By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 9/7/2011
"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.
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.