By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.8
"Iconic" may be an overused descriptive, but the 2012 Jeep Wrangler SUV wears it well. Some 65 years after the end of World War II, civilians continue to embrace the same basic recipe of affordable four-wheel drive, despite the Jeep's increased size, capability and – at a base price of $23K and an equipped price that can touch (or exceed) $40K – wide-ranging window sticker. And while the original Willys MA and MB established their off-road credibility in some of the worst theaters of World War II, the Jeep Wrangler has never been more off-road capable or - over the road - more comfortable. That composure is heightened by an all-new SUV drivetrain, featuring a more responsive V6 and (available) five-speed automatic transmission.
If you enjoy outdoor activities, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is your round-trip ticket to the trailhead, ski slope or beach. And if you enjoy the Jeep-specific pursuit of boulder hopping, this newest iteration of the Wrangler – and newish iteration of the four-door Unlimited SUV – won't disappoint.
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler is engineered to deliver credible off-road SUV capability. To that end, its on-road demeanor is necessarily compromised. Both its separate frame and live axles (front and rear) enhance off-road performance, while compromising on-road stability (heavier unsprung weight from live axles) and performance (heavier curb weight – typically – with a separate frame) when compared to today's pavement-specific crossover SUVs.
The improvements found in the 2012 Jeep Wrangler can be summed up with one number: 285. That horsepower figure, from a new (for the Wrangler SUV) 3.6-liter V6, constitutes a 40-percent improvement as compared to its 202-horsepower predecessor. And when connected to the Wrangler's new five-speed automatic (a six-speed manual transmission is the standard gearbox), the powertrain produces both better performance (zero-to-60 times are improved by two to three seconds) and fuel efficiency.
Driving Impressions The best part about the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is that it remains – in the end – a Jeep, with the aforementioned separate body-and-frame construction, live axles front and rear,...and enough ground clearance to drive over a (large) sleeping dog without doing damage to dog or drivetrain. With that menu of perceived negatives for on-road performance, Jeep engineers have done a remarkable job of taming the beast within, endowing this newest Wrangler SUV with steering that actually steers, and a suspension that remains in regular contact with the paved surfaces beneath it. Off-road, the 2012 Wrangler is everything you want in a four-wheel-drive trail rig, given its ability to poke along at walking speed. And if the logging trail allows – or the evening's destination calls for it – you have the ability to get up-and-running in no time. Add real horsepower to the crawling, and favorable gearing for the hauling, and you arguably have the most competent Jeep Wrangler in the CJ's 70-year history.
New 3.6-liter V6 Powertrain
The new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is the final piece in the Jeep Wrangler puzzle. And the improvement is more than just the raw power listed in the specs. In every on-and-off-road discipline, the newest Jeep is an improvement over its predecessor. And when equipped with the available 5-speed automatic, refinement goes up while losing very little – if any – capability or efficiency.
In a world of disposable consumer goods, or those with life expectancy that goes just beyond their warranty period, the essential goodness of a Jeep Wrangler, including the 2012 Jeep Wrangler, exists within its basic simplicity. Body-on-frame construction may add weight, but it also ensures longevity and aids in ease of repair. Add in elements such as easily replaceable fenders and removable doors, and you have both an off-road tool and urban warrior.
The Jeep Wrangler interior was extensively upgraded for the 2011 model year. To that end, few changes have been necessary – or incorporated – for 2012. Our test Wrangler, a Sahara Unlimited SUV trimmed in Black/Dark Saddle leather, was just this side of sumptuous. Lower in the food chain is the base Sport, whose cloth-covered perches can best be described as functional. And although the Wrangler Unlimited's folding rear seat creates a spacious – and flat – load surface, the headrests don't detach for folding, which necessitates moving the front seats as far forward as possible. Jeep's interior design team should refer to Honda's subcompact Fit for an idea of how to add "convenience" to "functional."
With each generation, the Jeep Wrangler engineering team increases its footprint. And that was never more evident than in the 2007 redesign, when the two-door Wrangler grew and the four-door Wrangler Unlimited was first introduced. In its Unlimited form, the Wrangler SUV stretches almost 15 feet, weighing almost 4,500 pounds. That said, the 2012 Wrangler's off-road intentions remain clear, with minimal overhangs front and rear. The exterior design retains a greenhouse that provides excellent visibility of both the trail and adjacent scenery. New for 2012 is a body-colored hardtop for both the two-door and four-door Wranglers (Sahara and Rubicon), creating a more unified – and upscale – appearance.
