The Sahara would save you some bucks fwiw but I'd get the Rubi.
my long term plans would be pretty basic, moderate lift, larger tires (35's or maybe 37's). I don't have the cash for lockers and replacement axels. I only wheel a couple/few times a year.
37's is a big deal for suspension, ram steering so you don't have a sector shaft problem in the future, 4"lift minimum and then a need for steering correction as well as trackbar relocation, driveshafts as well. 3" lift makes the venture much cheaper and keep shocks at 10" travel.
With any lift check swaybar links lengths to ensure they are long enough for any lift. I found mine short and it caused problems flipping and the damaging links.
I'll add a different spin on this. Buying the sport/Sahara platform will do two things for you.
A.) Get you to negotiate obstacles with more thought and help you gain skill.
B.) Save you money in the long run.
Wheeling with open axles and crappy low ratio aids in developing skill on the trails. If you can conquer difficult obstacles in that manner, then you will walk all over them when you upgrade.
That leads me into the second reason, if you own your Jeep long enough and especially if you pay it off and keep it, you will probably gut most of the stock items in the suspension and drivetrain over time, either through failure or realizing those skills you developed eclipsed your equipment and you want more challenging terrain.
I'd be concerned about the lift, but wheels and tires are not a cheap upgrade. Neither are gears, lockers, axles, and transfer case, but, if you don't think you'll be upgrading those things over time the choice seems pretty clear.
I have a sport and it has been fun watching it transform over the past few years. I enjoy building vehicles up though.
I don't like waiting for someone all the time. Using a jeep with lockers takes skill when it's tough to get through the trail even with lockers. It makes it impossible for those without lockers. It's like wheeling with a FJ that has no articulation up front due to IFS and no swaybar disconnect. Bottom line your limited.
I traded my stock (not lifted) 13 Sahara for a stock (not lifted) JKU Rubicon for the transfer case, dana 44's etc... I didn't have the time nor patience nor the know how to build my own. Not sure what kind of wheelin' you do but OMG! I love the Rubicon it's amazing how awesome it feels off roading. My Rubicon is also my DD. Eventually I will lift it and add tires. Just my 2 cents.
Good deal yeah it makes a difference. 4:1 is really helpful climbing in the mountains. It really is dependent upon your area, terrain (mud needs more wheel spin so a 4:1 May not be ideal). When your crawling at 9200ft for example you will find being down on power due to elevation. 4:1 is again welcomed.
Man... Great info guys. I'll just be happy when I get my JKU. Leaning toward the rubi for now...
Unless you see a need for d60's like putting on 40"s then rubicon is an ok build platform.
What lift is on the Sahara. Unless it is a premium lift like Rock Krawler, Metal Cloak, or Synergy, forget the Sahara. Even if it does have one, forget the Sahara.
You want to look at the core of the Jeep. Do you want a better transfer case, axles, lockers, and gear ratio .... or .... a Jeep that comes with a lift and tires. Don't forget about resale value which the Rubicon will win every time. Basically if the Sahara is the same price as the Rubicon, that means you're paying for a Sahara plus the cost of the wheels/tires/lift.
Go for the hardware, not the pretty looks. You can always upgrade wheels/tires/lift but you better be prepared to spend some serious money to upgrade the to get the stock hardware of a Rubicon.
This. Lift makes a big difference. Synergy long arm and metal cloak joints would be a great combo. I am running teraflex. I am not brand biased. Some of the mods I have are custom cause after market didn't address the 6" lift height very well at the time. Suspension is still evolving on my jeep.