Mexico is nothing short of a mystical land; not much is written, spoken and read about it. Jeep - An American muscle, with tons of military emotion attached to it, is a “Wave” in the USA. We took the Made in America Jeep Wrangler Rubicon on an exploratory drive into the wine valley of Mexico. There is no better SUV than the Wrangler when you are about to enter the unknown. It drives well on the tarmac and, with its 4X4 capabilities, can conquer any terrain and gives a “don’t mess with me attitude” while driving with aplomb.
For an Indian passport entering Mexico with a USA Visa is acceptable, but when you are googling, all kinds of conflicting results will show up. Infact disguised as Mexican government websites, many scam web machines will ask you to sign up for an entry form and pay $80; surely, many fall prey to this. Infact entering Mexico and crossing the border is even easier than crossing the Worli sea link toll. It’s the return to California, and you will have USA customs checking every full stop of your travel document. There are huge lines, and it’s a mini carnival with people selling food, juices, utensils, clothes and even puppies.
Driving from Los Angeles and first pacing the Rubicon through the fanciest locations and roads, Del marina, where doting yachts of all shapes and sizes are harboured of the rich and famous. The white colour Rubicon looked splendid against the many white boats, and despite Jeeps being a familiar vehicle in the USA, it always got respectful eyes. Maybe the Military pedigree that started the Jeep wave with CJ45 is raising two fingers with others strapped around your steering to the incoming Jeep.
Mark of solidarity and brotherhood. Also, with a touch of personalisation, most Wranglers were modified with off-road tyres, aftermarket bumpers, lift kits, etc. I happened to drive the Gladiator, the pickup truck version of Wrangler with 4e Hybrid - Wranglers taking command on the roads. There are no plans for the 4eHybrid version to make it to India anytime soon because of the cost escalations and our government’s hybrid car’s high taxation policies.
In sunny California, opening the latch of a Wrangler and driving around the Santa Monica, laguna beachside and highway 1 - Pacific coast highway is an experience in itself, with the pacific ocean on one side and mountainous terrain on the other. Needless to say, the tarmac had been sliced to perfection without any wrinkle on it; the only stress point is to keep yourself checked within the speed limits.
The Rodeo drive in Beverly Hills is where the rich go to swipe their cards, and pulling up in a Wrangler next to a Salvatore Fargaome or Gucci store was not totally out of vogue but quite fashionable. With the doorman giving you the same respect as alighting from a swanky sports car. With the stroke of morning light, we started our march toward Mexico.
The rules are different for driving in Mexico, no one was giving heed to the red lights, and since we are familiar with that in India, it wasn’t difficult to adjust to that scenario and haywire city driving. Roads overall are pretty good, and we took the Rubicon to the beach, a giant statue of Jesus, Ensenda and beyond in the Wine Valley of Mexico. We stayed the night in Rosarito and picked the Rosarito Beach hotel - one of the most expensive and best hotels. And to our surprise were greeted with a power failure and had to tug the luggage and heavy equipment seven floors up. The receptionist simply said no refund, no other room and the elevators “might work in 4 hours”. All of that in Mexican language, and my DOP decoded that for me, I felt like driving the Rubicon all the way to the receptionist and crashing and saying, “sorry!. I forgot to apply the brakes”. In the morning, we went to the beach and engaged the 4-low gear to reach a spot to take some stunning photos. It was empty, not a soul to be seen, and the sun was just warming up. We were greeted by the two Policemen who showed a sign tucked at one remote corner that read cars are not allowed. However, we were 300 meters before the shoreline and maybe 20 feet ahead, where the vehicles are usually parked.
We knew that love and money are two universal languages. First, they hyped up the crime by saying they would keep the car and on walkie acted to call a towing van, with facial expressions and loud distress calls as if we had mowed down people. I watched all this drama with a calm demeanour, knew it was a mind game and opened my wallet and gave him US$ 500. He smiled, and the case was closed! We opened the top of the Wrangler, which makes the Wrangler so practically flexible.
One can open the top in easy steps and keep it in the trunk. Driving with that breeze on the mountainous winding road with the ocean on one side was a totally ecstatic feeling. Finally, 400 km from Los Angels, we reached the wine valley of Mexico, which starts from Ensenada, known as the “Capital del vino Mexicano” which means the Capital of Mexican wine. Since it is one of the entrance doors to the Wine Route in Baja California and is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortés. It is also one of the largest municipalities in Mexico, has an abundance of flora and fauna, and has been nicknamed “The Pearl of the Pacific”, with a diverse landscape, mouth-watering seafood, and breathtaking wine country.
We did offroading, reached spots that were not visited often, and drove over broken patches because we knew the Rubicon is great for the zombie apocalypse. With 4×4 capabilities, impressive suspensions, and locking differentials standard on Wranglers, there are hardly a few places it cannot go. It can literally scale walls, crawl through mud, and eat boulders for breakfast like tacos and still look good in the process.
Jeep Wrangler is manufactured in just two countries in the world, USA and India, and the fit and finish are exactly the same — nothing extra for the Americans. We are both dealt the same dish with the same off-road capabilities, fun, and sense of adventure. Always felt that I drove the Made in India Rubicon to Mexico and not the made in America. Felt safe at home even in the otherwise treacherous Mexico.