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2012 Rubicon Set To Wrangle Up Some New Customers!

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On: Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 4:01PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

2012 Rubicon Set To Wrangle Up Some New Customers!

Under normal circumstances, we automotive writers are supposed to stay enthusiastic, but still impartial to most of the vehicles we cover. Emotion in our writing is good, but it is still supposed to retain a semblance of unbiased wording. However, I will tell you that when I saw what Jeep did with the 2012 Wrangler, I began to grin from ear-to-ear and decided that I had to have one in the very near future.

Having spent many of my childhood years damn near sideways in the passenger seat of more than one late 1970's Jeep CJ, I have always had a soft-spot for those go-anywhere, do-anything four wheel drives. The Wrangler has gone through many iterations since my first encounter with it, but the 2012 model—specifically the Rubicon variant—is quite possibly the best Wrangler to be produced, ever.

Jeeps are supposed to be rough and tough. They are supposed to be able to go where no other truck can go, and do what no other truck can do, and the new Rubicon offers a few options that make that mantra more than just words. The biggest change for the off-roading set is the addition of the Wrangler Tru-Lok Differential. For those in the know, this is a heart-warming reunion of machine and man. Instead of sissy electronic gizmos and gadgets that attempt to partially close differentials or apply brakes to one wheel or another in the hopes of routing torque to the other wheel, the new Rubicon actually locks all three differentials by actual mechanical means. That means front, center, and rear differentials are forcing each wheel to move at the same speed. Now, for those of you who have never traversed more than a curb in a failed attempt at parallel parking that may not mean much, but to anyone who has spent at least one afternoon bouncing up and down in their seat wondering if they should move to the other side of the car to help keep the shiny side up, that is wonderful news. Good job, Jeep!

The other big improvements to the 2012 Wrangler have actually made the infamous Jeep, less... Jeep-y. It seems that Chrysler has been listening to all of our collective gripes and finally given the Wrangler a competent powertrain. The new motor is Chrysler's Pentastar V6 that can be mated with a five-speed auto or a six-speed manual—the latter replete with a new clutch, damper and flywheel. Horsepower and torque are both up (285 and 260 respectively), even if those numbers come from a DOHC engine and not a heavy-breathing OHV motor. But the good news is that, thanks to an extra gear and a more efficient engine, the new Jeep doesn't suck fuel down like a... well, like a Jeep. EPA numbers are up to 16-17 city and 20-21 highway. Sure those numbers might make your average Prius driver puke his meatless, sugarless, tofu lunch up six ways from Sunday, but anyone that has ever given or received the 'Jeep Wave' knows those numbers are pretty impressive. The design of the engine was actually thought up with Jeep traits in mind as well. The alternator is placed on the top of the motor (to avoid that river-crossing stall), and the oil pan was redesigned so that even at steep angles, the engine won't be starved for oil.

Heated mirrors are added (a feature that even the toughest of off-roaders will come to appreciate), as well as added sound deadening and a body-colored hardtop, all help the new Wrangler look and feel like it's more than just a rock-climber. The new Jeep is the total package. It is a better combined package on- and off-road than any of its predecessors. Acceleration numbers are good, but, honestly, it's still a Jeep; suffice to say they are good enough. The base price for the newest and best Wrangler ranges from $22,845 - $34,370 depending on the model and number of doors you are interested in.

With any luck, Jeep will keep the locking differential and only improve the fuel economy numbers for the next few years, because if they do, I can tell you that they will have at least one more person behind the wheel, looking anywhere and everywhere for that next trail that has yet to be explored.

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Dr J | 3:49PM (Mon, Nov 28, 2011)

Great Review! Currently looking into getting one, love the new engine specs. Your prius comments had me rolling. Also, very nice touch adding the "jeep wave" comment. Driving these things is truly a lifestyle, one that I was lucky enough to be introduced to a few years ago in college. Keep up the good work and good luck with the monotonous reviews of lack luster mpg achievers.

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