2012 Jeep Wrangler Long-Term Road Test

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Edmunds' New Car

May 29, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

Our long-term 2012 Jeep Wrangler has a new owner, one who frequent readers of this blog may recognize: Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Airing Down with Staun Tire Deflators

April 8, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport

Airing down the tires is the first order of business upon arrival at any rocky trailhead such as those found in and around the town of Moab, Utah.

But the average tire gauge doesn't have a dump valve. The slightly nicer dial gauge I own has one, but it's a thumb button that needs to be held down through the entire process.

In the past this made for a long, drawn-out ritual as I walked around our 2012 Jeep Wrangler and set each tire one at a time. Large off-road tires contain more air than you think, and it doesn't drain out near as fast as a compressor can shove it in. It can take minutes to let out 10 to 15 psi — times four.

I vowed this trip would be different. Before I headed to Utah I stopped at my local four-wheel parts warehouse for some Staun "Tyre Deflators," a particularly useful Australian product.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Off-Road in Moab in Jeep's Jeeps

April 5, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport

The Easter Jeep Safari in Moab is a big deal. Jeeps and Jeepers take over the town for the week, which makes it a natural place for Jeep, the corporation, to wade in and mingle with the Jeep faithful.

Once I arrived I participated in some of these Jeep-organized Jeep activities, which means I would park our 2012 Jeep Wrangler while I Jeeped in some of Jeep's Jeeps.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Running Strong at 30,000 miles

March 28, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

It happened on the way to Moab for its second visit to the Easter Jeep Safari. Our Jeep's odometer rolled over to 30,000 miles not one mile after I crossed the Utah state line.

It's running strong, but so far the combination of 75 mph freeway speed limits, rising elevation and a fierce headwind are not adding up to a new "best tank" in the Jeep's mpg logbook.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: I Dislike Tire Shine Products

March 26, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

It was 9:00 am when I rolled into the parking lot to meet my friends to start our recent Arizona off-road camping trip. Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler was clean. Too clean.

The person that drove it before me took it to the car wash. It was spotless, and for that I am grateful. But the thing that had my buddies pointing and snickering was the liquid black tire shine goo the car wash had lathered onto my BFG rubber.

"That's not going to last," was the kindest thing they said.

They were right, of course. My wet licorice BFGs did look more than a little ridiculous in the face of 300 miles of dirt and rocks. It's a lot like putting on makeup before heading into a coal mine.

Or so I'm told.

A Jeep can and should be a little bit dirty. Dusty, at the very least. Extra points for mud, but not too much.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Off-Road Near the Grand Canyon

March 21, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport

There's a lot of unspoiled desert out there, and last weekend a small group of us headed north from Quartzsite, Arizona in three vehicles to explore a decent-sized swath of it. We left the pavement just northeast of Q-site at a wide spot in the road called Bouse, and from there we bumped our way north as far as Meadville and Grand Canyon West.

This was expedition-style off-roading. Nothing too technical, but clearance and 4-wheel drive were necessary. A soft-road crossover, especially an AWD one without a lockable center differential, would have stood a good chance of getting stuck in any number of sandy washes and rocky streambeds. I used low range a few times.

Anyone who ventures out this way can't be averse to superficial paint and clearcoat scratches because trailside growths of mesquite, creosote bush and palo verde are common along the often-narrow trails that meander across the Arizona backcountry. You could say the Desert Stripe package comes standard at no extra charge.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Help Me Up, Will Ya?

March 19, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

Some trucks and SUVs, such as a Ram 1500 have A-pillar-mounted grab handles. These make it a lot easier for shorter drivers and passengers to hoist themselves up and into a high-riding 4WD. The Wrangler provides a grab handle for the passenger, but it's mounted horizontally down on the dash which isn't as handy as being angled and higher up on the A pillar.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Garaged With Inches to Spare

March 15, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

Lift kits on Wranglers look cool and of course increase the Jeep's already impressive off-road capabilities. But if you like to keep your vehicles garaged, or have to because there's no driveway and you live where street parking is tough, you may want to do a little homework before you jack up your Jeep. As you may know, we installed the Mopar Pre-Runner suspension kit on our Wrangler which includes a three-inch lift.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Rookie Off-Roading

March 11, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

Prior to starting to work for Edmunds, the only time I had spent off-road included a few dirt bikes rides (no jumps), some time on a quad, and a trip to Lake Havasu in college where my buddies and I had ingloriously ran a Jeep Wrangler out of gas. So when an opportunity came up to take our 2012 Jeep Wrangler and leave the pavement behind with a local group of Land Cruiser owners, I jumped at the chance.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: A Piece of Jeep's History

March 8, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

When I drive our 2012 Jeep Wrangler around town (and especially on trails) it gets a lot of attention. Jeep owners seem to be a particularly passionate group. Drivers in other Wranglers are constantly waving, giving the thumbs up, or taking a closer look at our modifications. Driving the Wrangler also makes me much more aware of other Jeeps and various off-road vehicles around me.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: My Parents-In-Law Bought One

February 27, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

My wife got a call from her mother yesterday. Apparently she and my father-in-law bought a new car.

My wife was a little perplexed. She knew they were thinking about getting one, but per tradition, they hadn't talked to me yet about what they should be looking for. I haven't steered them wrong yet.

She knew immediately why they didn't when she found out what it was: a loaded 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 2-Door.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Am I In My Lane?

February 26, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

When I look at our Jeep Wrangler, I don't feel like it's massive. Next to our Jeep Cherokee it seems relatively normal. Parked in my structure at home it doesn't seem gargantuan. When the Wrangler is stationary, it seems large but not too big to park, commute in, or navigate on normal roads.

The size dynamics of the Wrangler change dramatically the moment you drive it. It's high up, difficult to see out of in traffic and has aftermarket tires that are wider than the body. Is this all an illusion or am I running over curbs, fire hydrants and small woodland creatures everywhere I go?

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Needs Proper Gearing

February 21, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

Given our Wrangler's huge tires there's no need to ever use sixth gear. At 70 mph in sixth the Pentastar V6 is turning over only about 1,850 revolutions per minute. And that's just not enough to pull even the slightest hill. Even a medium crosswind will trigger the need for a downshift. Fifth gear is only turning about 2,350 rpm at the same speed and that's a usable engine speed.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Earned Its Stripes

February 5, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

The same way a kid isn't a ball player until he's taken a fastball to the ribs, a Wrangler isn't a Jeep until it's cracked its windshield. Our Wrangler has proven itself a Jeep multiple times during its stay with us. This growing crack (nearly spanning the length of the glass) only solidifies it.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 25,706 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Wants to Be Wild

January 28, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

I've got this neighbor, really nice guy, works in IT. He must stress, because I often see him outside having some nicotine when I drive in for the evening. We always get to talking about whatever car I'm in. "I've always wanted a Jeep," he said the other night when I drove up in the Wrangler. "Maybe not as aggressive as this, but a Jeep. A Wrangler, specifically."

He doesn't have any need for the winch, nor our beastly tires. But he likes the look and more so, the purpose of a Jeep. I told him ours was horrible to drive on the freeway, floaty with steering that feels continentally wide. Jacquot says he feels the clutch slipping too. I didn't notice that, but my mechanical senses are nowhere near as keen.

But, bad as the Wrangler might be for commuting, I like how it kinda keeps you on edge buffeting down the highway. It's not a relaxing drive, but it's good to drive something that keeps you fully engaged now and then. In the Wrangler's case, it just reinforces the notion that this car is built from the factory, and now especially under the guiding hand of Dan E, is made for the wild. It just wants to be out there, and rewards you for being out there.

My way of coping is just getting up on the Pentastar hard, then easing off into the right lanes and parking it there for the duration of the drive home. People see a blacked-out Wrangler perched up high and they treat it like a VW Bus. You don't need to stress. They'll find a way around you.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 25,800 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Washboard Abuse

January 24, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

Hundreds of miles of washboard roads can take its toll. In the recent trip crisscrossing the Panamint and Saline Valleys (and eventually ending up in Death Valley) the 2012 Jeep Wrangler handled it easily, but with two minor hiccups.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: The Big Loop

January 23, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

Los Angeles, Sacramento, Reno, Virginia City, Bishop, Panamint Springs, Death Valley and back home.

The 2012 Jeep Wrangler wouldn't be considered much of a road trip vehicle, but with two dogs and two adults it fit the bill. The back seat was removed to help with canine and cargo space. With a smartphone/iPod hooked up to the aux we were off.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Last Chance Canyon

January 22, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

The Sunday trip was set and we were off. Last Chance was the destination and we made good time getting there. This particular area is south of one my other favorites, Jawbone, where I spent countless weekends trying to ride MX bikes that were way too tall for me as a kid.

Last Chance Canyon is a beautiful remote canyon within Red Rock Canyon State Park. Not exactly the most hardcore wheeling, but it's spectacular and there's a lot more than just rocks and sand. The name Last Chance is generally associated with explorers and prospectors who finally found water as time was running out via dehydration.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Which Tire Pressure Gauge is Correct?

January 10, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport

It was cold, and the tire pressures had recently been dropped on purpose for some light off-roading. It was therefore understandable that the TPMS light had winked on, but I still needed to check and make sure one of them wasn't leaking.

The Wrangler's TPMS system is of the dumb variety, in that it doesn't display the actual pressures on the dash like some others. So I grabbed a tire pressure gauge out of my toolbox.

None of them were lower than any of the others, so I wasn't facing any sort of leak. For fun I decided to grab a couple of other gauges I had lying around.

As you can see, three out of three tire pressure gauges don't agree. Can you guess which one was correct?

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: I Liked the Post Office Special

November 09, 2012

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Let's not confuse things, I really do like our Jeep in its current state of not-too-extreme tune and I'm head-over-heels for the wheel/tire package. 
Unfortunately, I don't want to own it. 

When we first got our Jeep it was a revelation. It was pure, simple, uncomplicated and a thrill to drive. It didn't steer particularly well, but it was way, way faster than it needed to be and the traction control wasn't as grabby as it is now. You could get rubber in second gear.

It looked kind of stupid with the 16-by-7 inch wheels with P225/75R16 tires, but it wasn't supposed to. The tires were meaty enough to survive obstacles, quiet enough to be tolerable on the highway and cheap enough to reasonably exist on a $23,000 Jeep. 
Our tweaked Jeep is extremely capable. So is a stock Wrangler. The way our Jeep currently sits is pretty rad (and about 250 pounds-- excluding new bumper and winch-- heavier), but I'd have been perfectly happy keeping this one stock. 
Okay, maybe I'd add the blacked out wheels. 
Mike Magrath, Features Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: More On-Board Camera

November 08, 2012

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Following the jump is some additional video I shot earlier this week on the trail.

Without being able to see the whole picture, it sure looks like I spent a lot of time needlessly hugging the left side of the trail. But this is a narrow road descending a very steep hill with a big drop to the right. Keeping left mattered.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Off Road With Company

November 07, 2012

Tani's-truck.jpg

Here's the best thing about off roading: Having something old and tired is better in many ways than having something new and shiny. My friend Tani's 1994 Toyota Pickup is old and tired.

And awesome.

He joined us on yesterday's adventure and, on some terrain, embarrassed the Wrangler.

With a solid-axle front suspension conversion, a dual transfer case and a rear locker, the Toyota's off-road abilities are not to be taken lightly. It idled through rock beds and up hills that made the Wrangler -- with its front stabilizer bar still connected -- struggle.

Also, I'm pretty sure Tani wasn't worrying about his paint.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Off-Road With On-Board Video

November 06, 2012

Wranlger-Igloo-1.jpg

Here's a little point-of-view action from the Wrangler shot with a cool little iPhone case I'll tell you all about.

Went back to the usual spot, but forgot the tools to disconnect the front stabilizer bar. The above video is the same small climb you can see in the first video in this post. Here, with the bar connected, it's a problem. Enough so, in fact, that it required a second attempt. We did all of today's session with the bar connected and it made obvious the importance of axle articulation and limited-slip diffs -- in that order. Next time I'll remember the tools.

This is our first try at shooting anything with the Igloo Case -- a protective sheath for an iPhone 4, 4s or 5. Coupled with a suction cup mount it makes some pretty engaging video. The Igloo Case was cooked up by car guys and it works well in this kind of application. Recording can be triggered by a Bluetooth headset so you don't have to open the case.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor  

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Tantrum Maker

October 29, 2012

IMG_2398.JPG

This was back when it was all going well. I drove our Jeep for two of the last three weeks. As you've likely seen, it went everywhere from our local off-road trails to some mild fire-road hustling out in Big Bear.

I also, hauled this one to pre-school on several occassions. Everything was going just fine until I gave it back last week.

That's when she had a fit. She wants the Jeep back.

So do I.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Still With Us

October 26, 2012

 wrangler_bald012.jpg You might have noticed that our Wrangler is still in the fleet even though we've had it for more than year now. Since we own it, we're free to keep it longer if we choose to (unlike the manufacturer-sourced cars that typically have to be returned after 12 months).

While nothing is official, I believe there's interest from Mr. Oldham in keeping it longer so that we can continue to mod it and do a few more off-road excursions. Sounds good to me. The Wrangler continues to be one of my favorite vehicles we have right now.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: It's Getting Wet

October 16, 2012

IMG_2373.JPG

So about half way through last week's off-road adventure it started raining. Normally, this would be a welcome change, but we were about 1,000 feet into a surprising long, surprisingly steep climb that would eventually dead end.

Of course, we weren't certain of this at the time so we soldiered on. In the rain.

Honestly, I was more concerned about getting back down this hill once it became slick than I was about continuing up, which, you'll notice, wasn't a problem for the Wrangler.

I shot this video from the spot the dead end a few thousand feet above where we started.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Up The Hill

October 15, 2012

IMG_2357.JPG

During last week's off-road adventure, we found a big hill to climb. A really big hill. In most of the world it would be a mountain. Click through for a few minutes of in-car footage with Monti on color commentary.

Again, the video just doesn't do the angles and the terrain justice, which is a shame because the stuff this Jeep will climb with ease is truly stunning for us off-roading novices.

Yes, the windshield is cracked. No, we didn't do it on this adventure.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Light Foot

October 14, 2012

Wrangler-1.jpg

After a few minutes of driving up loose dirt hills last week I realized that it is possible, in fact, to tread lightly. Here's a video of the Jeep climbing a very loose, very steep hill with stunning ease.

It also happens to be a video of me not screwing it up with a -- wait for it -- heavy foot.

Like I said...easy.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Off-Road Video For Wussies

October 12, 2012

IMG_2392.JPG

Yesterday Mike Monticello and I made many short off-road videos of the Wrangler. I learned from this experience that the feats that feel absolutely stupid inside the Jeep look absolutely timid from the outside. Especially on video.

Also, here's a good shot of the axle articulation available with the stabilizer bar disconnected. And, yes, we need quick disonnects so we don't have to deal with Monti's shoelaces anymore.

So if you want to see some solid video work (and commentary) by Monti combined with some not-so-hard-to-tackle terrain for the Jeep go ahead and hit the jump.

 

OK, so this is before I learned that the Wrangler will essentially idle up this kind of loose hill. My foot gets lighter in upcoming videos. Even so, I'm no Tim Cameron.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Off Road, Step 1

October 11, 2012

 IMG_2347.JPG

Went off roading in the Wrangler this morning. Saw this awesome rock stack, which made me want to crawl over rocks. But before I did I had to give the Wrangler a tweak. That tweak involved two 18mm wrenches and a shoelace. 

Can you guess what it was?

 

 IMG_2365.JPG

Yes, disconnecting the front stabilizer bar (for added axle articulation) requires two 18mm wrenches. Tieing the end link to the stabilizer bar requires Monticello's shoelace:

 

 IMG_2364.JPG 

Videos coming tomorrow. And for the next week.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Too Tall

October 10, 2012

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The 2012 Jeep Wrangler parked next to a Sequoia.

Last night I took our modified Jeep home. Something I've been reluctant to do, especially during rush hour. I've never been a fan of its long throws and the fact that I have to push my seat up against the steering wheel so my short legs can work the pedals. But add to that it's now easier than ever to stall.

Why's that?

Because of those huge tires. The gearing is taller now so a driver has to nearly slip the clutch to prevent the car from stalling. I stalled it twice yesterday.

Another downside to those tires? Without the benefit of a step (or a good running jump), short people or those with bad joints struggle to climb in. Not really a great city car, but I'm sure it's just perfect out in the wild.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Installing the Bikini Top

October 9, 2012

2012 Jeep Wrangler

It was last November when I thought it would be cool to install a bikini top on our Jeep Wrangler. So I went out and bought one. It's so long ago now I not even sure I remember how much it cost, but I think it was about $150 with the installation kit. 

And since November it sat in its box in a closet. The excuses were numerous; too rainy, too cold, too hot, not good for road trips, not good for the freeway, no way to lock the car, etc. 

Well, this past Saturday morning I said the heck with it and installed the sucker. And on Sunday afternoon I realized it was useless and uninstalled it. 

Although the top installed easily with a handfull of supplied straps that secure it to the Jeep's roll bar, after a couple of days of driving the abbreviated top just seemed pointless.

First of all it only covered the front seats, so there was still no sun or wind protection for my kids in the back. Worse than that, from the driver's seat it felt like the Jeep's full size top was still in place. I was getting absolutely zero convertible experience. 

In other words, I was bored up front and my kids were still complaining about the sun and wind in the back seat. Like I said, pointless.

The bikini top now sits rolled up on my garage floor. Lesson learned.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 20,555 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Siren Song

August 31, 2012

It wasn't that loud at first, but in recent days our 2012 Jeep Wrangler's whining accessory drive noise has become unbearable. At this point it sounds like an electric car with open headers.

A serpentine belt at the front of the Pentastar V6 drives the air conditioning compressor, the power steering pump and the alternator. Probably a water pump in there, too, and I'm sure there's and idler pulley and a tensioner.

It could be the bearings of any of those.

For the moment I'm ruling out the A/C and the steering, because the noise doesn't change as those devices apply their variable loads to the system. I'm betting on alternator, based on the fact that the location of the alternator and the noise are pretty much the same.

We're still under warranty, so I'm off to the dealer to let someone else handle it. No point in a DIY when a presumably free repair is waiting there.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 19,705 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: That's Why

August 21, 2012

jeepflip.jpg

I haven't taken our Project Jeep off road. And while I have my fair share of reasons as to why I haven't, the first, and foremost among them is, I have no experience driving the low speed technical trails that our Jeep has been built to handle.

As a matter of fact, my off road driving experience has been limited to a 20 something year old Camry on groomed gravel roads. I've understandably left that off my driving CV.

So what?

What's the worst that could happen?

It's remarkably free of swearing, but there is a fair bit of screaming. And, it should show you EXACTLY why I'm hesitant to do anything remotely techincal in our Jeep. Oh sure, it might get me a few good blogs, but it would also get me a pink slip.

Also, the dog at ten seconds in is undoubtably the smartest thing in the video.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 19,376 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Kumbaya

August 14, 2012

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Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Putting the Top Up In Time

August 13, 2012

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This weekend I used our long-term Jeep Wrangler as God and my Golden Retriever intended, with its top down. It was three days of roofless bliss. Last night I had to reassemble the puzzle, and I did so in a personal best time of just over eleven minutes. Yes, I timed myself.

Not bad, but I'm sure I can do better. Parking the Jeep on the steep incline of my driveway was not a good idea.

I think it's a five minute job with practice and determination.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 19,106 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Most Modified Vehicle?

August 10, 2012

 Wrangler_mod.jpg Driving our Wrangler made me think of this question: as a percentage of vehicles on the road, which model is the most commonly modified by its owners? There's probably no real way to tell for sure, but the Wrangler could be number one. It seems like most Jeeps I see have some sort of aftermarket mod.

Then again, maybe that's because the Wrangler's typical mods are all visible (wheels, tires, suspension). The Camaro and Mustang are probably pretty high on the list, too. What do you think?

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: How To Not Be Prepared

August 08, 2012

 wrangler_dusy.jpg

"So have you actually used a winch before?"

"Hey, do you have a portable air compressor we can take? Mine's broken."

"Dang, my water bag is leaking."

"Crap, I forgot the wrenches for the stabilizer bar disconnect."

These are a few quotes from my off-road trip in the Jeep last week. While I knew I wasn't driving a particularly hard trail, it was also obvious that I wasn't as prepared as I should be. My friend and I brought extra food and water and some basic camping gear, but we didn't have any extra tools or equipment.

I suppose this was mostly because I'm not a true off-roader guy; I just get to pretend while I drive our long-term Jeep for a couple weeks.

After the trip, I did some research about the things off-roaders typically bring along. A selective list of gear follows. Feel free to chime in with other suggestions.

Trail jack. This is the big jack that's very common for off-roading. The Hi-Lift brand is pretty popular. It's impressively versatile and can be used for jacking and lifting a vehicle as well as winching.

Tools. You can't bring everything, but the essentials are worthwhile.

Spare parts for your vehicle. Typically the stuff that breaks, like axleshafts, tie-rod ends and U-joints. Extra fuses, hoses and clamps are also a good idea.

Rain gear/overnight camping gear. For when you're really stuck and have to stay longer than expected.

Extra food and water. Same as the reason for rain and camping gear.

Flashlight. A headlamp will allow you to work with both hands.

Gloves. For when you need to make repairs.

Recovery kit. To assist with winching. Snatch block, tree trunk protector, shackles.

Tow rope

Pull-Pal. Used as an anchor point for winching when nothing else is available.

First Aid kit

Fire extinguisher  

Tire plug kit

Folding shovel

Bailing wire, duct tape, zip ties

Extra fluids (oil, brake, etc)

Air compressor

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Purchase Decision: New Or Used?

August 06, 2012

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Driving our long-term Wrangler around makes me want to buy one. It'd be quite the impractical purchase, and for now I have more important budgetary things to worry about than another motorized toy. But down the road? For sure. Yet I wonder what year of Jeep Wrangler I'd end up with.

A 2012 Wrangler would certainly tempting. It's fresh, it's got the new V6 engine and I like the look of the latest generation (JK) best. But it's also prohibitively new-car expensive. How much money would be left over for mods, and would I really be willing to risk wheelin' my new ride?

So maybe I'd look at slightly used Jeep, but still a JK. But now I'm stuck with the sucky 3.8-liter engine and a price that could still be uncomfortable.

Alright. Perhaps I'd go even older, say the TJ generation ('97 to '06). More affordable, certainly, giving me more money to spend on mods (or maybe the previous owner already modded it.) I'd probably be less worried about damage on the trail. But, it is an older Jeep. It'd be less useful for daily use, certainly, nor would there be a four-door option.

If you were going to buy a Wrangler, what year or generation would you get?

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 18,724 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Report From Bald Mountain

August 03, 2012

 wrangler_bald1.jpg Have Jeep, will travel. I've had our Wrangler for more than a week and figured it would be an injustice if I didn't let it play in the dirt at some point. So yesterday I convinced a friend of mine on his day off to head up into the mountains with me for some wheeling.

After doing some research, we chose the Bald Mountain OHV route near Shaver Lake, Calif., as it sounded like it'd be a good fit -- not too hard (a good thing considering my novice off-roading skills) but still hard enough that you probably want a modified vehicle and be challenged. And once you're at the top of the mountain, there are some impressive views of the surrounding lands from an abandoned fire lookout tower.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Yay For The Solid Axle

August 01, 2012

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It used to be that most SUVs and trucks came with solid-axle front suspensions. Then, slowly, independent front suspensions (IFS) became more prominent. It makes complete sense, of course. With IFS, you get less unsprung mass, better packaging and a superior ride quality. For the way the majority of people use their SUVs, IFS is the way to go.

But I'm glad the Wrangler, with its old-school solid front axle, is a glaring hold-out. Other than the heavy-duty Ford and Ram trucks (and the Mercedes G-Class), it's the only vehicle left with a solid front axle. For off-roaders who like slow-speed rock-crawling, a solid front axle is considered more robust and better suited to handle the greater stresses occurred when running big off-road tires. There are also fewer parts to wear out and typically simpler steering. There are even a lot of aftermarket companies these days that offer kits to convert IFS trucks and SUVs back to "low-tech" solid axle suspensions.

If there's ever a day in the future when Jeep decides to give the Wrangler an IFS, it's the day I decide the Wrangler's no longer a Wrangler.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Modification Compendium

July 30, 2012

 jeep_wrangler_comp1.jpg We've put up a lot of posts so far on the mods we've done to our Jeep. I figured it'd be useful to have them all in once place. Following is a list of all the posts we've written about the mofications, sorted by topic.

17-inch Mopar wheels and 33-inch BFG tires

New tires obtained

How much do they weigh?

More on the wheels and tires

Tire pressure monitors

Wheel locks

Track testing with the new wheels/tires

Off-road comparison testing with the stock and aftermarket wheels/tires

RTI ramp build and testing

Building the ramp

RTI testing, stock configuration

RTI testing with aftermarket wheels/tires

RTI test with front stabilizer bar disconnected

RTI tests with Mopar suspension installed

Mopar pre-runner suspension kit

Background information

More background information

Front suspension installation

Rear suspension installation

Shake-down drive

IPF headlight reflectors and Philips H4 bulbs

Headlight background

Headlight installation

Headlight observations

Expedition One front bumber and Supwerwinch winch

Bumper background

Bumper installation

Bumper observations

Winch background

Also, Dan Edmunds wrote a cool post with his thoughts comparing our Wrangler build versus a stock Wrangler Rubicon.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 18,411 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Murdered

July 26, 2012

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The other day while cruising down the mean and treacherous streets of Beverly Hills (or was it Beverly Hills adjacent? I forget), I spotted this murdered-out Jeep Wrangler giving off serious gangsta attitude as its driver sipped on an overpriced latte.

What do you think? Better in matte?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Dwarfed

July 25, 2012

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OK, maybe not exactly dwarfed. But the mostly-stock '01 Cherokee sure looks pretty scrawny next to the significantly not-stock '12 Wrangler. Three-inch lift, 33-inch tires, Superwinch - our Wrangler is clearly the younger, tougher jock in this scenario.

No matter. The Cherokee hauls drums, gets muddy when the rains and snow come, and spends most weekend afternoons in the beach lot watching fit wahines slip into their wetsuits. It's a crafty role player. You can keep your Natty Light and boulder-humping, buddy. We'll be over here by the bar. 

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Yes, It Rains in the Desert

July 16, 2012

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Ocotillo Wells sees very little rain. On average just 3.69 inches of the stuff falls all year long, spread over the 15 rare days when measurable amounts are observed and recorded. In reality the bulk of that falls during 4 or 5 days, and a good chunk of the total comes down in the form of "monsoon" events, mid-to-late summer thunderstorms that boil up throughout the day before drenching the landscape in late afternoon.

Sharp-eyed desert veterans will notice that the sand here in San Felipe Wash is much damper and firmer than its usual silty self -- our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is not sinking into it one bit. And then there are the thunderclouds, wannabee echos of the ones that spawned heavy rain and flash floods the day before my visit.

It was still humid and swampy when I arrived, but no one was saying, "yeah, but it's a dry heat," like they were three or four days previous, when the weather report talked of 121 degrees (with a wind chill "feels like" temperature of 120 F) and 11 percent humidity.

And so I found myself doing a most ironical thing in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler: mudding in the desert.

It may not look like much, but persistent flowing water in Tarantula wash some 18 hours after the rain let up suggests one helluva storm. Nearby highway 78 was closed several hours while road crews scraped rocks and mud from the asphalt overnight.

