By Antony Dickson
At first glance, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler looks no different from its predecessor. Take a closer look and you still won’t find major changes. But like the President and CEO – Jeep Brand, Mike Manley said: “Jeep Wrangler has a new heart but retains the same soul for 2012.” And by that he means the Wrangler has a brand new engine under its hood.
Chrysler’s 3.6 litre Pentastar V6 engine is the new powerhouse for the 2012 Wrangler. The award-winning engine delivers 285 horsepower and 260 lb.ft of torque which makes the new Wrangler much quicker than the outgoing one. This means a long overdue 40 percent increase in horsepower. Starts at the green lights will now keep you at pace with most cars. Chrysler Group’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine – winner of the prestigious Ward’s 10 Best Engines award – delivers 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, with greater fuel efficiency. Additionally, for refined shifting and greater performance, the Jeep Wrangler migrates from a four-speed to a new five-speed automatic transmission. The 2012 Jeep Wrangler also features the company’s first application of a manual transmission to the Pentastar V-6. Fuel consumption averaged to 16.2 L/100km with combined city and highway driving.
Though the Wrangler is a thoroughbred off-roader, it has seen numerous changes over the years to offer increased ride comfort to driver and passengers for daily commutes. Sadly, the steering is quite twitchy on the roads but more or less offers a smooth ride. Wrangler continues to offer a body-on-frame design, front and rear five-link suspension system, live axles and electronic lockers. The wind noise in the cabin is quite noticeable. Ofcourse, with the top down, does it really matter? The Wrangler Sahara and Rubicon models offer offer a body-colour hardtop and fender flares, offering a premium look. The soft top is also available as an additional option.
The Unlimited verisons of the Jeep Wrangler offers room for five adults and four doors too. It is the only 4×4 convertible on the market. Though five adults can enjoy an off-roading experience in the Wrangler Unlimited, we can’t assure you an enjoyable one. Leg room in the back seat is very limited and taller persons most definitely wouldn’t want to be seated there. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited’s 102.9 cu. ft. of total interior space features a number of cargo storage areas and seating configurations. The rear seat splits 60/40, and easily folds flat, creating 86.75 cu. ft. of total storage volume. The two-door Wrangler includes a removable, fold-and-tumble seat creating additional versatility and storage capacity up to 61.2 cu. ft.
The all-new interiors from 2011 have been retained in the latest models. Highlights include upgraded materials, automatic temperature controls, heated seats, power mirrors and steering wheel controls for vehicle systems. Larger rear windows are engineered for greater visibility. A USB port connects to the media centre, 12-volt accessory outlets are located throughout the Wrangler and a 115-volt AC outlet is available to power select two-pronged home electronics. The Wrangler’s Uconnect systems makes it possible to integrate itself with the driver’s personal electronic devices. It features features voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming audio, navigation and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The sound system in the Wrangler is very impressive and offers rich sounds. This definitely music to ears of Jeep fans. Intuitive buttons on the front and rear of the steering wheel control a number of features allowing the driver to keep hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
With over seven decades of 4×4 engineering experience, the Wrangler continues to tackle any kind of terrain in its stride. Though I didn’t get a chance to test its off-road capabilities, the manufacturers claim it has the best-in-class approach angle of 44.6 degrees, breakover angle of 25.5 degrees and best-in-class departure angle of 40.6 degrees, helps the Jeep Wrangler scale the toughest terrain. The test car – a Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited – 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 also includes electric front and rear locking differentials, disconnecting front sway bar and 32-inch tires, taking the Wrangler to the highest level of capability. The tester featured here, loaded with several extra options, was priced at $45,930.
So for people who need a serious off-roader for the weekends and a daily commuter on weekdays, the Jeep Wrangler offers the best of both worlds, especially with this year’s new Pentastar V-6 engine and refined interiors.