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All-New Engine Makes 2012 Jeep Wrangler More Capable

By Arv Voss, December 17th, 2011

The iconic vehicle known as Jeep began its life in military service. Folklore says the name was derived from slurring "GP," which was the military abbreviation for "General Purpose." The Jeep Wrangler is the only purpose designed, continuous production vehicle to have closely adhered to its original form for over 70 years.

The Wrangler provides reconfigurable open-air freedom, along with best-in-class ground clearance, approach and departure angles, two straight axles, body-on-frame chassis architecture, a two-speed transfer case, flat panels, trapezoidal fenders, classic round headlamps and a seven-slot grille. Jeep Wranglers also feature an interior that can be hosed out and are capable of best-in-class water fording of up to 30-inches.

For the 2012 model year, Jeep introduces an all-new 3.6-liter, VVT DOHC, 24-valve V6 engine with sequential, multi-port, electronic, returnless fuel injection that delivers 285 horsepower along with 260 lb.-ft. of torque. (that's 40 percent more hp and 10 percent more torque). The engine mates to a five-speed automatic overdrive transmission that gears power to the driving wheels (a 6-speed manual gearbox is available).

The engine is positioned longitudinally up front, with the transmission working in conjunction with the 4WD system -- a Command-Trac NV241 Rock-Trac, part-time, two-speed transfer case with 2.72:1 low range gear ratio and optional Trak-Lok limited-slip differential.

Starting at $22,045, the 2012 Wrangler is available in four models with either two or four doors: Sport; Sport S; Sahara; Unlimited and the top-of-the-line Rubicon. The Rubicon features heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles, Rock-Trac NV241 two-speed transfer case with a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio, electric front and rear locking differentials, disconnecting front sway bar and 32-inch tires. Larger rear windows have been engineered for greater visibility.

The interior blends rich styling, versatility, comfort and improved feature use, along with upgraded materials, automatic temperature controls, heated seats, power mirrors, coat hooks and steering wheel controls. For 2012, there are also new 12-volt accessory outlets and a 115-volt AC outlet.

I was able to drive the Wrangler 4x4 Rubicon with a base price of $29,995, while extras such as the leather-trimmed seats (heated front), Connectivity Group, Power Convenience Group, 5-speed automatic transmission, 3-piece hardtop kicked the total to $34,625.

The 2012 Jeep Wrangler 4x4 Rubicon may well be the ultimate, rugged off-road vehicle in terms of performance. The Wrangler's new powertrain delivers a noticeably more refined ride on-road, too, with leading off-road capability. The approach angle is 44.3 degrees, departure angle 40.4 degrees and the breakover angle is 25.4 degrees. Front axle to ground clearance measures 10.5 inches, and the rear axle to ground clearance is 10.2 inches.

I personally prefer the added convenience, versatility and functionality that the Unlimited Wrangler models provide, with four doors and added cargo capacity. For those concerned with the Unlimited's extended wheelbase and overall length, adding a 4-inch lift and 40-inch tires provides the same breakover angle and clearance as a regular Wrangler.

If you're the adventurous type and are really serious about off-roading, you can't go wrong with the Jeep Wrangler. With all the models and configurations available, there's a Jeep Wrangler to suit nearly every need and budget. Essentially, Jeep has long been the most capable -- and iconic vehicle -- on the planet.


Base price $29,995 (as tested: $34,625)
Displacement 3.6-liter
Epa mileage rating 17 mpg city, 21 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 18.6 gal.
Horsepower (net) 285 at 6400 rpm
Motor type 24-valve V-6 w/MPFI
Overall length 152.8 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 260 at 4800 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger 4x4 SUV
Wheelbase 95.4 in.
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