2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited Review

The quintessential adventure vehicle evolves

2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited Review
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The modern Jeep Wrangler body style was first introduced in 2007, and this updated platform revitalized the brand. Jeep has long had a loyal, hard-core following among off-roaders and outdoor enthusiasts, but with the introduction of the four-door Wrangler, code named JK for the current Wrangler body style, the truck went from being a fun weekend vehicle to an SUV capable of fitting the whole family.

FAST FACTS

1. New 3.6L V6 produces 285 hp at 6400 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm.

2. Fuel economy is 17/21 mpg for manual, 16/20 for automatic.

3. Jeep Wrangler models starts at $22,045, with unlimited models from $25,545.

ENGINE OVERHAUL FOR 2012

In 2012, the Wrangler overhaul is completed with a new, more powerful engine that is more efficient than its predecessor.

The new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine found on the 2012 Jeep Wrangler produces 285-hp, a significant jump compared to the 202-horsepower generated by the previous engine. Along with that 40 percent increase in power is a 10 percent hike in torque to 260 lb-ft.

First introduced in the 2011 Grand Cherokee, this engine only required a different intake manifold and oil pan to adapt it to the 2012 Wrangler. Jeep engineers also replaced the four-speed transmission and fitted a new five-speed unit, with the added gear allowing for more refined shifting and gear selection in a more fuel-efficient rpm range. Off-roaders will also appreciate the lower first-gear ratio that allows the new automatic transmission to have a lower crawl ratio in off-road situations. Depending upon the model, gear ratios are available in 3.21, 3.73 and 4.10.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Engine V6

Perhaps most surprising, however, is a noted increase in fuel economy. The 2011 Wrangler achieved a 15 mpg city and 19 mpg highway rating, while the 2012 Wrangler ups those numbers to 17/21 for the manual model or 16/20 for the automatic. That manual, a six-speed unit, is a first to be mated to the Pentastar V6 across the Chrysler lineup.

PACKAGES APLENTY

Jeep typically offers a wide variety of packages for the Wrangler, and that doesn’t change for 2012 with both Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited available in Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon packages. The Sport and Sahara models feature a driveline combination of a Dana 30 front axle and Dana 44 rear axle, utilizing a Command-Trac NV241, part-time, two-speed transfer case, which features a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio. A limited-slip Trac-Lok rear differential provides added torque and traction in low-grip situations.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rocks

Those looking to do more serious off-roading might be more interested in the Rubicon package, with tunable monotube shocks, front and rear Tru-Lok locking differentials, water-fording capability as deep as 30 inches (thanks to a raised engine air intake), a sway-bar disconnect and 32-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires. The Rubicon model also features a larger Dana 44 front axle paired with the Dana 44 rear and includes a unique Rock-Trac NV241 two-speed transfer case, featuring a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio."

Looking for more customization? For the second year in a row Jeep will also offer a special edition Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 package on the Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited.

FEATURES AND AMENITIES

2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Interior

There are more standard and optional goodies on the Wrangler than ever before, blending the rugged Jeep capability with modern amenities found on traditional SUVs. The 2012 Wrangler features refined cabin offers available heated front seats, automatic temperature control, steering wheel-mounted controls, 12-volt accessory outlets, and a 115-volt (150-watt) AC power inverter in the console. Also available are the Uconnect system with voice recognition functions, Bluetooth streaming audio and phone connection ability, integrated navigation and SiriusXM Satellite Radio capability. It’s also equipped with steering wheel controls, automatic temperature controls, heated seats and power mirrors. The buttons on the steering wheel are well designs to make answering a phone call or adjusting the stereo volume a cinch.

The Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited come equipped with a number of safety and security features, such as standard electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, trailer-sway controls and hill-start assist (to make hill starts safer and easier). A feature found on all automatic Wranglers is Downhill Assist, which allows the driver to focus on steering the Jeep while braking is controlled electronically to help tackle off-road terrain down hill.

OFF-ROAD AND ON

Even if the Wrangler is your weekend getaway vehicle for camping, off-roading or just exploring the outdoors, it still will spend most of its life on paved road. That said, we’re happy to report the 2012 Wrangler drives comfortably around town. We drove both the four-door versions of both the Unlimited Sport and Unlimited Rubicon during our evaluation, and it was quickly evident that the new Pentastar V6 engine provides improved low-end power and torque. The five-speed transmission definitely plays its roll in the Wrangler’s improvements and compliments the new engine with smooth shift transitions at pretty much any speed.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Water

Ergonomic functions inside the Wrangler are also a nice touch. The Bluetooth phone system works well, the voice recognition understands basic commands and the integrated Garmin GPS is easy to use and will keep you on track – it worked for us even when on fire roads in the Cleveland National Forrest. 

Fuel economy on the street came in at 18.5 miles per gallon on our first tank – right in the middle of the 16 city, 20 highway rating. Even when off-roading, we still average 16.5 mpg on our second tank. 

2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Action 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Action Rear

Looking to test the locking differentials we took our Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon to the Cleveland National Forest. With rock-covered trails, large ruts from previous rains and even fallen trees on a few trails, we didn’t find an obstacle that slowed us down. At times, the Unlimited Rubicon made traversing uneven rocky terrain look easy. The transfer case and fuel tank skid plate shields on the Rubicon also provide added protection for the undercarriage while off-roading.

THE VERDICT

There was a time (even last year) when it was fair to say the Jeep Wrangler is not for everyone. With the addition of a new engine and continued advancements with the rest of the package, perhaps that has finally changes. While the Wrangler has always been an exceptional weekend adventure vehicle it now also does an admirable job pulling double duty as an SUV for the whole family.

LOVE IT
  • New 3.6-liter Pentastar engine
  • 4x4 capability
  • On-road comfort
LEAVE IT
  • Increased price tag
  • Rigid seats

Related Reading
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review
2010 Toyota 4Runner Review
2011 Ford Explorer Review
2010 Nissan Pathfinder Review

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