Jeep’s iconic Wrangler can get you to the deer camp with better performance and an improved cabin for 2012. And once you get to the camp, the Wrangler can get you to the most remote stand on the property.
Wrangler gets a new and more fuel efficient 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 hooked to a 5-speed automatic transmission or a 6-speed manual. With this new engine, the Wrangler’s on-road performance is improved, with a 0-60 mph time of 8.4 seconds.
The 2012 Wrangler got new power, but big changes were made inside as well. Jeep describes the interior as an “upscale power tool” look. You’ll find upgraded materials, automatic temperature controls, heated seats, power mirrors, coat hooks and new steering wheel controls. Connectivity systems interfaced through Uconnect include voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming audio, navigation and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Especially handy is the 115-volt outlet in the center console.
The exterior is still classic Jeep. Remaining are the signature seven-slot grille, round headlamps, removable doors with exposed hinges, a fold-down windshield and a wide selection of hardtops and ragtops.
But the Jeep really shines once the pavement ends. The Wrangler gobbles up logs, holes, bogs, inclines and declines thanks to a best-in-class approach angle of 44.6 degrees, a ground clearance of 10.6 inches and a departure angle of 40.6 degrees. A lower first gear in the automatic transmission gives the Wrangler more capability via a lower overall crawl ratio.
Last year, we drove the Wrangler over some of the roughest and steepest off-road terrain that Oregon’s Tillamook Forest had to offer, so this week the hills of the Felicianas proved no match for the Wrangler. Fording small creeks and easing through the woods was about as tough as it got, and the Wrangler had no problems at all.
On the road, the new 3.6-liter V-6 delivers 285 horsepower, or more than 40 percent more horsepower than the 3.8-liter V-6 previously available. And a 6-speed manual transmission is available for the first time with a Pentastar engine in the 2012 Wrangler. The transmission’s throw is fairly long, but clutch operation is smooth as butter. The sixth speed helps the Wrangler achieve 21 miles per gallon on the highway, but I often found myself leaving the vehicle in fourth or fifth except on long, straight hauls. The two higher gears are definitely not for passing. Mat the pedal in sixth, and very little happens in the way of acceleration. Downshifting is the only way to go.
Safety features include standard stability and traction control, electronic roll mitigation, trailer-sway control and hill-start assist. The Wrangler also has a new feature that can help out if you have to stop on an extreme incline. The driver can turn the engine off and release the clutch. When you’re ready to resume the climb, leave the clutch out and the Jeep will start in gear while crawling ahead a few feet.
Available in 2-door or increasingly popular 4-door configurations, the Wrangler is born and bred in the USA. The 2012 Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited are built in the Toledo Supplier Park in Ohio. The new engine is manufactured at the Trenton engine plant in Michigan. The automatic transmission is produced in Indiana, and only the 6-speed manual is built out of the country (in Germany).
Pricing for the Wrangler Sport and Wrangler Unlimited Sport, surprisingly, begins identically to 2011 models: $22,045 and $25,545 respectively. The tested Sahara model starts at $27,970. With an $800 destination charge and options that included a 3-piece hard top, the bottom line was $31,770.
2012 Jeep Wrangler Sahara
Engin: 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6
Transmissio: 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic
Base pric: $27,970
EPA mileage ratin: 17 mpg city, 21 mpg highway (regular unleaded)