2012 JEEP WRANGLER REVIEW
The Jeep Wrangler is like a rolling time capsule. Poke around it and you’ll find technology that ceased to be considered “cutting edge” a long time ago - and that’s a key part of its charm.
It absolutely oozes old-school appeal.
For 2012, Jeep has kept the Wrangler formula largely unchanged. Even the pricing is exactly the same, and the only noteworthy alteration to the interior fit-out is the addition of standard climate control across the range.
Under the bonnet though, lie more substantial changes. The old 3.8 litre petrol V6 has been turfed in favour of the new Chrysler Pentastar V6, an all-alloy 3.6 litre unit that produces more power, more torque and fewer emissions.
The Wrangler’s interior is as utilitarian as its no-nonsense exterior. With zero frills and an emphasis on durability it’s nevertheless got a special kind of rugged appeal.
Cloth upholstery is standard (leather trim and heated front seats are an option on the Wrangler Rubicon), the footwells can be hosed clean and hard durable plastics dominate the dashboard and centre console.
The steering wheel still doesn’t adjust for reach though (only rake), and the footwells are far from spacious. While the front seat cushions are soft enough to absorb most off-road bumps, the rear seat squab is too short to offer decent under-thigh support.
But that’s besides the point. The Wrangler is built for off-road adventuring, and features like a removable roof (standard soft top, optional hard top), removable doors and a fold-down windscreen reinforce that point.
The luggage area in the two-door Wrangler is pretty slim, but the four-door’s 498 litre boot space (935 litres with the back seats folded) is big enough for a weekend out in the bush.
To launch the new Pentastar-powered Wrangler, Jeep invited TMR out to King Island in Bass Strait for a day of driving and off-roading.
Starting with an on-road drive (consisting of a roughly 30/70 split between tarmac and gravel roads), the new Pentastar V6 impressed with its smoothness and refinement.
It’s got plenty of power too, with 209kW delivered at a fairly high 6350rpm, and peak torque of 347Nm. The Pentastar is 63kW more powerful and 32Nm torquier than the outgoing 3.8 litre pushrod V6.
Sprint and overtaking times (rolling acceleration) are certainly improved over the old model, but thanks to the ladder-framed 4x4’s hefty kerb weight (1700kg for the 2-door, 1900kg for the 4-door) it hardly feels zippy.
Gearboxes for the petrol Wrangler have also been updated. The old four-speed automatic has been retired in favour of a five-speeder, and the manual transmission is now a six-speed.
The Daimler-sourced automatic changes gear smoothly and holds gears in the ‘meat’ of the torque when off-roading. The six-speed manual has a slick shifter but a very long shift movement and a vague clutch pedal.
It’s not particularly pleasurable to drive on sealed roads. The steering feels fidgety and the front wheels are continuously deflected by minor road imperfections, while the ride is jiggly over all but the smoothest surfaces.
The Wrangler is more at home on gravel. The extra slip of an unpaved road smooths out a lot of the steering’s jitteriness, and the dampers are better suited to dealing with constant undulations than graded tarmac.
Where the Wrangler really shines though is off-road. Excellent wheel articulation, generous ground clearance and a capable four-wheel drive system make it near unstoppable in the bush.
The extra power and torque of the Pentastar V6 is appreciated out here too, although the much torquier 2.8 litre turbodiesel (which is unchanged for 2012) works best thanks to its greater low-down pulling power.
The diesel is also be more frugal. Despite the Pentastar engine’s improved efficiency (11.4 l/100km for the two-door, 11.6 l/100km for the four-door), we found most of the Wranglers at the launch were averaging somewhere in the mid-teens for fuel economy.
TMR First Drive Verdict
Jeep hasn’t messed too much with the Wrangler; that’s something we like.
We also like its raw and uncompromising capabilities off-road. Steep grades, sandy beaches and tight-radius corners are a cinch in both the two-door and four-door Wrangler, while the Rubicon’s lower gearing and lockable front and rear diffs enable it to crawl out of even the slipperiest situations.
The new V6 petrol is smoother and stronger, but has a powerful thirst when asked to work hard. The improvement in refinement to engine and transmissions is very welcome though.
The fact that those improvements come without an increased pricetag is a nice bonus too.
We’ll soon be putting the 2012 Jeep Wrangler through its paces both on road and off, so watch out for our full review.
- Sport - 3.6 petrol six-speed manual - $29,091
- Sport - 3.6 petrol five-speed auto - $30,909
- Sport - 2.8 diesl six-speed manual - $34,545
- Sport - 2.8 diesel five-speed auto - $35,455
- Rubicon - 3.6 petrol six-speed manual - $38,182
- Rubicon - 3.6 petrol five-speed auto - $40,000
- Sport Unlimited - 3.6 petrol six-speed manual - $32,727
- Sport Unlimited - 3.6 petrol five-speed auto - $34,545
- Sport Unlimited - 2.8 diesl six-speed manual - $38,181
- Sport Unlimited - 2.8 diesel five-speed auto - $39,091
- Rubicon Unlimited - 3.6 petrol six-speed manual - $41,818
- Rubicon Unlimited - 3.6 petrol five-speed auto - $43,636
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price (unless otherwise noted) and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
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