2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Review

Wrangler Unlimited

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Overview

Not much about the Jeep Wrangler has changed over its past 25+ years on the market. It still sports the same distinctive 7-slot grille, round headlamps, exposed door hinges, fold-down windshield, tailgate-mounted spare tire, and so on. The Wrangler Unlimited, a 4-door version of the regular 2-door Wrangler, was introduced back in 2004 and basically offers a Wrangler for anyone who actually intends to carry passengers on a regular basis. But the model as recently seen a few notable changes: a big interior redesign last year and, this year, 2012, a new engine and transmission.

As noted, the Wrangler Unlimited has 4 doors, for a total passenger capacity of 5. It is available in the same trim lineup as the normal 2-door Wrangler: the Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon. There are also two new trims for 2012, the Unlimited Arctic and Unlimited Call of Duty MW3. The Arctic is based off the Sahara and gets special wheels, heated black cloth seats, and special interior and exterior badges and trim. The Call of Duty MW3 is based on the Rubicon, featuring Rubicon semi gloss-black wheels and special Call-of-Duty-inspired graphics, not to mention a few additional features like a special “power-dome” hood, heavy-duty bumpers, and various Mopar accessories.

Previously, the Wrangler Unlimited was powered by a 3.8-liter V6 that produced 202 hp and 237 lb-ft of torque. The new V6, a 3.5-liter Pentastar unit, produces 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, a significant increase. The transmission has been upgraded from a 4-speed automatic to a 5-speed, and a 6-speed manual is also available. Jeep notes that the 2012 Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited are the first time it has mated its Pentastar V6 to a manual. The new engine also manages to improve the Wrangler’s notoriously low fuel economy, to 16 mpg city/21 highway/18 combined with the manual and 16/20/18 with the automatic, up from previous numbers of 15/19/16 and 15/19/17, respectively.

The Wrangler Unlimited has 10.2 inches of ground clearance, an approach angle of 44.6 degrees, and a departure angle of 40.6 degrees. All trims are equipped with standard 4-wheel drive (4WD)—the Sport and Sahara employ a Command-Trac part-time 2-speed transfer case, while the Rubicon features a Rock-Trac 2-speed transfer case with a greater low-range gear ratio. The Sport and Sahara use a Dana 30 front axle and Dana 44 rear axle, and the Rubicon uses heavy-duty Dana 44 axles both front and rear. The Rubicon also adds electric front and rear locking differentials, a disconnecting sway bar, and 32-inch tires. If you’re truly interested in taking your Wrangler Unlimited out for some serious off-road driving, you’ll probably want to spring for a Rubicon. When outfitted with the optional Trailer Tow Package, the Wrangler Unlimited also has a max towing capacity of 3,500 lbs.

As mentioned above, the Wrangler Unlimited received a thorough interior redesign last year, with upgraded materials and accessories. The cabin does continue to appear rugged in comparison to other more family- or commuter-oriented models, but its can be made to look and feel somewhat more comfortable as well. Cloth seats come standard, but leather seats and heated front seats are available on both the Sahara and Rubicon. The Sport features a fairly straightforward Uconnect audio system with 6 speakers and steering-wheel-mounted controls, and the Sahara and Rubicon feature an upgraded 368-watt, 7-speaker Infiniti system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, a DVD player, HD Radio, GPS navigation, and a 40GB hard drive. All trims come with a standard Sunrider removable soft top, but the Sahara and Rubicon offer an optional body-color hard top. The doors are also removable.

The Wrangler Unlimited’s crash test scores are not particularly impressive, though they are somewhat better than those of the 2-door Wrangler. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2012 Wrangler Unlimited scores of Good on the small and moderate frontal-overlap tests and Marginal on the side impact test; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Wrangler Unlimited only 3 out of 5 stars on rollover tests. Although front airbags come standard, side-impact airbags are optional, and the other available safety features are mostly geared towards tough driving conditions rather than everyday commuting: traction control, electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, trailer-sway control, hill-start assist, and brake-traction control. Even with the extra doors and interior space, the Wrangler Unlimited is not exactly meant to be a family-friendly vehicle.

Wrangler Unlimited owners seem to enjoy their vehicles for their off-road prowess (naturally) and the fun they have while driving them. But they continue to mention poor on-road handling, practicality, and mileage as being the Wrangler Unlimited’s chief weaknesses.

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