By on November 30, 2011

Back in the day, the Jeep Wrangler was only for serious off-roaders. Posers might visit, but assaulted by the SUV’s sluggish acceleration, clumsy handling, rough noisy ride, and spartan hose-out interior they weren’t likely to stay long (or return after leaving). But Chrysler has worked steadily to eliminate these downsides and render the Wrangler fit for everyday use. Back in 2007 the Wrangler grew in size and became available in extended wheelbase four-door Unlimited form. Last year its interior was substantially upgraded. And this year the unloved 202-horsepower 3.8-liter “minivan” V6 has been replaced by a 285-horsepower DOHC 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V6. Meanwhile the chassis has been tweaked repeatedly to improve on-road ride and handling. So, with all of these improvements, is the 2012 Wrangler Unlimited as suitable as any other SUV for running the kids to school and then dropping by CostCo?

The Germans aren’t uniquely capable of tastefully refining an iconic shape redesign after redesign, decade after decade. The current Wrangler isn’t a cartoonish “retro” reinterpretation of a classic vehicle from the distant past. Like a Porsche 911, it’s a special purpose iconic vehicle that has undergone an uninterrupted evolution over the years. Chrysler has made many mistakes, but messing up the Wrangler’s styling isn’t one of them. Unchanged since the 2007 redesign, the exterior retains an unmistakable resemblance to the original Jeep. Form relentlessly follows function. The Sahara’s chunky five-spoke 18-inch alloys, though up two inches from the base Wrangler’s wheels, remain well short of over the top. Unlike with some supposed off-road vehicles, you’ll find no mere rim protectors here. There’s no “DUB Edition.” Given the 2007’s increased width, the four-door actually has better proportions than the two-door. The Jeep might not be a beauty, but no one with any appreciation for design (as opposed to “styling”) can fail to find it attractive.

The revised interior is nicer yet still suited to the Wrangler’s intended use. Though heated leather seats and automatic climate control are now available, you’ll still find no luxury car cabin inside a Wrangler, nor should you. After all, it’s still possible to remove not only the roof but the doors, and even to fold the windshield. Functionality is the clear priority. The various buttons and knobs are large, close at hand, and logically laid out. Interior storage is plentiful. Though the upright windshield can block traffic signals, the view from the cushy, thick, high-mounted driver’s seat is otherwise commanding. You’re clearly piloting no ordinary vehicle. The main ergonomic slip: there’s no good place to rest your left foot. The rear seat is similarly high and cushy, but comfort suffers from a bottom cushion that stops mid-thigh. With the four-door legroom is sufficient for the average adult to sit behind the average adult. With the rear seat in place, the Wrangler can hold 46 cubic feet of stuff. Fold the seat and you can squeeze in another 36 cubes. Both figures are competitive with mid-size crossovers.

Does the addition of 83 horsepower transform the Wrangler from slug to rocket ship? Though I half expected it to, even aided by a fifth ratio in the automatic transmission the new mill effects no such transformation. Instead, while the 2007-2011 Wrangler felt painfully slow over 40 miles-per-hour, the 2012 feels…adequate. Though sixty arrives in about eight seconds if you plant your right foot to the floor, the Wrangler doesn’t feel even that quick. Despite its 6,400 rpm horsepower peak and 4,800 rpm torque peak, the engine doesn’t ask to be revved, with some audible strain if and when the throttle is opened more than halfway. But then neither does the engine, despite its DOHC configuration and these lofty on-paper peaks, feel peaky or out of place in the Wrangler, where low-end torque has always been the priority. The new engine seems happiest in casual suburban driving, where shifts occur around 2,700 rpm. It likely feels more energetic when hitched to the six-speed manual transmission, which provides a direct mechanical connection and includes much shorter initial gearing. [Update: the optional lower final drive ratios would also help. The tested Wrangler had the standard 3.21 axles.] For even more thrust, some aftermarket firms will swap in a HEMI, and a boosted V6 should also be a possibility—all it takes is money. But would a shockingly quick Jeep even make sense?

Given the chassis, no. The latest Wrangler does ride much better than those from decades past, especially in not-as-trail-friendly 116-inch-wheelbase Unlimited form. And it even has better-controlled rear body motions than a Land Rover LR4 or Toyota’s conventional SUVs. But compared to just about any other similarly-dimensioned vehicle, the Jeep’s on-road handling, though also much improved, remains sluggish and clumsy. At 4,294 pounds, the Wrangler isn’t terribly massive, but it drives about a quarter-ton heavier than it actually is. On the road, the Jeep’s steering feels loose on-center, its body rolls considerably (if in a well-controlled, predictable manner), and its all-terrain tires readily lapse into a mushy slide. On the plus side, in 2WD (required on pavement, as the 4WD system is part-time) the Wrangler can easily be steered with the throttle. Noise levels are lower than in pre-2007 Wranglers, but at highway speeds there’s still wind rush over the header. EPA ratings of 16 city, 20 highway further suggest that the Jeep wasn’t designed to cheat the wind. Instead, it remains optimized for off-road driving, with on-road behavior a second priority.

