2012 Jeep Wrangler Review by Marty Bernstein +VIDEO
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AN AMERICAN ICON IS UPDATED: THE NEW 2012 GO ANYWHERE, DO ANYTHING JEEP WRANGLER
By Marty Bernstein
Sr. Editor at Large
THE AUTO CHANNEL
For more than 70 years the essential shape of the classic Jeep, now known as the Wrangler model, has remained basically unchanged. You can tell that it is a Jeep from any angle; and know what it stands for: Sturdiness, reliability, dependability and versatility.
Many automobile brands emulate design trends and styling cues developed by other manufacturers, which mean it’s often difficult to tell one brand from another... except the basic Jeep. Jeep is Jeep. With the design of the 2012 Jeep Wrangler the icon of auto designs is safe and secure.
• SEE ALSO: Jeep Buyers Guide
The Wrangler is the patriarch of all Jeeps - the vehicular hero of WWII. When Tom Brokaw, the avuncular former NBC television news anchor, social commentator and author wrote The Greatest Generation a few years ago in which he celebrated the contributions of the parents of our nation’s aging baby boomers in making American what it is today, he included Jeep’s contributions and impact.
But even automotive icons, like aging actors, need a nip and tuck here and maybe an automotive augmentation there for an update to meet and exceed 21st century needs and demands. And that is exactly what the Jeep division of Chrysler has done. They’ve updated the Jeep without tampering with the DNA or heritage of the brand. But, in fact, it has been enhanced. The keepers of Jeep’s brand image and essence are committed to the heritage of the brand and its countless fans.
For a recent media event in Portland, Oregon (the U.S. capital of idiosyncratic denizens), the reveal of the 2012 Jeep Wrangler to a bunch of auto journalists looked and felt right.
There’s a staggering number of improvements, changes, modifications and additions to the time honored Jeep, including:
-New and 40% more powerful 3.6 liter Penstar V6 engine -285 hp and 260 lb-ft torque for improved 0-60 time -Improved fuel efficiency with 21 mpg -A new 5-speed automatic transmission -Manual shift transmission with new engine option -All-new interior design -Upgraded materials and creature features -Bigger rear window -Techy goodies -Two and four door designs -Optional hardtop in body colors
From the presentation and staging event my driving partner and I - driving a four door Jeep Wrangler Sahara with the hardtop and automatic trannie - left the downtown area and headed toward an Oregon State Park for some serious, very serious and often stressful, off-roading, hill climbing and other stuff that Jeep aficionados love to do in our nation’s great outdoors.
Watch TACH's Wrangler Unlimited video
The Jeep’s city manners are just fine. The drive out-of-the city was smooth and efficient on an expressway sharing space with a variety of vehicles – cars, trucks, SUVs, big rigs and so help me, a couple of colorful elderly VW buses. Our Jeep demonstrated good and responsive acceleration as well as very good steering, handling and ride characteristics. From the wide lane Interstate with the Oregonian pebbled surface that whisks away rainwater, we drove on much narrower two lane highways over undulating hills and several testing curves and twists. Again our bright red Wrangler was responsive and steady.
After an hour’s drive, with an intermediate stop for really delicious Stumptown Coffee, we turned off the road at the entrance to an Oregon State Park. Jeep owners, we’d been told, love the outdoors and the fun, challenge and experience of driving off road. For many, the Jeep is king of this realm so the more difficult it is the better it is. But for me a life-long-city-dweller, there was frankly some trepidation. Put me on the autobahn, a racecourse, a super highway and I’m just fine, thank you … but this, I thought, was going to be a daunting experience.
The non-paved road was narrow, rough in spots, very rough in others, curvy, twisty, undulating, rutted, lined with huge trees and remnants of stumps, gravely brims’ and some good size rocks and boulders, and on the passenger’s side some scary – as in deep – ravines and drop-offs. My concern and caution morphed into engaging and entertaining as the solid, steady Jeep handled all with confident aplomb. There was confidence building power to spare when it was needed as we drove to the top of the mountain. Off road, Jeep has the sure footedness of a mountain goat, crisp and responsive steering and great feedback and control. Even when some dope in a big truck that didn’t give way on a narrow curve, and the thought we were going to rub paint crossed my mind, the steady reliability of the Jeep prevailed.
Watch TACH's Wrangler Rubicon video
Of course, Jeep’s performance capabilities are to be expected. What was unexpected is the interior of the Wrangler. I expected spartan simplicity but this is a well designed and crafted interior that uses good looking high-quality materials. There are creature features and amenities that are surprising – automatic temperature controls, comfortable heated seats, air conditioning, power mirrors, even coat hooks, 12 volt and 115-volt AC – two prong home appliances -- outlets and steering wheel controls for various Jeep systems. Tech types will appreciate the BlueTooth connectivity, a USB port, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and Wrangler’s connectivity systems have improved ergonomics by giving the driver control at their fingertips. Intuitive buttons on the front and rear of the steering wheel control a number of features allowing the driver to keep hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
Yet the Jeep Wrangler retains it’s characteristic, traditional attributes in and out. The interior can still be hosed – as in water – out of the dirt and gunk collected off road. The windshield still folds down, the doors come off and their hinges are exposed and the front is the famous round headlights and slotted grill.
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited are available with an array of safety and security technology features. Standard electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, Trailer-sway Control, Hill-start Assist and brake traction control are among two dozen available safety and security features.
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited are available in four models: Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon and are built in the Toledo Supplier Park in Toledo, Ohio. The 3.6-liter V-6 engine is manufactured in Michigan while the five-speed automatic transmission is produced in Indiana and the manual six-speed transmission is produced in Germany.
The new models are in Jeep dealers now. Take a test drive in an updated classic: Jeep’s 2012 Wrangler. The starting price of the 2012 is a surprising $22,045.