If you need to climb a mountain - and really, who doesn't these days? - the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is probably the best climbing partner you can imagine. And when your mountain-climbing aspirations start to wane, after five years or so, the Wrangler is also going to be the best compact utility vehicle in terms of resale value.
The 2-door 2012 Jeep Wrangler and the 4-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited possess all the legitimate 4-wheel-drive off-roading character to make a worthy contender in a stump-jumping competition. That rough-terrain talent includes short front and rear overhangs, gapingly good ground clearance, skid plates, and the guts and, new for 2012, the assurance of a 285-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine. That V6 can be had with either a new 5-speed manual transmission, or a 6-speed automatic that'll net you 16 mpg in the urban jungle and 21 mpg on the highway. A 2,000-lb. towing capacity is also part of the bargain, with 3,500 lbs. of haul available.
Being the best little SUV in town, or more to the point, out of town, means having a simple, easy-to-hose-out interior. The standard cloth seats and soft-top roof help ensure that, but a 3-piece removable hardtop version can be had. Off-road gifts aside, the 2012 Wrangler SUV's on-road manners are the best they've ever been, with a pavement-friendly suspension and plenty of electronic watchdogs helping to keep everything pointed in the right direction.
While the 2012 Jeep Wrangler starts around $23,000, you can build models that reach into the $40,000 price range. The good news is that you'll be able to recoup a better-than-average chunk of that outlay after your 5-year hill-climb hiatus runs its course.