With many bespoke bits, the Jeep Wrangler isn’t going to be cheap. A four-door Sport starts at $26,345. But opt for the plusher Sahara with an automatic transmission and body-color hard top, as with the tested vehicle, and you’re looking at a $34,585 sticker even without options like heated leather seats, automatic climate control, Bluetooth, and nav. TrueDelta’s Car Price Comparison Tool suggests that a similarly-equipped Toyota FJ Cruiser is only couple hundred dollars less at MSRP but about $1,500 less when comparing dealer invoices. Price isn’t likely to be the deciding factor between these two.

Given the list of improvements to the Jeep Wrangler over the past few years, culminating in the new V6 this year, some people might be expecting a vehicle that can go toe-to-toe with the latest crossovers in the daily commute, then tackle the Rubicon on the weekends. This isn’t quite the case. Though no longer a penalty box liable to trip over its own feet while failing to get out of its own way, the Wrangler continues to drive like…a Jeep. The latest iteration of this real thing might require less severe day-to-day hardship from the off-road enthusiasts it’s designed for, but it continues to require sacrifices nonetheless. It’s not thrillingly quick. It’s not remotely athletic through curves. It’s somewhat (down from tremendously) noisy and thirsty on the highway. Rear seat room and comfort are merely sufficient. Which, frankly, is very much the way a Wrangler should be. Any closer to being suitable for everyday life, and its essential authenticity would be lost. The world needs at least few cars that to their core aren’t meant for the daily grind, and that consequently drive differently from everything else. For those willing to compromise off-road prowess for on-road comfort and capability, perhaps because they’re never going to venture off the road, Jeep offers the Grand Cherokee.

Vehicle provided by Michael Williams at Southfield Jeep in Southfield, MI (248) 354-2950.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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70 Comments on “Review: 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara...”


  • avatar
    CJinSD

    What was the point of going to the body colored hardtops? Was there a large contingent of customers that alwasy wanted their own postal Jeeps?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      OK white does look weird but I think it’s the whole: “I payed for the uplevel package so I get a painted hardtop.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        According the the Jeep website vehicle configurator, you can get the Sahara with body color or black hardtop. I’d prefer the option of white as well, but since there’s no chance I’ll ever be buying one of them, my opinion don’t count for much.

    • 0 avatar

      White color reflects sun, which helps if for some reason you do not want to go topless (e.g. in a climate where it can rain suddenly, or on an expedition vehicle). I seriously think about painting my black top silver. Currently I have additional insulation from Hothead Headliners, which helps, but is not quite enough.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        White or black doesn’t concern me from a cosmetic standpoint. I just think that a Jeep’s top should contrast with the body color so it doesn’t look like an old postal vehicle. It doesn’t look upscale to me, but I guess I’m getting old. When did the USPS stop using Jeeps and Pintos?

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      I kinda expected to see the letters “UN” on the side of that white Sahara. I’d prefer orange or green.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Complain, complain, complain!

      I like it, no matter what color the top is – I’m sure it is an option, and a potential buyer can have a standard black/charcoal one.

      Nice vehicle, but it doesn’t fit my needs, as I sold our 1992 YJ almost two years ago. Right now, I need mpgs – lots of ‘em!

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Somehow the high tech DOHC V6 seems so out of place here.
    This rig begs for a GM LS torque monster, or a Hemi variant.

  • avatar
    jandrews

    No offense to Mr. Karesh, but the idea of the jeep being “designed for offroad enthusiasts” is reaching at best. A better description would be “designed for people who want to look like offroad enthusiasts”.

    Actual offroad enthusiasts, if they actually purchase one of these new, will promptly take a grinder and sawzall to it, replace the entire suspension, and find a way to get 35+ inch tires under there with full suspension articulation available.

    But then, that’s why wheelers don’t buy new vehicles. Since you’re just going to destroy it anyway, it makes much more sense to purchase a beater for a few thousand that’s 10 or more years old, has plentiful cheap repair/replacement parts available, a fully developed aftermarket, and won’t sweat body damage.

    I give Jeep credit for being brave enough to retain a solid front axle 25 years after they went out of style, but at this point they could move the whole vehicle to independent suspension on all four corners and I doubt their customer base would even notice. In fact, they’d probably produce a vehicle well received by critics.

