2012 Jeep Wrangler

CARBARN  | 2012 Jeep Wrangler | The iconic shape remains seven-slot grille, round headlights, short wheelbase, soft or hard top but Jeep has made huge improvements to the off-roader for 2012. Jeep invited us to drive the 2012 Wrangler on the Rubicon, one of the hardest 4x4 trails around, used almost exclusively by modified vehicles. Part one happened for the 2011 model year, when the JK (the current generation's code name) received a new interior, plus, on the Sahara, a body-color hard top and fender flares. For 2012, the body-color hard top and fender flares are optional on the Rubicon, too.

Inside, welcome 2011 revisions include the use of higher-quality materials; the redesigned center stack; an all-new instrument panel; and strategically applied sound insulation that makes this the quietest Wrangler ever. Some creature comforts never seen here before seat heaters, power heated mirrors, and redundant steering wheel controls make this the most refined Wrangler cabin ever. For part two: Prior to the 2012 model year, Jeep knew the Wrangler would get the Pentastar engine, even if the company didn't make an official announcement. The pairing makes perfect sense: more horsepower, more torque, and better fuel economy.

We started out on-road, driving to the Loon Lake trailhead from Squaw Valley, in the Sierra Nevadas. The route included elevation changes and sudden large openings in traffic that gave us opportunities to test out the Pentastar's acceleration. While this combination would've highlighted the weaknesses of the previous engine (universally considered a dog), the 3.6-liter V-6 shone. Also, the engine sounds much more upscale than the coarse 3.8-liter, and the exhaust note is throatier. Jeep estimates that the new engine reduces 0-60 times by 2-3 seconds with either transmission, and when we took a Wrangler Sport manual to the track, we confirmed this estimate. The new Jeep hit 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, while all of the 3.8-liter Wranglers took between 9.8 and 10.2 seconds.

When we reached the Rubicon trailhead, we swapped the Unlimited Sahara we'd been driving and got into a Wrangler Rubicon. The trail takes you past breathtakingly beautiful vistas overlooking crystal-clear lakes.  The new Wrangler stays true to the model's roots, but now it's a lot more fun to drive on-road.


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