermarket parts. With a home-built Jeep, the installation process can be time-consuming and requires mechanical knowledge and skill.
We recently had the opportunity to test two of our similarly built, but slightly different Jeeps in a real-world environment on the legendary trails of Moab. These two Jeeps are “Berries”, which is our near-factory Xtreme Recon edition of the 2021 Rubicon lineup, and our “aftermarket-built” 2021 Rubicon featuring mostly Teraflex aftermarket parts dubbed “Blue Sky”.
For the average Jeep enthusiast it is now a real question as to whether it is better, more cost effective, etc to purchase your Jeep more-or-less built straight from the factory by Jeep with the Xtreme Recon edition, or to build your Jeep after market, either yourself or with a trusted shop at the helm.
Questions we asked before the purchase of the Recon were obvious – was the upcharge worth it? How does it perform? The Recon package adds $3995 to your already expensive Rubicon.
Let’s start with the basics of each Jeep:
Recon – “Berries”
Aftermarket-built – “Blue Sky”
Moab is an ideal test ground as it features many levels of trails, and is a long trip out to get there. The highway aspect of the Recon was great and handles better at that last stretch of 80+ mph on I70. It is easier and more comfortable to drive on the roads and highway.
But that does come at the cost of off-road performance. Berries does very well off-road, but it does begin to struggle a bit earlier than Blue Sky. The largest difference is really the lack of dowtravel the Recon has. The lift does not appear to change control arms vs the normal Rubicon, which costs articulation compared to the Teraflex lift. The Teraflex lift replaces the upper and lower control arms. When the Jeep was really max-ed out on uphill climbs that difference became quickly obvious. You will also feel the bumpstops hit more often.
On Metal Masher, there were two areas that took a bit longer to get Berries through compared to Blue Sky. Both obstacles really had to do with wheel travel and the minor differences being amplified by the terrain.
The Xtreme Recon is a great option for those who want a Jeep that is ready for off-road adventures right out of the box, If you as a wheeler are not into harder trails, you will likely never even notice the small sacrifice in off-road ability the Recon has vs and aftermarket built Jeep
Home-built Jeep can be a rewarding experience for those who enjoy working on cars.
If you are a more hard-core wheeler, prefer to work on your Jeep yourself and/or anticipate continuing to modify the vehicle than the Recon package is probably not worth it.