Shell Reef Expressway, a "main" artery in Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle Recreation Area is usually covered with deep silty whoop-de-doos. But it's now a pond in some places, a mud bog in others and burnished smooth everywhere else. To follow the road I had to play connect the dots with signposts.

I never had to use our Superwinch, but then again I was just one vehicle with no one and no thing to hook it up to, so I played it safe. This was after all, a post-storm desert sightseeing trip.

The Jeep's door handles make excellent mud collection devices. Squish.

OK, so this ain't Mississippi. But I still fed $5 worth of quarters into the high pressure wand at the local DIY car wash to make it presentable again (one could argue it's just getting presentable now,) and even at that I ran out of coin before the job was 100 percent done. The stuff was much more like cement than the easily-dissolved sandstone I picked up in Moab, and presenty there are still a couple of persistent hunks of desert hidden up in the fenderwells that should crumble back into sand in the coming days.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 17.985 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Urban Apocolypse II

July 10, 2012

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Recently comrade James Riswick wrote that if the shizzle hit the proverbial fan, he hopes he'll be driving our Project Jeep Wrangler. I kindly disagree. Not that I hope I have the Jeep that day and he doesn't, but rather if we're talking fantasy land there is another vehicle I'd much rather have.

There are two vehicles that would come before our Wrangler on my short list. We're talking a post-apocalyptic fantasy land, right? I mean, we watch movies where the cast of 30-somethings are supposed to be believable high schoolers, right? We can bend the rules a bit and not stress the details here. I figure if you're gonna blast your way out of a city filled with zombies, might as well do it in proper style.

Reader ed341 said it in response to James' post before I could remember the official name of it: the 2010 Holland & Holland Land Rover by Overland. There is something to be said about rolling in a 503 horsepower, piano black luxo-death machine packing custom luggage, a bar, and matched shotguns. You might not get the free booze refill offered if your first year happens to be post-apocalyptic, however.

If not the H&H Land Rover, then the recently debuted 2012 Land Rover Defender Xtech Special Edition. Just looking at them I can imagine the Molotov cocktails thrown by irradiated punks bouncing off the sides. The well known capabilities of the Defender will help you traverse the pile of rubble where your local mini-mall once stood while searching for supplies. Powered by a 2.2-liter diesel engine, the Defender comes in 90 and 110 body styles, thus giving you flexibility to accommodate the number of survivors that made it to your bunker.

These Land Rovers might not be the most practical for an E.L.E, but damn if I'm going down without keeping my head held high. And if they aren't available, I won't turn my nose up to our Wrangler either. When there is a horde of zombies bearing down on you, beggars can't be choosers, right?

What factory vehicle would you ride into the end of time?

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Urban Apocolypse Ready

July 10, 2012

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When SkyNet, the Eastern Coalition or whatever those ID4 aliens were called come to destroy us all, I certainly hope I'm driving our Wrangler that day. I mean, just look at the thing. The tires, the suspension, the winch. I'm sure Takahashi could provide some sort of rifle to mount on the roll cage to fend off the anarchic horde as we flee into the hills. Now, I can't know for sure since the Chrysler specs didn't specify, but I'm doubting the roof is radiation proof so that's one downside.

So when the time comes, I really hope our beefed up Wrangler will be ready, because otherwise, it'll mean this interim period of driving such an absurdly cumbersome beast was all for naught. Seriously, kudos to anyone who drives such a thing every day in a place where people outnumber cattle.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Low Brow Adventure

June 25, 2012

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Dan installed a mean bumper. Then he stacked on a Superwinch. Including the lift/suspension upgrade that he installed a few months ago, our Jeep has transformed from you basic base model into a capable dirt machine.

So what did I do to celebrate this machine's metamorphosis?

I went to a backyard crawfish boil in wilds of Hollywood. The Jeep wasn't completely wasted on such an endeavor, I came prepared. I packed my cot tent, sleeping bag and inflatable air mattress to camp out in the backyard. I knew that in the midst of this Louisianian smorgasbord there would be a whole lotta beers and cigars. I wasn't going anywhere after.

But in all seriousness, this Jeep is a new beast. You can tell there is a lot of weight out front when you're behind the wheel. The weight has tempered the bouncy nature of the big tires. In addition, Dan lowered the air pressure all around to help out even more. Now it's pretty comfortable to drive through all the pot holes and over the cracks of Los Angeles. Driving a black-ops cocktail shaker is a thing of the past.

Now is about the time to really try this thing out in the wilds of... the wilds.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: We Have Superwinch!

June 22, 2012

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler received its new Superwinch Talon 9.5 SR winch mere hours after the Expedition One front bumper was installed. Basically, Scott and I drove it out the door for the "bumper done" shot, then rolled it straight back in for the Superwinch installation.

Installation was easy thanks to a commodious and well-designed winch platform by Expedition One. The Superwinch Talon fits with room to spare, and I think it looks great up there. I especially like how it's partially hidden and protected, with a generous portion of spool visible up top for a clear view of what the rope is doing.

Full blow-by blow phots next week, but for now I want to mark it as done so others can post photos of the Wrangler if they take it out somewhere.

Until then, here's a trivia question. Please promise me you won't play if you read my Facebook posts on the topic:

What feature-length film features off road humor, including a prominent winch joke scene?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,739 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Installing an Expedition One Front Bumper

June 18, 2012

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You already know the end of this story because last week we posted a couple of sneak peek photos that show our 2012 Jeep Wrangler wearing its brand new Expedition One Trail Series front bumper.

Complete with a black powder coat finish like you see here, their JK Trail Series front bumper goes for $1,109.95 -- with the hoop. Our hoopless version was $1,059.95 -- just $50 less. We went this route for two reasons: 1) I like the hoopless look and; 2) the more popular hooped version was on a 3-week back order. Slice $80 off either price if you want to do without the black powder coating and apply your own finish.  

What follows is a description of the installation process, with photographs by our own Scott Jacobs.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,392 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Out With the Old

June 14, 2012

old_new_blog.jpg

I think we can say that most Wrangler owners would not mod their Jeep like we have. Obviously there are those who go over the top and create monsters, but I think what we are doing looks pretty tough.

You can see the path we are taking with our Jeep. Would you upgrade, just buy a Rubicon, or keep it stock? If you could make upgrades, what would your mod-list be?

I can tell you that I'm itching to take this out for another weekend in the hills. The last time I took our Jeep out, it was bone stock. I'm curious about the difference in feel/capability. Look, even my dog wants to roll!

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Expedition One Front Bumper

June 12, 2012

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler has a new front bumper, and it's a beaut. It's made by Expedition One, an off-road bumper manufacturer doing business out of Ogden, Utah.

This is their Trail Series front bumper, and I decided to go with the hoopless look. A little more of the grille shows, a little less airflow gets blocked (theoretically, anyway,) and I generally like the way it looks. Of course they'll gladly make you one the other way, too, if that's your thing.

The installation preocess was very simple, and thanks to good engineering on Expedition One's part it fits pretty much perfectly with no horsing around to get the ten mounting bolts lined up. It went on centered and level with no adjustment necessary on my part.

And it's a good-looking piece behind the scenes, too. There are finger pockets built in where you can't see them that act as hand holds during installation. There are wrench cutouts that allow access to the back side of certain nuts. The main attachment nuts are paired up in dogbone brackets make it easy to tighten the bolts without the need of a backing wrench on the blind side. They really did their homework, and the result is a pretty staightforward DIY installation.

The only difficulty I ran into had little to do with the bumper itself and everything to do with changes made to the JK Wrangler for 2012. For some inexplicable reason Jeep relocated a vacuum pump to a spot right behind the stock bumper that is prized by aftermarket bumper and winch makers. It wasn't there pre-2012, and over the last few years quite a few parts makers have moved into that open space and made use of it.

I spent the bulk of my time cutting off a bracket and installing a relocation kit that Expedition One supplied along with their bumper. It's a non-issue on earlier JK Jeeps, but I can't help thinking this is something that should have never happened on the 2012 JK in the first place.

You'll be able to see all that was involved in the bumper installation and vacuum pump relocation in a few days because Scott Jacobs was peering over my shoulder with his trusty camera the whole time. Stay tuned.

And you know what comes after that, right? Yep, I now have a platform onto which I can bolt our waiting Superwinch.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,392 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Hill Assist

June 12, 2012

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In my life before Edmunds, I lived in San Francisco, a.k.a. Burnt Clutch City. Once you got the technique down to do a start on a steep hill with a manual, it wasn't that big of a deal. But it was still stressful. Especially when you couldn't see beyond the crest of the hill where the stop is or if someone is sitting right on your rear bumper.

I currently live in a part of Los Angeles that has a lot of rolling hills. Nothing like Seattle of SF, but enough of a pucker factor that the Hill Start feature of our Wrangler is greatly appreciated. Granted I know this is mean for starting out on some steep rocky trail, but this has become my new fav feature of the Jeep. This is especially true since I noticed the parking brake, a key part of my manual hill start style, is fairly weak unless at full lock.

According to Jeep, "Hill start assist helps when starting from a stop on a hill by maintaining the level of brake pressure applied for a short period after the driver's foot is removed from the brake pedal." However the engineering voodoo works is cool with me. Just as long I don't roll too far back and smack the bumper of that tailgating jerk in the SLK.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Whac-A-Mole. Or Hand.

June 11, 2012

With the lift, our Jeep is a little more bouncy. It's not that I'm looking for bumps or cracks in the pavement, it just lets you know every detail of the street.

One side effect, something I noticed when our Wrangler wasn't lifted, has been enhanced. The shifter swings around like crazy, like a batter waiting for a pitch. Once, when I was reaching for it without looking, it smacked my hand pretty forcefully. Having a shifter that fights back isn't so great.

I guess the advice I'd give for my fellow Wrangler drivers would be to be more wary and not to ride so slack legged when in cruise, lest you want a bruised knee cap.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: I'd Rather Be...

June 07, 2012

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Ah, the morning commute. Twenty miles through the heart of Los Angeles can be maddening, but this time I'm in our Wrangler and my mind starts to drift...

Noisy tires, lane wander, creaks and squeaks don't bother me at all. Crank windows? Who cares. I'm taken to my happy place.

I'm not thinking about getting from point A to B. I want point C. A place where no phones work and everything slows. Dirt. Rocks. Creosote Bushes.  A BLM Zen Garden. That's where the Jeep shines and that's where I want to be.

Hopefully I can get this thing dirty soon - at least for my sanity.

John Adolph, Senior Multimedia Editor @ 16124 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Double Kumbaya!

June 04, 2012

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What are the chances? Probably as good as they were for this Kumbaya I suppose.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Our Expedition One Front Bumper is Here

May 28, 2012

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Our shipping and receiving room was overwhelmed by a bulky package that arrived for our 2012 Jeep Wrangler, so Mike and I headed upstairs to claim it. The sheer size of the thing and the Expedition One logo on the box tells me it contains our Jeep's new front bumper.

Expedition One is an Ogden, Utah-based company that makes nice-looking and well constructed bumpers and selected suspension components for Jeeps, Toyotas and Big-3 pickups. I like the look of the Trail Series JK bumper, which you can see for yourself by clicking on the third carousel image here

The one in the box is the same as the one pictured on the blue Rubicon, except it doesn't have the hoop above the lights. And I know for a fact that our new Superwinch Talon will fit because the winch in the picture is the same one I have waiting on a shelf.

Things are going to get busy in the next couple weeks. DIY installations of U-Connect, this Expedition One bumper and the Superwinch have all landed on my plate at nearly the same time.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 15,962 miles  

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Downside to the BFGs

May 25, 2012

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We are really digging the BFGs on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. The other week, while securing the lugnuts, we noticed something. There is a potential downside to these big tires. It certainly isn't a deal-breaker, but it does require some extra care. Can you figure it out?

Take the jump for a better angle...

Notice the angle of the torque wrench. It isn't straight. Standard deep sockets don't quite work with this wrench. A breaker bar with a pivoting head fits better. Luckliy for us we already had the right tools. But an upgrade to larger tires could require an upgrade to your toolbox. Be prepared.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Superwinch Close-Up

May 15, 2012

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Here's the winch that will soon grace the front of our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. It's a Superwinch with 9,500-lb capacity, and it goes by the code name Talon 9.5iSR. If you hadn't guessed already the "SR" stands for synthetic rope. A traditional steel cable version is also available.

Some one asked me how much weight one of these adds to the front bumper. Good question.

My trusty bathroom scale tells the tale: 57.2 pounds. The 80-foot length of 3/8-inch synthetic rope weighs just 3.2 pounds and brings the total up to 60.4 pounds. Interestingly, that's about 25 pounds less than the steel cable model, the 9.5i. 

Add in four mounting bolts, the steel hook at the end of the rope and the fairlead we saw before and we're talking in the neighborhood of 65 pounds of added bumper weight. Superwinch specs claim a 67-pound installed weight for the synthetic rope model, but I'm thinking that includes the remote control unit that lives in the glove box until needed.

The synthetic rope, incidentally, has an average strength of 19,600 pounds and a minimum strength of 17,600 pounds -- we're more than covered. Beyond that, the Talon 9.5iSR's electric motor puts out 5.2 horsepower, its solenoid is submersible and there's a gear reduction of 148-to-1 between the motor and the spool.

They get $1,602 for one of these, and for that you get lifetime mechanical and three-year electrcial warranty coverage. The steel cable version is cheaper by just under $500.

Figuring out which winch fits which bumper is not something you can easily look up on a website. Turns out the bumper makers don't necessarily keep abreast of every winch out there, which is odd considering their symbiotic relationship. The 10-by-4.5-inch mounting hole spacing is standard, but housings and such vary.

So I made a few measurements. Looking at this again I see that I missed an important one.

At this point I've narrowed my bumper choices down to two or three that I like and now I'm simply trying to find the right price, availability (at least one is back-ordered) and confirm winch clearance dimensions.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 15,583 miles  

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Undercover Jeepist

May 10, 2012

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Last Saturday at 6:00 am: I'm sitting in a left turn lane waiting to enter Interstate 5 on my way south to San Diego. I'm driving our 2012 Jeep Wrangler down to Mt. Laguna for a day of hiking.

Taking another sip of much-needed coffee, I hear the distinctive too-cheerful-for-this-hour (or any hour) squeak that can only be a small car's horn. I turn to see a guy to my right in a black Prius with Solar USA stickers (or equivalent) on the door, and he's motioning me to roll my window down. Our Jeep actually has crank windows, so his gesture makes perfect sense.

"Really?" I think to myself "You're going to try and sell me solar panels NOW?"

Thankfully, I am mistaken.

"Are those AEV wheels?" he asks.

"Did he really just say that?" I say to myself. Then, out loud, "Yes, they are. Mopar sells them now, too."

"Nice Fox shocks," he adds, pointing at the be-stickered remote reservoir that sits at his eye level in the Jeep's right front wheel well.

Before I can ask him what kind of Jeep he has the light turns green and we both reluctantly start moving because of cars behind. He roars, after a fashion, down the onramp in the lane next to me, but our Jeep's lousy gearing and oversized BFG tires make it impossible to keep up.

Yes, our Jeep was beaten by a Prius, but I was not bested by a Prius driver, apparently.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 15,353 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Topless in the Rain

May 05, 2012

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I was driving our 2012 Jeep Wrangler a few weeks ago during a Southern California storm of the ages. In these parts, a storm of the ages makes headline news for days. Yet the actual measure of precipitation from these outbursts ranks closer to a casual sneeze than a deluge.

We just don't get a lot of rain around here. And maybe that is why, driving down the 405 freeway, I see this guy. For the sake of argument we're going to call it an Isuzu Amigo. Did he not hear the reports? Did he ignore them like the rest of us? Or did he not have a choice in the matter? Regardless, he's all wet now.

For almost 30 miles I followed this Amigo in traffic. I passed him. He passed me. Every time I saw the driver and his front seat passenger they were laughing. I had to laugh too. It was a good break from the stress that is rush-hour in the rain.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 15,010 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Modded for Endor

May 04, 2012

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Do you know what today is? Yes, that's right, it's Star Wars Day! I'll be filling this blog wih pointless, but hopefully entertaining posts throughout the afternoon.

First up: The Jeep Wrangler AT-ST.

Yes, it's true, there is simply some terrain that even our rugged Wrangler can't conquer. And when Mr. Takahashi has a hunger for some slow-roasted Ewok, you can bet some new Jeep mods are in store.

So we headed over to Toshi Station for some radically different suspension bits. While I was there, I also grabbed a few power converters, of course. After a few days on our Rotary lift and some special order parts that were smuggled, I mean, lawfully purchased, the Jeep was ready for action.

It worked so well, I think I'll keep it this way until Gungan season starts up. Sushi, anyone?

Admiral Mark Takahashi, Starcruiser Editor @ 7.823308704e-10 parsec

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Things to Come

May 03, 2012

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Back in the late 1990s, I used to do quite a bit of rock climbing. In the intervening years, other hobbies and activities have pushed climbing off to the side. Just recently, however, my girlfriend found a Groupon for a month's membership at a local indoor rock gym. It just so happens, that it was also the same gym I used to frequent oh so long ago. What better vehicle to show up in than our long-term Jeep? But I didn't just sign out the Wrangler to appear to be a rugged outdoorsman.

I hadn't driven the Jeep since Dan completed all of the modifications. I must admit, it's better than it was in stock form. My biggest complaint in the past was the amount of driveline lash and lurchy nature when changing speeds. All of that is gone now. The stiffer suspension now keeps the Jeep flatter under acceleration and braking. Dare I say, I like the Jeep now.

Once our month-long membership at Rockreation is up, we're planning on heading up to Joshua Tree to do some real climbing (thanks to yet another Groupon). You better believe I'm taking the Jeep out for that.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 15,120 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Report From Altitude

May 02, 2012

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It's true that you sit pretty high in our Jeep Wrangler these days.

But it's not true that when you look down the people look like ants on the ground and oxygen masks drop from the ceiling every time you roll over a speed bump in a parking lot.  Actually, it's more like being on top of a Ferris wheel, and my breathing is just fine aside from a certain shortness of breath over said speed bumps.

But it is true that you look down on the window at the drive-thru, and I'm reminded of the Hummer H2 in the technique required to get a Coke through the open window. Forget about the keypad at the bank drive-thru, though.

So there are some consequences to the Dan Edmunds makeover. The Wrangler is kind of like a street-legal track car now.

It's not so bad to drive, really. The engine and gearbox are brilliant, and the squirming from the rock-crawler tires is fairly manageable really. The clutch engagement is a little high, though, plus the chassis winds up like a 1930s baby buggy when you leave the lights, so it takes some care to keep the whole proposition from lurching onto the sidewalk if you make a clumsy getaway.

But aside from the fact that getting into the driver seat reminds me of climbing the monkey bars when I was five, the Wrangler is pretty neat.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 15,112 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Planet Jeep

April 30, 2012

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It doesn't look too foreign, but to me, driving our around trail-happy Wrangler puts me completely out of my element. And that doesn't have anything to do with the way it drives.

I'm a car guy. More specifically, I'm a sports car guy. That means I've never done any (intentional) off-roading. So I spent most of my time driving the Jeep hoping no one would see me as an interloper. Does that sound dumb? Maybe, but to me, when you drive something so specialized, you're bound to attract the attention of other people dedicated to vehicles like yours. And having to act like I know what I'm talking about when I really don't? Yeah, I don't like that.

Now put me in the Miata, and it's a different story. But the Jeep? I might as well be discussing 17th century French literature. I think I need to take this thing to the desert.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 15,062 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: We're Going to Install a Superwinch

April 26, 2012

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Look what the UPS-man dropped off for our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: It's the Hawse fairlead from a Superwinch Talon 9.5i SR, a 9,500-lb winch that comes highly recommended by a lot of off-road friends and professionals that I trust. I met Zach Bohn and some of the other Superwinch crew at Moab, saw their stuff in action during an impromptu rescue of a dozen ATVs stuck at the bottom of Wipeout Hill and came away convinced. 

The rest of the winch is still in the box down at our super-secret test lab, awaiting a bumper on which to mount it. Not all brands of bumper fit all brands of winch, so I need to make inquiries. On that front I'm getting close.

We're going with synthetic rope (that's what the "SR" stands for) instead of a steel cable. Many of my off-roading friends swear by it, and I know one person who has been using the same rope -- and he uses his winch a lot -- for over a dozen years.

More pictures to come later as we get further into the installation process.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Happy 15K

April 26, 2012

jeep-wrangler-15k.jpg Shooting a photo of the Wrangler's odometer isn't as easy as it used to be.

Took me two miles to click-off a photo this clear.

Here's to many more miles of off-roading, bumpy Wrangler.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 15,008 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: An Honest Speedometer

April 25, 2012

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How many times have you seen a 140mph speedometer in a car that couldn't hit 110mph if it was getting dragged by a 747? It's most often a case of simple parts sharing, but it's always amusing to hear drivers who think it's an indication of how fast the car will go.

In the case of our Jeep, it's a little different. It probably could top 100mph, but who cares? Unless you're in Baja, this vehicle does not need to be driven over 100mph. Leave all those extra numbers for the Viper.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, @ 14,956 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Priceless Door Discovery

April 24, 2012

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H4 headlight conversion for Jeep Wrangler: $120.

Thirty-three-inch BFGoodrich tires and Mopar wheels for Jeep Wrangler: $2,200.

Mopar Stage 3 lift kit for Jeep Wrangler: $2,400.

Locking your Wrangler's doors to a drainage culvert at the trailhead: Priceless.

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No, those aren't our doors. I made this discovery in the Cleveland National Forest this weekend. They were locked to this drainage culvert right where the road turns from pavement to dirt.

Gotta love it.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: My Kind of Compact Car

April 24, 2012

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Put aside all of the Jeep's off-road abilities for a second and consider its credentials as a city car, or truck, or whatever you want to call it.

After a weekend of running around on roads that were most often paved, I was continually reminded of how small and nimble the Jeep is when it comes to maneuvering into tight spaces. Credit goes to its 95-inch wheelbase and a turning circle radius of just 34.9 feet. For comparison, a Ford Fiesta's turning circle radius is 34.4 feet.

Now, no one from the Sierra Club is likely to pat you on the back for driving a Jeep, but anyone who thinks a proper city car needs to be a compact hatchback hasn't driven a Wrangler lately.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, @ 14,921 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Shopping for a Windshield

April 23, 2012

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This crack in the windshield of our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is not getting any smaller. We spent a little time shopping replacement windshields at local outlets. You might be surprised by what we found:

Remember that our car has the OEM glass, which means there is a Wrangler silhouette in the lower right corner and the Jeep name/grille logo above the rearview mirror.

Local Independent Supplier 1:
$180 aftermarket, no logos
$280 OE, Jeep name logo only
$350 OE, both logos

Indy 2:
$259 aftermarket, no logos
$409 plus tax OE, Jeep name logo only

Indy 3:
$440 OE both logos

Local Jeep Dealership:
$459 OE both logos

The identical matches are in bold. There is the expected price discrepancy between the dealer and everyone else. But one other thing jumps out right away. These are (relatively) inexpensive windshields. Historically, we have not seen replacements for other long-term cars for any less than $1,000. Then again, there isn't much to this windshield.

Now we get to the important questions. Are the in-glass logos worth the extra cash? Would you pay the premium, or choose the cheaper aftermarket options?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Hood Flutter

April 19, 2012

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So there I was, driving home across the desert in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. I was going 70 to 75 mph into a headwind that was blowing at least 25 mph. Probably more.

From the Jeep's perspective, the air flowing over it was traveling over 100 mph. As you might imagine, the wind noise was deafening. 

The video on the next page shows how the upper flat surface of the hood was oil-canning a bit just behind the windshield tie-down. And check out how much the hood was moving as the rubbery straps that hold it closed were stretching under the strain. The centrally-mounted metal safety catch was never going to let the hood fly open had anything failed, but still.

This Jeep is new. I wonder how the hood latch bands hold up after they've dried out after 5 or 6 years in the sun and smog of SoCal.

Is it time for the Wrangler to go to a normal hood latch system? And what about the windshield tie down u-bolt and the rubber bumpers that go with it? I saw no JKs with folded windshields in Moab -- the windshield hinge itself is an accessory that's not included with the vehicle. Can these legacy hood protruberances be optional, too, as part of some sort of Heritage Package? If they were, would you buy that option?

Would your answers differ for the 4-door? Or does all of this talk represent Jeep blasphemy?  

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 14, 543 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: 30 > 33?

April 18, 2012

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Last week I posed one of my new favorite videos of all time over on Straightline. It was a Chevy Camaro rolling on horrific set of 32" rims. It was a nightmare.

And then one of you lovely readers decided to raise the bar with a Jeep Wrangler Sahara on 30s.

We just spent a bunch of time chucking a set of 33" BFG Mud Terrains onto our Jeep. If we'd known this was possible, we might've reconsidered....

(Note: In no way would we ever have considered this. Though, like the Camaro, I've got to drive one of these someday.)

Mike Magrath, Features Editor,

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Rubicon or Sport?

April 18, 2012

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler has been back prowling the streets of LA for a couple of days now, but I've only just been able to sit down and summarize its performance in Moab.  

The big question is this: Did we do the right thing by buying a Wrangler Sport instead of a Rubicon? I've gone an back and forth on the question in my own head, but after Moab I'm certain: For us, at least, a Wrangler Sport was the right move.

The first issue is price, of course. The MSRP of a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport with a manual transmission like ours currently stands at $22,045. The 2-door Rubicon version goes for $29,995, almost $8,000 more. Add about $3,500 to each to get 4-door prices.

Lower payments never suck, and a lot can be done with that extra $8,000. A Wrangler Sport owner can spend some of it or none of it, at whatever pace suits their paycheck and priorities.

Of course their are interior cabin differences between the two, and the hard top, but I'm focusing on off-road equipment, the Jeepy stuff I'm assuming is particularly important to anyone considering a Rubicon.

Here's my take on each of the major differences.

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TIRES: The Rubicon comes with bigger tires than a base Sport, but from what I saw in Moab few folks who take their Rubicons off road consider the OE tires to be big enough. 33-inch tires seem to be the unoffical minimum size and many Jeeps wore larger shoes than that. The ledges and steps of the Moab terrain favor bigger-than-stock rubber and the approach angle and clearance benefits they provide, but I think that's true in a lot of rocky places.

Also, I think Jeeps attract the sorts of buyers that like to personalize their wheels and tires whether they go off-road or not.

Advantage Sport -- If you're going to change the tires (and probably wheels) anyway, you might as well start off with throwaway steel wheels and skinny tires and save money.

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SUSPENSION: I don't think I saw any stock-height Rubicons in Moab -- or Tierra Del Sol for that matter. Two- or Three-inch lift kits were everywhere, including the rental Jeeps. And Mopar tells me that lift kits are the number one hardware accessory they sell in terms of volume. It was certainly high on my list, after tires and wheels. 

Advantage Sport -- See tires, above. If you're going to lift it anyway, why pay more going in for something you're going to ultimately strip off and set aside?

At this point I'm not counting our tires, wheels or suspension lift against the $8,000 price differential because I'd have made those mods if I had started with a Rubicon or not. But I can't say that about the rest of my list.  

FRONT AXLE: Rubicons come with a beefier Dana 44 front axle, while the Sport and Sahara come with a Dana 30. All of them have a Dana 44 in back. The front axle difference can't be denied, but this is not a change that must absolutely be made before you head out. Oldtimers tell me that a Dana 30 will hold up just fine in skilled hands and a measured appraoch to difficult obstacles in vehicles that produce stock horsepower. I've been advised to not worry about it unless and until I get absolutely serious about going to tough spots often. 

