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Old 08-22-2011, 06:11 PM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default First Test: 2012 Jeep Wrangler

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You can't tell by looking at it, but the Jeep Wrangler has undergone a transformation. The iconic shape remains -- seven-slot grille, round headlights, short wheelbase, soft or hard top -- but Jeep has made huge improvements to the off-roader for 2012. Jeep invited us to drive the 2012 Wrangler on the Rubicon, one of the hardest 4x4 trails around, used almost exclusively by modified vehicles. We also got to drive on the two-lane asphalt roads that wind around Lake Tahoe.

Consider this the second part of a major overhaul to the Wrangler and four-door Wrangler Unlimited. Part one happened for the 2011 model year, when the JK (the current generation's code name) received a new interior, plus, on the Sahara, a body-color hard top and fender flares. The hard top is of the same composite material as it was before, but what sounds like a minor change actually has a major effect on the Wrangler's appearance. In addition, the rear windows are larger as of 2011, improving visibility. For 2012, the body-color hard top and fender flares are optional on the Rubicon, too.

Inside, welcome 2011 revisions include the use of higher-quality materials; the redesigned center stack; an all-new instrument panel; and strategically applied sound insulation that makes this the quietest Wrangler ever. Some creature comforts never seen here before -- seat heaters, power heated mirrors, and redundant steering wheel controls -- make this the most refined Wrangler cabin ever.

For part two: Prior to the 2012 model year, Jeep knew the Wrangler would get the Pentastar engine, even if the company didn't make an official announcement. The pairing makes perfect sense: more horsepower, more torque, and better fuel economy. The previous iron-block 3.8-liter V-6 put out 202 horsepower and 237 lb-ft; the all-aluminum Pentastar has 285 horses and 260 lb-ft. And, while the six-speed manual returns unchanged, the four-speed automatic has been ditched in favor of the Grand Cherokee's five-speed. All the rest of the major mechanical features (axles, suspension, steering, brakes), the body, dimensions, and structure are essentially carryover.

We started out on-road, driving to the Loon Lake trailhead from Squaw Valley, in the Sierra Nevadas. The route included elevation changes and sudden large openings in traffic that gave us opportunities to test out the Pentastar's acceleration. While this combination would've highlighted the weaknesses of the previous engine (universally considered a dog), the 3.6-liter V-6 shone.The new engine offers excellent response and a noticeable improvement in power -- the Pentastar is significantly faster from a stop and when passing. Also, the engine sounds much more upscale than the coarse 3.8-liter, and the exhaust note is throatier. Paired with either transmission, it feels much more refined. Where the 3.8 feels pokey, the 3.6-liter actually makes the JK feel spry. Jeep estimates that the new engine reduces 0-60 times by 2-3 seconds with either transmission, and when we took a Wrangler Sport manual to the track, we confirmed this estimate. The new Jeep hit 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, while all of the 3.8-liter Wranglers took between 9.8 and 10.2 seconds.

When we reached the Rubicon trailhead, we swapped the Unlimited Sahara we'd been driving and got into a Wrangler Rubicon. The trail is in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. It cuts through an evergreen forest and runs up and over the Sierras. The terrain varies from slick granite to dirt dotted with rocks to massive boulders that require highly technical driving to traverse or go around. The trail takes you past breathtakingly beautiful vistas overlooking crystal-clear lakes. There was also more water on the trail than in the past, thanks to the heavy winter. Puddles appeared at the most inopportune times, and there were water crossings in spots where the trail had been dry the year before. The trail is known for changing year to year, but the conditions were especially tough this time around.

Despite the challenges, all the Jeeps survived. The new engine and trans worked well, and even though peak torque is now at a higher rpm, there was no noticeable difference when off-roading at low speeds.

Jeep's goal with this latest version of the Wrangler is to make the vehicle more refined and better on a day-to-day basis, without sacrificing the JK's off-road ability. The new Wrangler stays true to the model's roots, but now it's a lot more fun to drive on-road.


The Lowdown

Talk about the two-year upgrades to the Wrangler.

Ray Durham, Vehicle line executive
The two-step evolution of the model gave us more time for the Pentastar development. Engine development was happening at the same time as the interior changes, allowing the engine to be ready to go in a short amount of time.

What did it take to ready the Pentastar for the off-road requirements of the Wrangler?