    …Wait a second… ;)

    • 0 avatar

      True, true, but they have to have a vehicle to work from. How many off-road enthusiasts have taken a sawzall to a CR-V?

      The next Liberty will be based on a FWD FIAT platform, so that one’s venturing off the reservation. If many people within Fiatsler see what you see, the Wrangler will eventually go the same way. But if a future Wrangler doesn’t at least provide a suitable basis for a truly serious off-road vehicle, the model’s credibility will be shot.

      • 0 avatar
        jandrews

        Would it? If it continued to sell well, I think it’d be credibility by fiat (Jesus Christ, no pun intended) inside Fiatsler. Money is as money does, no? Judging by the number of full sized pickups running around all dressed (and lifted) up without ever having seen a spec of dirt, I get the feeling the accounting department views this differently from the enthusiast niche.

        Yes, the Jeep leaves you with “less road to travel” to get into serious offroad territory by virtue of already being on axles and having a relatively short wheelbase. The 4.7:1 low range ratio is also a nice touch. And I suppose those ten year old fuck-it-flop-it rigs have to start life somewhere.

        But realistically…there’s nothing off the showroom floor that’ll satisfy true wheelers. As they say, rigs are built, not bought.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        “But realistically…there’s nothing off the showroom floor that’ll satisfy true wheelers. As they say, rigs are built, not bought.”

        That’s a perfectly circular assertion.

      • 0 avatar
        jandrews

        It is a perfectly circular assertion.

        But it also happens to be true, which gives it that extra “oomph”.

        Guys that are coming off axle-swapped mid-80s 4runners with Dana 60s (selectable lockers, of course) underneath on 42 inch pitbull rockers and dual 4.7:1 transfer cases are *not* going to be satisfied with anything I’m currently aware of rolling off assembly lines for street use.

        MAYBE certain Unimog configurations? I’m not sure what the options are there stock.

        I’m not that hardcore yet, but unfortunately I get the feeling it’s only a matter of time. Some of the guys I roll with have truggies that built, and they laugh at stock Jeeps. That’s not a slight on the Jeep, I’m just trying to better define the population we’re working with here. I’m not talking about California teenagers playing in the litterbox at Pismo.

      • 0 avatar
        pgcooldad

        “there’s nothing off the showroom floor that’ll satisfy true wheelers. ”

        Doesn’t the Ram Power Wagon qualify?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @jandrews:
        “But realistically…there’s nothing off the showroom floor that’ll satisfy true wheelers.”
        Ford F-150 Raptor, perhaps?

      • 0 avatar
        jandrews

        Dodge Power Wagon: Capable tools in a package that’s too wide, too long, and too tall. I’ve seen one stuck between two trees on a trail. I wish I was kidding.

        Raptor: Same problem. Ford, in going for a “factory long travel” (quotes intentional – they’re faking it, albeit fairly well) suspension setup had to widen the track of the already enormous F-150. It’s good for romping around sand boxes like Pismo or Glamis, but if you live anywhere but California it’s a poser truck. It is also too long and too wide. I do like the 6.2L V8 Ford cooked up for that puppy though. God knows the old 5.4 had needed to be replaced for…oh, a decade or so.

        Of the vehicles under discussion, the Rubicon Trim Wrangler is definitely the closest to getting the job done from factory. Front and Rear axles (solid Dana 44s at that, which are plenty for a vehicle of that weight/power), selectable lockers, swaybar disconnect, mud tires all from factory. I will also say that Jeep offers the most commendable factory skid plates and sliders out there, even if they’re still woefully insufficient.

        Take a Rubicon, get some 3/16ths steel skid plates fabbed from your local metalworking guy, weld some *real* sliders (also from your local fab shop) on it, get some new coilsprings for lift, and upsize the tires. You’re pretty much done building, and you’re only $5000 or so into it. That’s about the easiest they come.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Would it at least be fair to call it the offroading world’s answer to the Ford Mustang?

      • 0 avatar
        jandrews

        I guess you could. Did we need an answer? Heh.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Have you seen what a used Rubicon goes for? Suggesting that as an inexpensive rig is silly. No beef against them, but for what it would cost to get a decent Rubicon and add good sliders, a winch, and the other items you suggest I could probably have my FJ80 ready to take to the damn North Pole.

    • 0 avatar
      bodayguy

      I think it’s fair to say there are customers who want an SUV for logging roads or worry-free trips over the pass or drives to the cabin or whatnot – customers who don’t fit the mud-bog and rock running crowd.