Advantage Rubicon -- But Dana 44 upgrades are readily available for those of us with a Sport. If it turns out I need it, this is where a couple of that $8,000 could be directed. As for serious rock crawlers, they may want reinforced axles that are even MORE robust than a Dana 44, in which case the Rubicon axle advantage evaporates and this switches to a Sport advantage.

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AXLE GEARING: Our Sport 6-speed comes with pitiful 3.21 gearing, and that was part of the reason why I couldn't creep as slowly as I wanted. These fuel economy specials are also a bit too tall when combined with the 33-inch tires we're now running; our 6-speed essentially drives like a 5-speed. Manual-equipped Rubicons come with 4.10 axle gears.

Thing is, we could have paid just $50 for 3.73 gears on our Sport if we had checked that box on the option sheet. In hindsight our failure to do that was a major mistake because it's going to cost me way more than $50 to get to that gearing now.

Advantage Rubicon -- A mere $50 for 3.73 gears in a Sport dilutes the case for the Rubicon on a pure axle gearing basis, but the Rubicon manual does come with 4.10 gears. Whichever ratio I choose, I'm going to have to spend some of my $8k savings here. If I had paid the $50 bucks up front for the 3.73s on our Sport I'd stand pat and be satisfied. 

   

TRANSFER CASE GEARING: A Rubicon comes with a 4-to-1 reduction in the transfer case. The Sport and Sahara come with a 2.72-to-1 reduction. This is huge. Of all the things I've listed so far this is the biggest deal. Low range is engaged whenever the going gets rough, and the difference between 4-to-1 and 2.72-to-1 is far more significant, percentage-wise, than the difference between my 3.21-to1 axle ratio and the 3.73-to-1 axle ratio I missed out on.

Advantage Rubicon: I simply must change my transfer case. With that change I might actually be able to live with my 3.21 axle gears. The transfer case dominates the crawl ratio math, after all.

First gear is 4.46 in both versions. But the Sport's 2.72-to-1 transfer case and 3.21 axle gears peg the overall crawl ratio at 38.9-to-1. Yucky. The Rubicon's 4-to-1 T-case and 4.10 axle gears return a 73.1-to-1 crawl ratio.

If I change the transfer case to 4-to-1 and do nothing else my first gear crawl ratio improves 47% to 57.3-to-1. Conversely, if I leave the T-case alone and go for 3.73 gears instead I only get a 16% improvement to 45.2-to-1. 4.10 gears bump that up to 49.7-to-1 by themselves.

Clearly the T-case change gives me the bigger boost, so that's what I need to look at first. And I only have to change one transfer case as opposed to two axles. 

If I still need or want more I can add the 3.73 gears after I change the transfer case and bump the crawl ratio up a bit more to 66.5-to-1. I'll also recover some highway driveability with this change.

LOCKING DIFFERENTIALS: Clearly, front and rear factory lockers are a Rubicon advantage. On the other hand, lockers can be overused and they aren't something that's automatically required for a given trail. Automatically locking up at the merest bump in the road can take the challenge out of things.

I'm the guy who drives as far as he can in 2WD before selecting 4WD, then goes as far as possible before engaging low range. Same for lockers (when I have them) and stabilizer bar disconnects. Trail running of this sort is supposed to be a challenge, a puzzle. Lockers should be looked at as a last resort feature to help out in a particularly tight spot.

But if you're going to have them it is nice to have factory ones integrated into the vehicle. 

Advantage Rubicon: I can retrofit lockers in my differentials using some of my $8,000. I'm thinking a rear locker is all I'll need at first. I can add one to the front later on if it becomes necessary.

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FRONT STABILIZER BAR DISCONNECT: Another built in Rubicon feature that is convenient. Still, I can disconnect my end link with a pair of 18 mm wrenches in less than two minutes and achieve the same result. It's easy. And it turns out that at trail's end we're all waiting around for each other to air our tires back up to highway pressure with tiny compressors anyway. There's plenty of time for me to work my wrenches without holding anyone back. 

Advantage Rubicon (I suppose) -- But wrenches don't bother me and several low-price manual disconnects that employ a quick-release pin are out there. The electro-mechanical device on the Rubicon doesn't represent a lot of value for me. And though I don't share their views, I actually met a couple of Jeep conspiracy theorists that doubt the factory disconnect fully severs the stabilizer bar after all. Unable to see the workings inside the housing (see photo above), they installed manual pull-pin disconnects on their Rubicons just to make sure!

ROCK RAILS: Rubicons come with small, nicely integrated rock rails at the lower edge of the body, but many Jeepers prefer something more substantial. Aftermarket bolt-on rock rails are common and they only cost a couple of hundred. I'll have no problem eclipsing the OE Rubicon rock rails for two or three hundred bucks.

Advantage Sport -- The Rubicon OE rails are OK as far as they go, but beefier ones can be had in the aftermarket for cheap.

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All of the above is based on my personal desire to tinker with my machine. I enjoy it. I like the idea of making something that suits me, and I don't like paying for (and making monthly payments on) parts I'm likely to discard early on such as facotory tires, wheels and suspension bits. 

I do like going off-road, and the terrain in my neck of the woods tends to be rocky, so the clearance, tires and low range gearing are important to me. On the other hand, my need for lockers is not absolute. I can see myself getting by without them. Well, two of them, anyway. I'm pretty confident I can get the running gear hardware I'm targeting for far less than $8,000. 

If all of this sounds like too much hassle, time or calories, by all means the Rubicon is a very capable machine that includes a lot of well executed and well considered off-road hardware. It's a great vehicle on its own and a great modding starting point if you don't mind spending the extra upfront money. I saw plenty of Rubicons running around quite capably with nothing more than bigger tires and a lift kit. 

There are no wrong answers here. Jeep's Wrangler lineup truly does have something for everybody. I'm still happy we went with a Wrangler Sport.

I just wish we had spent the extra $50 for 3.73 axles in our Wrangler Sport, is all. How did we miss that?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 14,432 miles  

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2012 Jeep Wrangler in Moab: 7-Mile Rim and Wipeout Hill

April 12, 2012

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The Superwinch bunch was all set to go out again the day after completing the Top of the World trail, and they had some open spots. This time it would be 7-mile Rim and Wipeout Hill, a route northwest of town with plenty of slickrock. With no particular desire to wipe out, I eagerly raised my hand anyway.

Bill Burke wasn't around to lead on this day, so Nena Barlow of Barlow Jeep Rentals in Sedona, Arizona stepped up. Jeep renting for those who want to try off-roading before they buy or spice up a visit to spots like this is apparently a decent business, as I saw other such companies renting out late-model Rubicons here in Moab.

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Today's group was smaller, just 6 vehicles. This is about the perfect number; the group moves along and covers ground without ever losing touch with one another, no obstacle takes much time to get past and there's enough other Jeeps to watch to add to the fun.

All but one of our party were piloting Jeep Wranglers, and all of those were lifted at least two inches. The sole holdout was the Australian-market 70-series right-hand drive diesel Land Cruiser some of you spotted in yesterday's photographs.

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Today's obstacles were no more numerous but a bit more difficult than Top of the World had been. Trail leader Nena stepped out of here Jeep to offer spotting advice because that's what trail leaders do. This un-named climb brought our vehicles up onto the slickrock from the mostly sandy desert floor below.

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Wipeout Hill was next after everyone made it onto the slickrock-level of 7-Mile Rim. That Orange Crush Jeep Rubicon, by the way, is typical of the Jeeps for rent in Moab and Sedona. It has a 2-inch lift and of course sports the Rubicon's factory lockers and stabilizer bar disconnect.

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Wipeout Hill is aptly named. It is very steep and overuse of the brakes when your front tires hit the crook at the bottom of the ledge can send you over. 

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Wipeout consists of two big drops, the second of which is a bit less stepped and a little shorter. The longer 4-door Wranglers have an easier time of it. Any angularity you see here or in the previous photo was more dramatic when our 2-door Wrangler and its stubby 95.4-inch wheelbase came through.

The other thing about Wipeout is this: it's a cul-de-sac if you plan to complete the 7-Mile Rim trail. Don't go down unless you can go back up is what I'm saying. At this point I was starting to wonder if the Superwinch bunch allowed my Jeep and it's ultra-tall 3.21 gears and 2.76 transfer case along to demonstrate their product line.

I'd have to wait until after we all ate lunch to find out.

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Speed is the enemy. You don't want to bash your way up the hill and break something. But our Wrangler Sport came with the aforementioned 3.21 gears and a 2.76 low range transfer case. In first gear I'm looking at no more than 8.86-to-1 gear reduction.

A Rubicon comes with a 4.00 transfer case gearing and either 3.73 or 4.10 final drive gears in the diffs. For a given tire size and trnasmission, one of those babies has either 14.92- or 16.4-to-1 gear reduction.

What does this mean? My "walking speed" at idle rpm is almost twice as fast as theirs. Any attempt to creep up the slope bogged the engine into a stall when I tried the gentle approach. The engine won't run under this much load at 700 rpm. With Rubicon gearing the same vehicle speed would come at 1,300 or 1,400 rpm and there would be no drama.

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I discovered something surprising when I tried to back down to the mid-level ledge for another go.

Remember the hill hold feature our Jeep has, the one that holds the vehicle stationary when you attempt a manual transmission hill start on an upslope? Turns out it works beautifully at crazy angles like this. It works so well that I had to wait a full three seconds before the Jeep would start to roll back to line up for another try. There is no reason to fear a manual transmission Jeep Wrangler for off roading of this sort.

After two stalls in the same spot I decided to approach the climb with a little more aggression and a little less mechanical sympathy than I had planned.

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The third time is, as they say, the charm, and with a slightly higher dose of steady throttle and a bit more speed I burned out across the top of the climb. There you go, Scott: a Jeep can do a 4WD burnout on solid rock.

Still, this wasn't a wide open attack. The 2012 Wrangler's Pentastar V6 makes good torque down low, and even though my gearing wasn't ideal, this was still a low speed climb at no more than 1,800 revs.

I think. Who looks at the tach at a time like this?

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After climbing Wipeout I had to wait for the rest of the group to climb out before we continued on. The monument above is either the Monitor or the Merrimac -- whichever one has the turret. The other one stands just behind it, and that's the direction we were headed.

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A tight pinch stands between the Monitor and Merrimac. Thanks to Zach at Superwinch for the photo.

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There's a broad flat slab of slickrock just beyond the pinch, which was perfect because that's where we met an official RR4W run coming the other way. I counted 29 vehicles, one of them a massive Dodge Ram Power Wagon. According to Nena this bunch wasn't destined to do the Wipeout Hill option.

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We stopped between the Monitor and Merrimac for one last group photo. From here the trail dropped back off the slickrock into sandier terrain. We all aired back up to highway pressures before saying our goodbyes and heading off in seperate directions.

For me, at least, that direction would be southwest toward SoCal and home.

You know where I'll be next year.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 13,319 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler in Moab: Top of the World

April 11, 2012

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Driving the Jeep Mighty FC concept may have been fun and all, but I was here to drive our 2012 Jeep Wrangler on some Easter Jeep Safari trail runs.

This year some 30 trails were available throughout the 9-day event, and the usual way to tag along on a formal guided run and be part of the event is to register online ahead of time with the Red Rock 4 Wheelers via their website and pay $50 per trail. Industry rides simultaneously occur on trails the RR4W isn't using on a given day, and a well-timed Facebook like might get you a spot in a smaller group.

I was able to tag along on a small 9-vehicle run hosted by Superwinch on the Top of the World trail.

The Top of the World route starts at Dewey Bridge, some 25 miles up the Colorado River form Moab itself. Bill Burke, a Camel Trophy participant in 1991, led the day's activities from his well-worn Range Rover. Yes, the Easter Jeep Safari tolerates welcomes non-Jeeps.

As for Dewey Bridge, it is/was a wooden-deck suspension bridge that was built in 1916. At some point in the 80s it was replaced with a more modern bridge and fell into disrepair. In 2000 it was restored, reopened for foot traffic and added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Just four years ago, however, a runaway campfire destroyed it once again. All that remains now are cables and an ironic plaque proudly commemorating its restoration, saying "Dewey Bridge is Utah's longest suspension bridge." Sadly, was seems to be the operative word today.

We had time to contemplate all of this while we dropped the air pressure in our tires for the rocks to come. Folks that run BFG Mud-Terrain KM2s like mine say that 15 psi is a good place to start. I would simply have to ignore the low tire warning on the dash until I aired up again later.

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The Top of The World trail was fairly easy most of the way and scenic for its entire length, but there were several 12-inch rock steps and ledges as well as a couple of moderately difficult rock and frame-twist obstacles. Our Wrangler was able to tackle all of them with its open diffs and I didn't have to unbolt its front stabilizer bar to get through any of it.

They tell me that at one point my left front hiked itself 18 inches in the air as I teetered over a particularly large rock, but you'll have to take my word for it. The trouble with driving without a passenger is you can't take pictures of yourself.

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Top of The World trail is and out-and-back loop, and the turnaround is a dramatically overhanging ledge that you've seen in commercials. I wasn't first in our congo-line of Jeeps, so I didn't arrive soon enough for the prime parking spot on the precipice which, come to think of it, is no bad thing. 

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Even the guy who hogged the prime spot didn't get too close.

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On the way back down we took a detour on a very easy graded dirt road to visit some old cowboy graves. My picture didn't come out, so I'm substituting a photo of some cowboy caves I saw the day before when I was driving all of those Jeep concepts.

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Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 13,250 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Engine Grime

April 10, 2012

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It was inevitable that the engine compartment of our 2012 Jeep Wrangler would end up in a world of filth. After all, these cars were built for it. Dan's trip to Moab dusted the Wrangler with a respectable layer of grime. It is in need of some TLC.

When it comes to engine cleanliness there are many schools of thought. I've met some "close the hood and nobody will see it" types. There are the white gloved, toothbrush detailers. Still others wait until the engine bay is begging for it before diving in. What is your approach to engine cleanliness?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 14,301 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler in Moab: Driving Other Jeeps

April 06, 2012

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Our trusty 2012 Jeep Wrangler sat parked at a nearby ranch while I went off to drive other Jeeps. And these were not just any Jeeps, they were Jeep and Mopar concept and show vehicles put together for this event.

A light dusting of snow fell overnight in the higher elevations, but that tapered off to a light drizzle as we left the ranch.

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The Jeep Mighty FC Concept harks back to the forward control Jeeps built in the late 50's and early 60's. Thing is, this one was built from a 2012 JK Jeep Wrangler 2-door like ours. Well, it started out that way; the front half of the frame was lengthed to pull the axle forward while leaving the engine behind.

Squint real hard and you'll see the windshield, A-pillars and doors are identical to ours. The roof panels come from the factory hardtop and the back half of the cab comes for the JK8 pickup conversion kit that Mopar already sells. Inside, the dash looks just like our Wrangler, but it sits much closer to the driver; I barely fit. The Mighty FC Concept is an automatic because there's not enough space to work a clutch pedal.

Someone said it's a carinval ride, and they're right. Sitting this far forward you see nothing but sky when cresting a hill. Downhill, especially when the slickrock transistions back to flat, all you see is the cold hard earth directly ahead as your forward-hanging feet, which reside just below those headlights, feel like they're going to Fred Flintstone the into ground.

They could never build this, of course; a frontal impact would not be pretty. But that's not the point of the Mighty FC. It's pure awesome, pure fun, pure OMG.

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But the FC isn't merely a design exercise. The FC's so-called portal axles are something you can actually buy from Mopar. But you'd better be quite serious because you'll pay $12,500 for the front one and $11,000 for the rear. Yes, a pair of these axles costs almost as much as our entire Jeep.

Notice that the axle centerline sits far above the wheel cetner. This dramatically increases ground clearance -- I didn't measure it, but there's at least 5 inches of offset there. Furthermore, each hub also features a 1.5-to-1 gear reduction. With 4.56-to-1 gears in the front and rear differentials, this additional hub reduction brings the effective final drive ratio to a staggering 6.84-to-1.

The hubs are so big that two smaller brake calipers (gray, at 4:30 o'clock and 7:30 o'clock) are used per wheel instead of the usual one.

Unsprung weight of course is off the charts, but who cares when extreme low-speed rock crawling is your primary reason for existence?

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The FC's engine sits well behind the front axle. I believe the new wheelbase is 117 inches. A 2-door JK starts out life at 95.4 inches, so they've added almost 22 inches ahead of the front motor mounts.

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This JK8 conversion kit, allows a Wrangler 4-door to be morphed into a pickup, and the result is way cool. The back of the cab, which is the same part we just saw on the Mighty FC Concept, provides plenty of storage behind the front seats.

The kit costs $5,499 (plus installation) and comes with a 3-year 36 kilomile warranty when installed at a Chrysler group dealership. I don't know if I'd install such a kit on a brand new JK, but it also works on used ones dating back to 2007. Mopar has apparently had several hundred takers so far. I've been seeing quite a few running around Moab. 

The strong interest Jeep has seen makes it quite possible that a factory-built pickup version of the next generation Jeep might see the light of day when it breaks cover in a couple-few years. If that comes to pass you might see me buying one.

Incidentally, those high clearance fenders and the rock rails are not part of the kit -- they're yet another Mopar Jeep part. For my money, I'll keep running the stock fenders unless and until a rock tears one off, but the rock rails are high on my to-do list.

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This one is called the Traildozer, and not just because it's painted Dozer Clearcoat, one of Jeep's newer colors and the second of two shades of orange you can get. No, the thing to note here is the 470-horsepower 6.4-liter HEMI V8 stuffed under the hood and the incredible noises it makes.

The Pentastar V6 in our 2012 JK has plenty of power and torque to work with and doesn't beg for an engine swap, which is fortunate because the AEV (American Expedition Vehicles) kit only works for 2007-2011 JKs anyway. Owners of the anemic 2007-2011 V6 are much more in need of such Hemi-fication, and for them AEV sells this kit for $5,299. That figure does not, however, include the actual HEMI V8 engine itself or the transmission necessary to handle all of its power and torque.

And so the floppy 6-speed manual we have in our Jeep has been replaced here by the Getrag 6-speed manual that comes in a Dodge Dakota. To me that's a huge difference. For one, the shift lever does not flop around over bumps and smack me in the thigh. Also, the more close-set gates are well-defined and the lever snicks into place much more accurately. I almost appreciate this tranny upgrade more than the V8 power. Almost.

There were a couple of other modded Jeeps on hand, but I didn't have time to drive them. Clearly, though, Jeep and Mopar have a lot of tricks up their sleeve and they enjoy tweaking the formula to keep the Jeepers at Moab on their toes.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 13,201 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler to Moab: First Trail Day

April 03, 2012

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I decided to take it easy on my first full day in Moab and get the feel for the place. I'm here a day earlier than I had originally planned, so I'm not pre-registered for a spot on any of the official Easter Jeep Safari guided runs. That's OK. There are umpteen trails to choose from in all directions. I chose a path that would eventually take me to the Island in the Sky district of Cayonlands National Park.

My route up Long Canyon would take me from the Colorado River shoreline to the top of the Island in the Sky Mesa. Imagine driving up from the bottom of the Grand Canyon and you get the idea. In the process I'd be traversing the myriad layers of different sorts of sandstaone that create the dramatic terraced landscape of cliffs, towers, fins and the occasional balanced rock.

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Meep! Meep! Free ACME birdseed.

The top of the mesa is at the same level as the top of the highest formation in the distance.

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The going is fairly easy in the lower parts of the canyon, where eons of fallen rubble from once-towering cliffs make it easy for roadbuilders.

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The trouble with driving alone is there's no one to take any action shots. The upper reaches of Long Canyon, the part where the cliffs get really vertical, contain tight switchbacks and this final slot canyon. This was rough and stepped. It would have been easy to screw up and get stuck, but I was too busy to stop and take pictures.

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Once on top it's possible to park right at the edge. This could very well have been one of those overhangs, but I wasn't about to lean over and check. You could parachute from up here.

Those are the snow-capped La Sal mountains in the distance. Closer in is the Fin District, so-named for obvious reasons.

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After a few hours in Canyonlands it was time to get back to Moab. I descended back down toward the river via Shafer Canyon Road, a sacry series of five nearly full-lock switchbacks just barely visible in the bowl above. The first starts at the arrow after a lengthy traverse along the edge of the cliff.

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This picture, taken halfway down, doesn't begin to do it justice.

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After the last bend the road straightens out and reaches a plateau, but this is merely the White Rim, a formation of sandstone that dates back to the Permian era. The White Rim is only the halfway point in our descent to the Colorado River.

The White Rim Jeep Trail starts about 2 miles ahead of me, and it runs clockwise for 103 miles as it encircles the Island in the Sky mesa. It's like being halfway down the Grand Canyon, with awesome views -- and sheer cliffs -- overhead and down below.

I tried out 5 miles of the White Rim road before doubling back and taking Shafer Canyon the rest of the way down. It's rocky, it's slow, and the view is breathtaking. They say White Rim is a 3-day trip by Jeep. Someday I'll be back to see if they're right.

Tomorrow I step things up a notch. I'm paying a visit to Jeep and Mopar, and they have some surprises in store.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 13,117 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler to Moab: The Last Leg

April 02, 2012

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler embarked on the last leg to Moab, Utah after spending the night in tiny Ely, Nevada. But Nevada had a few more tricks up its sleeve. I was going to stop in Great Basin National Park, of which the peaks in the photo above are a part, but I decided to press on.

Mainly this was because I'd already made a side trip to a ghost town called Osceola, situated high up near the park's northern flank.

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The wind was really howling by the time I got there, so I paid my respects at the ex-town's cemetery and moved on.

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How windy was it? Windy enough that they're installing dozens of humungous windmills in the valley just below. I caught up with these semis hauling individual blades at the Utah border.

The strong crosswind made driving the short wheelbase Jeep a bit more entertaining, and Utah's baked asphalt stood out as rougher as soon as I crossed the border.  

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The Nevada-Utah border really does feel like you're crossing into another place. Sure, Nevada's highway 50 crosses through desert too, but the basin and range character of the land and the altitude make it feel less harsh.

Once in this part of Utah the mood changes. It feels bleak, dry and hot, as if the last shreds of moisture had been squeezed out of the atmosphere as the prevailing winds passed over the last high ridge in Nevada.

Highway 50 stays mighty lonely for the next 70 miles, but things perk up briefly as it nears farmlands west of Interstate 15. A few dozen miles after crossing I-15, highway 50 eventually dumps into and becomes Interstate 70, which runs just north of the Moab region.

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You know you're in eastern Utah when the landscape turns all Wile E. Coyote on you. I love this part of the world.

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There's time for one more picture at the Colorado River just outside of Moab before I check in to my hotel for some much-needed rest. Two solid days on the road will do that to you. Sure, they'll be driving tomorrow, but I won't be going anywhere but here.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 12,934 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler to Moab: Taking The Loneliest Road

April 02, 2012

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Sure, I could have taken Google Maps' advice and driven our 2012 Jeep Wrangler from Reno to Utah using Interstate 80, but interstates are boring. Besides, I-80 loops far to the north and adds miles to the trip.

Nevada's highway 50, otherwise known as the Loneliest Road in America, is more of a straight shot. Also, Nevada's rural two-lane highways tend to have 70 mph speed limits, and highway 50 is no exception. That's about as fast as I wanted to go, anyway.

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It's hard to argue with the Lonliest Road nickname. Once I left Fallon, which is only 20-something miles past the point I left the interstate, the number of cars coming the other way dropped dramatically. Several time I sat parked and waited 5 minutes or more for another car to come by.

But the thing that really does it is the utter lack of buildings. There's nothing out here but miles of barbed wire fence and a smattering of pullouts where they've put Nevada state historical markers.

I didn't know this until I started reading some of them, but Highway 50 mostly follows the Pony Express route. I also didn't know that the famous Pony Express was a total failure that lasted less than 18 months, ran in the red the entire time, and went out of business 4 days after the first transcontinental telegraph was sent.

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The route continued on as a stage coach road, though. In the 'teens it morhped into a primitive auto route, the Lincoln Highway. I'm led to believe these ruins were once some sort of wayside rest. Today's highway 50 runs about a quarter-mile away from this point, cutting through a hill instead of winding around it.

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Signs of recent human activity are pretty much limited to the shoe tree.

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The first town of any size is Austin, population 192. It comes up 111 miles after leaving Fallon.

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Mostly, Highway 50 looks like this: miles and miles of straight road with the occasional bend to miss a mountain. Surprisingly, the asphalt out here is fairly smooth and the Jeep's Mopar Stage 3 lift kit rode sure and steady.

The Jeep tracks pretty straight most of the time, but the short wheelbase sometimes demands a little attention. The longer wheelbase of the 4-door would certainly help. On top of that, the steering feels a bit vague, like there's a dead spot and a touch of lag on center -- there's a reason why sedans have rack-and-pinion steering. The Jeep, with its solid live front axle, doesn't.

Despite all that, I wasn't fatigued by driving this road in the least. 

Also, there's no radio out here. At all. We didn't opt for the audio system that offers satellite radio, so I survived on podcasts and playlists on my iPod.

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Highway 80 road sees snow in winter, but I didn't see any except on distant mountaintops. That's some sort of salt in the foreground. Don't tell anyone.

It got dark before I passed through Eureka, the next tiny town that comes up 71 miles past Austin. At 8:30 pm the place looked deserted. I kept going. 

I continued another 77 miles to Ely, Nevada before calling it a day. In between darkness fell and I saw NOTHING. No distant lights in any direction, no signs of habitation at all. It was eerie. It was  ... lonely. It was also enjoyable, and I'd do it again.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 12,544 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Off-Roading With The Family With Video

April 02, 2012

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Right now our Jeep Wrangler is with Dan Edmunds at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, UT. But two weeks ago it was gettin' muddy on a rainy Saturday with the Oldhams. I packed the family into our Wrangler and headed for the closest Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area, which is up in the San Gabrial Mountians off Highway 39 in Azusa Canyon.  

With my kids in the backseat, I wasn't going to do anything too serious, but we climbed some hills, dug around in some mud and drove through several raging water crossings and muddy puddles. Low gear probably wasn't necessary, but we used it anyway.

It made things much easier. How easy? Well, that's my wife who has zero off roading experience driving the Jeep through that water crossing. I had to hop out to shoot the above photo and the videos of the action, which appear on the next page. By the way, my wife rocks.

And when we were done, the Jeep was muddy enough to look just right.

It costs $8 to abuse your vehicle in the OHV Park. We off-roaded for two hours. It was a ton of fun and the only damage to the vehicle was the reshaping of the license plate.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Cheif

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2012 Jeep Wrangler to Moab: Crossing the Sierra

April 01, 2012

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The trip up and over the Sierra Nevada was a painless one in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. Its new Penstar V6 makes good power, but our combination of 33-inch tires and 3.21 axle gearing does suck the life out of 6th gear. Cruising in 5th is a better option when the terrain tilts up very much or if the prevailing speed falls below 70 mph.

But interstate 80 isn't the only way to make it over Donner pass. The old road is still there. I doubled back for a look.

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The old road is a tight and twisty two-lane good for no more than 35 mph. Today it's the primary access to two ski resorts. It's also a good route to take if you want to stop for great views of Donner Lake and stop at historical points that commemerate the unpleasantness suffered by the early settlers that gave this pass its name.

