Jeep Wrangler and Land Rover Defender split the voting when it comes to the ultimate reputation for four-wheel-drives (4WD) which can ‘go-anywhere’.
Thing is you can’t fake a reputation. 4WD fans would never allow that.
In a history dating back to the second World War, the Jeep Wrangler joins the Harley Davidson motorcycle as being American ‘Icons’.
Now, for 2012, Jeep debuts the Wrangler with a new, more powerful 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine which is also more fuel-efficient.
In a few months Jeep will introduce a new, luxury version of the Wrangler called ‘Sahara’ which will feature a body-colour three-piece hardtop roof and matching wheel-arch flares, leather interior, six-disc audio and 18-inch alloy wheels.
2012 Jeep Wrangler Overview
Big news for the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is underneath – as well as the new 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine, Jeep has ditched the optional four-speed automatic transmission and gone for a five-speeder with driver-select manual changes. The excellent 2.8-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine remains unchanged.
Jeep is sticking with the two model grades for the Wrangler – ‘Sport’ and ‘Rubicon’. The extra coin for the Rubicon spec brings extras like Command-Trac 4WD system, Dana axles, Tru-Lok front/rear differential locks, front swaybar disconnect system, 17-inch alloy wheels and seven-speaker Infinity audio with a 360-watt amplifier.
The full range is:
Sport V6 petrol (6-speed manual) $32,000
Sport V6 petrol (5-speed automatic) $34,000
Sport turbo-diesel (6-speed manual) $38,000
Sport turbo-diesel (5-speed automatic) $39,000
Rubicon V6 petrol (6-speed manual) $42,000
Rubicon V6 petrol (5-speed automatic) $44,000
Sport Unlimited V6 petrol (6-speed manual) $36,000
Sport Unlimited V6 petrol (5-speed automatic) $38,000
Sport Unlimited turbo-diesel (6-speed manual) $42,000
Sport Unlimited turbo-diesel (5-speed automatic) $43,000
Rubicon Unlimited V6 petrol (6-speed manual) $46,000
Rubicon Unlimited V6 petrol (5-speed automatic) $48,000
2012 Jeep Wrangler Engine
Gone is the 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine, replaced by a much better 3.6-litre 60-degree 24-valve 3.6-litre Pentastar V6. Lighter and more compact, the new V6 delivers much better driving dynamics extending beyond the obvious performance and fuel consumption improvements.
Not that they’re insubstantial. Power is up to 209kW at 6350rpm and torque is up to 347Nm at 4300rpm (with 90 per cent available from as low as 1800rpm). The V6 petrol Jeep Wrangler Sport two-door now accelerates from zero to 100km/h in 8.1 seconds – 27.7 per cent faster than the equivalent outgoing model.
Drive is via a six-speed manual transmission or – also new for 2012 – the W5A589 five-speed automatic with driver-select manual mode.
On the diesel front, Jeep Wrangler sticks with the 2.8-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel which itself was upgraded in 2011. The DOHC, 16-valver delivers 147kW at 3600rpm and 460Nm between 1600-2600rpm (manual) or 410Nm between 2200-2600 (automatic).
Euro V-compliant for exhaust emissions and with fuel-saving auto start/stop, the Jeep Wrangler Sport diesel manual returns combined cycle fuel consumption of just 7.1/100kms.
2012 Jeep Wrangler The Interior
We’ve always liked the feel of the Jeep Wrangler when you climb inside – partly its originality (like the door tethers) and partly it’s ‘American-ness’ (a pleasing change from the usual Japanese, Korean and European SUVs).
There’s the hallmark Jeep steering wheel and conventional instrumentation (now aided by the modern media centre/satellite navigation screen). You sit high in nicely sculptured seats of generous proportions (you get that in American vehicles) although we would like reach adjustment for the steering wheel to fine-tune the driving position.
Other modern touches like the informative trip computer and new 368-watt audio - with a 40gb hard drive which can store up to 40,000 songs - show how Jeep has smartly updated the Wrangler over the journey while still being true to its origins.