      I admit I like this thing, but if I had one, I’d be a total poseur. Sometimes you can appreciate the tool and its craftsmanship without needing to use it every weekend.

  • avatar
    nikita

    Ive driven plenty of stock vehicles far off-pavement, ’74 Jeep CJ-7, ’84 Toyota 4×4 pickup, and others. You dont need 35inch tires and a foot of extra lift for most off road duty, maybe specialized rock crawling.

    • 0 avatar
      jandrews

      “Off pavement” is very different from “off road”. I’m not sure if you meant to draw the distinction, but it’s very much there.

      For mild duty off-road work, plenty of stock vehicles would suffice. But enthusiasts aren’t on those trails. The only showroom-floor vehicle you can make a straight-faced argument is “Offroad Enthusiast Ready” would be the Wrangler in Rubicon trim. Some argue for the Dodge Power Wagon, but’s it’s frankly just too large in every dimension.

      I think what we’re hanging up on here is what constitutes an “enthusiast”. My working definition is probably most evident through the examples I’ve given.

      But then, I wheel a (highly modified) current generation Tacoma, so who knows what counts, right?

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        What you’re talking about are recreational usages, which is what a Wrangler is. It’s not a working vehicle. It was, but hasn’t been for decades. No organization buys fleets of Wranglers. They’re toys for personal recreational use.

  • avatar

    The 4-door version is enormously more practical than 2-door. Most notably, it is rated to tow 3500 pounds, but 2-door is only allowed 2500 (which is less than, for example, RAV4). Also, its fuel tank is larger. But what’s funny, I have a 2-door, and I still have the transfer case skidplate all scratched. I just cannot deal with small break-over angle. The 4-door requires just a little more consideration off-road to prevent high-centering it far from help, but I think it’s preferable 99% of the time.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Nice truck.

    18″ wheels on a Jeep look (and are) ridiculous, but it’s the poser package with side steps so what do you expect?

    The Pentastar is finally a competitive 6. But at 4,400 lbs empty (!!!), 5,000+ with passengers and cargo even a good 6 can’t do an 8′s job.

    My 2002 Tundra access cab only weighed about 200 pounds more than this.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Nice Jeep… Is Fiat still considering a diesel for the Wrangler? I remember the diesel in Jeeps- was it the Cherokee?- a few years ago; they didn’t seem to sell, and weren’t available in all 50 states. Anyway, poor fuel mileage (and the crappy reputation of Chrysler) is why I declined buying a Jeep back in 2003 (bought a Subaru instead, and never regretted it).

    • 0 avatar
      link3721

      If I remember correctly, Chrysler expected to sell about 5000 of the diesel Liberties the first year (2003 MY). They sold 11,000. They then proceeded to put a diesel in the Grand Cherokee (for 2004 MY I think) until emissions regulations became too strict in 2005. So if it wasn’t for the emissions regulations, we’d probably have a diesel Wrangler by now. For comparison, a gas Liberty got 21 highway while a diesel Liberty got 27 highway.

      Fiat has said the 2013 GC will have a diesel option and that other models would get them in the following years, so maybe at the next model refresh the Wrangler will finally get a diesel. That would definitely help the mileage numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I was quite interested in a diesel-powered Liberty, until I drove one. The problems were as follows:
      1) 17MPG. I was interested in a diesel for the efficiency and the torque, not for 17MPG.
      2) The salesman bragged that the (gross weight) of the vehicle was 5000lbs. I looked in the manual, and the curb weight of the vehicle was in the mid 4000s, which made it 1000lbs heavier than the Ford Ranger I was thinking about trading in (I still have the Ranger). They were clearly trying to sell to the scardy-mom market, and not to me.
      3) 17MPG.
      4) The Jeep club literate made it look like buying that vehicle would compel me join a cult. I wanted a car, not a passport into a cult.
      5) 17MPG.

      I still like diesels. I bought a Jetta TDI a few months later, and enjoyed it quite a bit despite the fact that it was about as reliable as my father’s Volkswagen minibus. Like diesels, hate Volkswagen — looking for a car to love.

      I like the Wrangler Unlimited, too, but it seems to have a lot of the same drawbacks as the Liberty CRD. Also, I never go offroad, so owning one would make me one of the biggest poseurs on the planet. But there’s still something to like about the Wrangler Unlimited, especially if it were to be offered with a diesel engine.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        I know this is an old post, but whenever I’ve swapped my 330i for my parents’ Liberty CRD for skiing or bombing around on Forest Service roads in the Cascades, I have to say that I’ve never gotten anything as low as 17 mpg.

        That truck gets around 21 mpg in stop and go traffic and 28 mpg hwy. It’ll almost hit 30 if you drive it under 65 mph; i.e. on a 2 lane US highway.

