If you think the eggheads in Stuttgart labor over every change to the Porsche 911, imagine what the Jeep guys go through when it comes time to take the scalpel to the Wrangler.
Traditionalists, being traditional, loathe change, and the 2012 Jeep Wrangler entails the plucking of the Wrangler's very beating heart for a new and improved unit. You can almost hear the traditionalists gasping for air.
One run through the gears of the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is all that's needed to prove that the traditionalists can relax. There's nothing to worry about. In fact, there's plenty to be excited about.
New Engine, Transmission To soften the blow of too many changes all at once, the caretakers of America's most cherished trucklike thing spread them out over two model years. OK, that's kind of a lie. In reality, the Wrangler's 2011 cabin tweaks were originally thought to be accompanied by a powertrain upgrade, but the vagaries of manufacturing postponed the heart transplant by a year. So the 2012 Wrangler essentially completes phase two of the model refresh that started with last year's model.
Headlining the changes for 2012 is the adoption of Chrysler's DOHC 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. It kicks out 260 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm and 285 horsepower at 6,400 rpm, some 23 lb-ft and fully 83 hp more than the old-school pushrod 3.8-liter V6 it replaces. For some perspective, the Pentastar generates more torque at 1,900 rpm than the outgoing engine produced at its peak, and continues making meaningful grunt all the way to 6,400 rpm.
Sheer output isn't everything, and to ensure Jeep-worthiness, the Pentastar received some tweaks. Wranglers need to be able to ford water that's 30 inches deep, so the alternator was relocated to the top of the accessory drive. A deep-sump oil pan and pickup was fitted to ensure reliable lubrication while crawling up ridiculous grades, and a rejiggered intake tract improves torque output.
All told, the new engine is 3.7 inches shorter in length and 90 pounds lighter than the old 3.8-liter mill, though the weight savings is largely offset by the new, beefier automatic gearbox. Yes, for 2012 the Wrangler's four-speed automatic has been consigned to the dustbin of history. In its place is the A580 five-speed autobox that backs Chrysler's Hemi products including the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The six-speed manual gearbox is carried over and remains standard equipment, along with a low-range transfer case.
With the new gearbox ratios and a taller standard axle ratio of 3.06, the automatic-equipped 2012 Jeep Wrangler's overall gearing is now a touch shorter in 1st and a smidge taller in top gear.
Save for a few bits and baubs, the rest of the Wrangler's hardware carries over essentially as is.
Nobody Will Miss the Old Engine Turned loose on the billiard table-smooth blacktop outside of Portland, Oregon, the reinvigorated Wrangler is more enthusiastic, and the autobox is more likely to have the right gear for the occasion. This is still a near-4,000-pound truck with the aerodynamic profile of the Parthenon, so those hoping the Wrangler has been transformed into a tire-fryer might be disappointed.
The numbers are encouraging, though. Zero-to-60 drops to 7.7 seconds for the two-door Wrangler (8.4 for the four-door), compared to 10.4 for the 2011 model. In practice the engine's flat torque curve masks the rate at which speed rises, making its urgency feel appropriate, rather than the old engine's asthmatic.
The net effect of more grunt and another gear is less hunting between gears on freeway grades, too. It's an incremental improvement, as the gearing is still rather tall. The move to five gears might be a big deal to Jeep guys, but this is one application where a six-speed autobox wouldn't be a bad idea.
Jeep officials were proud of the new engine's improved NVH characteristics. When cruising, you'll be hard-pressed to hear a difference, as wind noise still dominates everything else that makes noise, including the engine. But when you give it the spurs, the new engine makes better sounds than the old lump.
The steering remains recirculating-ball type, and it remains hilariously ropey on pavement. It's nonlinear, lacks feel and exhibits significant yaw delay. With live axles front and rear, the ride bucks and shudders over pavement imperfections. Refined and honed as it has become over the years, driving a Wrangler is still kind of like driving a forklift. Call it part of the charm of the thing, along with being able to fold the windshield down and remove the doors, which is too cool for words.
Still a Wrangler Wait, this is a Jeep, right? All this talk of pavement and NVH and efficiency and steering feel might have you wondering where their priorities are. Not to fear. The Jeep staff insists that all the changes that improve the Wrangler's day-to-day livability will never compromise its off-road capability.
As if to prove it, part of our drive of the 2012 Jeep Wrangler included stints in the off-road-focused Rubicon model up a trail that was crafted to show off the depth of the truck's talents. To the uninitiated, the path would appear impossible, yet the Wrangler crept up and down the steep, rocky, log-strewn, rutted pass littered with sinkholes the size of Kias without even breathing hard.
Though the electronic throttle calibration doesn't always provide instant response, there's ample torque down low in the new engine. It runs cool, too, thanks in part to a new variable-speed 600-watt cooling fan and a larger A/C condenser and transmission cooler. Hell, the A/C didn't even flinch in the hot weather no matter how slow we crawled. The Wrangler remains a staggeringly capable off-road steed.
No Compromise Imagine, all that added capability and the 2012 Jeep Wrangler even burns less fuel. Yes, its EPA fuel-efficiency numbers are now 17 city/21 highway mpg for two-door models, a 2-mpg bump up last year's numbers.
All that, and Jeep held the line for pricing of base models, while the MSRPs of high-zoot Sahara and Rubicon models swell by just $300.
It's like having your cake, eating it, and then finding out it lowers your cholesterol, too. Even traditionalists will have a hard time arguing with that.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report.