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The notch in the upper left is Donner Pass as far as the old road is concerned. After a dozen breathtaking miles the old road rejoins the Interstate, where this happened ...

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I was startled by the sharp sickening crack of a stone striking the windshield. It came from a passing Lexus CT200h, which isn't really fair because it came from the road itself. Tire chains are used extensively up here (for good reason) when it snows and the road surface gets chewed up. Also, the California road department is fond of spreading sand and pumice instead of salt.

That said, nobody needed chains on this day and the road surface looked clean and devoid of gravel. It's just one of those things.

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Soon I was over the Sierra Nevada and crossing into Nevada proper, where there was a little turnout for dweebs like me that want to stop and take a commemorative picture.

Strangely, the leg from wine country through Sacramento and up and over a 7,200-foot pass yielded the best fuel economy so far: this tank was 19.0 mpg. The two tanks that got me from Orange County to wine country a couple days ago had been only 17.8 and 16.4 mpg. I'm guessing that was because my average speed was about 5 mph higher.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 12,263 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler to Moab: Now That's A Linear Fuel Gauge

March 29, 2012

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Once you clear Tejon pass, the run up California's Interstate 5 between LA and San Francisco is mostly straight and entirely dull. You pretty much head north and set the cruise, then settle in and pass the time while the odometer rolls up and the fuel gauge sinks down.

Most such gauges are hopelessly non-linear. The majority of cars I've owned seemed to stay bolted near "F" for the first hunderd miles and then plummet before hanging out near E for awhile. Not so in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler.

Here I'm at the half-tank mark -- it may look a shade low but the needle is actually dead-nuts on the line with my eye square with the gauge. At this point the trip meter and distance to empty (DTE) meter read more or less the same. The number of miles I've come equaled the number of miles I could still go, which is what every geeky engineer like me wants to see when the gauge reads half full (or half empty.)

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It gets better. Said linerarity (or accuracy, or truthfulness -- whatever you want to call it) was still in play at a quarter tank. 79 miles is exactly one fourth of the total you get when you add DTE to the trip odometer reading.

The low fuel warning came on at 1/8th of a tank, and those numbers worked out, too.

Of course it did help that I spent the entire tank on cruise control over flat ground. Big throttle fluctuations or changes in engine load, had I made them, would have caused the DTE number to dance around and perhaps plummet as the computer re-evaluated my driving and delivered a more pessimistic prediction that would have screwed up my perfect ratios.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 11,777 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: On the Road to Moab

March 28, 2012

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is making an appearance at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. I'll be there for the first half of the week-long event. I have 4 trail days on my schedule.

Even though it doesn't kick off until this weekend, I've already left SoCal. I'm making a 750-mile detour to northern California right now to attend the super-secret preview of a car I can't tell you about just yet.

What would have been a 1,450-mile out-and-back run up I-15 has turned into a big 2,200-mile triangle. This should be good.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 11,700 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Installing New Headlights

March 27, 2012

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Installing new headlights in a new 2012 Jeep Wrangler (or just installing new bulbs in the existing ones) isn't terribly difficult or time consuming, even though the best approach involves taking the front grille clean off.

I'm replacing the reflectors for two reasons: to modify the light pattern to gain a sharper cutoff and to gain the ability to use any number of widely available DOT-approved H4 bulbs.

The results are amazing. After doing this it seems like I've got twice the coverage and much whiter light, but the new pattern's sharp cutoff doesn't blind oncoming traffic. I'm still trying to quantify the improvement, but there's no question in my mind this was a good move.

Time spent: less than 30 minutes.

Tools required: Thin flat-blade screwdriver, T-15 Torx screwdriver

Cost: $118.77, -- Two IPF H4 headlight reflectors, part number 920HJK, $44.99 each from ARB USA through 4 Wheel parts; 1 pair of Philips Xtreme Power H4 bulbs, $28.79 from Amazon

Let's get started.

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Eight of these clips hold the grille in place along its top edge. They're easy to locate once you open the hood. Use the thin flat blade screwdriver to fully extend the center plunger of the each clip, then pry on the base and pull the whole thing out in one piece. Don't worry if the plunger pops out; it can be snapped back into place later.

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Next you have to tug gently forward along the bottom in order to detach a row of spring clips (yellow) along the bottom and near each turn signal. Do this with the grille still nearly vertical. The trademark Jeep grille bars make good handholds for this.

Once these are free the trun signal wiring (green) will be the last thing keeping the grille from coming off.

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Here you have two choices: unplug the connector hidden beneath my thumb or rotate the light assembly out as if you were changing the bulb.

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That wasn't so bad.

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Use the T-15 Torx screwdriver to remove the four perimeter screws that hold the retaining ring in place. A skinny one like this is useful because the aiming screw you need to access once the grille is back in place is also a T-15, but access to that one is impossible with any sort of socket or hex-drive multi tool that's much fatter than this.

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Once the ring is off the headlight practically falls out. Disconnect the harness thusly: slide the red locking tab back, press in on the green tab behind it and the wiggle the harness off the back of the light.

If you're just changing bulbs in the stock reflector you can do that now and then reassemble everything. In our 2012 Wrangler, at least, the process of removing the grille to get at the back of the headlights this way looks far easier to me than trying to access the back of the headlights from under the hood.

But here we're replacing the reflectors altogther, so these headlights are history.

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Jeep's headlight connector won't plug onto to an H4 bulb, so first we've got to install these pigtails that came in the box with the new IPF reflectors.

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Also included in the box is a little vial of dielectric grease to protect the connector terminals from dirt and moisture. A little goes a long way.

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Make sure the gree tab snaps home fully. You'll know this is the case if the red locking tab slides all the way down until it bottoms out in the locked position. I had to use an exacto knife to trim a tiny amount of flash from the new connector's locking tab to make this happen.

Now we're ready to prepare the new headlights.

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The metal retaining clip will hold the new bulb in place. For now we'll fold it out of the way so we can insert the bulb.

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Handle the bulb by the base or by the connector -- never touch the glass. This makes getting the bulb out of the packaging a bit tricky, so take your time. If you do touch it, a very soft and clean lint free cloth is needed to remove any oils or fingerprints you transferred to the glass.

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The bulb can only go in one way. Once it's seated, fold the retainer over the top of it and engage the catch.

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Snap the included rubber gasket into place. The "top" label should line up with the flat center terminal on the bulb. It should also make sense when you look at the front of the bulb with the IPF logo right side up..

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More dielectric grease goes on the bulb terminals before they get plugged in to the pigtail harness.

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Use the "top" label or the IPF logo to get the headlight assembly in the right orientation, then engage three tabs like this one with same-sized notches in the Jeep's headlight bucket.

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The retaining ring goes on next. It's helpful to wear the ring like a bracelet during the previous step so you can slip it on here without letting go of the headlight.

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Finally, the four Torx screws go back in. They screw into plastic, so don't tighten them much beyond snug.

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Done. Now the grille can go back on. Don't forget to reconnect the turn signals as you replace it.

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Now we're really done.

Aiming will have to wait until nightfall.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 11,310 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: New Headlights

March 25, 2012

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Before: Stock 2012 Jeep Wrangler headlights, low beam.

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After: IPF H4 reflectors and Philips Xtreme Power 55w bulbs, low beam.

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Old on the left, new on the right.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 11,310 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: How RTI Compares To A 4-Door Rubicon

March 24, 2012

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is a of course a short wheelbase 2-door model, and we've run it up the RTI ramp in many configurations. But how does a long-wheelbase 4-door compare?

I recently got my hands on a Wrangler Unlimited. It's a Rubicon, so it's equipped with a factory front stabilizer bar disconnect mechanism.

A word about the color: It's Dozer Clearcoat, a.k.a. bright orange. It may look like some kind of white-to-orange fade, but that's just my point-and-shoot and the overhead skylight butting heads.

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The Electronic Stabilizer Bar Disconnect acts as a bridge between the two halves of a stabilizer bar that has been split in two. It's one of the off-road features you get when you buy a Rubicon. I have my 18mm wrenches, Rubicon owners have a switch on the dash. 

2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_RTI_Rubicon_4_dr_disco_connected_ramp_prf.jpg 

Stabilizer bar connected.  Wheel lift = 20.56"   Distance up ramp = 60.12"

RTI = 518

2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_RTI_Rubicon_4_dr_disco_ramp_profile.jpg 

Stabilizer bar disconnected.  Wheel lift = 27.25"   Distance up ramp = 79.67"

RTI = 687

Vehicle Configuration

Wheel Lift

Ramp Climb

Wheelbase

RTI

Wrangler Sport, BFG, stab off

26.75

78.21

95.4

820

Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, stab off

27.25

79.67

116.0

687

Wrangler Sport, BFG, stab on

20.44

59.76

95.4

626

Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, stab on

20.56

60.12

116.0

518

This chart compares the 4-door Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with our 2-door Wrangler when it still had its stock suspension but after we fitted similar BFG tires. The wheel lift is virtually the same in both conditions, but the 4-door's longer wheelbase does a number on its RTI value. Both vehicles gain about 7 inches of lift once the stabilizer bar is out of the picture.

Year

Make/Model

Wheel Lift

Ramp Climb

Wheelbase

RTI

2012

Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, off

27.25

79.67

116.0

687

2010

Toyota Land Cruiser

24.81

72.55

112.2

647

2012

Jeep Wrangler Sport

18.31

53.54

95.4

561

2011

Lexus GX 460

20.19

59.02

109.8

538

2012

Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, on

20.56

60.12

116.0

518

2012

BMW X3

12.19

35.63

110.6

322

2011

Nissan Juke SL AWD

8.75

25.58

99.6

257

The Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon tops our list of stock vehicles if we focus on the RTI number measured with the stabilizer bar disconnected. We can do that because it's a factory-installed stabilizer bar disconnect system. The Toyota and Lexus SUVs have a factory stabilizer bar disconnect systems too, but their KDSS system is automatic so they have just one RTI value.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Action Camper

March 22, 2012

jeep_camper_ill_1600.jpg

We may have found a new accessory for our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. The Action Camper. The T-1000 supermodels make this illustration a bit creepy. Take the jump for exterior and interior photos of the camper in its element. What do you think?

jeep_camper_ext_1600.jpg 

jeep_camper_int_1600.jpg 

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Lots of Warnings

March 22, 2012

 Jeep-warning-1.jpg

Hop in kids. Lets go for a ride. 

 Jeep-warning-2.jpg

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Cheap Raingler

March 21, 2012

wrangler_handle.jpg

This is what happens when you drive a 2012 Jeep Wrangler in the rain. I'd have thought the guys over at Jeep would figure this one out by now, but not quite. Even with full-sized doors the Wrangler leaks in the rain. I'm going to bet the hard top is water tight. But this soft top can't say as much.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not worried that it leaks. Honestly, It brings back memories of the YJ Wrangler I owned in high school. Any time the skies opened the dash would fill with water. I used to remove the interior windshield support bracket, roll up a shop towel and stuff it inside just to siphon out the rain. Otherwise it was mildew skanky for the next week.

Oh, the good old days.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Kickin' HVAC

March 20, 2012

Jeep-HVAC-1.jpg

HVAC, if you don't know, is a car's, heating, ventilation and air conditioning. And our Jeep's HVAC may be the very best around. 

First of all it's controlled by three very simple knobs, one for fan speed, one for temperature and one to control the direction of the air flow. This is as it should be, simple, attractive and functional.    

But what makes the Jeep's system so special is its power. It will roast you if you let it, even when the Wrangler's top is down. And its air conditioning will freeze you out on the hottest of days, even when the So-Cal sun is beatin' down on you.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Cool Touch Since 1941

March 19, 2012

 Jeep-since-1941-1.jpg

I think this is a very cool touch. The grab handle ahead of the passenger in our long-term Jeep Wrangler reads Jeep Since 1941. And it's not some cheesy decal or a lame dash plaque, it's carved into the fake aluminum-look plastic. Even the retro military font is cool.

Somebody at Jeep gets it.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 10,991 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Installing a Mopar Stage 3 Lift Kit With Fox Racing Shox, Rear

March 18, 2012

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_oa_lead.jpg 

Break time is over. It's time to install the rear half of the Mopar Stage 3 Lift Kit with Fox Racing Shox on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler.

The front suspension installation, Part I of our story, appears one blog below this one. The front end installation involved the drilling of 14 holes, the mechanized removal of two bump stops and the intentional destruction of two brackets. There's not near as much metal manipulation back here. This end is a cake walk in comparison.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_1_oa.jpg 

First I need to reposition the two tall jack stands and lower the Jeep's rear axle onto them with our Rotary lift until the axle's weight is supported and the rear shocks are compressed ever so slightly.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_2_shocks.jpg 

The rear shocks are the component that defines how far the axle can hang, so they need to come off right away.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_3_stablinks.jpg 

The stabilizer links are next to go. They're destined to be replaced with longer ones, so they can go in the trash can alongside the shocks.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_4_links.jpg 

Like the front, the rear axle is located by 4 trailing links and a lateral track bar (a.k.a. Panhard bar.) Once again their 10 bolts are to be loosened, but not removed.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_4.5_track_bar.jpg 

The sole exception is the bolt on the left-hand end of the track bar (yellow.) It gets taken out so the track bar can hang out of the way for the next few steps.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_5_pkb_bkt.jpg 

The parking brake cables will still be long enough once the 3-inch Mopar lift is installed, but only after I remove and discard the factory retaining bracket so they can hang down a bit more.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_6_brake_bkt.jpg 

The brake line retaining brackets are disconnected, too, but no parts will be thrown away here.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_7_spring_out_a.jpg 

Once the brake brackets are loose it's time to raise the lift enough to take the weight off the coil springs and open up a gap so I can pull them out. The rear differential breather hose (yellow) doesn't like it much, but I'll deal with that later on.

The rubber spring cushion seen on the uppermost coil will be reused, but the springs are now boat anchors.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_8_new_vs_old.jpg 

Now the lower trailing links can be removed and replaced. The new ones are longer in order to keep the rear differential pinion angle at the proper angle with respect to the driveshaft. The extra length also keeps the wheelbase from shrinking.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_9_new_hanging.jpg 

Both ends of the one on the passenger side can be bolted (loosely,) but the one of the driver side needs to hang out for a couple steps while I do something else with its rear mounting bracket.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_10_phard_bkt_a.jpg 

This new bracket moves the left pointing point of the track bar up three inches so it will run at the same angle (nearly flat) after the three inch lift is installed.

One of its mounting holes (yellow) will share the bolt used to mount the link we saw in the last photo.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_11_panhard_bolts_a.jpg 

Here the trailing link has been installed with its mounting bolt also running through the new track bar bracket. Meanwhile, I'm installing a u-bolt around the axle tube to hold the other end of the track bar bracket in place.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_12_panhard_torque.jpg 

Unlike the suspension link bolts, the u-bolts can be torqued to their final tightening spec right now.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_13_panhard_done.jpg 

Now it's time to re-mount the left end of the track bar in the new bracket.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_14_uarms.jpg 

New upper trailing links go in next. Keep your eye on the urethane bump stop because it's about to disappear.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_15_bump_cups.jpg 

No, the old bump stop is not in there. I removed it before installing these new cups. They snap in place over the old bump stop retaining bracket.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_16_silicone.jpg 

A new longer microcellular urethane bump stop will snap into the original bracket; the cup's job is to keep it lined up vertically. Silicone spray helps it snap into place.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_17_bump_in.jpg 

But it still takes persistence to finally snap it home.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_18_stab_link.jpg 

Things are moving along quickly now. It's already time for the new longer stabilizer bar links to go on.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_19_link_tighten_craftsman.jpg 

I've bragged on the Craftsman Max Axxes external drive socket set before as a good deep socket alternative, but this is brilliant. Stabilizer bar ball joints and many strut tops feature an internal hex you're supposed to hold still while you tighten the nut, and it's always a bit of a hassle.

Ratcheting end wrenches work, too, but you have to buy them one size at a time. Owning a whole range of them is not cheap. The Max Axxess socket set is a lot less expensive, and it works great as a regular ratchet, a deep socket alternative, as well as this particular situation.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_20_brake_bracket.jpg 

These brake bracket extensions drop the hoses down so they'll still work with the lifted suspension. I haven't cracked open any brake lines, so they'll be no brake bleeding later.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_21_brake_bracket_bend.jpg 

I do have to reshape the hard part of the brake line by hand to make sure it clears the stabilizer bar end link, though.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_22_springs_in.jpg 

This is moving along fast. It's already time to install the rear springs.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_23_springs_seat.jpg 

The lower end of the spring drops easily onto its seat.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_24_spring_tool.jpg 

Mopar's kit comes with the special tool that helps get a retaining nut up in behind the spring seat...

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_25_retainer_low.jpg 

...so I can install this spring retainer.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_26_retainer_high.jpg 

This spring retainer holds the spring in place at the top, and the bolt goes into an existing hole. That's right; I still haven't cut or drilled anything at the rear axle.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_27_nutsert.jpg 

Here's another of those Nutserts we saw during the front suspension installation. This one goes into another existing hole in the frame for the rear limiting strap.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_27.5_drill_bits.jpg 

You can bet what's coming next.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_28_strap_drill.jpg 

That's right, the rear limit strap needs a hole to connect to, so I've got to make one. Two, actually, because I'm doing all of this on the other side, too. But you knew that.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_29_strap_tighten_a.jpg 

Now I can tighten the lower limit strap bolt. Incidentally, the hole I drilled made it necessary to remove one of two clips (orange) holding the ABS wire in place.

On an unrelated note, all of the trailing arm bushing bolts, front and rear, get these rectangular positioning shims where they bolt to the axle. Mopar says these lock the links into just the right position so no wheel alignment is necessary after the kit is installed.

The only adjustment needed is a small change in the length of the drag link to re-center the steering wheel, and that's a cosmetic adjustment that can be eyeballed.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_30_shox.jpg 

Now it's time to install the Fox Racing Shox. There's a simple trick that makes it easy: compress the shock fully on the floor, then quickly swing it into the lower bracket and let the internal gas pressure "grow" the shock into the upper mount.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_31_pad_done.jpg 

One of the last steps in the process is the installation of a new rectangular landing pad for the rear bump stop. It bolts into existing holes.

This is probably my favorite picture of the bunch. Clockwise from the left we have: upper trailing link (with the lower one partially hidden below); limit strap; ABS signal wire; bump stop (with the spring partially hidden behind); track bar and in new bracket; Fox Racing Shock; rubber brake hose; stabilizer bar and link.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_32_rear_done.jpg 

Can it be? Are we done? Not quite. There are a few more things to take care of. But for those we must lift the Jeep high up on the lift and retire our trusty orange floor jacks.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_33_dshaft.jpg 

There's still the matter of reconnecting the driveshaft, and there's a small issue. A 3-inch suspension lift requires the driveshaft to hang down at a steeper angle. But here it's hitting the exhaust system.

This is only an issue with 2012 Wranglers like ours, the ones with the new Pentastar V6 engine. 2007-2011 JKs with the older engine don't have the same exhaust routing and there's no interference. The next couple of steps apply only to 2012 JK Wranglers (and later if you're reading this in the future.)

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_34_spacers.jpg 

These are exhaust spacers. It's hard to tell, but the one on the left is a little longer. These parts are fairly new, and their installation isn't described in the draft set of instructions I'm working from. So, after careful study of the parts and the vehicle, I'm making this up as I go along.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_35_y-pipe.jpg 

They bolt to the forward legs of the central y-pipe in order to push it back and allow the driveshaft to clear. But pushing the y-pipe back has knock-on effects farther downstream. Theoretically, the rear pipes and the muffler would also get pushed back the length of the spacers, and I figured that would put pressure on the exhaust hangers and move the pipe close to my new springs.

I decided a little adjustment is in order.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_36_nub.jpg 

For the pipe to go back this indexing nub has to come off.

Scott and I had this plan for a dramatic action shot, with me swinging a hammer while holding a chisel. While he went for another lens I made a gentle exploratory tap ... and it came right off. Oh well.

That blue tape contains a scratch mark for the next step.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_37_cut.jpg 

Yes, I'm cutting off a bit of the pipe. The dimension I chose corresponds to the length of the shorter of the two spacers -- the reason for that will become clear in a moment.

Mopar later told me this cut wasn't necessary, that removing the nub was enough on it's own and I could do that with the y-pipe still in the car. Removing the nub, they say, allows the y-pipe to telescope into the rear pipe a little bit, and the flex in the rubber hangars would make up the rest.

Maybe they're right. (Of course they're right.) But this way isn't wrong, it's just more time consuming. My exhaust hangars will hang exactly as they did before and the pipe slip-joint will engage exactly the same amount.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_38_long_spacer.jpg 

The long spacer goes on the passenger side, where the exhaust pipe runs at a downward angle. Because of this angle, only a portion of its length contributes to a shift to the rear. And the magnitude of that shift is exactly equal to...

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_38.5_short_spacer.jpg 

...the length of the short spacer, which goes on the driver side where the pipe points straight back. And that's why the length of my cut equaled the length of the short spacer.

Notice how the y-pipe's cross tube runs just ahead of the frame cross member. It's close, but there's still a good half inch of daylight.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_39_loc_tite.jpg 

Now the driveshaft can go back together. But first I need to put a dab of fresh thread locking compound on the bolts.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_40_dshaft.jpg 

This concludes the driveshaft detour part of our show.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_41_breather_extension.jpg 

Here I'm splicing in an additional section of breather hose I bought at my local auto parts store. Technically speaking I bought fuel line hose, but it's the same size. Mopar later told me it's also possible to unfasten the upper end of the hose from its factory mount and reposition it with tie-wraps, but my hands wouldn't fit up in there. 

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_42_bushing_tighten.jpg 

All of the trailing arm and track bar bushings get tightened and torqued once the Jeep is back down on its tires. I'll spend a lot of time crawling around underneath to get it done, but three extra inches of newfound lift make it fairly easy.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_rr_43_done.jpg 

OK, now we're done! I made the steering drag link adjustment to re-center the steering wheel while you weren't looking. (In my driveway after driving it home, if you must know.)

If you thought the rear installation looked easier than the front, you're right. Now that I've done it, this isn't ridiculously difficult with the right tools. Thing is, the "right tools" is no small list. And our Rotary Lift certainly helped. I'm sure it could be done without such a lift, but it wouldn't be easy.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing     

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Installing a Mopar Stage 3 Lift Kit With Fox Racing Shox, Front

March 18, 2012

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_oa_lead.jpg 

Parts and tools strewn everywhere. At one point -- check that, at pretty much every point -- this was the scene as I stripped the factory suspension from our 2012 Jeep Wrangler and systematically replaced it with a Mopar Stage 3 Lift Kit with Fox Racing Shox.

This new kit was introduced at last October's SEMA show. It comes in two flavors that you can order from your local dealer.

Part Number P5156141 is for the 2-door JK Wrangler and P5156140 fits the 4-door. Each one costs $2,400, not including installation. Whether you intend to do it yourself or pay someone else depends on how you feel about the following images.

But the following photos are worth looking at even if you don't have a Jeep or are not considering a lift kit. It's the ultimate Jeep Wrangler suspension teardown walkaround.    

Mopar figures the job will take six hours for a seasoned dealer mechanic with a complete set of tools. For us the job spread over parts of three days as trusty photographer Scott Jacobs and I made frequent runs for certain tools and automotive ointments like RTV and Loc-Tite that our new shop has not yet accumulated. Also burritos.

Everything is harder the first time you do it, and installing a 3-inch lift kit is no exception. So I read the instructions early and often and spent long periods playing with the new parts while staring blankly at the old ones. Imagine that scene in Top Gun where Cruise is dog fighting with a toy airplane in the classroom then remove the A-list celeb, the model jet and the cleanliness. 

This Stage 3 kit is just now making the transition from dealer-only sales to public catalog sales, so the accompanying instruction sheet I had was still in the revision stage. There's a companion DVD video walkthrough too, that makes it look oh so easy.

For the most part, it is -- if you have the right tools and experience. That said, on the DIY difficulty scale this is no mere oil change or brake pad swap; it's a 7.5 or 8 level job.

The dealer flyer for the kit says "no welding" and that's certainly true, but my first read-through of the instructions revealed a certain amount of drilling and cutting. Yee-haw.

What follows is not meant to be a step-by-step substitute for the instructions, but you will get a glimpse of all the major steps.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_1_jackstands.jpg  

In order to do this you must first support the entire Jeep and then cradle the axle you're working on with separate stands. All told that's six points of support.

Depending on what you have, it can be a stand-up job (lift and tall 6-foot adjustable axle stands), a sit-down job (lift and 30-inch jack stands) tall or a bit of a crawl (tall jack stands for the frame and near-ground supports like wood blocks for the axle.)

I'm going with option two. Our Rotary lift easily supports the Jeep at any elevation, and these 30-inch (maximum) 12-ton stands from Harbor Freight hold the axle at a working height that suits me.

The 2-post Rotary lift really helps here because I can raise the Jeep and leave the axle on the stands when it's finally time to remove the springs.

Now that the tires are off and everything is properly supported the real work can begin. And yes, I'm starting up front.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_2_arm_bolts.jpg 

The first order of business is to loosen, but not remove, all of the bolts associated with all five links that hold the axle in place. There are two upper trailing links, two lower trailing links and a track bar (a.k.a. Panhard rod). Each has a bolt on each end, so that makes ten in all.

But I'm only loosening eight of them because the rear bolts on the upper links are too hard to get at. This decision won't cause trouble later on. Also, I'm staying away from all the steering components: the tie rods and drag link bolts can and should remain tight.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_3_stabilizer.jpg 

The front stabilizer bar links are next to go. These get removed and tossed in the scrap pile because the kit includes new ones that are about three inches longer. But I'll save and reuse the nuts and bolts later.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_5_shocks.jpg 

Now it is time to remove the shock absorbers. The lower bolts are destined to be re-used but the upper ones can go in the trash can along with the shocks.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_4_driveshaft.jpg 

Next up is the front driveshaft. I've removed four bolts and suspended it with a daisy chain of tie-wraps. I can always zip them up tighter if I need to hike it further up out of the way later on.

Incidentally, I like to mark the driveshaft and flange before I separate them so they go back together indexed to the same holes. It's probably overkill in this case, but it's not a bad habit.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_6_hose_before_a.jpg 

Here it is, the first swearworthy step of the entire process. I struggled for some time with a tool that wasn't quite right before I gave up and headed out to locate and buy a better one.

The little silver bracket I'm looking at has to go. The thin ABS sensor wire is easy; that'll clip free from it's tie-wrap moorings in two seconds. But the rubber brake hose itself is another matter because it is completely enveloped by the silver-anodized steel bracket.

Employing a technique I learned by watching LOST, I'm going to skip around in time to make better sense of things. Do not concern yourself with the magical reappearance of the shock I removed two steps ago.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_8_hose_after.jpg 

This is what the end game looks like. To get here I need to unbend some fairly thick steel in order to squeeze the hose through the gap. But there's precious little edge to grab onto, especially since I must prevent the sharp end from digging into the hose. Worse yet, that small bolt was never intended to hold the bracket in place while someone attempts to bend raw steel.

My pry bar kept slipping off; nothing built for demo work with a nail removal slot will do. I needed something more solid with with a more distinct and unbroken edge. I found just the tool at my local Sears, a Craftsman Locking Flex Pry Bar with 11 head-angle positions. But I got cheap and bought the small 8-inch one; I should have spent 10 bucks more and bought the 16-inch version.