  • avatar
    ajla

    For even more thrust, some aftermarket firms will swap in a HEMI, and a boosted V6 should also be a possibility—all it takes is money. But would a shockingly quick Jeep even make sense?

    I actually think it’s worth asking if the Pentastar Wrangler really makes any sense over a HEMI Wrangler?

    I also have my doubts that using a HEMI or S/C Pentastar in the Wrangler would result in a “shockingly quick” vehicle.

  • avatar
    orick

    uh, a jeep review that doesn’t go off-road???

    • 0 avatar
      PJ McCombs

      Many (I would wager ‘most’) Wranglers don’t, so I think it definitely has a place.

      In fact I really appreciate reviews like this–I wouldn’t buy a sports car without knowing what it’s like to live with off the racetrack, either, but buff-book reviews often focus their impressions on the closed course experience.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry about that. At least it’s not a Rubicon!

      Two problems with going off-road:

      1. I’m not remotely qualified.

      2. Even if #1 wasn’t true, I don’t think the dealer would appreciate a severe off-road test drive.

  • avatar
    mopar4wd

    While it’s true most of the vehicles you see on the trails are ten years old and heavily modified I don’t think this means Jeep can let the wrangler become another street wise SUV. As already mentioned they build plenty of those. The wrangler is instead an anomaly a profitable Halo car. Like a drag racing Mustang yeah you may run it down the strip stock a few times but your gonna end up playing with it after a while trying to get another 1/10 off. While there are plenty of mall cruising KJ’s out there there are also a much higher percentage actually going off road then any other SUV out there. I have wheeled a number of vehicles over the years including a number of stock ones (never brand new ones mind you) and my friends running heavily modified rigs were sometimes amazed at where a stock XJ could go (with some dragging scrapping and dings of course)I think the real appeal to the offroader out there is how little you have to do to a Wrangler to have a real trail runner.

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    The Wrangler is one of the few vehicles you can still buy that has a solid front and rear axle AND a direct shifted transfer case. What the hell is the point of all the push button crap? It isn’t any easier to use and breaks more often. The transfer case in the Jeep feels way worse than the one in either Toyota I owned though. The transmission is pretty horrid as well but I hope it gets better with age.

    For all I know they stuffed some electronics/solenoids underneath the shifter to mimic an older fashioned transfer case.

    It’s dying for a different engine and honestly the new engine or even a Chrysler V8 isn’t a step in the right direction. It’s crying out for a long stroke V6/I6 (4.0+ litres) with a CABLE THROTTLE, the rev hang makes the manual almost undrivable and the pedal just doesn’t feel right physically. Mine doesn’t have cruise control so I am very sensitive to the feel of the gas pedal.

    The OHV V6 is OK otherwise. A diesel would make it too expensive, though having one as an option would be nice.

    The other mistake they make is putting really tall gearing in the lower trims, 3.23:1 iirc. Neither 5th or 6th will be able to deal with a slight headwind at 110km/h, dropping down to 4th is regular occurrence on the highway. 3rd if something like the Coquihalla is involved and at that point you’re no longer keeping up with traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      Push button H4 is a popular option on fleet 4WD vehicles. Drivers are more likely to actually engage 4WD before they get into trouble. I have never had a Toyota push button H4 fail to engage/disengage and never had trouble with the electronics.

      OTOH, manual transfer cases, I’ve seen people bollocks up on a fairly regular basis.

      Don’t get me started on external locking hubs.

      • 0 avatar
        potatobreath

        Ahh, fleet vehicles.

        I’ve driven a rental Liberty that was returned with the transfer case in 4WD LOCK mode. The vehicle was still groaning during a short drive after I set it back to 2WD.

        Saw a few Tahoes/Yukons come back with the 4WD shift selector knob punched into the dashboard too.

      • 0 avatar
        mistrernee

        My 83 Toyota was of course manual everything, the hubs stayed locked all winter as I was in and out of 4wd all the time.

        My 01 Tacoma had a lo/hi lever with a button for 4wd, which always made me wonder if I could run in 2lo without destroying something. The manual/warning stickers weren’t clear on this but looking back on it I doubt it would do anything and if on the off chance it would there would be a giant yellow on black sticker in the middle of the steering wheel saying so.

        The Tacoma was a nice middle ground and it always seemed to work, like you said. Other than the automatic hubs it wasn’t any simpler to use though.