We'd (again) mention the 2012 Jeep Wrangler SUV's 285 horsepower as most notable, but with additional power comes the need for enhanced control. Here, Jeep engineers have added a full menu of safety and security, including electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, Hill-start Assist, and Trailer-sway Control. Add the aggressive 4WD technology on the off-road-oriented Rubicon, and the most difficult trails become almost laughably easy.
The 2012 Wrangler's optional five-speed automatic transmission provides the driver with more efficiency, better access to the new V6's torque curve and, with a lower 1st-gear ratio, better ability to crawl those rocks. And Jeep is one of the few manufacturers providing you a choice of rear-end ratios (3.21, 3.73 or 4.10). That choice allows the owner to truly tailor the Wrangler to his or her specific driving needs.
The 3.6-liter V6 in the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is truly a revelation. The new engine improves on the previous powerplant in both power (up by some 40 percent) and fuel efficiency (from 15/19 mpg (city/highway) in 2011 to as much as 17/21 in 2012). Featuring alloy construction, the 60-degree V6 is lighter and more compact than the 3.8-liter it replaces. And with 285 hp, the perceived need for a V8 is all but eliminated. With that, we continue to wish that Jeep would make available the diesel sold in many markets outside of the U.S. The diesel's uptick in torque, along with an upsurge in fuel economy, would be all the new EPA regulations – and Jeep consumers – might ask for.
3.6 liter DOHC V6
285 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
260 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17 City/21 Highway (Wrangler Manual/Automatic)
16 City/20 Highway (Wrangler Unlimited Automatic)
16 City/21 Highway (Wrangler Unlimited Manual)
By Jeepo on Sunday, March 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "GREAT visibility out all the windows."
Cons: "MPG, chrysler quality"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"BLUF: One thing all the professional reviewers have dead wrong is the visibility out of the ting. I imagine, if you're a once in a while car reviewer, you might get hung up on perceptions. Start looking for blind spots, rather than just seeing if you can't see well when in use. I own several cars and have owned many more in the last 5-10 years. From 2 door sports cars to 4 door wagons and pickups. The jeep has BY FAR, the best visibility. I can see out every window. In most of my cars, I can only see out of the front 2 on the passenger side and rear as well as driver's front. In this car i can turn my head and see everything. The rear tire sticks a few inches into the rear window, not covering it mostly. Sure if you were backing up a hill, it would be hard to see the ground, but that's the same with a hatchback or sports car as well. As well the same as every other SUV out there. The Jeep has the added advantage of having the rear tire being the farthest protruding part of the vehicle. So not only do you have a rubber bumper (though don't use it like that) but you can see where the back of your car is. What it lacks in high rear visibility cutoff, it makes up in point of view angles for the other 3 sides. TLDR, the visibility is better than any other car I've driven in the last 10 years. It may have a blind spot right behind the spare tire, but all cars have blind spots when right behind them and below the window. BLUF: One thing all the professional reviewers have dead wrong is the visibility out of the ting. I imagine, if you're a once in a while car reviewer, you might get hung up on perceptions. I own several cars. From 2 door sports cars to 4 door wagons and pickups. The jeep has BY FAR, the best visibility. I can see out every window. In most of my cars, I can only see out of the front 2 on the passenger side and rear as well as driver's front. In this car i can turn my head and see everything. The rear tire sticks a few inches into the rear window, not covering it mostly. Sure if you were backing up a hill, it would be hard to see the ground, but that's the same with a hatchback or sports car as well. As well the same as every other SUV out there. The Jeep has the added advantage of having the rear tire being the farthest protruding part of the vehicle. So not only do you have a rubber bumper (though don't use it like that) but you can see where the back of your car is. TLDR, the visibility is better than any other car I've driven in the last 10 years. It may have a blind spot right behind the spare tire, but all cars have blind spots when right behind them and below the window. Nothing too surprising with the JK unlimited Rubicon. It's still a Chrysler, so it still feels a little outdated. The interior has been updated from the previous garbage that all chryslers were sporting a few years ago. Nothing over the top, more like modern american made toyota quality. The flat body panels don't offer much rigidity. The door handles flex when you pull on them. The fender flares wobble around a bit, but not bad. Unlike what they showed on a motorweek review about the rear tire carrier flexing, they don't actually do that. You'd break the tire carrier before flexing the door. Its still an american car, so it has some creaks and rattles from new. Other than that, probably the first jeep that actually was drivable by anyone. My previous jeeps, even Cherokees, were rough, shoddily made, and so uncomfortable they required "jeeping" to be a life style, not simply a drive. The new jk is comfortable and refined. The mileage is typcial Chrysler again. If it had a GM drive train in it it would probably be capable of mid 25mpg, but even driving like the hypermiler I am, I can't get 20mpg (rubicon is worse than most due to tires and gears). Neat thing is, I can finally own a jeep and drive my family in it. Its edged its way into real car territory. I always loved my old, uncomfortable, unreliable jeeps in the past, but I couldn't bribe people into riding with me. Too hot, too cold, too bumpy, too cramped, too loud, to dangerous. This one is close enough to any other SUV. One thing it is lacking is the ability to corner. Solid axles and off road suspension mean it really likes to pitch over on the off ramps. IT doesn't skid or lift wheels, but combined with chrysler seats offering no support (might as well be sitting on a bean bag) you won't feel confident driving it at speed in curves. Which is just as well, as the steering is geared more for slow maneuvering than sporty response."