Rear seat passengers, like those up-front, sit high with a commanding view and reasonable leg-room. Luggage space is 429-litres with the rear seat in-place or 934-litres with the seat folded.
2012 Jeep Wrangler Exterior & Styling
People often ask us why you can remove the doors and fold the windscreen of a Jeep Wrangler. The answer (apart from enjoying the open-air lifestyle) is 4WD ability and being able to instantly see what your wheels are doing, what angle they’re at and indeed whether they’re on terra-firma!
But this is 2012 and so Jeep provides a secure lockable storage spot to use when the roof is off and even the soft-top version of the Wrangler these days offers a sun roof.
But the basics remain unchanged – the half or full-frame doors, exposed fuel filler cap, externally-mounted spare wheel, separate tail-lights, seven-slot grille, upright windscreen and removable wheel-arch flares (now available in body colour).
Speaking of colours – there’s some new ones for 2012. There’s ‘Dozer’, ‘Crush’, ‘Gecko clear-coat’, ‘Black Forest Green’ and ‘Winter Chill Pearl Coat’.
Jeep’s Australian boss Clyde Campbell put it best: “The Jeep Wrangler is a car that stands for something – you either get the car or you don’t.”
We get it and we like it a lot.
2012 Jeep Wrangler On The Road
Jeep broke new ground for national media launches by taking us to the rugged surrounds of King Island on a day when Bass Straight turned-on some savage winds. Perfect conditions for the Jeep Wrangler.
Car Showroom tested the latest V6-powered Jeep Wrangler in both manual and automatic over the variety of King Island sealed roads, off-road tracks and the beach.
There’s no question the new 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine is a massive improvement over the previous 3.8-litre. Driveability and refinement over the entire speed range are much improved.
And of course this is a Jeep Wrangler so off-road…well let’s just say conditions were pretty extreme and our spines and rear-ends were worn-out by day’s end but the Jeep Wrangler kept coming back for more. Even in deeply rutted beach sand - which would have stopped some big-name SUVs - the Jeep Wrangler stepped-up to the plate with its expected competency.
Our only points deduction would be attributed to the six-speed manual version which showed some driveline ‘shock’ when going hard. A tad more refinement there wouldn’t take away any of the traditional Jeep Wrangler feel.
2012 Jeep Wrangler Challenges
Just a couple of minor improvements would make life easier driving the Jeep Wrangler in the city while not diluting it originality or toughness. We’re thinking a bit more driveline refinement and reach adjustment for the steering wheel for improved comfort.
2012 Jeep Wrangler Verdict
We ‘get’ the whole Jeep Wrangler icon status thing and we’re huge fans of the tough American. Here is a legendary vehicle which can handle all of your weekend adventures, bounce-back with a quick hose-out and be ready for the Monday morning back-to-work drive.
And if you crave a tad more luxo you can go for the Rubicon with optional leather seats.
Jeep has the Wrangler smartly priced and the new 3.6-litre V6 is a great advance (driveability, performance, fuel economy) over the previous 3.8-litre.
2012 Jeep Wrangler The Competition
Has to be the Land Rover Defender. While Land Rover is showing concepts for the all-new Defender, the iconic original defies Father Time and is still selling in big numbers.
Only offered with a 90kW/360Nm 2.4-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, the Defender starts at $44,990 for the 90 Hardtop and runs to $48,990 for the 110Wagon. No matter the terrain, the Land Rover Defender will get you where you want to go in time to raise the Union Jack and enjoy a refreshing gin and tonic.
Toyota’s FJ Cruiser goes the route of the MINI and Volkswagen New Beetle in being a modern interpretation of a classic (in this case Toyota’s original FJ right down to the colour scheme, white roof and three windscreen wipers). While a bit easier to drive on-road as a daily commute than the Jeep Wrangler or Land Rover Defender, Toyota’s FJ Cruiser nevertheless runs a ‘hose-clean’ interior and is as tough as Crocodile Dundee’ Akubra.
Toyota offers the FJ Cruiser in just one model, powered by a 200kW/380Nm V6 petrol engine, driving through a five-speed automatic transmission and priced at $44,990.