        The Wranglers front axle spins all the time afiak, making it the charming pig it is on the highway.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    I was in my late teens when the whole 4×4 fad hit town. Guys that had SS Chevelles and Mach I Mustangs were now getting trucks. Big trucks, well, they didn’t start that way, but after mucho $$ you had a truck with 4-6″ lift kit, big old tires, drove like crap and sucked gas to the point that most added a second tank to the truck. And what did they do with these things, half NEVER went off road except grandma’s dirt driveway back on the farm and the other played on farm paths that we use to ride Honda 50′s on. OK, now that was in my hood, I know there are serious off roaders, I watch Extreme 4X4 (not much after Jessie left!) but the point I’m trying to make is that IMHO – most new Wrangler buyers are like my truck friends, buying for image. Jeep is smart making them more on-road friendly.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      If you’re referring to the mid-late 70′s, I remember those jacked-up Fords – we called them “spider wagons” because of the visibility of the driveshafts and springs and all! Couldn’t imagine owning one, though – or feeding one!

  • avatar
    spyked

    Just bought a 2012 Wrangler Sport with AUTOMATIC!! All three of my previous were 5 or 6 speed manuals. 95 Sahara, 01 Sport, and 04 Sport. This is by far the nicest, IMO. So far I don’t miss the I6. I’m told the automatic is better for severe off-road duty. Ya right, like I’ll ever do that. For most of us, Wranglers are simply ultra-useful convertibles that can pull WaveRunners.

    I’ve never, ever taken my Jeep anywhere close to off-road unless you count sandy or gravelly/muddy roads. However, I REFUSE to shovel snow. Wranglers are great in that regard. City trucks push 6 feet of snow up against my Jeep – who cares? Literally plow right through it. Occasionally use reverse to get it going, but usually just GO.

    • 0 avatar
      friedclams

      Bingo. I think people forget the popularity of these as a city vehicle in places with rough winters. Getting out of a snowed in parking space is a huge plus, and the 2-door versions are short enough so they are easy to park. They can be a handy city warrior vehicle if you can live with the mileage.

      I see lots in Cambridge, MA, which is pretty counter-intuitive!

      • 0 avatar
        spyked

        Yep. They really are the ultimate city car. Super-easy to park (can see everything around you) and even potholes the size of the Gulf of Mexico can’t knock it out of alignment.

    • 0 avatar

      My Ribi is an auto too. It is sometimes useful, for left-foot braking. Note that allegedly the latest JKs include a clutch that slips automatically unless RPMs are added, so it should be possible to use a slightly complex procedure: hold the handbrake, left foot off the clutch carefuly and on the brake, release handbrake, then release brake and add revs like you do on an automatic. So it works like an auto, but with reliability and durability benefits of manual. I was not aware about it and salesman never mentioned it. Not sure if it’s true.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Funny, a lot of hard core offroaders I know prefer an automatic. Much easier to negotiate obstacles smoothly. The problem with this vehicle being embraced by the off road crowd I know is not so much the capability…God knows the aftermarket has the Jeep covered, It is the price! I doubt I could bring myself to wheel a 35000 dollar jeep anywhere here as hard as I do my 5000 dollar 93 Land Cruiser. Only folks I’ve seen wheeling brand new jeeps are kids with rich parents. Im sure it happens, but most of the jeeps I see on the trail are not new.

      I have thought of an unlimited as an expo style rig though. If I ever got serious into that sort of wheeling then the Cruiser is a bit thirsty. Why the hell do we not get any diesels in this country. The diesel would make me consider the jeep. Wont happen though.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Do you know which gear ratios your tester had? If they were 3:21 I could see why it felt a bit lazy. 3:73 gear ratios gives for a nice balance of crawl capability off-road and on-road acceleration, but at the slight expense of fuel economy.

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    Exactly grzydj. We have a 2008 Unlimited 6-spd. It has the tow kit and therefore the shorter gearing, and on the highway we only need to shift down from 6th going up the steepest hills.

    It’s kinda rough and a little noisy, but tows great, works well in the snow, and has enough cargo capacity for trips to the cottage. Just a good, reliable, do-everything vehicle.

    Realistically, for our use, we would be better off with a GC. But we are just too cheap!

  • avatar
    MarkP

    I like this car, although I would have to win the lottery before I bought one. I would leave it near the closest airport to the mountain cabin I would buy, just for trips back and forth down the long drive to the mailbox. But, seriously, it’s a far more honest vehicle than something like the Hummer versions. It has a history, and so far they’re being pretty much true to that history. I saw an old WW II vintage Jeep (good grief that was small!) the other day, and the lineage is still visible.

    On the other hand, my wife and I rented one a couple of years ago on a visit to Lake Tahoe. It was a RWD version. Now that makes absolutely no sense.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I have always liked them. I want one, not to go off roading (maybe i would), but mostly to look cool. I like the idea of 4 wd in case of snow, and a ragtop in summer. I think i prefer the smaller one, tho. Also, it would be great to have a car that can take a few bumps and scrapes and look even cooler!

