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2012 Jeep Wrangler: What is it?
Jeep is an icon and seventy years after it started duty as an Army “light reconnaissance vehicle”, the Jeep brand is known around the globe; it is second only to Coke in name recognition. Today, Jeep is in the Chrysler portfolio of brands and its Wrangler model continues to grow in both popularity and prowess. Wrangler sales have flourished and hit the highest volume ever, with record-breaking numbers each month this year.
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler is a rear drive SUV that comes in 2-door and 4-door models, with all-new and more premium interiors, plus it now has more power, a tougher chassis, improved on-road handling, and greater fuel economy. The Wrangler’s exterior build style and under-the-hood technologies carry over the off-road capabilities that have given it the reputation as one of the most highly-regarded and rugged adventure vehicles on the planet, but its appeal has broadened to attract a much larger and more diverse audience of buyers, including city dwellers, to a model that Jeep describes as “the original fun-and-freedom machine”.
There are different thoughts about the derivation of the Jeep name. Some think it came from the blending of the letters “GP,” the military abbreviation for “General Purpose” and others claim the military runabout was named for a popular character, “Eugene the Jeep” in the Popeye cartoon strip. Regardless of its origins, the name became part the American lexicon.
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2012 Jeep Wrangler: What’s new?
Following a complete design makeover for the 2011 model year, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler now is kitted with the same new engine as the all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and a new five-speed automatic transmission that is available across the full lineup. Think: motoring enhancement--both on the road and off pavement.
The Wrangler received a full body overhaul for 2011, which updated the iconic Jeep face with slightly softer angles and smoother edges and endowed it with a tougher, firmer chassis. The SUV still sits high and boxy above its wheels with a signature seven-slot grille, trapezoid wheel wells, removable doors, exposed hinges, a fold-down windshield and round headlamps. All models get side steps; diamond–plate texture gives added foot traction. New for 2012, Wrangler Rubicon models now share a body-color hardtop option with the Sahara model, a design feature that Jeep says gives it a more premium appearance.
Inside, the vehicle has a bevy of creature comforts and advancements that set it far apart from Jeeps of a couple of decades ago, but it still has enough of a Spartan appearance to appease purists. Clever design features are a Jeep grille cut-out perched above the rear-view mirror and an inlay badge that reads “Jeep Since 1941” on the front passenger grab handle.
Available technology features include voice recognition, Bluetooth® streaming audio, navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio. Steering wheel-mounted controls were introduced for many of the different vehicle systems in 2011. Automatic temperature controls, heated seats, power mirrors, a USB port, 12-volt accessory outlets and AC power outlets are standard or available, depending on the Wrangler model.
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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Under the hood enhancements
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler’s new powertrain is Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, which makes 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque; overall, it delivers 40 percent greater horsepower and 10 percent more torque than the previous motor. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard on all models, while a new five-speed automatic is available. The new automatic tranny contributes to greater fuel efficiency and better acceleration (the new Jeep Wrangler boasts a 25 percent improvement in its 0–60 mph time, which is now 8.4 seconds). A lower first-gear ratio also gives the Wrangler more off-road capability because this translates to a lower overall crawl ratio, a feature that is useful and safer for steep grades and when motoring over rough terrain. Towing capacity is 2,000 for all models. Fuel economy is rated at 17/21 for both automatic and manual 4WD models.
The Wrangler is now available with more axle gear ratios allowing customers to optimize fuel economy and/or vehicle capability. In addition to boasting towing capacity up to 3,500 lbs., Wrangler is available with 3.21, 3.73 or 4.10 ratios depending on the model – this is important for when you’re weighing fuel economy optimization versus pure off-road and towing power.
Continuing its tradition of boulder-crawling prowess, Wrangler still has a best-in-class approach angle of up to 44.6 degrees, breakover angle of 25.5 degrees and departure angle of 40.6 degrees-slightly less on 4-door models. While sounding like an algebraic formula, these angles and numbers give the Wrangler the ability to climb over rocky and rugged trails, through washouts, and across uneven terrain. Both 2-door and 4-door models have three skid plate bars to protect vulnerable underbody parts. Rubicon versions also get heavy-duty steel rock rails.
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2012 Jeep Wrangler: What we drove
We drove three different versions of the 2012 Jeep Wrangler, as well as a 2011 model for comparison to evaluate the difference in powertrain and noise levels within the transformed cabin. Clearly evident is the modification to the new engine and transmission, which adds more power off the line, smoother gear shifts and more of an everyday car impression to the drive, rather than the more crude, backwoods SUV feel. We appreciated the new auto tranny that seemed to be “adaptive” and, therefore, made for even better-timed gear shifting, as our drive day progressed.
We also found there is also a significant distinction to the quietness of the more upscale and polished interior, in general, and, particularly, when motivating the throttle.
It’s always difficult to set up a suspension for a vehicle that can see light duty as a daily driver, as well as for tougher service, such as trail climbing and trailer-pulling. Jeep’s engineers have done a good job with the five-link suspension system and wheel placement for both 2-and 4-door models. Our only complaint with was a lighter steering ratio than we like, but once past the center zone (which has very light reaction), we felt confident driving at varying speeds along the meandering dirt and paved roadways of Oregon, as well as driving in highway traffic on our routes in and around urban Portland.
Punctuating its mountain-goat merits, Jeep included a serious off-road course for drives in the 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon edition. This cache of this model continues to emphasize Jeep’s legendary heritage with famed expeditions. The Rubicon is bundled with a wide array of 4WD goodies that are warranted and proven on trails such as its namesake, The Rubicon Trail in northern California, and at the 4WD mecca in Moab, Utah.
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Jeep Wrangler models
The Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited will continue to be available in four models: Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon. Base models get 16-inch wheels and tires, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, soft top with sunroof and AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers.
The Sport “S” package adds 17-inch wheels and air conditioning. Sahara models get air conditioning, an exterior side step and body-color soft top, 115-volt outlet, upgraded speakers, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power windows and 18-inch wheels and tires. Rubicon models have 17-inch wheels and many of the same features as Sahara versions, but are designed and engineered for true off-road enthusiasts.
Sport and Sahara models include a Dana 30 front axle and Dana 44 rear axle. The Command-Trac® NV241, part-time, two-speed transfer case, features a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio. In addition, an optional Trac-Lok® limited-slip rear differential provides extra torque and grip in low-traction environments such as sand, mud or snow.
The Wrangler Rubicon model features heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles and the Rock-Trac® NV241 two-speed transfer case with a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio. Rubicon editions also add electric front and rear locking differentials, a disconnecting front sway bar and 32-inch tires, taking the Wrangler to the highest level of capability.
Notable safety features include standard electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, trailer-sway control, hill-start assist and brake traction control.
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