Note: I was tempted to use my cutoff wheel to score the back side of the area to thin the metal I was trying to bend, but I was concerned about cutting through and nicking the hose. That would be bad.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_7_hose_during.jpg    

My floor jack's hollow handle works well enough as a cheater to make up for the leverage I lost by buying the smaller version of the tool. Still, the steel is stubborn and the lip is small. The process involves numerous incremental "bites" all along the edge to gradually open the gap.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_9_spring_out_a.jpg 

The brake hose and ABS wire (black) are now free from the bracket, which extends their effective length for the three-inch lift to come. This also allows them to grow long enough as I raise the Jeep in relation to the axle to get the springs out. 

But first I have to temporarily disconnect the front diff breather hose so it doesn't get taut during the process.

With the Jeep finally raised a few inches the spring can be lifted up off its axle seat, shifted to one side and pulled out from below. The rubber spring isolator that had been atop the spring needs to be pulled down and removed, too.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_10_undid_axle.jpg 

Burrito break!

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_11_nutsert.jpg 

Now we install the new limit strap. This is a Nutsert, a sort of slow-motion extra-large pop rivet that uses the tightening-action of a bolt to crush and expand the barrel inside a properly sized hole, leaving an embedded nut behind. In this case it goes in an existing hole in the frame rail.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_12_nutsert_crushing.jpg 

It takes quite a few turns to slog through the crushing process, and a torque wrench is needed when things start to firm up in order to make sure it's tight enough to be fully seated but not so tight that it strips out.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_13_nutsert_in.jpg 

Finito! The Nutsert has landed. Now I can hang the limit straps.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_14_strap_hanging_a.jpg 

The straps are in place, but they won't be attached to anything until much later. Meanwhile, the yellow arrow is pointing out the breather hose I unfastened a couple of steps ago.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_15_drill_lower_closer.jpg 

The time has come to break out the power tools. I'm punching a hole in the side of the lower spring perch that will eventually be used to attach the lower end of the limit strap. I won't install the bolt until later, but with all of the parts removed the time to drill is now.

This drilling job -- and many others to come -- requires a heavy-duty center punch, preferably a spring-loaded one, to make sure the drill starts in the right place and doesn't walk. In large part that's because it's crowded down here and I'm not able to square the bit up with the flange. That's doubly true on the driver side version of this hole.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_16_measuring.jpg 

Our Mopar Pre-Runner kit includes Teraflex SpeedBump bump stops, so the original urethane ones and some of the structure that supports them must be cut off.

Here I'm using a steel rule and spring-loaded center punch to mark out a cut line some 3.5 inches below the upper surface of the spring pocket. Once I get a decent line of dots I'll connect them with blue painter's masking tape to mark a clear cut line.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_17_cutting.jpg 

Are you sure about this? Very sure. Measure four or five times, cut once. I've chosen to use an air-powered cutoff wheel. The noises it makes are cool. So are the sparks. And I can accurately follow my tape line and make a controlled cut.

But the round cutting disc can't get to the back 20 percent of the tube because the frame is too close. To finish the cut I'm forced to break out the efficient but less accurate...

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_18_cutting_alt_sawsall.jpg  

...Sawzall. The cut it makes wanders a bit, but the reciprocating blade chews through the last remaining bits of steel in short order.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_19_cutting_done.jpg 

With the internal baffle cut away, the remaining hollow tube is almost ready for the SpeedBump to slip into place.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_20_hat_demo.jpg

This hat-shaped reinforcement slips over the remaining section of tube to double the thickness. This, after all, is where the new bump stops will transfer their impact energy into the frame. The flat edge goes up against the frame and, yes, I pinched this particular image from the Mopar installation DVD.   

.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_21_hatclamp.jpg 

With the reinforcing tube clamped in position I can use my transfer punch to mark the center of the three holes I must drill. Deep punch marks make the next steps easier because the drill is less apt to walk off-target.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_22_hatdrill.jpg  

A stepped drill bit works quite well here. The hat can be bolted into place for good once the drilling is complete and the holes are de-burred.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_23_hatfile.jpg 

The fractionally longer inner tube, the one I cut to length earlier, must be filed or ground down to match the length of the added hat. This is why an accurate initial cut can save time.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_24_rtv.jpg

A thin coating of RTV helps keeps moisture from getting inside the tube. It also prevents the bump stops from making rattling noises. Yeah, this is a borrowed DVD frame, too. I used blue RTV. 

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_26_bumpstopin_push.jpg 

It is finally time to push the bump stop firmly into position until it seats. About an inch of it will protrude out the top. 

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_27_bumpstopin_seat_too.jpg 

And that's where I install the retaining clamp (orange) to keep the bump stop in the desired position. The SpeedBump installation is complete once the original rubber spring isolator is put back where it came from.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_28_fox_shox_alt.jpg  

Now I can hang the Fox Racing Shox using the new hardware that came with them.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_29_plate_drill.jpg  

Two small holes need to be drilled in the frame itself. They'll hold the bracket that holds the remote reservoir in place. Keep telling yourself that Jeep said it was OK!

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_30_plate_clamp.jpg 

Two simple hose clamps hold the remote reservoir to the new bracket.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_31_spring_clamp_drill.jpg 

What's this? Another new hole? Yep. This one will eventually accommodate a spring retainer clip.

Meanwhile, it's important to make sure the brake hose (orange) runs between the spring and the shock.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_32_new_trailing_arm.jpg 

The spring clip (yellow) is staged and ready for the spring, but first I need to replace the lower trailing links with the new longer ones from the kit. Their extra length compensates for the 3-inch lift to keep the front suspension's caster angle the same as it was when I started.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_33_spring.jpg   

Almost there! This is starting to look like something.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_34_spring_clip.jpg  

Now I can position the spring clip over the lowermost coil and torque it down.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_35_tighten_strap.jpg 

It's finally time to connect the lower end of the limit strap. Once that's done I'll tie-wrap the brake hose to the convenient slot in its gold-colored fitting to keep it from running afoul of the shock or the coil spring.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_36_install_stablink.jpg 

New front stabilizer bar links go on next.

2012_Jeep_Wrangler_sus_change_fr_step_37_front_finish.jpg 

Can it be? Yes, the front is done -- for the moment. I won't torque the control arms until the rear is finished and I can finally put the Jeep back on the ground. Why? Suspension bushings need to be in their neutral curb-weight state when they're tightened so they're not pre-loaded.

Time for a five minute break before I start working on the rear axle.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: One Headlight

March 13, 2012

2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_IPF_headlight.jpg 

No, I'm not referencing the 1998 Grammy Award-winning hit by the Wallflowers, which, by the way, I have just ingeniously implanted into your brain for the day because you can't remember how it ends. It may even lodge itself there for a week.

Instead I'm talking about the new headlights I'm attempting to install in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler.

ARB, manufacturer and distributor of a whole range of kick-ass off-road accessories, sells a nifty H4 conversion kit for the Wrangler. The kit includes a pair of new IPF reflectors to better aim the light, a pair of pigtails that allows the standard 55/60w H4 bulb they take to connect to the Jeep's factory headlight connectors, and a couple of decent H4 bulbs. 4Wheel Parts sells the ARB/IPF H4 kit for $176.99.

Thing is, I had my eye on some highly recommended and well-reviewed 55/60w X-treme Power H4 bulbs from Philips, but those aren't what comes with the kit. So I bought the bulbs on Amazon for $28.79 (P/N 9003-XP S2, marked down from $66) and ordered the ARB reflector and pigtail from 4Wheel Parts (P/N ARB-920HJK.)

And that's where I outsmarted myself. The all-inclusive conversion kit comes with pairs of everything. My Amazon-sourced bulbs came in a two-pack. But when you buy the ARB/IPF headlights separate from the conversion kit you get headlight, as in one. At just $44.99, I should have recognized this as an "each" price well before I failed to notice the fine print which, now that I look back on it, wasn't all that fine.

This makes perfect sense for those who just lost an IPF headlight to a stone and want to replace just one. I wasn't paying attention. That's what I get for using my dinky iPhone screen to make a purchase.

On the other hand, "One Headlight" didn't earn the Wallflowers just one Grammy. They received two: One for best Best Rock Song, and another for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

So now I'm stuck waiting for the UPS-man to deliver the second headlight. I'll still be ahead when the dust settles because I'll have paid just $118.77 for what amounts to the same conversion kit with H4 bulbs of my own choosing that are, by most accounts, better in terms of the number of lumens they throw out there at the same power draw.

We'll see.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 10,705 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Manual or Auto?

March 13, 2012

 Jeep Wrangler 5AT.jpg

My off-roading knowledge is limited to:

  1. When you go uphill, go straight up, never diagonally
  2. Watching the Dakar Rally (if I can find it on cable)

Having said that, last night, when I rolled in a short term 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon that Dan is going to test, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was fitted with a 5-speed auto transmission.

While others here love our long-term Wrangler's 6-speed MT, I don't. It's got long throws and has vague engagement of most of the gears. It's a chore in traffic. Now I'm the guy that wished for the 6MT in our Mazda 3, and prefer manual transmissions in small cars, sporty cars, and in general.

But not in SUVs, pickup trucks, or Jeeps. Isn't an AT better for off-roading anyway?  I would think an AT would have less chance to burn up the clutch and be better for crawling.

Not necessarily, I found out...

 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4 door.jpg

I spoke with JKav, and he informed me that our long-term 6MT Wrangler Sport is equipped with Hill Start Assist and Speed Control, both standard. When climbing or descending, you just remove your foot from the brake, let out the clutch, and only steer as the Jeep takes over for you. No worries about rolling back or burning up the clutch. I knew these features existed on high-end SUVs with ATs, but was surprised they were standard on our inexpensive Wrangler.

I suppose the MT gives you better control of the Jeep for the hard-core guys, but the AT would make the Jeep more liveable in daily use.

OK you Jeep guys -- what do you prefer: Manual or Auto?

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ ~10,700 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Seeing Red

March 09, 2012

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Tonight my wife and I discovered a quirky downside to the lift kit (+3 inches) and tall 33-inch tires (+2 inches) I've installed on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. The undercarriage is now too far off the ground to trip the inductive coils that control the lights of at least one nearby intersection.

We sat there with no other cars behind us waiting in vain for our green light while cross traffic, opposing traffic and left turn cross traffic alternated amongst themselves for at least three full cycles. I was about to give up and tiptoe through -- with an excuse pre-loaded in case I was observed by the law and pulled over -- but then a second car rolled up behind me. I decided to continue waiting to see if that made any difference.

It did. Immediately. We got our green and were on our way on the very next go-around.

About 45 minutes later I came back to the same intersection -- with a camera this time -- and the exact same thing happened. I tried rocking forward and back a bit in an attempt to get my relatively low-hanging differentials directly over to the underground inductive coils, but once again I was stuck until a second car finally came up behind and tripped the signal for me.

Traffic being what it is around here, this shouldn't happen often. And I'm sure there's a trick to it that I haven't yet learned.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 10,610 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Soiled My Pants

March 09, 2012

wrangler_sill_1600.jpg

I discovered a downside to the raised ride height of our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. She's just tall enough that the backs of my legs drag across this filthy door sill when climbing in and out. Ordinarily I wouldn't care. But I just did laundry.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Dragon in the Desert

March 08, 2012

2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_truckhaven_serpent_head.jpg 

Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport ran across something odd in the desert on the way home from Truckhaven. It seems the heir to the Avery label fortune (or perhaps the original creator of it -- I don't know) has decided it would be a good idea to buy a bunch of undeveloped land in Borrego Springs, Ca. and sprinkle huge steel sculptures all around. Said private land is open to a certain amount of public use, so in theory I could camp right here.

Most of them are animals of the prehistoric variety that used to roam this part of the world, and they could be described as "actual size" if not for the pure mythicality of this Chinese dragon/serpent. It loops in an out of the ground like some giant for at least 250 feet and terminates on the other side of a paved road.

2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_truckhaven_serpent_body.jpg 

There are maybe 40 or 50 such sculptures scattered widely around the outskirts of the city, and Mr. Avery keeps adding more. Their number has doubled or tripled since we came across this one in our 2009 Dodge Ram pickup.

But not all of them are prehistoric animals in a bad mood. With the curious exception of our dragon, the subject matter has recently morphed into the history of Borrego Springs, be it animal, dinosaur or...

2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_truckhaven_jeep_sculpture.jpg 

Jeep.

Kinda neat. It's definitely worthy of a side trip if you find yourself near this part of the world. 

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 10,333 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Truckhaven Drive-By

March 07, 2012

2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_truckhaven_overlook_r34.jpg 

I hadn't registered our 2012 Jeep Wrangler for the 50th annual Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari because I originally had somewhere else to be that weekend.

And we weren't quite ready anyway: no lockers, no rock rails, no winch, no axle gears worthy of a steep climb. I didn't want to muck up the place and perhaps clog up a trail run with a noobish lack of preparation. After all, over 1,500 Jeeps were expected, and almost all of them would be BUILT and/or battered from regular off-road use.

But then my plans got cancelled and I ended up with a one-day window of opportunity to at least head down to the Truckhaven Hills for a few hours to check it out.

2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_truckhaven_jeep_lineup.jpg 

There were Jeeps as far as the eye could see. Hundreds and hundreds of them were strewn about the desert, clumped around a like number of motorhomes and campsites or zipping this way and that. The event spawned a temporary city that no doubt dwarfed the population of nearby Borrego Springs. My weak-sauce picture can't possibly to it justice.

And though the following clips aren't specifically from this past weekennd, they do represent the sort of stuff that goes on at TDS.

Watch this one all the way to the end.

This is just plain weird.

Last thanksgiving this "bronco" was the first vehicle to make the climb up the tube obstacle. There's a longer version of this on the interwebs that shows him gradually building up the courage to try it, but the person holding the camera in that one can't seem to shut up and let the V8 do the talking. 

What goes up must come down.

Truckhaven is only 2 hours from my house, so you can bet I'll be bringing the Jeep back down here when I have a full weekend to camp out and do it properly. I also need to make sure I bring along a buddy/spotter so I can produce photographic evidence of the Jeep's antics. I don't think any of the above obstacles are in the cards, though. 

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 10,205 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Ten Thousand Miles and Counting

March 06, 2012

Milestone_02.jpg2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_milestone_10k.jpg

Crummy picture notwithstanding, our 2012 Jeep Wrangler quietly passed the 10,000-mile mark late last week. It happened on a nondescript residential street with nothing humourous or notable in the background.

It's running just great, but later that same day I did order up new headlight refelectors and bulbs in order to remedy our Wrangler's worst shortcoming. Expect to see more on that later this week once the parts arrive.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 10,000 miles  

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: I'd Get the USB

February 29, 2012

 Jeep CD.jpg

"Rex, I need to ask you a question I haven't asked anyone since 2003. Do you have a blank CD?"  I was operating under the assumption here that my computer had a CD burner and that I had any idea how to use it, but still, I was going to make this Jeep thing work.

I don't drive without music. I'll keep it off during evaluations and hard drives, but to me, music and cars are intertwined. Rex didn't have one, but our IT guys did.

It worked well, but was inconvenient and slow. I can put up with CDs on something like our 911 or the NSX, but not the Jeep. The Connectivity Package is $460 and includes a USB as well as Bluetooth. The CD thing worked, but being limited to one album without having to change discs is something I'd honestly forgotten about. (Yes, yes, first world problems.) $400 is not a friction point on something that I will own for more than a year.

So it's a bit of change in my habits to have to plan ahead for what I want to listen to. But when this tune popped up as I was cruising PCH that first night with the top down, I had one of those "This is why I love Jeeps" moments. Everything was going exceptionally well, I felt extremely cool and all was forgiven.

Until the album was over and I had to listen to it again that is.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor,

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Sleepy Time

February 28, 2012

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You might remember my mini adventure from a few weeks back. It involvolved driving up a rocky wash, getting stuck (sort of, on this silly hill), getting unstuck, pulling out a Ford Bronco and visiting a waterfall with a three-year-old.

That's a lot of activity for a three-year-old. And don't ever let anyone tell you a Wrangler -- even a Wrangler with big, dumb tires and a soft top --is too loud inside for a toddler to fall asleep.

 IMG_1367.JPG

Because that's exactly what happened on the way home. 

Yes, there's an entire orchestra of racket inside the Wrangler at 60 mph -- tire noise, top noise, wind noise -- but I'd guess it's still better than Wranglers from ten years ago. And she certainly didn't care. After all, she had her zebra.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Looks Good In The Driveway

February 27, 2012

 IMG_1378.JPG

Sometimes, I'm a simpleton.

By this I mean it doesn't take much to make me happy. Two weekends ago it was as simple as looking at the decidedly badass Wrangler with a little mud on its rockers sitting in my driveway.

Of course, there are other cars in our fleet -- now and in the past -- that have served well in this regard.

You might recall a similar experience I had with our old Ferrari 308 in 2008. That car was a truly beautiful piece crap that I loved to look at but hated to drive. Come to think of it, there's another beautiful piece of crap in our fleet right now. The 911, however, I really, really want to love. The Ferrari was beautiful, but nobody was ever going to love driving it.

The Wrangler, though, I love for different reasons. It's not exactly beautiful in a traditional sense, but there's an undeniable purpose to its look that I can't help but be attracted to. Functionalty is something that sells itself to me. Doesn't really matter if it's a miserablly ugly turd. If it's a wildly functional yet miserably ugly turd, there's a good chance I'll like it.

Make it a big black wildly functional Jeep Wrangler with some dirt on the sides and I'm in.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: LAPD Just Don't Understand

February 27, 2012

 wrangler ticket 3.jpg

Sunday morning I walked out to our long term Jeep Wrangler to see a bright green ticket on the window.

This was odd for two reasons: 1) I was parked in secure, private, underground parking. (I drove out to get a better picture.) 2) Parking tickets aren't usually green...

 wrangler ticket 2.jpg

Seriously?  It's a Jeep. That top will only stop the laziest thieves. The same casual pickers that would be thwarted by a locked door. I guess the LAPD didn't read my first Jeep post.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, @ 9,700 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: No Use for the Green Zone

February 24, 2012

jeep-wrangler-tach.jpg

Tachometers have had red zones forever, but our Wrangler also has a green zone. As you can see, the green zone is nestled on the other side of the spectrum from the red zone. Looks to be from around 1,000 rpm up to 2,500 rpm.

It's a nice gesture and all I guess, but in all practical terms it's utterly useless.

For one, 1,000-2,500 rpm isn't exactly this engine's -- or any engine's -- sweet spot, so good luck trying to keep in the green zone. Second, do we really need a green zone to tell us that we'll get better mileage by running the engine at just over idle? I would hope not.

Ed Hellwig, Editor,

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: The Rear Window

February 23, 2012

 IMG_1407.JPG

Turns out, like most things in life, there's a right and wrong way to arrive at a rolled up Wrangler window. Some of you -- those who own or have lived with one of these things -- already know the routine. For me, it's new. 

 Jeep-top-arrow.jpg

This photo is taken several steps into the process after unclipping the window flaps from the body and rolling the tailgate bar, which is attached to the bottom of the window, out of its fasteners (stupid-huge red arrow). There are two pulls on the single zipper which runs around the entire rear window. When zipped, one pull is at each end near the tailgate. Unzip each pull until it's slighty into the horizontal plane and stop. From there it's easy enough to slip the elastic straps inside the roof around each end of the rolled top. It hangs down about 8 inches when all is said and done.

 IMG_1413.JPG

Also, there's this. When raising or lowering the window, it's vitally important to unzip the side zippers before attempting to fasten or unfasten the tailgate bar. Look carefully at the silver engagement tab on the window side (right side) of the zipper. It's clearly been gnarfshweckled by someone who didn't take the time to be certain it was aligned evenly with the tab on the  other side. If it's misaligned, the zipper will often still engage, but it will be nearly impossible to unzip all the way should you need to. Now gnarfchweckling is something that happens easily with the zipper on a Wrangler top, so I'll cut whoever did this a break. 

There are, I'm certain, variations on this technique. And those who are familiar should share them.

The point, of course, is that you needn't ever remove the rear window. Leave it in to drop the top. It's quicker. And you're less likely to become a gnarfschweckler.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: RTI Ramp Trips #4 and #5 (Mopar Stage III Suspension With Stab On, Stab Off)

February 23, 2012

2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_RTI_5_lift_staboff_r34_lr_space.jpg 

With the addition of the Mopar Pre-Runner Stage III Suspension System, a 3-inch lift kit, our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport is fast approaching the limit of our 20-degree RTI ramp. But not quite yet.

The smidge of daylight under the left-rear in the above pose indicates this shot was taken just before I backed it down the ramp slightly to find the official measurement point where the BFG rubber barely kisses the concrete.

This time I made the measurement two ways: once with the front stabilizer bar connected and once with it disconnected.

The results were surprising.

2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_RTI_5_lift_staboff_f34_top.jpg 

You'd think that three inches of lift and remote reservoir shocks would add up to a healthy bump in measured suspension articulation. With the front stabilizer bar disconnected, at least, you'd be right.

So configured, our lifted Wrangler produced 29-5/8" of left-front wheel lift, a number that corresponds 86-5/8" of progress up our 20-degree ramp. That works out to 908 RTI points when compared to our 2-door Jeep's 95.4-inch wheelbase.

The same measurement was 820 before I installed the Mopar Stage III kit.

But a funny thing happened when I measured RTI with the front stabilizer bar connected: It was worse. And by that I mean worse than the stock un-lifted suspension with the front stabilizer bar in the same state.

With the bar in full effect, the Stage III kit hiked the front wheel 18-3/32" and generated an RTI of 564. The stock suspension allowed 20-7/16" of lift and 626 RTI points.

How can this be?

Turns out, the Mopar Stage III kit employs springs that are not only taller -- they're also stiffer by about 25 percent. Articulation is limited by roll stiffness, and roll stiffness is generated by the stabilizer bars and the springs. For a given stabilizer bar size, stiffer springs produce more overall roll stiffness. And so the stiffer stage III springs restrict RTI somewhat when the stabilizer bar is connected.

But the stabilizer bar still represents the lion's share of the roll stiffness, and when it is disconnected the stiffer springs don't produce enough to limit articulation on their own.

And so we see pictures like this...

2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_RTI_5_lift_staboff_front_squish.jpg 

The front spring is impressively compressed, but there's still a fair amount of daylight. 

2012_Wrangler_1600_Jeep_RTI_5_lift_staboff_rear_under.jpg 

We may yet be able to squeeze more RTI out of this suspension. After all, we have not yet disconnected the rear stabilizer bar, and we have not yet played around with tire pressures on the RTI ramp. We may yet get to 1000 -- or beyond.

But we will probably have to institute our Plan B for the RTI ramp before we cross that threshold.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ I forgot to check miles  

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Mini Adventure

February 21, 2012

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On Sunday afternoon I loaded up the kid and headed for the nearest off-road play land. Not that I'm any good at off roading, but its appeal does seem to be rather univeral. The plan was to drive up the wash for about five miles and then unload, hike a few more miles and check out a waterfall which only runs (trickles, if I'm honest) in the winter. It's been a dry one in SoCal this year, but with snow in the highest reaches of our local mountains last week, I was hopeful.

Turns out, the Wrangler is refreshingly fun in its element.

Jeep-and-bronco-1.jpg

About half way up the wash we stumbled into this Bronco. This guy's combination of genius level driving and heavy footedness youthful indiscretion and enthusiasm landed him up to his axles in rocks. Physics, it turns out, apply to Fords as well. One quick snatch in four low and the Bronco was free. He was thankful and we had fun.

 IMG_1358.JPG

And then this happened. Doesn't look like much, but it stopped the Jeep on our first three attempts. That, of course, was before we unleashed our inner Tim Cameron and decided more throttle was the solution. Now, in fairness, this photo doesn't fully illustrate the hill's looseness or its frame-twisting nature which would simultanteously lift opposite front and rear wheels causing the Jeep to spin its tires and lose grip. Next stop: locking differentials. Or, at the very least, a disconnected front stabilizer bar. Spending the five minutes to make that tweak would likely have kept the tires on the ground.

After the hike we saw this:

 IMG_1350.JPG

It wasn't much. But it was enough to produce this:

  IMG_1339.JPG

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Good Small-Item Storage

February 20, 2012

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I discovered yesterday during my adventure (more on that later) that our Wrangler has many places to put the things that accompany an adventure. You know, cameras, gloves, phones, drinks...the list goes on. These elastic door nets -- one one each door -- are useful for relatively flat items.

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Also, there's this cubby on top of the dash.

 IMG_1373.JPG

This one in the dash which is big enough to hold an iPhone.

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These two next to the cup holders.

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And another net in front of the shifter.

That's a lot of small-item storing goodness.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: The Top

February 17, 2012

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Here's the deal: I've never owned or driven a Jeep Wrangler and never -- before today -- dealt with a Wrangler soft top. But this weekend I intend to drive this thing around with no top. So, today is the day I learned how to do it. Despite what you might have read or how you feel, it is a learning experience.

I even got the bright idea to time myself on the top's reassembly. After all, anyone can take things apart. So, being a mission-focused male, I paid little attention to how it came apart. One quick glance at the soft-top guide in the glove box and I arrived here in a few minutes.

Care to guess how long it took to put it back together? 

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After about 20 minutes of futzing with the rear gate/window interface -- what I thought should be the first step in reassembly -- I called resident logic specialist, Dan Edmunds. Mind you, I did have Jeep's very own soft top instructions in front of me. These instructions advise (logically, I should add) reassembling the top in the reverse order used to take it down. So that's what I was doing.

Dan, however, pointed out some tricks which at first seemed counterintutive but ended up paying big dividends. Step one, he said, was to fasten the top to the windshield header. Now that's the last step if one follows the lowering instructions in reverse order, but it worked. This, I suspect, is because the it's about 75 degrees today and the top material is quite flexible. Dan also mentioned that our resident jammer, who shall remain nameless, shweckled the rear window zipper some days ago and that it was in need of love. He advised silicon spray lube. So I obliged. The tiniest squirt when the zipper began to slow made things smooth again:

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The only other sticking point were these plastic brackets which locate tailgate bar against the body. It's not obvious at first which way they go, but they'll only work one way, so trial and error solved that problem fairly quickly:

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Here the tailgate bar isn't fully seated. It pushes into the mouth of the bracket easily enough.

In total, after my phone call with Dan, I spent six minutes and 28 seconds reassembling the top. And there's ample room for improvement. 

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: The Downside of Whitewalls Out

February 17, 2012

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Take a look at the tire on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. We decided to go whitewalls out, which looks cool paired with the black paint job. But it is harded to hide when you curb the tire. The good news, it scrubbed clean with a little effort.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: It Soiled My Shirt

February 16, 2012

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler was clean before I drove it last night. Sporadic downpours during the day pooled into numerous opportunities to get the Jeep dirty again. And with the BFGs and Mopar Pre-Runner suspension installed, she sends up some kind of rooster tail...

Even slow speed driving generated a tall enough spray to soak the elbow I had perched on the window sill. The Jeep soiled my new shirt, which actually made me smile. It reminded me of the days when I owned a Wrangler. No matter my intention, I was prepared to get dirty at all times. There is something inherent in these cars that attracts filth. Its kind of awesome.

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I drove through this puddle of red arrows to portray just how high the spray travels. The water spots would be mud if I did my job better. Next time.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 9,233 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: How I See Off Roading

February 14, 2012

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This is how our Jeep Wrangler really looks.

