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 jkoffroader on Wednesday, December 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, comfortable, off-roading"
Cons: "Not cheap!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have owned Wranglers for 7+ years now and I have to say my 2014 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is the best one yet. It's very comfortable and I love to power of the 3.5l pentastar engine. I really like the 430N stereo--easy to use and the navigation is garmin based. Yes Jeeps are expensive but they hold their value really well. When I traded my 2013 in, I got almost what I paid for it new. It's a great vehicle and you will not be disappointed one bit."
4 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Dark angel on Sunday, November 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,900overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks great inside and out, good price"
Cons: "Not a city or highway ride"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Best looking Jeep ever, inside and out. That being said? Wish the 4.0 was back or I'd waited for the 3.6. The ongoing leaking roof that took the better part of 2 years to fix with multiple visits was my only major turn off. I expect to bail water in a boat, not in my vehicle. I'm a Jeep fan, especially liked seeing 98% American made, a huge selling point. That alone would keep me buying Jeeps. That it looks good doesn't, hurt either."
5 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Greg on Saturday, November 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "4 doors, good stereo, better door handles, comfort"
Cons: "everything else. TJ is a much better value"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This vehicle is a pavement pounder plain and simple. It has all the fancy gadgets and performance mods that make it perform great off-road, but overall it is built very fragile. There are also several little things that could have been designed better. There is a gap between the front fenders and bumper, and when rocks get caught in tire tread it bounces off the bumper and goes flying up to hit the windshield. Mine is already cracked from this. Jeep designed this thing for comfort, not to be the most capable factory available off-road vehicle. The roof leaks and has since it was new. There is no side protection beyond the fenders, so rocks fly up the sides and chip the paint. It is over 1000 pounds heavier than the TJ. The only things that were improved is the comfort, stereo system, the door handles, and having 4 doors. Not worth the extra $14,000."
2 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Randy on Friday, November 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 31,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "All around, any season Vehicle.."
Cons: "small cargo area.."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"In a Harsh Climate like Northern Minnesota the Jeep Wrangler shines bright.. I've Driven through deep Snow ,-40 below Zero temperatures, and the Jeep's never failed me..And yes I'd Buy another one...."
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By dizzy on Tuesday, November 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "needs spacer in front, Soft top is very complex."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My jeep is really fun to drive, a little noisy, because the tops are not insulated, and the off road tires are lowd. Has more power than you need, easy to manuvere and handle. Interior is excellent, but for off road use don't get black leather, it is very hard to keep clean. You need to level the front of the jeeps, with a spacer, this makes them look better. I do get a little drift when driving slow speeds, but nothing bad. Off road incredible performance. Can't carry large items, because the back seats don't fold down far enough. Over all it is a great fun to drive and own vehicle."
7 people out of 11 found this review helpful
By Zukowitz on Tuesday, November 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 27,800overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I'm a big guy and being that it's a jeep... I fit in there pretty good. The seats go all the way back to stretch and rest on long distances. Proud to own one finally !!! The new jk penstar seems to be plenty powerful enough and the 6 speed manual adds a lot of fun to the ride and drive. It's a jeep thing and it may not be for everyone for what their purpose is but it seems like you are seeing a lot more jeep jks as everyday driver , so perhaps that says something. I go camping and hiking a lot so I would eventually like to add a off road cargo trailer to the list and some of the accessories that , jeep , mopar, quadratech and the extended list of companies out there for customizing your jeep to your liking.... Lots of fun !!!"
8 people out of 13 found this review helpful