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I got a 83 CJ7, 4.2 with a HO head and a bunch of other stuff. The newer Jeeps I’ve driven never had a engine that could touch it. Now, the 2.8 Turbo Diesel in my Liberty would be the perfect candidate for a Wrangler…..

    More engine options please.

  • avatar

    Wasn’t last year’s Sahara a Rubicon plus amenities?

    • 0 avatar

      No, the Rubicon has off-road-oriented features as standard equipment that are either optional or not available on the Sahara.

    • 0 avatar

      The most important thing that my Rubi has and Sahara lacks is, I think, the NV241OR transfer case with 4:1 low. It’s super convenient for crawling over obstacles. I also have 1:4.10 main drive, while Sahara comes with 3.27 or something like that. I also get front sway-bar muff and front locker. Neither of those are critical for me, because I’m not a big fan of rocks, and I saw people doing quite well in TJs with just rear locker. It really is in the driver. Finally, Rubicon has distinctive “rock rails” on the sides, which are surprisingly useful as long as you understand that they are disposable and bash them with abandon :-)

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        I have always wondered if the rock rails were any good. I like the Rubicon…just so damn much money! Really the last vehicle like that we can get in North America. I love my Land cruiser, but the new ones are nothing like the old models. I do not want Leather or DVD players in my 4×4 thank you.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    Just an observation:

    The SJ (originally J-Series) Wagoneer/Cherokee had a 110-inch wheelbase. And that was on a vehicle designed as a work car; a multipurpose rig that only incidentally had (optionally at first) 4wd.

    Here we have six extra inches, in what purports to be the descendant of the CJ series. No…it’s too big, too tall, too wide, to be anything but a poseur.

    If you understand it’s what you’re getting, and you’re happy with it, more power to you. But the more these things move away from the original function of the traditional Jeep, and the more expensive they get, the more laughable is the posing.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    I’m glad to see them fix some of the issues that have given me pause about the ’07+ Wranglers. As much as I didn’t care for the 3.8L, the crappy 42RLE automatic transmission was a massive power absorbing device which just magnified the power deficit. To me, the big news here is the use of the old but excellent Mercedes W5A580 transmission which does a much better job of putting the power to the pavement in an efficient manner.

    The other issues I have will likely never get fixed, the biggest one being the width of this beast – it’s downright huge compared to an ’06 or prior Wrangler. I also have some issues with elements of the styling, but that of course is purely subjective.

    I personally own 2 Wranglers, an ’02 Sahara and an ’06 Rubicon Unlimited. I like the honest simplicity of the older “TJ” series vehicles and their clear connection to the M38A1/CJ series vehicles. I also like the linear power delivery of the old inline 6 and the overall lack of electronics and computers (i.e. no side airbags, traction control, ABS, tire pressure sensors, etc) since they are both long term keepers – the ’06 especially so. This simplicity will help make it easier to keep them going for the next 20-30 years.

    Lastly, while I’m sure I’m in the minority, I actually do offroad my vehicles. No, I don’t do any serious rock-hopping, but I’ve tackled many of the harder trails in Colorado on various vacations I’ve taken out there, and my ’02 has seen its share of trail damage….I seem to have something against my poor L/F fender :). My skids (and yes, I’m running serious protection for the engine, rockers and fuel tank) have lots of scrapes and dents in them and I’ve been winched off of my share of obstacles. People like myself may be the minority, but spend some time on one of the more popular Jeep related forums and you will see that people do indeed buy brand new Wranglers and promptly go out and wheel them – hard.

  • avatar

    The last Jeep I drove regularly was a Grand Cherokee (93) with a 4.0L and auto… I beat the shit out of that thing and it mostly held together aside from chewing up water pumps at an alarming rate (every 6 months like clockwork). That and breaking a tie rod on the highway and nearly killing me (couldn’t steer but thankfully the wheel stayed on and it kept tracking straight as I slowed down). With the axles locked and a decent set of winter tires it was damn near unstoppable when the snow fell.

    The most recent I drove was a 2010 Unlimited, and I must say I am very glad they dropped that anemic motor. Perhaps this new mill isn’t much more impressive, but 200 hp out of 3.8L was pathetic and it felt it, it wasn’t even torquey enough to justify the slow acceleration (like the 4.0 was). Maybe you don’t NEED any more power in a Jeep, but damn it that is no excuse to be so lazy and shove a half-baked fuel-sucking lawnmower motor under the hood. The 4.0 was slow but very torquey, and near indestructible (aside from those damned waterpumps). It worked perfectly as a Jeep motor. The parts-bin 3.8 never cut it in my opinion.