But this is how I see it:

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There's no good reason for this. Partially, though, it's that ever since Magrath discovered Tim Cameron's big-block-powered rolling ego last month, I've had a serious off-road jones. "Showtime" as it's known, is a one part rock crawler, one part Saturn V rocket and three parts unmitigated chaos. And I love every chaw-fueled inch of the thing. It goes about its backwoods business with all the subtlety of a sand-and-tobasco enema.

Yee. Haw. 

So what's all this have to do with our Jeep? Not a lot, really. On some level, though, both these things are made for crawling rocks. Now, if you haven't already witnessed the unbridled ass-kickitude Showtime is cabable of unleashing on Mother Nature then you need to first click the above link. Then you can decide for yourself where Cameron ranks on the Sierra Club's hit list. But if you want to see him use more brains than horsepower (Who cares, really?) to climb the unclimbable, just click below.

And be amazed.

Hey Wrangler...you and me. We got a date.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Should We Get a Hemi?

February 14, 2012

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This rolled into the swank Mr. C Hotel parking lot yesterday while I was awaiting a Fisker event to start. I was told it was Philadelphia Eagle DeSean Jackson's, and given the brief glimpse I got of the driver, I'd buy that.

As you can see, it's a Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon that's been modified. Check out the badge pictured after the jump, however. That thing got a Hemi?

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In this world of morons putting AMG badges on their C240's, you'd be inclined to say it's just a stick-on. However, this thing had a warble to it completely not in keeping with either the current or old V6s. We couldn't exactly look inside, but looking around, there was definitely something different going on.

So I'm going to give Mr. Jackson credit and say that yep, it's got a Hemi. And it is possible.

I know the Pentastar is new-and-improved and all, but should we do it too?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Mopar Pre-Runner Shake Down

February 13, 2012

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Our Jeep has a brand new stance, and I like it. As you can see, I finished installing the Mopar Pre-Runner Suspension on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler last week. You can just make out a Fox shock and its remote reservoir in the front wheel well as our JK poses atop Modjeska Peak.

I made a quick run up Saddleback, the local OC name given to the twin peaks of Santiago and Modjeska, in order to shake things up a bit. To make sure everything is tight and as it should be before I put the Wrangler back in general circulation.

It passed with flying colors, but I'm still going to put it back on our Rotary lift and go over everything once more with a torque wrench.

A full description of the installation process will be coming in the next few days, and a selection of opinions about the performance change brought about by this kit will no doubt trickle in over the next few months.

Here's my quick take:

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It's firmer around town, but then it would be with stiffer springs and more damping force in the shocks. In many situations that's preferable to the way it was before when the stock suspension had its hands full with the 90-pound unsprung mass of these large wheels tires. That's no longer a concern as the big Mud Terrains now stay firmly planted all the time. Despite the 3-inch lift and the higher CG that results, the Jeep corners quite securely, even when mid-corner bumps rear their ugly head.

But the key word is firm, and I think there's something to be gained from a slight tire pressure drop. We're still running factory pressures, but these humungous BFG's can no doubt match the load-carrying capacity of the skinny originals at a lower set point.

As expected, the ride is hardest on pavement cracks, concrete joints and other small imperfections, but control and impact absorbtion are dramatically better over larger stuff that gets the suspension really moving. I can now roll through nearby dips, ones I had to tiptoe through last week, without slowing much at all. Generous rear rebound damping has utterly eliminated the expected donkey kick.

The change is transformative on Saddleback's fire roads, where it soaks up washboard and big water bars with equal ease. I can bomb around without feeling like a random bump or hole will send the Jeep skittering sideways.

Approach and departure angles look to be dramatically improved by the three inches of lift, and we still have to measure the "after" RTI. And I can't wait to get it out in the open desert and hunt me up some whoops.

This is a real off-road kit, make no mistake. It's probably not the best choice for those who simply like the idea of driving a high-riding Jeep up PCH to Zuma Beach, but I'm sure we'll hear more on that score from others on the team.

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Incidentally, I saw 7 other Jeeps during my short Saddleback run, and all of them had two doors. Three were old CJs and four were JKs like ours.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 8,972 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Mopar Pre-Runner Lift Kit -- We Have One

February 08, 2012

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What you see before you will soon be bolted to the underbelly of our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport. It's Mopar's new 3-inch "JK Wrangler Pre-Runner Suspension System - Stage III Performance" and we're going to DIY the installation and document the process.

No welding is involved, but there is a wee bit of cutting and drilling. Maybe some swearing. It should be fun.

Mopar sells two versions: part number P5156141 for the 2-door and P5156140 for the 4-door. Each costs $2,400 and includes everything shown on this bench.

The flyer I have here before me figures it take 6 hours to install assuming you are a Jeep dealer mechanic in full possession of the required skill, tools and equipment. The implication for those not looking for a DIY challenge is you can buy this setup at a Jeep dealer and pay them to install it for a nominal fee that probably amounts to whatever they charge for 6 hours of labor.

We fully expect it to take longer as we photograph the process for what should be the ultimate suspension teardown walkaround.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Who Doesn't Like Jumping Jeeps? With Video

February 08, 2012

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Go ahead. Try to not watch the video. I dare you.

Slow build up, I know. But the payoff. Oh, the payoff.

Jump videos are like a homing beacon for hoons, of which I am the worst. Turns out, hours of fun can be had by typing "Jeep Jump" into YouTube. Hours, I say. 

Ok, so that one didn't work out so well. But here's one set to House Of Pain's Jump Around. And this guy sticks the landing.

Happy hooning.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Off-Road Tire Comparo With Photo and Video

February 07, 2012

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We thought we could dodge the rain, but we were wrong. The plan was to bring our 2012 Jeep Wrangler to the obstacle course at Hungry Valley with both sets of tires for a shoot out.

Our goal was to see how the performance of our Jeep would change over the same stretch of ground -- see if the extra RTI and ground clearance afforded by the big 33-inch BFG tires would be obvious to the naked or camera-aided eye. Scott Jacobs came along to take stills while John Adolph shot video.

But things began looking gloomy when we finally arrived, so we dialed back our plan to push the Jeep to its absolute limit and settled for a simpler back-to-back comparison we knew we could finish before we all got dumped on.

The big BFG Mud-Terrain KM2s went first, for no other reason than they were already on the Jeep when we arrived.

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I walked the Wrangler and its 33-inch BFGs through this ditch in low range, crossing at about 45 degrees. About 30 minutes later I followed my own tracks as precisely as possible with the OE Goodyear 29-inch rubber bolted on.

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The rain started as we were changing tires. Even though Scott is standing in a slightly different position, he caught the Jeep at the same moment. The lower RTI value of the stock setup shows itself here as a lot more rear wheel lift.

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The frame twist section is made up of alternating humps of dirt. The 33-inch tires have no trouble staying planted.

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Once again, slightly different camera angle, same spot. The smaller-diameter tires look like they're working harder because they are.

And now for some split-screen video.

In general, the Jeep moves around more on the small tires, there's more head toss inside the cabin. In part that's because the smaller diameter tires dip farther into holes and hollows. And don't forget the narrower track that results from skinnier tires and a substantial difference in wheel offset.

There's also less clearance, of course. This becomes easier to see in the following Go-Pro camera shots.

The skinny Goodyear OE rubber had a tough time with the rain. Aside from the wheelspin you can see, the Jeep felt pretty greasy behind the wheel.

At this point Scott and John (not to mention their cameras) were getting drenched, so we packed it in. And even though we weren't able to push the Jeep as far as we wanted, we were still able to grab some cool photos and video.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing.  

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Before and After

February 06, 2012

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I had a very enjoyable top down weekend in our Jeep. Between cruising L.A.'s beach towns with my kids and canine, I broke out the heat gun and the Goo Gone and rid our Wrangler of its unnecessary decoration.

The photo above illustrates the "before". The "after" is on the next page.

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Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Ruh-Roh

February 06, 2012

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Let's make one thing perfectly clear: This is not our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport. No one here at Edmunds has ever seen this Jeep before. We swear.

But alert reader Tracy (aka my wife) saw it whilst taking the kids to school this morning, mere blocks from my house.

The possibilities are endless. Before you go to the obvious place, consider these: perhaps this person competed in a cycling event and was later found to be doping, or maybe he (or she) was caught counting cards at the Pechanga Casino; it's also possible this person's Ford-Riley passed through tech after the 24-hours of Daytona and was found to be 75 pounds underweight.

Or maybe...

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: I Want Them

February 02, 2012

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is begging for new shocks, and a mild 2-inch lift kit has always been on our "to-do" list. There are many options out there that achieve both goals at once, but these remote reservoir Fox shocks sealed the deal.

Aren't they pretty...awesome?

They come as part of Mopar's new JK Wrangler Pre-Runner Suspension System, along with springs, new control arms to maintain proper alignment and driveshaft angles, new stabilizer links, limit straps and bump stops. And the front bump stops are TeraFlex Speedbump hydraulic units.

As the name implies, this so-called Stage-III kit isn't just for rock crawling; it's also meant to keep the tires planted in the comparitively high-speed wheeling environment found in Southern California's open deserts and fire roads -- something our Jeep sorely needs. If you want to draw parallels to the Ford Raptor, go right ahead. I'm not going to stop you.

Thing is, this is a 3-inch lift kit -- slightly more than I had in mind. But at least it's not 4-inches. That would have been too much.

As a former OE suspension development engineer myself, I like the idea of going with a kit the Jeep's Mopar division had a hand in. It's been tested and blessed by the folks that built our Wrangler in the first place. Few other such kits can say that.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing  

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Kids Like Jeeps

February 02, 2012

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Took our Wrangler to career day at the local elementary school. Not surprisingly, it was a hit.

I think much of its appeal rested on its lack of a roof, but the ability to climb inside by stepping on the rear tires surely boosted its appeal.

Plenty of kids said they would love to have one when they get their licenses. So much for kids not caring about cars anymore.

Ed Hellwig, Editor,

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Keeps the Stink Out

January 31, 2012

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Let's be honest, one of the best parts of camping is that first beer in front of the campfire. Come morning, there is usually an assortment of cans strewn about. If you're responsible you bide by the credo pack it in, pack it out.

As a result, one of the worst aftermaths of a good camping weekend is the trash. There is nothing worse than stale beer funk mixed with the smell spoiled food in the car. Thankfully during my last outing Sr. Multimedia Editor John Adolph loaned me his spare Trasharoo. I'll consider it my personal mod to our Jeep.

On the way up to our campsite it help two bundles of wood. On the way home it held the trash in a secure pouch, free from highway "dispersal." I realize that a lot of people will have ready access to a dumpster near where they car camp so the stink isn't as much of a concern. But when you do remote camping like we do and the nearest dumpster is an hour away, this is a great idea.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Badge of Honor

January 31, 2012

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The drive home Sunday night from a weekend camping adventure can be a long one. Most likely you're tired, dirty, and just want to sleep in you own bed.

To keep myself from falling asleep motivated, I usually listen to some good tunes, drink (regrettably) an energy drink and take in the scenery. More often than not the scenery involves checking out other cars on the road. You can make a game out if to see what they did that weekend by the type of vehicle is is and the condition it's in.

Fortunately the Jeep was available this past weekend. I took out the rear seat, packed in my gear along with my dog, then headed north to the desert. I met up with Sr. Multimedia Editor John Adolph in his Toyota Land Cruiser (which you've probably seen in other places on this site) in the city Mojave.

Our plan was to hike up to the top of the Five Finger Mountains. To make the most of our weekend, not only were we going to hike to the top of the Five Fingers, but we decided to roll in a trip to yonder valley. Best way of doing it with minimal fuss in our opinion was to parking a vehicle on each side.

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We drove out to the opposite side of the mountains to set up camp so that we'd only have to make one trip in the morning. To get to our finishing point, we had to drive over some easy cheese fire roads. Eventually we had to navigate over some nastier bits where 4WD and some clearance were a must. The deeply scored ruts we had to traverse were no problem for our Jeep. At our destination we found a nice alcove in the rocky hillside to set up camp.

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Come sunrise, we got ready to head out. Leaving John's Toyota behind at the end point, we took our long term Jeep around hill to the beginning of our hike. Streams, rocks, deeply scarred roads and steep hills along the way were not a problem for our Jeep. After a bit of searching, we found a suitable spot to start our cross country hill climb.

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Our hike was a tough one, but it was a great feeling of accomplishment when we cooled our feet in the stream of yonder valley. By the end of the day, I was dirty, tired and hungry. After packing up camp I turned south for home.

Somewhere on the 14 during that journey south, I passed a filthy FJ Cruiser. As I looked over, the guy smiled and gave me a thumbs up. Looks like he had a great weekend adventuring too. To me, the spray of mud and dirt is an unspoken bond between like minded folks. Having this Jeep in our long term fleet has been an absolute joy. It's my ticket to anytime adventure.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Rubber Not the Same As Steel

January 30, 2012

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Southern California can get quite windy from time to time. This past Saturday through the Agua Dulce Canyon was no exception. As I made my way the grade, I was hit by a fierce headwind. Being shaped like a brick, the Jeep was rocked and buffeted the whole time.

What had me concerned the most was that I saw the hood slapping up and down. Most of the time it was chattering as if it got the cold shivers. But a few times I was hit by gusts of such force that I could see the rubber fasteners stretch a good distance then slam the hood back down with a loud thud. I was worried that another good gust like this might loosen a fastener and throw the hood back at the windshield.

Maybe I was freaked about something that was very unlikely, but just in case I pulled in behind a truck lumbering up the hill as a shield. Though the hood still chattered, it didn't pop up and slam down any longer. It made me wonder if a metal fastener would be better than a rubber one.

Am I too paranoid, or would you want metal too?

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: RTI Ramp Trip #3 (Stabilizer Bar Disconnected)

January 24, 2012

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport did not come equipped with a fancy pants electronic front stabilizer bar disconnect-o-matic system. To get one of those you need to step up to the Rubicon.

A few minutes with a pair of wrenches will take care of that. The main problem with this approach is remembering to reconnect everything before you take it out of low-range and head back onto the pavement. Forgetting to do so could land you in a world of hurt.

As long as one remembers that, the manual stabilizer bar disconnect strategy is a very effective way to increase off-road articulation in rough terrain. But how big is the benefit, exactly?

I grabbed a couple of 18mm wrenches (yes, they're metric) and pointed the Jeep up our RTI ramp to find out.

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The easiest bolt to remove is found at the lower end of the stabilizer link, the end that bolts to the bracket on the front axle tube. The bolt is a bit longer than it needs to be, so a standard-length socket wasn't quite going to work. I probably could have made it work, but this gave me a chance to try out one of my newest wrenches.

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It's a hollow pass-through socket that's externally driven by a special matching ratchet. Craftsman calls this contraption by the name Max Axxes.

The socket is short but utterly hollow. Any extra bolt length sticks right through so there's no need for a separate set of deep sockets. Also, because the socket is short (shorter than a normal one, in fact) I don't have to steady it with my free hand to counteract the sideways torque that can be generated by the very length of a deep socket. Pretty clever -- and effective.

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After the bolt was gone I simply pivoted the link up on its remaining bolt. A tie-wrap is certainly called for, but I didn't bother since I was merely making a quick measurement.

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The good news is the disconnected stab bar allows the left front suspension to bury itself (yellow) in the front bump stop. We're getting everything there is this time -- the stab bar is no longer holding us back.

But farther down things are looking sketchy. The floating stabilizer bar end and the stowed link (blue) are banging into the steering arm. It's doing this because I did not disconnect the other link on the other end of the bar. Strictly speaking, one disconnected link is enough to defeat a stabilizer bar. The problem is the free end wants to droop in lock-step with the opposite side.

In the field I'd solve this by removing both links and tying the bar up high out of the way with tie wraps. Two bolts removed instead of one; no big deal if a serious off-road slog is in the cards.

Or I could install some purpose-made links that have a quick disconnect built into them. Yeah, that's already on our to-do list.

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The view at the right rear looks about the same as before, with the big 33-inch tire crammed neatly into the wheel well. But that front end is looking a bit more dramatic.

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But just how far did our Jeep make it up the ramp? Time to break out the measuring tools.

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I measured wheel lift at 26.75 inches, well over SIX INCHES more than RTI measurement #2.

This works out to 78.2 inches up our 20-degree ramp instead of 59.8 inches. Yowsa.

And the RTI? How does 820 grab you? That's almost 200 points better than the 626 it generated last time out with the same big BFG tires and a working front stabilizer bar.

I expected a big improvement -- 100 points, at least -- but I never suspected it would amount to anything approaching 200 points. Clearly, the pent-up flexibility of our Jeep's live axle front suspension has been unleashed.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 8,065 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: New TPMS Sensors Installed

January 22, 2012

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What's right with this picture? The TPMS fault lamp is no longer glowing on the instrument panel of our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport.

I brought the Jeep and Mike's sack full of five sensors to a Just Tires store I pass every day on the 405 freeway while motoring through Carson, CA on my way home.

These TPMS sensors are of the simpler rubber-stemmed variety and they pop into the rim just like any regular rubber valve stem would. Our BFG tires not need be fully dismounted from the rim to make the swap; a broken outboard bead gives the tech enough room to reach in there.

"How much to install these?" I asked William, the friendly guy behind the counter.

"Three dollars and fifty cents apiece," said he.

I'll do the math for you: that's $17.50 for all five. Pretty cheap.

But the sensors do add a little weight where there was nothing before, so I had them rebalance the tires. That brought the total up to $104.85 -- just slightly over $20 per tire for everything. Necessary? Perhaps not, but I didn't want to have to come back.

And it is a lifetime balance -- the tire's lifetime, anyway. That could come in handy later on with big off-road tires like these.

Many TPMS systems require new sensors to be formally introduced to the vehicle's ECU with a special tool that plugs into the OBD port. But a 2012 Jeep learns the ID numbers of new sensors by merely driving for 10 minutes (or less) at a speed of 20 mph (or more).

Apparently "or less" is the operative phrase. The technician's test drive lasted no more than a mile before the lamp winked out.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,826 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Headlight Help

January 20, 2012

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler's low-beam headlights were never very good to begin with. Folks around the office have compared them to lanterns on more than one occasion.

But its more than just their general dimness. The light seems to pour out of a slot, as if our Jeep was fitted with World War II blackout covers, the kind that used to be mandatory to lessen the chance of being seen by the enemy flying overhead.

Any shot of the front end will show that our Jeep has driving lights in its front bumper, but those don't ever do very much, right? Might as well try them.

Now, if I can only find that switch. It's dark in here, and the location of switch isn't obvious. There's certainly nothing backlighted to find.

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This all happened while Mike and I were coming down from Santiago Peak in the pitch dark last weekend. With no owner's manual in the glovebox to consult, I pulled over and hunted around with a flashlight until I found the switch. As you can see it was staring me in the face the whole time -- sort of.

Oh sure, it's easy to see when the headlights are off, but that's not when I needed to find it. Once the headlights were on the icon I was seeking had rolled up to the top where it wasn't that visible -- especially inside a dark cabin on a very dark trail.

But that only applied this first time. Now that I know it, I know it.

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What a difference! The total amount of light jjust about doubled, with all of it illuminating the dark spot where the rocks, water bars and the edge of the road were hiding. The near distance was now fully illuminated. 

That thin line that separates the two only appears close to the vehicle; the height difference between the upper and lower beams quickly resolves itself as the beams converge. Still, a small adjustment wouldn't hurt. 

Because none of the new light goes up, oncoming drivers on the road are not getting blasted with any more light. Anyone who flashes their brights to complain is simply counting lights and coming up with a result greater than two.

But this one-two combination still doesn't add up to awesome on the street. As for the high beams, they're junk. The driving lights wink out when they come on and the weak slot of yellow light simply moves up higher. Josh's Camry high-beam photo is ten times more impressive. (OK, maybe three times.)

An upgrade is still in the cards, but until then I'll be using the driving lights all the time. 

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: New TPMS Sensors

January 20, 2012

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By now you know about the new wheels and tires on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport. That means you also know we have yet to install the TPMS sensors since the BFG upgrade. There was a delay due to some significant misinformation regarding the cost and availability of these black rubber thingies.

A (once trusted) source for all things tire warned us of prices in the $100-each range for new sensors. That put the purchase on hold until we could do more research. Our gut told us he was blowing smoke, so we dug around...

MY2010-current Wranglers use a newer 315 Mhz unit, which replaced the 433 Mhz system used in models prior to 2010. We shopped 4WheelParts.com but they didn't offer anything compatible with the new system on our 2012. Same luck on Amazon. Our local Jeep dealership, NAPA and Tire Rack did have parts in stock, however:

Dealer: $82.80 each
NAPA: $49.99 each
Tire Rack: $37 each

Which would you choose? Multiply that cost by 5 tires. It sure beats the $500 stab-in-the-dark quote we received originally. We've spent $192.42 (with shipping) so far. Next step is to get these suckers installed.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 7,725 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: It's Wet In Here

January 19, 2012

 floor-mat-2.jpg I climbed into the Jeep this morning for some investigation unrelated to this post and noticed that, well, it stank. Literally. Smelled like mildew.

In a soft-top vehicle like this one, I was pretty sure that could mean only one thing.

 

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I was right. When I opened the tailgate to dig around behind the rear seat, the problem was obvious. Water had penetrated the roof and found its way into the small cargo bin that's built into the floor behind the rear seat. This small tray was retaining maybe a half-inch of water and the floor mat which covers the bin was soaked.

Turns out, Chief Car Wrangler Mike Schmidt had, earlier in the day, found the seals between the top and the tailgate to be misaligned and straightened them out before I arrived. We're unsure if this is residual water from last weekend's brief rain or perhaps the Wrangler went through the car wash on Monday in this condition. It's likely the latter. 

Either way, this appears to be user error. However, in our defense, this is an easy mistake to make without careful attention to every seam, zipper and seal when reassembling the top. 

I took everything apart, left the tailgate open and flipped off the interior light in an attempt to let it all dry out before it goes home with Dan Edmunds tonight. I'm sure he will update the situation if it's justified. If not, I'd expect no issues once things dry out.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Loving the New Wheels and Tires

January 17, 2012

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When I heard we were putting some real meats on the Jeep I was pleased. Figured anything would be a huge improvement over the donuts that come from the factory, at least in terms of looks.

Turns out, the new tires make it drive better too. It feels more controlled over bumps and it's far less jumpy on the highway. The noise is pretty minimal for mud tires, too, far quieter than the original Mud-Terrains I had on my F-250 a decade ago. I don't even mind the "taller" gearing as the new V6 still pulls just fine. 

I don't think there's any doubt that they look better too. In fact, if it were my Jeep I might even go without a lift, at least until I could get a feel for it in the backcountry. I'm guessing it would be just fine in anything but the most extreme circumstances.

Ed Hellwig, Editor,

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2012 Jeep Wranger: Um... Is This Normal?

January 13, 2012

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I took our Jeep home last night. Mostly for the lazy reason that I had left the rear headrests in my garage and needed to put them back. Once I crawled into the rear seat area, I noticed a red puddle.

I ran my finger through it to make sure it wasn't cheetle (noun: The orange, cheesy residue left on the finger tips after eating a bag of Cheetos). Nope, it was rust. I tried to find the source of the drip, but couldn't locate it. Being a soft top, I would bet there are gaps so it could be from many sources.

Is this something that other Jeep owners have noticed? Should we be concerned?

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Speedometer Recalibration

January 10, 2012

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The speedometer in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is accurate once more. Even with the big tires, 35 mph is now 35 mph, 70 mph is now, well, 71 mph according to my GPS speedo app ( a free one called Car Dashboard this time) but that's close enough.

My local dealer, Glenn E. Thomas Jeep, did the trick in about an hour -- 50 minutes of which was spent waiting for a service technician to become available. All he needed from me was the circumference of the new tires, expressed in revolutions per mile. A quick check of the BFGoodrich website showed that number to be 630 revs/mile for our LT285/70R17 Mud Terrain KM2s.

For reference, our Wrangler's smaller stock tires rotated 705 times per mile. Yep, that's 12 percent more.

We made the tire swap 1,268 miles ago, so the 12 percent error during that time amounts to 152 miles and won't grow any larger.

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I wasn't allowed to go back into the service area to watch or photograph the procedure, but I'm told it was performed through the OBD-II port. Jeep of course offers a variety of tire size and differential options on the Wrangler, so there's a changeable tire circumference parameter built into the ECU programming.

According to what I was told the spectrum is stepped, not continuous (it isn't possible to notch the number up or down in 1 rev/mile increments) and there are upper and lower limits. Our tires apparently sit right at the cutoff because my service writer told me the technician used the last available choice.

For these reasons the service ticket reads "recalibrate speedo as best as possible." This may also be why 71 mph on the GPS reads 70 mph on the speedometer. Close enough, but not spot on.

The service writer also told me there isn't a similar ECU parameter for the gear ratio in the diffs. When we swap out our 3.21 units for something more sensible we'll need to pretend we put on smaller tires instead and figure out what the equivalent recalibration factor would be in revs/mile. Luckily, that will push us back in the direction we just came from.

Total cost: $52.50, all of it labor. Plus tax, of course.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,376 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Boom! Jeep Shot

January 10, 2012

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Forza 4 isn't the only video game that has tie-ins to cars in the real world. After figuring out how to get a screenshot from Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, I can finally show you what our Jeep Wrangler has in common with my carpal tunnel.

The Jeep really doesn't play a major role in the game itself, nor does it stand out as a blatant product placement ad. It just sort of sits there in some of the multiplayer maps. I was, however, a little surprised that it's susceptible to in-game damage.

Just after the image at the top of the page was captured, an opponent blew it up with an RPG; along with myself, unfortunately. Below are images of the burned-out husk of a Wrangler.

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Oddly enough, the in-game Jeep doesn't completely line up with the MW3 Edition Rubicon that is selling for $36,880.

For the $6,000-plus premium, you get special black wheels and spare tire cover, a Mopar hood with scoop, Mopar Front Bumper (winch ready) with fog lights & Mopar rear bumper, rock rails, a black fuel fill door, black tail lamp guards, a black interior with black Sedosa fabric w/hex embossment & unique "MW3" Logo, a unique IP cluster & IP grab handle with new logo and slush mats.

Worth it? I don't think so. As our Wrangler currently sits, I think I prefer it to the special edition.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Dirty Jeep (Done Dirt Cheap)

January 09, 2012

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The gates were open. The dirt roads up to Santiago and Modjeska peaks, together known as Saddleback, were fair game. I called my buddy Mike (not that Mike, or that Mike, or that Mike -- you don't know him) to see if he wanted to ride shotgun in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler and head up there for some geocaching.

Mostly, these are fire roads that any cute ute could tackle. But there are always washouts and the place is sprinkled with tall water-bars. Good approach and departure angles are nice to have. Knobbly tires and 4-Low aren't strictly necessary if you stick to the Main Divide Truck Trail, but there are always spurs and side roads to investigate.

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This particular side trail might have been beyond reach with our Jeep's original stock tires. Remind be to build a tool to measure how much our approach angle has improved with these 33-inch BFG Mud Terrain T/As and the extra 2 inches of lift they provide.

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This is one of many Forest Service helipads that are sprinkled atop the numerous peaks along the ridge. It's steeper than it looks here and the lip is taller than a curb. The muffler actually kissed the asphalt (no harm, no foul) as the rear tires dropped in.

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Easy hillclimb. Yawn.

