A dreadful Total Car Score, yet a ton of awards (such as 4x4 of the year, SUV of the year, best residual value) shows that the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is a law unto itself. It rolls its all-terrain tires right over the usual metrics of appealing to as many people as possible and aims for a particular type of buyer instead -- one who is happy to sacrifice comfort, quietness, security and power windows in order to drive where only a few vehicles could ever go.
Both the four-seat/two-door Wrangler and five-seat/four-door Wrangler Unlimited had a cabin re-design for last year, which was received well by reviewers. Although the Unlimited's rear doors allow better access to the second row, occupants will still find their seats uncomfortable. And since neither model has a roof -- just a soft top or an optional hard top -- noise levels are pretty high, while the only lockable storage spaces are a small glove box and part of the center console.
Reviewers still rave about the Wrangler's capability over mud and rocks, plus the availability of so much off-roading equipment along with optional features like navigation, Bluetooth and satellite radio. The longer Unlimited model is not quite so maneuverable in tricky, sticky situations well off the beaten path.
It seems the Wrangler has been around since the dawn of time, but it's still evolving. The big change for 2012 has been the installation of a new drivetrain. The vehicle now enjoys the Chrysler group's popular, powerful and efficient 3.6-liter V6 (itself an award-winner), mated to an available five-speed transmission.
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler (two-door) and 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (four-door) are powered by Chrysler's Pentastar 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It's mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional (and also fairly new) five-speed automatic and a choice of two part-time 4WD systems.
The basic Sport trim level has pretty much the bare minimum equipment, plus an AM/FM/CD player with a mini-jack socket. The Unlimited Sport has air conditioning.
Sahara trim brings 18-inch alloy wheels, upgraded suspension, a little more sound damping and a nicer audio system.
Rubicon trim has an upgraded transfer case with even lower gearing, a front anti-roll bar that can disconnect when axle articulation is required or stay in place for a more composed on-road ride, special tires on 17-inch alloys, heavy duty axles and satellite radio.
Options include navigation, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, leather, limited-slip differential, removable hard top and heated front seats.
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler is EPA-rated at 17 mpg city, 21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined, with either transmission. The 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with an automatic transmission has EPA ratings of 16/20/18 mpg; the manual version manages one extra mile per gallon on the highway.
Properly equipped, the Wrangler can tow up to 2,000 pounds, while the Wrangler Unlimited can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
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