September 21, 2011
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler you see here will not be the same Jeep Wrangler that leaves us in 12 months. Admittedly, it looks rather lame with its steel wheels, tiny tires and who-cares black paint. If we said we boosted it from the Dollar Rent-a-Car in Maui, you'd probably believe it.
However, that just means our long-term 2012 Wrangler is a clean slate. New wheels and real tires will be an absolute must; a new axle ratio seems likely. Rock rails, a winch and maybe even a snorkel could also be in order. True, we don't routinely find ourselves fording rivers, but you just never know when our office might be relocated to a place with "Gulch" in its name. Besides, few things look as cool as a Wrangler with all the fixins.
To be honest, though, the Wrangler isn't for everyone. No matter what we do to it, it will always have solid axles, deafening wind noise, doors that provide little crash protection and a thin layer of vinyl for a roof. Some of our editors may see those traits as glaring flaws, while others may view them as endearing quirks. We'll see who changes their mind after 12 months.
What We Bought
The Jeep Wrangler has come a long way from its humble roots shuttling around GIs. Today's Wrangler is available with two or four doors, a hard or soft top, navigation, leather upholstery, heated seats, automatic climate control, satellite radio and an Infinity sound system.
In light of this, we bought a Wrangler with the following options: air-conditioning.
Yep, that's it. We said no thanks to power locks, power windows, power mirrors, keyless entry, Bluetooth, an automatic transmission and alloy wheels, along with all those frivolities mentioned above. We were going to nix the A/C as well, but we couldn't find a Wrangler without it in Southern California. Probably for the best.
So what we bought is a Jeep that is a mere $800 away from the base price. It's the bare-bones, bargain-basement 2012 Jeep Wrangler that shows up on The Price is Right, and should you ever find yourself staring at one during the Showcase Showdown, you'll want to remember that it stickers for only $23,740. After some shrewd negotiating, we got the price down to $22,570 thanks to an end-of-the-month deal.
Why We Bought It
Admittedly, this is not the first Jeep Wrangler that has passed through our garage. In fact, it's not even the first of its generation. We had a 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited for a year, a truck in which we struggled to reach 15,000 miles, let alone the regular 20,000. As we wrote in its long-term wrap-up, "Once you compare this Jeep to competitive SUVs, it falters. We see four doors and we want a more civilized experience. The Unlimited just does not offer the level of isolation and highway demeanor we would get from a Toyota FJ Cruiser or Nissan Xterra."
So why are we getting an even less civilized, less isolating, less spacious and less equipped Wrangler? Well, for starters, the ultimate Jeep has undergone quite a few changes since our old long-termer. The frustrating soft top was improved for 2010, while last year saw a new interior that actually looks as if someone bothered to style it. Improved materials were welcome, but when you can remove a vehicle's doors, our expectations on that front are low. More important was the standard stability control and hill start assist.
This year, however, the biggest change occurs. Gone is the agricultural pushrod V6 that didn't really do much except make a lot of uncouth noise. The new Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 produces 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Performance testing of a 2012 Unlimited Sahara showed this engine shaves a second off the Wrangler's 0-60 time, while the EPA says fuel economy is up by 1 mpg combined. From a subjective standpoint, it makes a world of difference in terms of getting off the line and it sounds better, too.
How will we fare living with a bare-bones two-door 2012 Jeep Wrangler? Will we actually like it more, or will we complain incessantly about not having heated seats and an iPod interface? Heck, will we simply miss power locks? And what sort of aftermarket goodies can we add to make it cooler to look at and more capable off-road?
Well, we have 12 months on the Long-Term Test Blog to detail our likes and dislikes, and hopefully we can hit 20,000 miles this time around.
Current Odometer: 841
Best Fuel Economy: 16.7
Worst Fuel Economy: 16.0
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 16.3
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.