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 COG on Tuesday, October 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun drive, comfort, aftermarket upgrades, roomy"
Cons: "gas mileage, brakes, technology options"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"My reason for getting a Jeep was to have a vehicle that was versatile regardless of location of residency. Meaning - that in any season I wouldn't have to worry about being hindered in any way of my movement from point A to point B. Its not that I needed that option but that I wanted to have that option. Additionally, I could also have some fun with the Jeep finding some trails and driving with the doors off etc.. It wasn't until the interior was redesigned to what it is now and the engine upgraded that I decided to purchase the Jeep. Those were two areas that I felt needed much attention. Now, the interior is great with comfortable seating and nice leather if I might ad with complimentary stitching as well. At 5' 7' I have plenty of room all around for driving and find that the seats are well designed for short and long distance driving. There is plenty of power in the motor for passing other motorist on the road and for going down the less paved path. There are many things I would say that Chrysler has done well with the new model from the sunroof top and removable all together, the removable doors are an easy job, plenty of cargo room with the seats down or up, engine power and the audio system is good as well. Areas for improvement I would say are gas mileage - I just find it hard to believe that with most modern sports cars and trucks that the Jeep mileage still maintains to be so horrendous. Now, I did not purchase it for its MPG but it is definitely an area for improvement. At best I have achieved 22 highway and 10 city. The brakes have a bad tendency of squeaking and grinding pretty constantly. A few trips to the Jeep Dealership and I am told that it is normal and there is nothing that they can do to fix it. The engine has a bad habit of holding high RPMs during normal driving when going up hill or down hill and not shifting. Just seems odd; normal fix action is to either speed up or slow down to have it shift and lower the RPMs. Under normal driving conditions the engine is pretty quite but once you apply some gas then it becomes much noisier in the cabin. The rear window weather stripping failed some how and was leaking water in. The brake pedal was squeaking and was informed it was the brake booster that had to be replaced. The NAV unit could use an upgrade in terms of better quality for the resolution and menu navigation. Not inherently having Bluetooth in the NAV upgrade is a bit of a let down (especially at $42K). I did notice that there is a warning that interior weight of the passengers with cargo should not exceed 800lbs; I sure hope I read that wrong or it was a mis-print because that just seems awfully low. So just four 200lb individuals and no cargo. Conclusion - I know this is a Jeep and some people would just accept some of these short comings. Everyone has their own preference; for me this is still a vehicle that cost me $42K so some of these areas should be scene as areas of improvement since they were missed on this generation."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Bobby on Monday, October 06, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive and great for bad weather."
Cons: "Cheap interior, bad gas mileage, must watch oil."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"The wife wanted a Jeep Wrangler to enjoy the Florida weather. It is a fun car to occasionally drive, but not for long trips or everyday use. Not comfortable for long trips and bad gas mileage - about as much as a truck, but less useful. Recently learned that this car consumes about one quart of oil every 1,000 miles between oil changes! Jeep will tell you that this is normal. I have a Honda Accord with 197,000 miles and have hardly ever needed to add oil between changes. Unfortunately, it was too late and I had to repair the engine because I blew a piston. Also, the tire sensor is always on even if the pressure is okay. Fun car for occasional use, bad weather, or off-road but not every day commuting."
8 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Bow Wow 1125 on Monday, September 29, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Solid, Reliable, Multifuntional, Good for Michigan"
Cons: "It's tall. Older dogs and people have trouble."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have paid this car through and never had an issue. New battery and tires this year have been my only expenses. Winter 2013-2014 was brutal in Michigan and my Jeep handled it like a champ. I was blazing trails through the snow and towing cars out of drifts so other people could get where they needed. I have maintained land with it, hauled huge loads, towed boats (even off-road) no problem. Kbb.com is reporting it is worth more than I paid for it 5 years later."
5 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By jeepguy79 on Saturday, September 06, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent Engine and off-road abilities."
Cons: "Ride quality if looking for luxury car feel."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Either you love a Jeep or hate a Jeep. I have owned other Jeeps in the past and this model (2012 and newer) is much improved. Best engine Jeep has ever used. Ironically for a Wrangler actually can overtake many cars on the road. Huge amount of power and acceleration with improved gas mileage. The ride quality is improved and still a little bumpy on the road but overall very good for a Jeep. Decent gas mileage averaging around 19mpg. The soft top is much improved being more quiet and airtight and easier to remove. Improved off-road abilities. Overall I would never own another type of vehicle. Can go anywhere in style."
32 people out of 59 found this review helpful
By TNG on Sunday, August 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 34,550overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Solid, dependable, American Made.""
Cons: "Uncomfortable seats, poor gas mileage.""
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
""Great vehicle that is incredibly versatile. The 4 door is a great option.Don't purchase this vehicle if you are looking for comfort.""
11 people out of 17 found this review helpful
By Gert on Sunday, August 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, lots of aftermarket available"
Cons: "Can't go back to a regular car ever again"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love my Jeep Wrangler. Is it the most comfortable car? Is it the most economical car? Is it the most practical car? No, not really. Is driving it with the top and doors off the most fun I can have with my clothes on? Absolutely! I owned a Jeep CJ7 back in the mid 80's and have always wanted to pick up a Wrangler, when the 4 door version came out it became practical to own with a family. I purchased the 2012 because of the engine upgrade and I have not been disappointed. The Jeep has much better power and acceleration than previous models. I really like the interior changes over previous years. It handles well for what it is and as far as I am concerned, it is like an erector set on wheels if you like to modify/accessorize your vehicle. There may be some reliability issues in previous years, but I have had nothing but good experience with mine, although I have not had it long term yet. A Wrangler is a lifestyle vehicle. In my opinion, it is like owning a Harley Davidson motorcycle. There may be better bikes out there, but you had better not tell that to a Harley owner."
9 people out of 10 found this review helpful