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You can see this soccer ball thing from many parts of northern Orange County. It sits at the top of Black Star Canyon. Called Beek's Lookout, informally.

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Another random hilltop helipad.

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Shadows started to get long before Mikle and I hightailed it back down the mountain to the Silverado gate, some 20 miles distant. It was pitch black by the time we got there.

Admittedly, this wasn't much of a challenge for the Jeep, but a few things became clear:

The stock final drive ratios have got to go. I spent most of the time in 4-Low, not because of the steepness, per se, but because of the combined effect of the factory gears (which are fuel economy specials to begin with in the 6-speed Sport) and the bigger tires.

It needs new shocks and springs. When I opened it up a little (a whole 30 mph!) the heavy unspring mass of the new tires had their way with the suspension as we crashed over the bumps. A big hike in damping is needed to keep them planted on the ground.

A lift kit would be nice. The rear tires rubbed inside the fender wheels a couple of times. Not very often, mind you, and certainly not very hard, but enough to tell me that I could have a problem if I got into some serious frame twist action. This is not so much news as it is confirmation of our earlier RTI ramp results.

All in all, it was a good day. We went where we wanted in the knowledge that the vehicle wouldn't be the thing that held us back. That's what Jeeping is all about.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,245 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: iPhone Speedometer FTW

January 05, 2012

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler now wears big aftermarket tires and wheels, but the diff ratios have not yet been changed. 

Track testing showed that this didn't do terrible things to performance. But while we were at it our VBOX was able to confirm what I'd predicted by comparing tire sizes: the actual speed our Jeep travels at any given time is now 12 percent faster than what the speedometer is telling us.

That's a recipe for a speeding ticket, that is.

At first I considered a conversion chart taped to the dash. And then I found Speedometer+, an iPhone/Android app that uses the phone's GPS capability to produce a speed readout. There's a choice of knots, mph or kph.

I found it in the iTunes store a few days before the new year for free, but that was an introductory offer. They get a whole 99 cents for it now.

Worth it.

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It lags a second behind reality, but thats no big deal on account of I usually don't care until I'm at cruising speed. Point is, I know exactly how fast I'm going now.

An indicated 60 mph on the Jeep's speedo is 67 mph as far as the Highway Patrol is concerned. That's a ratio of 1.12-to-1, the same 12 percent error we came up with using the VBox.

Everyone in the office with plans to drive our modded Jeep should get this app. Any smartphone user who has changed their tire and wheel sizes enough to change the height of their car or otherwise suspects a speedometer error should get this app. As an added bonus, the Jeep's dashtop bin contains a small ridge that helps the phone stand up at a useful angle.

OK, Mr. Newcomb, I think this just about takes care of this week's Automotive App of the Week.

You're welcome.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,074 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Base Model Ups, Downs

January 05, 2012

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Base Model Upside: No power windows means you get this handy little bin that holds an iPhone/iPod in a very convenient place. Also, I appreciate the simplicity of this head unit rather than Chrysler's old touchscreen thing with the tiny screen and annoying menu structure.

Base Model Downside: The stereo sucks. Yes, I've been driving the Shaker-equipped Mustang for a week, but it's just awful. With all those hard, flat surfaces and the abundance of noise coming from everywhere, I'm pretty sure it's impossible to create a sonic cathedral inside a Wrangler. Still, some semblance of bass would be nice. As such, I would definitely pay the extra money for the Sport S trim (includes 17-inch alloys, A/C, leather-wrapped wheel) and $395 above that for the seven-speaker Infinity sound system. I can't speak to its quality, but it's got to be better than the standard one.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 7,003 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Sharing a Jeep

January 04, 2012

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The plan was to take the girlfriend and one of her friends out to dinner after work last night. Then I got into our Jeep and realized that someone had removed the rear seat.

I remember one time a few years back I went to take our Long Term Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and somebody had taken the doors and roof off. Surprise!  

Just one of those things you have to deal with when sharing a car that's so easy to disassemble.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, @ 6,985 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Weekend Adventure Summary

January 03, 2012

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I, like many of you, have been beset by family visits, fighting through throngs of shoppers and and a constant set of obligations that aren't of your choosing. I needed a break and some time to myself.

Mix together our long term Jeep Wrangler, a free day, add my dog and it was a perfect plan.

I have become fat festive during the string of holidays due to the abundance of great home cooking and the lack of activity (aka: playoffs, bowl games, etc.). So had my dog. We both needed to get out and hike/adventure about.

In the chilly pre-dawn hours of my free day I drove 150 miles north to a great upland hunting spot west of Ridgecrest, CA. Our Wrangler was probably overkill for the location I drove to because at the end of a relatively flat dirt road I found a parked Camry. No matter. The greater point was that I needed to get out and the Jeep got me there.

After a long day of hiking around the canyons, we got back to the Jeep with enough daylight to casually pack everything up. Looking out east of my location I could see the peaks of the Garlock Mountains. That rugged landscape is my future destination once a lift kit is installed. Not that I think the Jeep in it's current state cannot handle the Garlocks, I just don't want to be responsible for the tires rubbing and possibly damage the fender flares.

The day out was just what I needed both on a physical and mental level. The quote: "Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is not found in finishing an activity but in doing it" is so true when it comes to our Wrangler. Not only can it take me to my favorite back country spots to do the things I love, but I really enjoy driving it around town on errands and during the those dark hours of pre-dawn. Besides, it looks great sitting in my driveway. While not for everyone, I feel the Wrangler is a winner.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: The Buzz

January 03, 2012

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As you already know, we swapped the factory meats with some big mudders. I did a 300 mile round trip over the New Years holiday weekend, so I've got a decent amount of seat time riding on the 33's.

Does it cause more sonic pain?

As you can tell by the video, albeit from a crappy phone camera and limited audio capability, it's really a wash. Yes the tire noise is there, but he soft top still creates more noise than the tires themselves. I'm sure the extra 2-inches of lift provided by the off-road BFG's help soften the reverberated sound.

We'll see if a lift kit will further deaden the sound.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Unimpressive Headlights

January 02, 2012

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This picture of the headlight projection from our 2012 Jeep Wrangler doesn't express just how poorly they function. These headlights are weak. Do I smell an excuse for an upgrade? Take the jump for more examples...

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Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Jeep Nostalgia

December 31, 2011

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I found this guy parked while I was driving our 2012 Jeep Wrangler around my neighborhood. Is it me or are all old Jeeps just cool? The Willys era Jeeps are my personal favorites. I'll take mine with a small-block Chevy conversion, please.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: New Tires and TPMS Sensors

December 29, 2011

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The TPMS warning light is on in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. We were so eager to mount our new wheels and tires when they arrived that, frankly, we didn't give much thought to TPMS sensors. We decided to revisit the subject.

We figured we could just drive down to the tire shop, have a set installed, extinguish the pesky light and be on our way. Piece of cake. But a conversation with our local tire shop made it clear things were not so cut and dry. "TPMS sensors are about $100 apiece," our tire guru explained. He added, "And that is our cost. Heck, we installed two new sensors on a Lotus the other week that were about $400 each."

That was the moment when the light bulb went off overhead. We asked, "Any reason we can't just remove the sensors from the old tires and put them on these new ones?" His response was short, "I'd recommend it." It might be a hassle to get 10 tires (including 2 spares) down to the tire shop, but that is exactly what we're going to do. And save ourselves $500 in the process.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 6,560 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Details

December 29, 2011

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I like Chicago style deep dish pizza. I like home runs that go deep into the stands. I like meaty wheels that go deep. Our Jeep has 'em and they're awesome.

Scott Jacobs, Sr Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Wheel Locks

December 26, 2011

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Wheel locks seemed like such a good idea at the time. After all, our 2012 Jeep Wrangler had new wheels and tires to protect.

Buying mag-locks in packs of five was not as easy as I expected, so I stopped at a local Jeep dealer where they still 'get' the whole external spare tire thing.

Now that they're on, I'm having second thoughts. Visually, they stick out too far by almost three-quarters of an inch. Better ugly than stolen, I guess.

Meanwhile, I'm on the lookout for shorter ones.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: RTI Ramp Trip #2 (Wheels & Tires)

December 21, 2011

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A trip up the RTI ramp was the first order of business after installing new Mopar wheels and BFG tires on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler.

With no suspension mods, we expected zero change in Ramp Travel Index. Instead we saw this as a clearance test to see where the new tires would rub on our Jeep, which hasn't been lifted yet. Rubbing inside the fender wells might even limit articulation, reducing RTI for the time being, we thought.

Funny thing, thinking.

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Despite expectations, our Wrangler went further up the ramp this time, achieving 20 7/16 inches of wheel lift while making it 59.8 inches up the slope. That works out to an RTI of 626. It was 561 in bone stock form.

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How can this be? You have to turn your perspective 90 degrees and imagine what's happening along that tilted front axle.

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With no suspension mods, it's easy to imagine that the Angle of the Dangle (AoD) has not changed. But two things that have changed (and dramatically so) are the track width due to wheel offset and the width of the tire tread itself. Those filled fenders represent a wider base of operations, which generates more wheel lift for a given AoD.

That's most of what's going on, but the effect is not quite large enough on its own to explain the 2 1/8-inch increase in lift we're measuring. 

The other factor also relates to the wider track width. The increased leverage ultimately compresses the left front spring a little more, generating a bit more maximum twist in the stabilizer bar. This amounts to a slight increase in AoD and front axle articulation.

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Meanwhile, there are no clearance problems up front. There's plenty of space at this point, but things are getting closer. At first this seems surprising, but it shouldn't be.

Our Wrangler Sport's original skinny tires are far from the largest ones Jeep installs at the factory. And it turns out our new 285/70R17 (33-inch) BFG tires are not that much bigger than the Rubicon's 255/75R17 (32-inch) factory rubber.

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They are wider, though, and that seems to have pushed things to the limit at the rear. The tread is contacting the fender liner along the outside block of tread, although by and large the tire does tuck under the fender flare quite nicely.

In short, these tires fit just fine for everyday driving. They clear well enough to do some light to moderate 4-wheeling, too. But the rear tire will rub through the rough stuff, and there's no telling how hard it's making contact, how much further it would go if it wasn't touching. We'll go easy on the hardcore wheeling until we install a lift kit.

RTI #1     561  (box stock)

RTI #2     626  (wheels and tires)

RTI #3     ???

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 6,233 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Original Tire Wearer

December 20, 2011

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Our Jeep Wrangler was not the first entity to don those new, beefy, heavy, off-road-ready tires. No, no.

We thought it wise to have Bryn MacKinnon try them out since ... well, because there wasn't a RamBox around to put her in.

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James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: New Wheels and Tires

December 20, 2011

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler has new shoes. Man, what a difference. In no time at all we've gained about 2 inches of ground clearance owing to the larger radius of these tires. And the dorky mail truck look is long gone.

We of course mounted the BFGoodrich KM2s white letters out, in accordance with IL reader poll results. Frankly, I like it better than I thought I would. We'd have had too much black otherwise.

Of course gearing has suffered. And the speedometer is now off by about 10 mph at freeway speeds -- the wrong way. It read 60 this morning when I was going about 70 mph. New axle ratios are in the cards, but we're going to live with this awhile and measure the ill effects at the track.

On the road, acceleration isn't near as bad as I expected. Maybe that's because the 3.6-liter engine packs 83 horsepower more than the 2011 edition, has 23 lb-ft more torque. It also has a 6-speed manual, which means the gears were never canyons apart to begin with. With these tires it feels pretty natural if I ignore 6th alltogether and drive it like a 5-speed.

Yeah, there's more tread noise, but not as much as I expected and it's not that evident until 40 mph. Our soft top isn't helping, of course. Braking doesn't seem too bad in normal use, either.

We'll quantify all of this when we take it to the track next week. Should be interesting.

But you wanted to know how much these babies weigh...

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That's right, each wheel and tire assembly weighs 91.4 pounds, exactly 40 pounds more than the originals. According to Price is Right rules, aspade called it with a guess of 90 pounds.

And so our Wrangler gained 200 pounds in one go; 40 pounds of pure unsprung weight per corner and another 40 for the spare. The ride is a bit more "clompy" over rough stuff at speed, but it's not a dramatic change because the Wrangler's solid axles didn't exactly represent a Lexus starting point. 

Upgraded shocks will help and we're just beginning to play with air pressure. With a higher rated load capacity, we can safely run these tires at a slightly lower pressure than stock if we so desire. 

In corners the extra tire footprint and the increased track width seem to make it feel more planted despite the extra height. The track is about 4 inches wider at the center of the tread and something like 6 inches wider from outside rib to outside rib. (We'll measure these numbers later.)

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At just over 50 pounds, the old rubber came off rather easily.

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But I was glad to have a Go-Jack roller jack handy to save my back the hassle of lifting a 91.4-pound replacement into place while the Jeep itself was suspended at knee height by our Rotary lift. Here the tire sits on rollers that allows me to clock it into position and line up the studs. These jacks are usually used four at a time to move cars around in tight spaces, but we've figured out a couple of other ways to make them pay for themselves.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 6,155 miles

Photos by Scott Jacobs 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Guess My Weight

December 19, 2011

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Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport has a set of five new tires and wheels ready to install. But first let's see how good you are at weight guessing.

A few hints:

The tires -- BFGoodrich Mud Terrain T/A KM2 radials, size LT 285/70R17. In off-road language they're 33 inches tall and 11 inches wide. (Aside: Doesn't 33x11x17 make a lot more sense?) Tirerack.com gets $265 apiece for them.

The rims -- 17-by-8.5-inch 5-hole deep dish aluminum wheels sold by MOPAR for $259 each. Built with off-road use in mind, their valve stem holes are deeply recessed so the valve stems are less likely to get snagged on rocks or roots.

And then there are the old tires and wheels that are on their way out...

The skinny originals are P225/75R16 tires (something like 29x9x16) riding on 16-by-7-inch steel wheels.

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And they weigh 51.4 pounds mounted and ready to go.

What am I bid? How much you figure one of the new mounted tire and rim assemblies weighs?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 6,100 miles

Photos by Scott Jacobs

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Pivot Point

December 19, 2011

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I got the keys to our Jeep this past weekend hoping to make it out to the Mojave for another fun run. Family, weather, and just plain feeling sick conspired to sabotage my plans. Sadly the Jeep spent the majority of the weekend parked in front of my house as I sofa surfed.

Come Sunday morning, I needed to get out and get some meds. I jumped into the Jeep, started it up and got a big surprise.

I cranked the wheel hard to pull a u-turn. With the street clear of traffic, I came around slow. Didn't hit the trash cans in front of me so I kept going.... I cleared the car parked on the other side of the street! I love the turning circle in our Wrangler.

The high seating position, short wheelbase, and excellent maneuverability give you the illusion it pivots on itself. The Jeep is built to move through tight spots, so I guess that a turning circle of 34.9 ft shouldn't be too surprising. I'm betting this might be more of a challenge with new tires before we get the lift kit. Any takers on what the radius will be with the new tires and lift kit?

Scott Jacobs, Sr Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: The Appearance of Usefulness

December 14, 2011

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I like the fact that Wranglers have big ugly tow hooks sticking up from their bumpers. It's one of those features that only a Jeep could get away with. Anything else looks like it's trying too hard with stuff like this, yet on the Jeep it seems perfectly reasonable. Sure, it would probably look even more purposeful if it wasn't sticking out of a plastic bumper cover, but you can't have it all.

On a more mundane note, I still like driving this Wrangler and its six-speed manual. Thought that thrill might wear off after spending more time behind the wheel. Instead, I still appreciate the easy to find gates and smooth clutch action. The gutsy engine helps too.

Ed Hellwig, Editor,

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: We Built An RTI Ramp

December 12, 2011

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We have plans for our 2012 Jeep Wrangler, plans that include modifying the suspension with off-the shelf parts for better off-road performance. A key predictor of off-road potential is suspension articulation (the degree to which the front axle can hang out of phase relative to the rear axle) and many off-road mods strive to improve articulation, not just ground clearance.

One way to quantify this is by measuring a vehicle's Ramp Travel Index RTI using a purpose-built RTI ramp. The measurement is made by driving the driver's side front tire as far up the ramp it will go before the right front tire and/or left rear tire lifts off the ground and the vehicle starts teetering.

At this point you measure how far up the ramp you got, divide that number by the wheelbase and multiply the result by 1000. Stock vehicles never get to the point where the left rear tire touches the ramp with four on the floor, so they always come in with an RTI less than 1000; less than 400-500 is more like it.

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Turns out it's easier to build an RTI ramp than it is to buy one, and in any event I wanted a traditional 20-degree ramp that could accomodate the approach angle of the sorts of stock unmodified vehicles we see all the time. RTI ramps of 30 degrees and up are favored by rock-crawlers that go completely sick with modifications, but they have to back-calculate their results using the 20-degree standard.

To I get what I wanted I made a few sketches and some stress calculations and headed off to my local metal store. Schmidt's buddy Shaun knows his way around a welder, and he agreed to spend a Sunday with us cutting and welding the pieces together. It came out very nice. Thanks Shaun!

The mods we have in mind are not likely to boost our Jeep all the way up to an RTI of 1000, but if they do this ramp can take it because its deck is longer than our Wrangler Sport's 95.4-inch wheelbase. As soon as we get it set up back at the shop we'll measure project Jeep's "before" RTI measurement so we can see what each and every modification does for suspension articulation.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: What Plate Would You Create?

December 08, 2011

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I saw this clever vanity plate on the way to work this morning. Knowing that we're going to modify our Wrangler with some suspension and tire upgrades, here's a hypothetical question for y'all. What would you suggest for a vanity plate for our basic black bomber? 

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 5,808 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: So That's What It's For

December 07, 2011

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Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: At Least It Looks Like It's Put Together Well

December 06, 2011

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Forget the fact that these exposed screws could be nothing more than decoration for a moment. I like the way they look. They give the interior of the Jeep a visible sense of solidity.

Every new car interior these days covers over every nut and bolt so you can't see any of the real guts. It's fine for the most part, but sometimes you would like to know that there's something solid holding everything together, especially in a Jeep.

One of these days I'll get industrious and pull a few of these screws to see if they really do anything. Or maybe not. Sometimes it's better not to know how the sausage is made.

Ed Hellwig, Editor,

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Make Mine a Boat

December 06, 2011

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All in favor of adding teak bits and pieces to our Jeep Wrangler to make it match our long-term yacht say 'aye!'

Jeep Wrangler Nautic Concept

Lieutenant James Riswick, Marina Editor @ 4,605 nautical miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: A Little Help

December 05, 2011

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You tend to think of the Wrangler as being a nimble friend on wild mountain terrain, but it turns out it's quite the helpful amigo on civilized hills of the paved variety, as well.

The reason? Well, a standard feature with its six-speed manual transmission is hill-start assist. The feature works exceptionally well, keeping the Wrangler super-glued in place with nary a hint of rollback.

Made for a stable and stress-free experience during a recent trek up and down some steep roads.  

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Cold Confirmation

December 05, 2011

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I've had either work or family obligations through a long string of weekends. This past weekend my dance card was empty and fortuitously the Jeep was available.

I had cabin fever. I needed the Jeep.

We had a bit of a cold snap here in SoCal. No, not a wus-like "had to switch from shorts to jeans" kind of SoCal cold front some might imagine. As I stepped outside my house at 4am with gear in tow, local weather had it at 38 degrees. That's right on the coast. It was a bad portent because where I was heading was undoubtedly going to be much worse.

I have said it before, I'd love to have a hard top for our Jeep. This time it was because of the cold. When I got to my destination, it was 18 degrees and the wind was howling. That's cold no matter where you're at. The soft top offers zero insulation and the powerful gusts of chilly air seeped through the gaps. I had the heat cranked for a good chunk of my trip, multiple layers of clothing (including rocking the long johns), and drank some hot coffee I picked up on my way through the Mojave Desert. While these measures helped, I was still a bit cold.

I know a lot of Wrangler owners that actually experience a real winter have the hard top to swap into. A brief taste of the cold has given me a greater appreciation for their dedication to the Wrangler. I think for the kind of adventuring I do in the deserts that surround LA, keeping out the dust, keeping the heat in, and the abrasive resistance to the desert flora is of greater importance than the versatility our soft top offers.

Despite the cold, I still was able to wheel out to a canyon deep in the Mojave where passenger cars wouldn't have made it. Romped over rocks, ruts, and had a great ol' time. Even bagged a couple of quail in the process. After looking at our dirty Jeep sitting my my driveway Sunday night, I thought to myself, "What an antidote." I definitely cured my cabin fever.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Urban Off-Roading

December 02, 2011

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In 1987 my dad went to Maple Leaf Gardens. After the game, he returned to his new Jeep Cherokee to discover the parking lot behind him was jammed. Sitting in the driver seat he looked forward to see a curb, a strip of grass and a wide-open Jarvis Street. He shrugged his shoulders, said "What the hell?" and plowed forward over the curb, across the grass and on to freedom.

Last night, I went to Cheviot Hills community park. After my softball game, I returned to "my" Jeep Wranger to discover the parking lot behind me was, well, pretty much empty. Sitting in the driver seat I looked forward to see a curb, a strip of grass and the rest of the parking lot that was also pretty much empty. I shrugged my shoulders, said "You know, I'm not really feeling reverse right now," and plowed forward over the curb, across the grass and on to freedom.

Then I remembered I should probably take a picture. So I did it again. Yay Jeeps.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 5,236 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Nice to Meet You

December 01, 2011

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As I was heading out to the parking structure the other night after work, I was thinking that this was probably the wrong night for my first experience with the Wrangler. Too tired, too cranky. Not in the mood to be bounced and jostled. Not in the mood to bump elbows with all those hard surfaces. 

But by the time I got home, after 20 or so minutes in the Wrangler, my mood had lifted.

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One reason: The Wrangler's seats were way more comfortable and supportive than I'd expected. Contoured just right for my frame; felt like I'd melted right into them.

Another: That high seating position. Reminds me of when I was a kid and my dad would hoist me up on his shoulders; felt like I had a bird's eye view of the world. Put a smile on my face. 

Nice to meet you, Wrangler. Looking forward to getting better acquainted.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 5,210 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: The Sharp Parts

November 30, 2011

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Nuts. Bolts. Clips. Welds. Spin-y bits.

Look at the bottom of almost any modern car and you'll see the miracle of packaging at work from the drive train to the fuel system to the exhaust. Or not.

It's a shame, because most of that highly engineering parts stuffing is hidden behind smooth under-body paneling or splash guards. The stuff that makes a car, or a truck, move is increasingly hidden from view. So you'll forgive me for noticing the Jeep's sharp stuff.

See that? That's the transfer case, just hanging out there. I guess when the shiny side of the Jeep resembles a barn door, there's not much point in improving under-body aerodynamics, is there?

And this? That's the front differential. With the addition of our bigger wheels and tires, you should be able to get a little better view of all this mechanical stuff on the road.

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Am I the only one that finds moving parts mesmerizing?

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 5,402 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: The Palate Cleanser

November 29, 2011

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For eight out of the past 10 days I was driving a 2012 Mercedes-Benz C350, which has elevated itself onto the list of my absolute favorite new cars. I just love the thing. If you were to drop me in that forever, I'd be perfectly content.

However, when a car is that good and I like it so much, it's easy for everything else to be a letdown. As such, I need an automotive palate cleanser, something so radically different than whatever it is I've been driving for an extended period.

And nothing is more radically different than whatever than our Jeep Wrangler. Driving it is like unplugging my modem for 5 seconds. The ride, steering, driving position, gear change, noise, plastic windows, handling and the utter back-to-basics approach to everything means there's no way you can realistically compare it to whatever newish car you were driving before.

So after a night in the Wrangler, hopefully my automotive palate has been cleansed. Sure beats lemon sorbet.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 5,368 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Milestone

November 21, 2011

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In a rare stroke of observation, I actually noticed our Jeep Wrangler hit the 5,000-mile mark. It helped that I had just gotten home when it happened. So there it is, the spot-on milestone mark for ya.

Here's something else I noticed over the weekend: 

Those stock tires have surprisingly little grip in the rain. Not that you could actually lose control, as the overly-sensitive stability control system (which can't be fully defeated in 2WD) very quickly cuts in when it senses the tires have lost grip. But it's shocking just how little it takes for the front or rear tires to break loose in a turn when the road is wet.

Another observation: The Wrangler looks dorky with its base wheels and tires.

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Mike Monticello, Ultra Observant Editor @ 5,000 miles.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Off Road with Video

November 15, 2011

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It rained here Friday night. So on Saturday a friend and I decided to get our long-term 2012 Jeep Wrangler muddy. It was a blast. We even used the low gear in the transfer case, which is rare for us city boys.

Besides this sippy hole, we also climbed some hills, did donuts in dirt and basically acted like idiots until we felt the Jeep was sufficiently dirty.

Meanwhile, this thing is awesome, even with those dinky tires.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: The Key and The Dogtag

November 08, 2011

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Tonight will be the first time for me to roll in our new long-term 2012 Jeep Wrangler. My first impression, even before I get in it, is with that key. It's just a simple metal key with a dogtag attached so it doesn't fall out of your pocket. No smart key or even a remote keyfob.

I suppose this Jeep is what some would refer to as Basic.

Luddites rejoice.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ ~4,600 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3

November 08, 2011

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Just when I was starting to think our long-term Wrangler Sport was particularly cool, Jeep releases the lastest Call of Duty, based on the Wrangler Rubicon.

What's more is Chrysler is hosting a Facebook contest, and winner gets the first Wrangler Call of Duty: MW3 Special Edition to roll off the production line.

I'm not sure why I need one, but I do.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Stick With the Stick

November 07, 2011

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I really liked the idea of getting a dirt cheap Wrangler. Getting a six-speed manual? Didn't like that idea as much.

Sure, I prefer driving vehicles with manual transmissions as much as the next guy, but my prior experience with manual gearboxes in Jeeps didn't leave a great impression. They were just too vague and disconnected to feel good going through the gears. I never found it very satisfying. 

The six-speed in our Jeep is not like those old gearboxes. It actually feels reasonably precise, and I mean that in the best possible way. There's no wrist wiggling required to get this thing in gear, it just slides right in with a firm push. It doesn't rattle or vibrate when you're cruising, either. It's like a properly sorted manual from a midsize sedan. Glad we didn't pay up for the slushbox.

Ed Hellwig, Editor,
   

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: The Jeeps of SEMA

November 03, 2011

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By now pretty much everyone knows that I spent far less time at SEMA scoping out cool cars than I did trying to find pretty girls. But as I was walking from hall to hall to hall and back again, I noticed a LOT of Jeeps. It makes sense, the Jeep Wrangler was the "Hottest 4x4 SUV" of SEMA.

So with that out of the way, here are a bunch of Wranglers. See any mods we MUST do to our 2012 Wrangler?

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Smooth is a Stretch

November 03, 2011

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While Mike Magrath was hard at work in Las Vegas, I decided to give his (and a few commenters) Jeep driving style a try. And yes, starting out in second gear and short shifting definitely smoothes out the driveline lash. I rarely got past 2,000 rpm and took it out of gear when coasting. But I'm still right.

And here's why I think I'm still right. We all agree there's a lot of driveline lash, and that was the whole point of my first post. For someone who's never driven a Wrangler, it will certainly seem excessive, at least with the manual transmission. For the dazzling urbanite outside of a rustic setting, this should certainly be considered before selecting a Jeep as a daily driver. The added time spent in the clutch's friction zone (starting in second gear) is sure to shorten its life.  Just sayin'.