Tony Petit, Responsible for the Wrangler and Liberty
We had to create a unique oil pan, an acoustic engine cover to reduce noise and improve appearance, optimized upper intake airflow for torque, and add equal-length downpipes to improve low- and mid-range torque response. Also unique are the front-end accessory drive and high-mounted rear-facing alternator for water fording. Its new pulse-width modulated 600-watt fan is 100-percent variable speed, not just high and low, plus it has a full face condenser for better A/C performance and a standalone transmission oil cooler.

Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/...#ixzz1VnJHoNfP
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Old 08-22-2011, 07:31 PM   #2
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oh yea, gotta love jeeps. wonder how the seats have changed. they usually have terrible seats.
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Old 08-22-2011, 07:38 PM   #3
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I was in the process of ordering a 2012 Wrangler Unlimited when I found out they did not increase the tow rating. That killed it for me. 3500 lbs just isnt enough, especially knowing the European versions are rated at almost twice that. I miss my 1993 Sahara...
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Old 08-22-2011, 08:18 PM   #4
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I probably would have kept my jk if it had the pentastar v6. The minivan motor was pathetic, especially if you had done any mods to the jeep.
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Old 08-22-2011, 10:23 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Tristar Racing View Post
I was in the process of ordering a 2012 Wrangler Unlimited when I found out they did not increase the tow rating. That killed it for me. 3500 lbs just isnt enough, especially knowing the European versions are rated at almost twice that. I miss my 1993 Sahara...
Is there anything actually different on the European model? I would research that question and depending on the answer, order your Jeep and tow away... .
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Old 08-22-2011, 10:45 PM   #6
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That Pentastar is a slick little motor. I rented a Grand Cherokee with it and it made plenty of power and still got 21 mpg. It was, dare I say, fun to drive?

That was my main issue with the Wrangler. I rented one of those when I was in Hawaii too and you could time the acceleration of one of those with a calendar. In light of that, 6.7s 0-60 sounds pretty good to me.
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Old 08-22-2011, 10:47 PM   #7
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6.7s 0-60 is downright fast for a wrangler!
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Old 08-22-2011, 10:51 PM   #8
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I'd like to see details of this rear facing alternator. I don't see how that will improve offroad-ability because the back still has plenty of electrical bits. Unless they mean the thing is mounted to the back of the block, which would be interesting. I bet that engine makes the Wrangler scoot, I drove a Challenger a few months ago with the new V6 and it was a slug, though that autobox they still are using was obviously holding the engine back.
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Old 08-22-2011, 11:21 PM   #9
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I have a 2012 coming in next week. Was waiting for the Pentastar engine since the old 3.8L was a dog no matter what current owners say.

I'd love to see the tow rating increase as well so it could pull double duty and haul my race car but it's not going to happen. Outside NA they have models with the 2.8L diesel and are rated at 5000lbs.
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Old 08-23-2011, 12:49 AM   #10
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Chances are, the rear facing alternator just sticks out in front of the engine.

The pulley is still in the plane with the belt travel, and other driven accessories on that belt, the body of the alternator just isn't tucked into a nook in the engine block, but rather sticks out forward, with it's "back" toward the radiator.

Not a new concept for saving space next to the engine, if there is engine bay room for it.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:23 AM   #11
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A good and much needed improvement, but I still want a diesel.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:26 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveyboy View Post
Is there anything actually different on the European model? I would research that question and depending on the answer, order your Jeep and tow away... .
I haven't been there in a long time, but there was the last time I checked. Different suspensions being a big one. Almost every truck from chrysler had stiffer, more robust suspension because of a combination of 1. higher speeds possible on the highways 2. driver acceptance of stiffer ride.

Then there's all the behind the scenes stuff that might not show up on paper. I don't know of any for the JK, because it wasn't my vehicle, I just sat next to the guy. But an example is the Ram SRT-10...It was sold as a 1500, but had the beefier frame rails, and a few other things that should have technically made it a 2500...If that same type of thing happens on the wrangler, they could be more different than they seem.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:46 AM   #13
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I love the bigger rear windows on the hardtop. I didn't notice that in 2011, but I wasn't looking very hard either. A diesel would make really make the Wrangler perfect, IMHO.
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Old 08-24-2011, 11:23 AM   #14
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That yellow hardtop setup looks fantastic! I also had a good impression of the Pentastar V6 in a 2011 Town and Country that I rented a few months back.
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Old 08-31-2011, 11:38 AM   #15
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Been reading lots of good reviews on the Pentastar equipped Wrangler and I'm thinking about purchasing one since I can get an employee discount on Chrysler products.