    Before trying it out, I had considered buying a 2-door with a 6 speed – here it Canada it’s the only thing that has 4wd, a manual tranny, a convertible top, and 6 pots for under 20K MSRP. But a day in the Unlimited quickly cured that desire. Besides, I know I would never use it as God and mudboggers intended, seeing how I rarely stray from the inner city nowadays.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Been watching and loathing the new Jeeps since their inception (far too wide, defeats the purpose of a “trail” vehicle). Though never a true Jeep-ster, I owned and maintained a love/hate relationship with my ’91 YJ. With the 2.5L AMC four-banger wheezing out a powerful 100HP, I had it tricked out to fit 30′ wheels underneath for the BFG Rugged Terrains and a posi-lock for the rear axle for better traction.

    The tiny motor barely motivated it on a good day, let alone on the highway with a stiff headwind. However, the wheels moved so slowly off the line that it was perfect for going four wheeling. While not a true off-roader with articulating chassis and blown V8s, it did manage (when it was running) to crawl up some of the rougher passes and trails so you could go camping and fishing away from the RV crowd. With its bikini top, California duster, and half-doors, it made me look sexy, no mean feat.

    The true purpose of the Wrangler is for fun, not for grocery getting.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Meh, at 4200 lbs it is only 300 lbs less than the luxo barge Grand Wagoneer.

  • avatar
    AJ

    There are always some amount of posers buying Wranglers. Back when I bought my TJ, the TJ Rubicon was often bought by them. They didn’t know what made a Rubicon (or would it matter), but they sure liked that name on the side of the hood. Then those Rubicons ended up on used car lots a few years later and had clearly never even been on a dirt road. They were an awesome find!

    Now with the JKs, a lot more posers are buying them. I know some owners that never take them off-road, or even take the tops off. But at least the next owner will find a nearly new Jeep to enjoy off-road when the owner finds something shinier.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      God bless those people though. They make it possible to find clean used ones. The locker actuators on my FJ80 were frozen when I got it. Probably were never engaged after it left the factory. Id be hating life if all the used 4×4′s were wheeled hard.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    This current Wrangler is endemic as to what is happening to whatever is left of the “real” off road vehicles. On-road posers buy them for reasons unknown (perceived toughness, the image they confer, midlife crisis, whatever).

    To keep up sales, then, Jeep thinks that carpeted interiors, car-like ride, high revving engines (that sacrifice torque for horsepower), power windows, IFS, etc. is what they need to move an OFF ROADER.

    And thanks to those idiots, if you want to buy a reliable tank of an off roader you instead get a soccer mom mobile with plastic bumpers, tires that slide on grass, and an interior you can’t get mud out of.

    The same crap has happened to the Land Cruiser, pick up trucks, and every car that once had a very specific utalitarian role.

    Since when does buying an off roader mean I want amenities or a smooth ride?

    • 0 avatar
      Tifighter

      Seems to me that the only competition left is the xterra on the low end, and the 4runner trail edition on the high end. Its surprisingly easy to option a Rubicon to the $37K+ level. The Xterra pro-4x can be found advertised at local Nissan dealers for $26-27k all day long…seems like a solid deal. Yeah, it has IFS, but it seems like a pretty basic no-frills SUV that is more than capable for most users.

  • avatar
    Tab2

    I have not read all of the reply’s but of the ones I have read noone owns a 2012 JK. I have a ’12 JKU Rubicon. I ordered it before they were at the local dealerships and traded an ’09 Rubicon for it because of the new engine/trans. The ’09 did great on trails but on the highway was way under powered. We have 8K miles on the ’12 and just came back from a 2200 mile road trip. Fully loaded with camping gear it will do 80+ mph up a steap grade passing everyone no problem. Average MPG is 19. Off road it its just as good. We did the Broken Arrow trail in Sedona AZ, and Hotel Rock in UT during the Jeep Jamboree, both of them a 9 on the 1 to 10 scale. The weight and width has not been a problem with the ’12 or the ’09 for any of the trails we have been on. I have wheeled with a CJ5, CJ7, and a TJ and this is by far the best of them. It is our only vehicle and takes my wife to work every day and wherever we want to go on the weekends. It is stock except for a winch on the front and a Teraflex leveling kit.

  • avatar
    kunal

    This is plagiarism of highest order by the other site from here.. word by word….. lol

    Have a look

    http://www.zigwheels.com/reviews-advice/reviews/jeep-wrangler-sahara-first-drive/17353/


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