On my way to drop off the rent check this morning, however, I discovered another way to smooth out the driveline lash. I had to turn left from a small side street onto a busy boulevard. There are rarely gaps in traffic, so when I see one, I go for it. I started in first and gave it the kind of throttle I give lower profile cars. I got the revs well past my normal shift point, but still nowhere close to redline and shifted decisively and quickly. Nope, no driveline lash.

So there it is. As long as you don't drive moderately, the Jeep is fine in terms of driveline lash. Either nurse it off the line in second and lope it along at low revs, or get on it and drive aggressively. That's the key, at least for me.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: More Meat

November 02, 2011

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Love the Wrangler, but that's not news by now. Many of us have professed our adoration already. It's a bit of an adjustment for me though, coming from a decade of driving a Cherokee. The Wrangler's profile and wheelbase give me a little pause, and I realize I can't guide it through a corner nor get back on the gas as quick as I can in the Cherokee.

I'll reiterate what others have written, that the Wrangler feels a little buoyant and its steering is vague. If it were mine, I'd swap on at least some 235s for a little more footing (although looks like PLENTY of tire is in our near future). Still, the new Wrangler is more civilized than I originally thought.

Clutch action is long, but light, and the gearbox is slick. It's about as easy in traffic as the Mazda2's. I found my hand quite often just resting on the shifter. It's actually kinda fun and effortless to row this thing. Sure, you'll be surging and bucking a bit if you're creeping along at 20 mph, but…it's a Jeep. That's not a pass, but getting behind the wheel does require that you suspend any deeply-held beliefs about ride quality.

And the new engine is, as everyone else has noticed, fantastic. I don't think it pulls as strong down low as the 4.0-liter in my four-speed 2001 XJ (one for the chassis code nerds). Indeed, the XJ makes less torque than the Wrangler, but makes it much sooner: 225 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm vs. the Wrangler's 260 lb-ft @4,800. Still, the Pentastar sounds better doing it; wish the Cherokee growled like this thing. Hopefully there's an exhaust on the mods list. It'd be nice to hear more of this Pentastar rumble at cruising speed.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Não Italiano

November 01, 2011

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I didn't think there had been any Italian influence on the 2012 Jeep Wrangler (wisely, Fiat just let the Jeep guys built a kick-ass Jeep) until I spotted this stamping on the spare wheel. I figured the wheels were Italian and forgot about it, but last night, curiosity got the better of me.

Fumagalli is in fact a Brazillian wheel manufacturer that has been making wheels since the late 1940's, equipping among other brands, the original Willys Jeep.

That's probably a lot more than you wanted to know about the Wrangler's stock steelies, but there you have it. You can thank me when "What is Fumagalli?" becomes the correct question in Final Jeopardy.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 4,225 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Road King

October 31, 2011

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You know, I like the Jeep.  You never know where it’ll take you.

It’s taken me plenty of places with boulders and wash-outs and water bars, but it’s also taken me down alleys in New York City, up the length of California Highway 1, around Lake Tahoe and even into a thundershower in the middle-of-nowhere western Nevada on Interstate 80 where there were two rainbows.

Turns out, the Jeep is not so bad to drive on pavement.

This Wrangler Sport doesn’t rattle. The blows absorbed at road level from potholes and the rest (there was a lamp in my lane today) are absorbed by plenty of rubber bushings before it they get to the bottom of the driver eat. The light-effort steering doesn’t have much on-center feel, but this is because the geometry is meant for off-roading, where you want to avoid as much kickback from the wheel as you can.

Once tech guys look under the Jeep and see those stick axles, their tongues start wagging and they begin doing little equations on their calculator watches and try to teach you about unsprung weight. But the truth is, the Wrangler doesn’t ride bad at all. The wheels articulate pretty decently, so the Wrangler doesn’t try to buck you off over the bumps.

You just have to get used to a fairly lively ride. The axles aren’t located very firmly in order to get wheel articulation, so you can feel the body sway back and forth, but the ride motions are managed well enough that you wouldn’t be talking about jiggle and jounce like some Oldsmobile ride engineer.

Some driving skill is called for, of course. The suspension (such as it is) will wind up when you jump too hard on the throttle (the short overall gearing plays a role here), but off-road guys know enough not to jump on the gas whether the traction is dirt or pavement. This new V6 also works very well, delivering a broad spread of torque like a four-cylinder, and it’s easy to manage the six-speed manual transmission with its rifle-bolt shift action.

Really, no matter what kind of lively adjectives you might hear applied to the Jeep Wrangler’s capability as a street car, this device is way, way nice than you realize. Sure, it's an off-road vehicle living in an alien world of concrete and traffic, so you have to get your driving act together to get the best out of it. But that's what I like about it -- no slackers need apply.

I’ve driven so many cars that are way, way worse, pricey ones as well as cheap ones.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 4,025 miles.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Boing

October 28, 2011

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I find it next to impossible to drive our Jeep smoothly. There's a lot of driveline lash that will have you bobbing back and forth, no matter how smooth you are on the pedals. Let off the throttle slightly and you're greeted by a significant lurch forward. Get back on it and it feels like the whole car is made of gelatin. Boing, lurch, slosh. The Jeep is not my choice for taming the urban wilds. But let's face facts, the Jeep isn't meant to. That's why I can't wait for the opportunity to try it out on some trails. Soon.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: This Or That

October 25, 2011

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If you read my series of blogs on the Jeep and my adventure through California, you would know that a friend, Ron, an owner of a 2010 Jeep Rubicon, got a chance to drive our long term Wrangler. After a spin around the hills of our "Alamo" campsite, he came back with a lot to talk about.

It became clear to me at the start of our conversation he knew far more about our Jeep than I did. After four minutes of a number conversation (the kind of discussion about cars where nouns and verbs are replaced with specs and part numbers), I asked him to put his thoughts into an email.

His detailed comparison between his 2010 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport. I hope you find it as interesting as I have.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Jay Leno's Parking Spot

October 22, 2011

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Want to see Jay Leno do stand up? Not interested in battling for tickets or waiting in long lines with tourists at the Tonight Show? Come on down to the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California.

Even though his name is rarely on the marquee, Jay has played a set here just about every Sunday evening for the last 20-odd years, working out material for the coming week's monologues.

HB's proximity to Hollywood makes it convenient for him, but because this is not a jaded industry town the reactions of the laid-back beachside crowd are said to be more indicative of how the jokes will fare across the country. Or so I've been told.

Maybe you don't want to see Leno perform. Maybe you'd rather see his vast car collection one meticulously restored machine at a time. If so, simply drive past the club on a random Sunday evening. Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler (and that Range Rover) sits parked in Jay's private spot. You'll be able to tell if Jay's there (or about to be there) by the orange cones the club sets out Sunday afternoon.

I lived across the street in a second floor apartment in the early 90's, with a view of the club from my bedroom window not unlike this one. From there I saw Jay pull up in everything from Stanley Steamers (complete with cap and goggles) to Duesenbergs, from Hudsons to Ferraris, as well as stuff more obscure and weird than any of those. You name it, he's probably driven it here and left it in this very spot while he went inside to do his routine.

And still does, according my eye doctor, whose office is on the first floor under my old apartment.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 3,812 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: The Sum

October 21, 2011

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By the time I got back to my house after a five day loop around California, I was ready to not be driving anymore. I was tired, my dog was restless, and I just wanted to take a shower.

I had romped through the Mojave, cruised up the Eastern Sierras, over them to Tahoe, and down through the Central Valley to Los Angeles. The sight of a dirty Jeep in my driveway the next morning made me smile.

I wasn't sick of the Jeep. I wanted more.

I think it's a good sign in any vehicle that after a lot of seat time, you want more. It might be a little crude, a little loud and short on creature comforts, but I overlook all of those detractors because it's so much fun.

At the core of improvements for our 2012 Wrangler is the engine. Does the new Pentastar V6 make a big difference? Jeep claims 40 percent more horsepower, 10 percent more torque, and 26 percent faster 0-60 mph. The 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine delivers 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.

If you read my "Alamo" blog, you'd know I met up with a bunch of 4-wheelers. Ron, the owner of the 2010 Rubicon, took our Wrangler for a spin. Right away he noticed the horsepower "which would make it really nice for the highway" and the ability for our Jeep to crawl up hills in 4-lo without throttle and not stalling. Granted the hill climb might be due to a timing retard or some other kind of engineering. In Ron's estimation, the new engine wasn't bent just towards folk who would keep it mostly on blacktop, but gave it a nice nod to the dirty birds too. I would concur with Ron as to the freeway power. It had strong acceleration from a stop and plenty of power to pass trucks at freeway speed. I never felt like the Jeep was a dog in any sense.

In total I drove 1,174 miles during which time I had a good mix of terrain and surfaces. During my Mojave off-roading, I averaged 14.7 mpg. During a long stretch of freeway from Tahoe back to LA, I got 21 mpg. My best tank range was 315.2 miles. For a vehicle that's shaped like a brick, and a tall one at that, I think that's pretty good. I think the new engine does make a big difference

The future is bright for our Jeep. We might have plans to mod it, but at it's core it remains a solid, inexpensive ticket to adventure. I can't wait for the next trip I can take in it.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography @ 3,666 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: The Alamo

October 20, 2011

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The Alamo. Not the Texas variety, but an old shepherds hut out in the Mojave we so named after discovering it a few years back. Perfect place to make camp during upland hunting. Perfect country for our Jeep. Easy fire roads, flat valley.

We had originally thought about making camp in rougher country just south of Randsburg, but decided that the jeep we had might not make it. It was the tires. Looking at the street issued wraps we weren't sure they make it over the rough terrain on the way to a few campsites we knew about high in the Garlock Mountains.

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We were wrong.

We had met up with a group of friends that were experienced four wheelers at our Alamo campsite. They had a range of vehicles, from a 2010 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, two generations of the Toyota Land Cruiser, and finally a Land Rover Discovery II. All capable vehicles.

After camping at the Alamo for two nights, we decided to check on another spot, much further up the canyon dubbed "Cowboy Hideout." We'd have to pass through some challenging terrain including a climb up a very silty hill that any 4wd vehicle would have trouble with. Yeah, I wanted to check out the new spot, but I don't do as much back country cruising as these guys. Besides, I had the most one of the most basic Jeeps you can get. I was nervous.

The video is boring, right? It should be! It shows that even with our street-meats, this thing has got plenty of capability to beat the silty hill. The Disco2 in front of me (not in the video) bogged down several times and had to make three attempts. Watching it struggle made me nervous. When it was my turn, I dropped our Jeep into 4-lo, put it in second gear, and just motored. I MOTORED up through the silt without a hiccup. As I crested the hill I screamed victory.

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Once we got to the top we all took a moment to savor the view from Cowboy Hideout. So maybe the Disco2 isn't as tough as one might think, but the challenge illuminates the possibilities our basic Jeeps provides. I'm in love. With our Jeep that is. This thing is pretty freakin' awesome.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Optional Equipment

October 19, 2011

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Our Wrangler came about as stock as can be. About the only option we have is air conditioning. I put plenty of miles on our Jeep the last few days and for the most part, I don't think you really need much else.

But if I could change one thing, I would.

Honestly I'd prefer the hard top. Not because I think it's too loud on the freeway or it gets hot easily on a warm day. Id get the hard top because it has glass.

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Plastic isn't as durable. I noticed on the side window there is a warning to "do not rub dry." Why? It scratches easily. Examples of which can now be found from the branches I brushed while in the Mojave. It wasn't like I drove straight into a Joshua Tree, it was the normal off-road kind of brush you'd find on any trail.

Another reason to get the hard top I found while out in the Mojave and carrying gear, the rear plastic window has to be rolled up to access larger items like coolers. It's not the end of the world to zip up the sides and roll it up, but after doing it several times I got tired of the process. I'd rather be able to swing open the gate and lift the glass.

While at my family cabin in Tahoe, I found the low temp (38 degrees) made the plastic window material surprisingly rigid. Yes I did expect it not to be as pliable, but as I carefully tried to roll up the rear window I noticed a few kinks had appeared. Permanent kinks.

If I owned a Jeep, I don't know if I'd be the kind of owner that would drop the top at any opportune moment. Without that advantage of a soft top all I see in one are rear window zippers that get jammed (already fixed once), plastic which windows scratch easily, can kink, and they will yellow over time. A glass rear window on struts wouldn't give me those problems. The $735 (MSRP) cost savings of a soft top over the hard top isn't worth it to me.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: New Meats

October 15, 2011

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"The package delivered to you earlier is 5 very large tires. I just wanted to give you the heads up that they are in fact in the mailroom despite their size." -- Sincerely, our very friendly receptionist.  

 That's code for "Get these tires out of my mailroom now!"

...as if we weren't already sprinting upstairs the second we heard that our Jeep's new 33" BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2s were finally here.

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Our plans for project 2012 Wrangler are shoring up quite nice. We think we know what we're doing for suspension (but we'll update you on that later) and everything else which means it was pretty safe for us to go ahead and get some tires. We're not going crazy with lift, either and figured 33s would be just fine.

Deciding on the BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 (KEY feature MUD traction, 2nd generation) took about two seconds.

According to Tire Rack, our 285/70R17 Mud-Terrains weigh 59 pounds each (we'll weigh them ourselves later), have a tread depth of 19/32" a section width of 11.5", a tread width of 19.5" and do 630 revolutions per mile. They cost $274 each and shipping's about $70. We got five because A) We'll need a spare and B) Jeeps without a matching spare look stupid.

What we still don't have, however, are wheels. These tires fit on wheels 7.5 - 9" wide so that's our only constraint.

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And because it was Friday and we were bored, we wanted to see if Bryn would fit in the stack.

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Yep. 

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Worst Mobile Office. Ever.

October 12, 2011

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Chevrolet is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and this week GM planned a celebration of sorts for members of the media, issuing press releases and announcing news morning and night.  

So I'm here in Santa Monica doing my usual news editor thing, while Editor in Chief Scott Oldham is attending the hoopla in Detroit. The Chief, who's nothing if not, uh, thorough, called me several times this morning to make sure I was on top of everything he was learning in the Motor City. I was driving to the office in the Jeep Wrangler during a couple of his calls, which went something like this:

Chief: "Hey, Scoop. It's me. Didja get the bit on the TrailBlazer?"

Me: "Trial laser from GM, too? I just edited a BMW story yesterday on laser tech replacing LED."

Chief: "Not, laser. Blazer! Can you hear me, Scoop?"

Me: "You gotta a scoop? On what? Who's your source?"

The Chief grumbles something in New Jerseyan and hangs up.

He calls back.

Chief: "It's a full truck frame, not crossover. Maybe say, 'unlike the Grand Cherokee.'" 

Me: "You're at Chrysler now? I thought you were only going to GM this week.

Let's just say it didn't get any better from there. I have an awesome Bluetooth earpiece, but it was no match for the Wrangler's wind and road noise.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Easter Egg!

October 09, 2011

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Walking past the Jeep one evening, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. D'you see it? Easter Egg! Here's a tighter shot of it. How long has Jeep been doing this?

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Better Set Aside 15-20 Minutes

October 08, 2011

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Before the Jeep Wrangler was officially announced as a long-termer, we had to take photos for the intro. Of course, Kurt and I had to cover both top-up and -down photos requiring, well, putting the top down. Any guesses how long it took the two of us (and Kurt had done it once before with his wife)? Thirteen minutes. There are two header latches, two side-rail releases, three windows to remove, and finally the top arduously folds down. A couple days later, rain was forecast, so I took it upon myself to put the top back up. It took me 20 minutes by myself.

I'm told that this is an improvement on previous Wranglers' top operation. This is as good as it gets in the, what is it now, 70 years it has been in existence? I'd shudder to think.

How long does it take a Jeep veteran to do the whole thing?

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton (with the welcome aid of Kurt Niebuhr)

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: This Is More Like It

October 07, 2011

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You can't fully appreciate the Jeep Wrangler by driving it around town. So I was more than happy to get sidetracked with a brief off-course excursion in the desert yesterday. Nothing too crazy, just some quick fun in the dirt.

And off-road is where the Wrangler belongs. It will never be a stellar highway vehicle, but it will always be one of the best off-roaders in the world.

I was pounding along on some fire roads and the Wrangler just didn't care. Deep sand? No problem, it has ground clearance galore. Meanwhile, the suspension was soaking up everything I threw at it, with ease. Embedded rock, the kind that would rattle most crossovers loose? It barely noticed. Huge dip across the road? It was like the Wrangler was saying, "Come on, is that all you got? Why'd you even bother slowing down?"

Then I came across a semi-steep trail off the fire road. Hmm...what to do? Uh, put it in 4WD and go up. Why? No reason. You don't need a reason in the Wrangler. You just do it, because you can.

And what did the Wrangler think? It was laughing at me again, saying, "Seriously buddy, if you don't need 4WD Low, don't even waste my time."

Yes, this thing is ultra-capable. Even in bone-stock, base model, wimpy-tire form.

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Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 2,025 miles.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Get Rid of the Rear Headrests

October 04, 2011

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This is the Wrangler's rear view with the rear headrests in place. It sucks, so I removed them about 30 seconds after we got the Wrangler and out they've remained until I took the above picture.

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We've kept the headrests in the Jeep just in case someone tries to use the cramped back seat, but that means they otherwise fill the tiny cargo area and/or roll around. Oh well, better than not seeing anything and looking dopey. Jeep should probably use the flush-mounted headrests that dig into your back if you don't raise them like those in the third row of our Odyssey. Or perhaps drop-down ones like those in the Mustang.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 1,480 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Discuss

October 04, 2011

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While digging through our Jeep's manual for the factory's recommended break-in procedure, I stumbled across this section. Click on the image for a full sized version.

Full disclosure - the above text was taken from two consecutive pages (72 and 73) of the manual and was then cut and pasted in order to form one page/image with all of the text. Nothing has been omitted.

So, yeah. Discuss.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 1,488 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: She's a Jeep Date

October 03, 2011

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My wife planned a date night for us Saturday night that involved driving down to Orange County. I picked the car for our journey: the Jeep Wrangler. Truth be told, I forgot about the date, but rather than scramble to trade someone for something less "terrible," I decided to walk the walk and keep the Jeep.

Yes, the ride on the I-110 was choppy. Yes, the wind noise was deafening. Yes, I had to ask my date to lock her own door (oh the shame). But not surprisingly, we were more than happy with our Jeep date. She even pointed out that the Wrangler was the unofficial vehicle of her high school -- the car that all the cool kids got. She actually wanted one, but when her dad informed her that the automatic was lame and that the manual was the only way to go, she backed down. My kinda father in law.

People will no doubt complain that we're wasting our Wrangler by not taking it up a mountain or fording some stream every weekend, but you know what, our humble Jeep is a hell of a lot of fun even when driving on the freeway or around the city.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 1480 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Unlimited Possibilities

September 29, 2011

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Now that's a back-to-basics, bare-bones, old-school driving experience. I actually find the manual-crank windows and non-central-locking doors strangely endearing, a welcome change from the power-everything that's become the norm these days.

As for the soft-top's windows billowing in the breeze on the highway, and the bouncy ride, well, you just have to chalk those up as "Jeep things."

I'm definitely happy we stuck with the standard six-speed manual. It makes much better use of the Pentastar V6's newfound power versus the new-for-2012 five-speed automatic. And, of course, the six-speed gets the driver more involved.

A part of me, though, wishes we had scrimped and saved our quarters a few more months to afford the four-door Unlimited Sport model, the long wheelbase of which gives a far smoother ride and greater cargo room/general usability. But that would've set us back another $3,500 and defeated our plan of starting with the absolute cheapest Wrangler and building it up from there.

And the real fun will begin once we start taking it off-road. Where the Wrangler truly shines.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 1,364 miles.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Mods Coming Soon

September 29, 2011

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I'm making a list of mods we want to bolt onto our 2012 Jeep Warngler. We'll do it in stages of course, and document it all with photographs.

We're following the classic garage-tuner formula: intentionally buy the bare-bones, steel-wheel strippo model to lock in low(er) monthly payments, using the saved money to add targeted mods in stages, one paycheck at a time.

The basic idea is a mild, functional upgrade of our new JK; we're not going for SEMA glory here. There's a lot of desert nearby and we plan to make frequent visits over the next year.

Our plan revolves around tires and wheels, and the number we have decided on is 33, as in 33 inches tall. We're going after the extra ground clearance such taller tires will provide.

This decision may well force the installation of a mild 2-inch lift, but we're not interested in cartoon status so it'll be no more than that. And yes, we're prepared to swap in 3.73 gears to bring the overall gearing back in line, 4.10s if we're feeling frisky.

A winch bumper and winch are in the cards, as are rock rails. We'll probably add a door mirror relocation kit. A Bikini top is likely next spring.

Could we have bought a Wrangler spec'd out closer to what we'll end up with when we're done? Sure, but half the fun of owning a Jeep is modding it. It's one of the most compelling DIY vehicles on the road today.

As for the photo, knock yourself out. It's an underhanded softball pitch. 

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 1,234 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Can't Wait

September 26, 2011

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I'm itching to get my hands on the keys of the Jeep in a few weeks. That's right, not now, but in a little over three weeks. That's because I'm an upland hunter and the season starts here in California October 15th.

Last year we had the Raptor. It was more than capable to get me out into the great wilderness of the Mojave without a hitch. I'm looking to do the same in the Jeep. yes, the Raptor was overkill for where I traveled, but our Jeep in bone stock. I'm thinking some new meats would help bridge that gap in capability.

Even if I don't bring home dinner during the opener, I love being in the outdoors. Our Jeep is a perfect vehicle for all my favorite outdoor activities. I'll make it my mission in the next year to utilize the Jeep and it's potential as much as possible. Not just another blog about my run to the grocery store and back, but a run to a top of a mountain range and camping out.

If you could tell us what to do with the Jeep, what would you do? I'm meaning both equipment wise and adventure wise? What should our goals be with this blank slate?

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Liking the Drivetrain

September 26, 2011

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I got last-minute tickets to Friday's Angels-A's game (back when the Angels' mathematical wild card chances looked a little better), and waded right into evening L.A. traffic with our long-term 2012 Jeep Wrangler. Making allowances for my slightly euphoric mood (going to a baseball game with potential post-season implications!), I enjoyed my extended time in the Wrangler.

To start, this may be my favorite application to date of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. This engine is not big on real-world low-end grunt (doesn't matter what the actual rating is), and in some Chrysler vehicles (the minivans especially), it sounds and feels kind of rough. But I don't notice this stuff in our Wrangler, which isn't much over two tons. This engine feels much stronger than last year's 3.8-liter and at least as good as my fading memory of the 4.0-liter inline-6.

The gearing is kind of tall, so in heavy traffic, there was a lot of room to hang out in 1st gear, and when that wore out its welcome, well, there was 2nd gear. If there's a tricky part of driving the Wrangler in heavy traffic, it's the long, slow clutch engagement, which starts somewhere off the floor and finishes high. Makes sense for an off-roader, but makes it vulnerable to clumsy-footed city dwellers.

Despite the slightly tricky clutch takeup and slightly crowded footwell, heel-and-toe downshifts are possible in the Wrangler, and they are kind of fun. The Pentastar V6 responds with a nice growl when you get them right.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 1,075 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Hooked After One Night

September 23, 2011

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I didn't realize how long it had been since I'd driven a real Jeep. A family member had a series of Wranglers that I liked (at least when he let me drive them). All were pre-2007 models with the old 4.0-liter inline-6, all had the manual gearbox, one had the zipper front windows, one was a Rubicon, all were clumsy-silly-fun, and so is this 2012 Jeep Wrangler.

I ran errands in it last night, and it was a great time. I dig the loopy manual shifter (it's funny, but the original Jeep just feels too serious with an automatic), the super-upright seating position, the terrific visibility and the 3-foot turning circle (or 34.5 feet, whatever, it feels tiny).

Our long-term also looks fantastic with black paint, and I'm still at the stage of being all excited when I walk up to it in a parking lot.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 892 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Never Lock a Jeep

September 22, 2011

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Growing up, I spent a lot of time in Jeeps. They were cheap, tough, cool, easily modable, relatively dangerous (which ups the cool factor to a 16 year old), and dead-simply enough to fix yourself. 

As we got bored of our small town and the wooded trails it contained, we started visiting Boston and New York City more and more and, eventually, a number of my Jeep-owning friends moved to the city. 

Last night I parked our new Jeep Wrangler went to lock the door -- my laptop and the GF's laptop were in the car after all -- when I remembered rule number 1 of driving a Jeep in the city: Never Lock the Doors; Never Leave Valuables in the Car. 

Why? Easy. Leaving the door unlocked means the thieves can simply walk into the car instead of slicing open the top. A lot of convertible owners have the same thing, but Jeeps are particularly vulnerable due to, well, an extremely thin top with plastic windows. (Clever thieves will simply unzip the rear window from the outside, but, shhhhh; no need to tell them about that issue.)

So we carried our respective computer bags into the grocery store and left the Jeep alone. "I hate this thing," she said. "It's great! Every trip is an adventure!" I replied.

We're used to, for better or worse, thinking cars are a vault that keeps everything inside safe and sound with just the click of a keyfob, it's fun to get away from that for a while.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, @ 866 miles

(Plus, without power door locks, who has the time?)

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: This Thing is Terrible

September 22, 2011

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The Jeep Wrangler is quite possibly the worst form of automotive transportation you can buy. Let's run down the list of reasons, shall we? Take a deep breath ... and go. It can be broken into by undoing a zipper. The wind noise is excessive. You don't raise the roof as much as painstakingly reconstruct it. Our Wrangler has no power windows, locks or doors. You can remove the doors, which don't provide crash protection any way. The trunk is so small you can't even fit the roof's back window in it. The back seat legroom stinks. It has the aerodynamic profile of the Parthenon (good one Jay). Not only is there no dead pedal, there's no where left of the clutch to put your foot at all -- just wall. Steering is vague, handling a touch scary, the ride choppy. I'm probably missing stuff.

And yet, it's been a tough task to pry the Wrangler's key out of my hand.

Sure, I was writing the introduction for the Wrangler, but I kept coming back to it once my assignment was complete. Despite its absurd number of faults, I just love this thing. There is just such an old-school connection with it that is so hard to find these days. I don't even mind driving it in traffic despite its manual transmission and lack of creature comforts.

The Wrangler is making me realize more than ever that my favorite cars are those that are unapologetically honest. It knows what it is, it's upfront with its faults, and if you don't like it, well, buy something else. It may technically be the worst form of automotive transportation when compared to everything else, but it was intended to be that way. It's not like the Jeep Compass, which is bad because it's badly executed. The Wrangler can't be everything to everyone, and that's fine. BMWs of old used to be like this, but aren't any more. Pretty sure that's the reason my fondness for that brand has rapidly waned. Appealing to everyone may get you sales in the short-term, but you'll never grasp onto those lifelong fans by establishing an emotional connection.  

With the Wrangler, all you have is an emotion connection because you're certainly not thinking with your head. You can stuff the Wrangler full of a whole host of items to make it more civilized (we didn't), but most of the above faults still remain. And really, those faults are part of the charm. As Magrath said with a fond smile on his face, "It's a really fun piece of crap."

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 808 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Double Rainbow

August 29, 2012

2012 Jeep Wrangler

Admittedly, my iPhone didn't exactly do a stellar job of capturing what is, in fact, a double rainbow, but the question remains: what does this mean?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 19,601 miles

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2012 Jeep Wrangler in VA is:

$139 per month*
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