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 ktmk36 on Sunday, June 29, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 770overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "LOOKS, LOOKS & LOOKS...style, comfort, horsepower"
Cons: "Mercenary gets poor gas mileage because of lift"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I purchased a 2013 Jeep Wrangler after trading UP from my 2012 Jeep Wrangler! Trade up you ask? Here in Kansas City there is a Jeep dealer that upgrades the Wrangler's with the "permission" of Jeep and calls them MERCENARY...with the dealer doing it, it keeps the factory warranty in place! I have uploaded a pic for you to see all the stuff it has on it. 4" lift, 35" tires, power running boards, roof rack and basket, H.I.D each lichts and front lights, LED headlights, tail lights and blinkers...new aggressive from bumper and rear bumper with 10,000lbs winch, new tailgate tire carrier that also holds 2 gas cans and other numerous items added to this bad boy! My 2012 was also a Mercenary and I rode her hard and put her up wet, 66 miles in 2 years...I saw this one on the lot and traded in my OLD Mercenary and got a GREAT trade in price with all the stuff I had on it! My wife has a 2010 Wrangler Mountain edition, which is nice, but lacks the power and finness that the 2012 & 2013 have. The extra 85 horsepower is a Godsend...if you can afford it, check out the Jeep Mercenary...they are real head turners!"
17 people out of 36 found this review helpful
By German on Wednesday, June 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun! High resale value. Simple. Excellent 4x4."
Cons: "Poor safety ratings. Fuel economy. Sound system."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my 2nd Wrangler, my first JK and I love it. It's a Jeep thing - it's similar to buying a Harley Davidson. Jeep is more a way of life than a practical, economical vehicle. Topless, doorless, folding windshield and all of this FUN with a proven go-anywhere 4x4 capability. They hold their value better than any car I've owned. Easy to sell at a premium price - especially if you take care of it. Spring time brings out the Jeep in everybody and you're guaranteed to have buyers coming out of the woods. All Wranglers currently have the same 285 hp motor, and transmission/transfer case. The only difference is the gearing ratios in the axle and transfer case. Mine has the 3.21 gears and I wish I'd spent a little more for the 3.73 gears. Rubicons (which are way over-priced) have the 4.10 gears and locking differentials which are nice, but definitely not necessary. Shop around for the newest and cheapest Sport model. You'll save thou$and$. Remember, Jeep stands for Just Empty Every Pocket...you'll enjoy customizing your American legend. Keep the rubber side down."
8 people out of 14 found this review helpful
By Cindy on Tuesday, June 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 138,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I would recommend this vehicle for anyone that lives in areas of lots of snow fall, also great on the highway as well. I would rate this as the top vehicle to drive with 4 wheel drive, sits up high, very easy to maneuver! I have owned SUV's and cars and really this is the best in weather conditions of all types. Night driving is also good, except with heavy rains which most vehicles are hard to drive in those conditions."
6 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Josie on Saturday, June 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 169,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "expensive parts, uncomfortable & transmission prob"
Cons: "Great AC, awesome in snow and mud, looks pretty."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"My transmission went out at 119,000 miles. I had the dealership put a rebuilt transmission in and it had selenoid problems less than 30,000 miles later and again 25,000 miles later. I had a lot of issues with the steering wheel and after paying to get it fixed 3 times, a recall came out for the clock-spring to be replaced in the steering wheel. i asked for a refund and got it. Also the inner fender liners were recalled. The seats are not very comfortable.The door harness which has wires in it, broke on both front doors, when the wind caught them. I love my Jeep, but don't know if I want to deal with all these issues again."
2 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By radsrock on Tuesday, June 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive,big bang for the buck"
Cons: "Gas milage about 16mpg. mostly city driving"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Ive owned my jeep for two years now. Whenever I park it and walk away I still look back to this day. Thats when you know you really like your jeep. 3.8 motor is powerful enough for me. New interior with soft touch leather is amazing.Jeep has come a long way."
4 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By KM on Tuesday, June 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun, economical, beautiful, rugged. Has character."
Cons: "Back seat hard to get in/out. Interior light poor."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My Wrangler Sahara is fun and economical compared to the Wrangler Unlimited. Love everything about it but the back seat could be easier to enter and exit. Also, zipping back plastic window back in a little difficult. Overall, such a great car!"
1 person out of 4 found this review helpful