By Jeep Guy on Saturday, March 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my 5th wrangler. No doubt the best one yet. The 285 hp pentastar mated to a six speed manual is simply outstanding! Off-road capability is of the chart as one would expect, but it's the improvements on road that put this wrangler over the top."
By gerry on Saturday, March 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 28,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great for towing behind a motorhome, off-roading,"
Cons: "Not as plush, quiet, or smooth riding as a sedan"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"My jeep wrangler has been everything I expected. I do a lot of off-roading with a club, I tow it behind my motorhome about 5,000 miles each year, and use it daily in town. All of my friends who own one would probably purchase them again--they all do some off-roading and several also use them as a tow vehicle behind their motorhome. My second car is a Jeep Grand Cheroke which I also like."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By giggles on Monday, February 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great in sand or snow, fun to drive, felt safe in"
Cons: "seats in back are uncomfortable for long trips"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Its great for driving on the beaches, top is convertible 3 different ways which is awesome, for the money I paid for it though with all the options its still was worth it. Don't get the xyilion pkg though it is not worth it for five thousand they do not cover everything the dealership says it does. Overall though I have had no problems with it and I traveled from Florida to Pennsylvania in it. Its great on mileage as far as highway goes and if driving locally I get around 22mpg., despite what mfg.sticker says."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By j-to-the-r-o-c on Tuesday, February 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,100overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "removable seats, convertible, capable, chicks dig"
Cons: "nothing. If you don't like it buy a Honda"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is the best SUV you can get for the money. The Pentastar V6 has almost 300hp and has power on demand. I got the 6 speed manual and I love how it shifts smoothly through the gears. The beauty is that is still a true Jeep. It is a brute frame on convertible mountain scaling machine. I got the Sport because I have plans to build the jeep I want. I love that the accessories are inexpensive and endless. Love my JK Jeep. The only thing in the world I would trade for is another Jeep."
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By JimBob on Tuesday, February 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 32,311overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great off road"
Cons: "Over priced!! poor craftmanship"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"First off it is way over priced for what you get in return for your dollar. Very poor performance up until 2012 model. Transmission shifting is sloppy at best. Has quirky electronic/electrical issues, example and this has happened 3 times to myself not to mention to the wife. Start up hit the button to roll windows down and only one goes down, or neither go down. Shut off engine start it back up and everything works as it should. Another issue with electronics is, start up and it will idle like it's got a miss or idles really rough, hit the gas and it will do nothing, no increase in rpm and same rough idle. Again shut it off and restart works fine for months!! The absolute worst part is the finish, you can't tell me after all the years these have been made they can not find a paint to paint the screws on the hood, doors and hinges that does not corrode ?? Mine started to show signs of corrosion only after the first year. Dealership said hmm nothing we can do about it, seriously? AS soon as this thing is paid off it's going down the road, this is the third JEEP I have owned but first Wrangler and never again. They might be for off-roading but for that I would get one from the 70's that didn't cost $25,000 and show rust only after the first year. If I were to put a price on a brand new one realistically it's worth about $12 to $15,000 not 25 to 30K."
7 people out of 13 found this review helpful