Jeeps are not for everyone. The Jeep lifestyle is only for the chilled out, laid back and the ones who don’t mind a few bumps. Being a current Jeep Fanatic, I figured I’d see what the difference was between my 1997 Wrangler and the 2012 Wrangler Rubicon. While the local dealer didn’t have me on a press list for an extended test drive, I was able to take one out for a spin, and was pleasantly surprised with what they’ve done with it.
New in 2012 is the 3.6L Pentastar V-6. I am a die-hard fan of the 4.0L I-6, but this engine definitely has some nice oomph. 285 horses and 260 pound-feet of torque, to be precise. Pair that lightweight aluminum block with a 5-speed automatic, and you’ve got a decently speedy, short-wheelbase mudding machine. The bump-shifting technology is smart. I cruised up to a stoplight in fourth gear, and a single tap of the downshift brought it back to first gear. The ride is smooth, but not out of touch with the road. You feel the bumps, but they don’t jostle you.
On the road, even the 33″ BF Goodrich Mud Terrains don’t penetrate into the cabin. Road noise is nicely minimized, but not to the point where you forget what you’re driving. The new soft top is thick, and does a great job keeping your voice at a normal volume, unlike older Jeeps.
The 7 speaker Infinity sounds system is much appreciated, with tweeters on the dash to help you get the most out of your sound, even with the top down. The center stack is easy to decipher, with an auxiliary jack up front, and is upgradable to a Media Center/GPS/DVD unit, if that’s your preference. However an expensive stereo in a Jeep doesn’t make sense to me. The stock unit pumps out good sound, and is well equalized for the car, not overplaying the bass.
The 4wd shifter is a nice manual bit, with a chrome top that matches accent pieces throughout the cabin, and shifting into 4-Lo locks the electronic lockers, giving you the most power to the ground from the 4:1 low gear. The bottom of the stack has switches for traction control and hill descent assist, which is usually taken care of by 4-Lo and 1st gear, but hey, fancy! You can’t manually switch on the e-lockers, but there’s a few quick hacks out there to fix that, so you can tear through the mud in 4Hi with all 4 wheels putting power to the ground.
The back seat is still a little small, but there’s more space behind the rear bench than older models. It’s not a lot of room, mind you, but it’s enough for a suitcase, assuming you pack light. The seats are firm, but not too firm, and the dash intrudes a bit too far for my taste. The factory option of half doors is available, but most come with the full doors. The electronic window switches are in the center stack, which is both confusing and unnecessary. Having everything self-contained in the door would make more sense, as WHO WANTS DOORS ON A JEEP ALL THE TIME? Having a reminder of doors, even when they’re off, is kind of a waste of space.
Overall, it’s what you’d expect from a Jeep, and smoother than you’d expect for a purpose built off-roading machine. All that fun comes in at a price of around $30,000, which includes the Rubicon package – beefy tires, skid plates, 4:1 Low transfer case, Dana 44 axles with e-lockers and the sport interior.
I just can’t wait for the SRT guys to get their paws over to the Wrangler side of the house. Adding a 392cu. inch, 465 hp engine to the sprightly Wrangler might just make me pee my pants with joy. Peep the gallery below for a few interior shots and the pricing sheet.