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2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Review and Road Test

2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (select to view enlarged photo)
2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Jeep Specs, Prices, Comparisons and Reviews - Jeep Buyers Guide

by Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

With 70 years of legendary heritage, the iconic Jeep brand continues to deliver immense off-road as well as on-road driving fun.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (select to view enlarged photo)

In May, I wrote in detail about the Jeep brand history in my review of the 2011 Wrangler and suggest you might take a look at that story published HERE on The Auto Channel.

For 2012, Jeep Wrangler has a new heart but retains the same soul, according to Chrysler. A new 3.6-liter V-6 engine gives the ever-capable Wrangler a completely new, more refined on-road driving experience – complete with more fuel efficiency, power and torque.

Chrysler Group’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine – winner of the Ward’s 10 Best Engines award – delivers 285 horsepower (209 kW) and 260 lb.-ft. of torque (353 N•m), with greater fuel efficiency. The improvement, when compared to the previous 3.8-liter V-6 engine, is 40 percent in horsepower and 10 percent in torque. Additionally, the Jeep Wrangler migrates from a four-speed to a new five-speed automatic transmission. The 2012 Jeep Wrangler also features the company’s first application of a manual transmission to the Pentastar V-6.

EPA fuel economy ratings are 16 city mpg and 21 highway mpg for the manual and 16 city mpg and 20 highway mpg for the automatic. The Wrangler Unlimited has a 22.5 gallon fuel tank which should allow for 450 miles of all-day highway driving or long off-road and back-woods adventures.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited(select to view enlarged photo)

Jeep Wrangler is now available with more axle gear ratios allowing a choice between fuel economy and/or vehicle capability. Wrangler is available with 3.21, 3.73 or 4.10 ratios depending on model. Wrangler offers towing capability up to 3,500 lbs.

The Jeep Wrangler 2-door and Wrangler Unlimited 4-door are available in four models: Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon. Combined with an all-new interior for 2011, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is virtually all-new over the past two model years.

New for 2012, Wrangler Rubicon models now share a body-color hardtop option with the Sahara model. The complete-monotone color exterior is very rich and a nicer look than with the black hardtop.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (select to view enlarged photo)

The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited seats five and is the only four-door 4x4 convertible on the market. A full contingent of creature comfort features include air conditioning, power windows, power heated outside mirrors, automatic headlamps, tilt steering column, remote keyless entry, cruise control and more. Thus, the Wrangler Unlimited is not at all uncomfortable to live with on a day-to-day basis.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (select to view enlarged photo)

At 173 inches long…much shorter than typical minivans and SUVs…Chicago-style city maneuvering is very manageable. Public garage parking and parallel parking is about what you would expect and not a challenge. Although the longer wheelbase of the 4-door Wrangler Unlimited benefits the ride comfort vs. the shorter wheelbase Wrangler 2-door, the ride is still somewhat choppy, in my view. Not wanting to compromise the off-road capability of the Wrangler makes the on-road driving behavior a little jiggly and stiff on city streets.

The 4-doors and 5-passenger seating is nice to have if you are transporting friends or family. The rear seat is fairly upright and I’m not sure I would want to sit there on a long road trip. Cargo capacity behind the rear seat is fairly healthy at 46.4 cubic feet and when folded it opens up to a whopping nearly 87 cubic feet.

The 2012 Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited come standard with electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, Trailer-sway Control, Hill-start Assist and brake traction control.

Wrangler Unlimited prices start at $25,545 for the Sport. The Sahara is priced at $30,745 and the Rubicon is $33,570.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (select to view enlarged photo)

My test vehicle was the 4-door Unlimited Sahara 4x4 at the base price of $30,745. Options included automatic transmission, leather seating surfaces with heated front seats, body-color hardtop, a media center with a navigation system plus a couple of other items bringing the total to $36,705 including shipping.

For my taste, the Wrangler could work in an out-in-the-country living situation. To maneuver in confidence on unpaved roads, venture into fields or streams, handle snow and mud, climb over low obstacles and the like, are all great abilities if you encounter them in daily life. If driving is always on paved roads, highways and city streets, I would be more inclined to choose a crossover SUV.

Warranty is 3-year/36,000mile basic, 5-year/100,000mile powertrain and 24-hour towing assistance. The Chrysler Group reorganized its sales network a few years back and Jeeps are sold alongside Chrysler, Dodge and Ram brands.

The 2012 Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited are built in the Toledo Supplier Park in Toledo, Ohio and contain 71% U.S./Canadian parts content.

So when I move to Montana and become a rancher…it’s currently not in the plan…a Jeep Wrangler could just very well be my vehicle choice.

Larry Nutson