I want to get an off lease Forester XT or an Outback H6, but used car prices are INSANE right now. It'd be cheaper for me to buy brand new than used.

Decisions, decisions....
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Old 08-31-2011, 01:00 PM   #16
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Good thing, that 3.8 is a huge piece of ****.
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Old 08-31-2011, 02:56 PM   #17
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^^^^ this.
My ex's Liberty with the 3.8 spun a rod bearing at 25k miles. . . just after my WRX spun one at 100k miles.

Jeep is actually "moving forward", which is nice to see.

Nick
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Old 08-31-2011, 04:06 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by White out View Post
^^^^ this.
My ex's Liberty with the 3.8 spun a rod bearing at 25k miles. . . just after my WRX spun one at 100k miles.

Jeep is actually "moving forward", which is nice to see.

Nick
Your ex's Liberty had a 3.7 I used to have one too and it was a miserable pile of junk. Still doesn't deter me from thinking about this new Wrangler.
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Old 08-31-2011, 04:13 PM   #19
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Awwwwwww FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU......

I figured this was not due out until like November. I went ahead in late June on the turbo Sportage. Had I known I could have walked into a Jeep dealership in August and got one of these, I would have waited another month and a half. Oh well

Next vehicle will be a blue Jeep Wrangler in May/June of 2014.

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Old 08-31-2011, 04:44 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by grzydj View Post
Your ex's Liberty had a 3.7 I used to have one too and it was a miserable pile of junk. Still doesn't deter me from thinking about this new Wrangler.
Funny how you can have contrasting stories. My wife still has her 04 liberty with the 3.7l and 225,000 miles not one single problem.
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Old 08-31-2011, 04:49 PM   #21
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Funny how you can have contrasting stories. My wife still has her 04 liberty with the 3.7l and 225,000 miles not one single problem.
It was problem free actually, but it doesn't mean it was literally the worst handling SUV I have ever had the misfortune of driving. I know that handling isn't the selling point of any SUV, but it was extremely nervous, skittish in the wind, slow, and very, very thirsty. The roar of the engine indicated that it was doing something, but it was usually just making a bunch of racket and not going anywhere.

Even my '85 4Runner handled better than that thing. I just don't know what they did when the designed it to make it handle so poorly. Even GCs do better than the Liberty.
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Old 08-31-2011, 07:26 PM   #22
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I'm digging the body colored hard top, but for offroading, the body colored fenders is dumb. Those suckers will chip and scratch like no other. I wish you could order the top painted without the flares done.

And yes, the 3.8 is a hunk of junk. I got <11 mpg towing this at 55-60 mph... ( )
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Old 08-31-2011, 07:56 PM   #23
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I guess take the top to a painter, or replace the painted fender flares with Bushwackers, or something.

They probably figure that the painted up models won't be rock crawling.
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Old 08-31-2011, 08:35 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GodWhomIsMike View Post
Awwwwwww FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU......

I figured this was not due out until like November. I went ahead in late June on the turbo Sportage. Had I known I could have walked into a Jeep dealership in August and got one of these, I would have waited another month and a half. Oh well

Next vehicle will be a blue Jeep Wrangler in May/June of 2014.

You change cars like most people do their underwear, I really wouldn't worry about it.
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Old 08-31-2011, 09:09 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kpluiten View Post
I'm digging the body colored hard top, but for offroading, the body colored fenders is dumb. Those suckers will chip and scratch like no other. I wish you could order the top painted without the flares done.

And yes, the 3.8 is a hunk of junk. I got <11 mpg towing this at 55-60 mph... ( )
The top is a separate option than the fenders so you can order them separately.

I picked up my 2012 Unlimited today, so far I'm liking it a lot but will like it more once it's broken in and I can wind it out a bit.

Is the tow rating on the 2 DR 3.8 really such that you could tow an RS on a Uhaul trailer? I have a 1998 RS race car which is probably around 2400 lbs and my trailer weighs about 1800 lbs. The rating on the 2012 JKU is the same as the 3.8 which is 5000lbs. I'm a bit wary of even attempting to tow my car with the Jeep that's why I kept my 2000 F250 Diesel. I see you put the car backwards was that to lessen the tongue weight?
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