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What's a good price on a used 2012 Jeep Wrangler ?
Save up to $300 on one of 319 used 2012 Jeep Wranglers for sale at dealerships within 25 miles of Ashburn, Virginia with prices as low as $14999 as of Feb 21, 2018, based on data from 18 dealers and 173 consumer-driven dealer ratings ranging from 1 to 5 out of 5 stars.
Price comparisons for used 2012 Jeep Wrangler trim styles:
The used 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport is priced around $19974 with average odometer reading of 67527 miles.
The used 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport is priced around $25439 with average odometer reading of 52258 miles.
The used 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is priced around $25974 with average odometer reading of 51359 miles.
The used 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara is priced around $24637 with average odometer reading of 81103 miles.
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What options are available on the 2012 Jeep Wrangler?
Available Jeep Wrangler 2012 Submodel Types: SUV
Available Jeep Wrangler 2012 Trims: Unlimited Sport S, X, Sport, Unlimited X, Unlimited Sahara, Unlimited Sport, SE, Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock, Unlimited Willys Wheeler, Unlimited, Willys Wheeler, Unlimited Rubicon, Rubicon, Sahara, Unlimited Smoky Mountain, Unlimited 75th Anniversary, Unlimited Rubicon Recon, Unlimited Altitude Edition, Unlimited Winter, Unlimited Black Bear, Freedom Edition, Unlimited Chief, 75th Anniversary, Unlimited Freedom, Unlimited Freedom Edition, S, Unlimited 70th Anniversary, Unlimited Backcountry, Backcountry, Black Bear, Rubicon Hard Rock, Unlimited Big Bear, 70th Anniversary, Base, Unlimited Sport RHD
Exterior Colors: Black Clear Coat, Bright White Clear Coat, Billet Silver Metallic Clear Coat, Granite Crystal Metallic Clear Coat, Firecracker Red Clear Coat, Anvil Clear Coat, Black Clearcoat, Hydro Blue Pearl Coat, Red Rock Crystal Pearlcoat, Rhino Clear Coat, Steel Blue Metallic Clearcoat, Bright Silver Metallic Clearcoat, Flame Red Clear Coat, Tank Clear Coat, Bright White Clearcoat, Stone White Clearcoat, Jeep Green Metallic Clearcoat, Rescue Green Metallic Clearcoat, Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearlcoat, Gobi Clear Coat, True Blue Pearl Coat, Chief Clear Coat, Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat, Baja Yellow Clear Coat, Commando Green, Black Forest Green Pearlcoat, Light Khaki Metallic Clearcoat, Mango Tango Pearlcoat, Sunset Orange Pearl Coat, Deep Water Blue Pearlcoat, Flame Red Clearcoat, Xtreme Purple Pear Coat, Dozer Clearcoat, Hypergreen Clear Coat, Moss Green Pearlcoat, Sahara Tan Clearcoat, Amp'd, Crush Clearcoat, Copper Brown Pearl Coat, Copperhead Pearl Coat, Dune Clear Coat, Detonator Yellow Clearcoat, Midnight Blue Pearlcoat, Sunburst Orange Pearlcoat, Rock Lobster Clear Coat, Deep Beryl Green Pearlcoat, Mojave Sand Clear Coat, Patriot Blue Pearlcoat, Gecko Pearlcoat, Rugged Brown Pearl Coat, Flame Red, Gecko Pearl Coat, Natural Green Pearlcoat, Patriot Blue Pearl Coat, Solar Yellow Clearcoat, Surf Blue Pearlcoat, Cosmo Blue Paint, Light Graystone Pearlcoat, Winter Chill Pearlcoat, Crush Clear Coat, Dark Charcoal Pearlcoat, Electric Lime Green Pearlcoat, Shale Green Metallic, Shale Green Metallic Clearcoat, Sienna Pearlcoat, Chili Pepper Red Pearlcoat, Dozer Clear Coat, Anvil Clear Coat (Late Availability), Black, Flame Red CC/Black ST, Impact Orange Clearcoat, Inca Gold Pearl Coat, Intense Blue Pearlcoat, Lapis Blue, Medium Fern Green Pearlcoat, Sarge Green, Solar Yellow CC/Black HT, Steel Blue Pearlcoat, Stone White, Stone White Metallic Clearcoat, Amber Fire Pearlcoat/Black HT, Black CC/Black HT, Bright White, Colorado Red, Deep Amethyst Pearlcoat, Emerald Green Pearl Metallic, Forest Green PC/Dk Tan HT, Forest Green Pearlcoat, Jewel Blue Pearl Metallic, Medium Blue Pearl Metallic, Steel Blue Pearlcoat/Black HT, Stone White CC/Dk Tan HT, True Blue Pearlcoat
Interior Colors: Black leather, Black cloth, Dark Slate Gray/Medium Slate Gray cloth, Black leather/cloth, Dark Slate Gray/Medium Slate Gray leather, Dark Slate Gray/Medium Slate Gray vinyl, Dark Slate Gray, Black premium cloth, Dark Slate Gray cloth, Dark Khaki/Medium Khaki cloth, Black/Heritage Tan leather, Dark Khaki/Medium Khaki leather, Khaki, Black/Heritage Tan cloth, Black, Agate, Khaki cloth, Black/Dark Saddle cloth, Black/Dark Saddle leather, Freedom Edition leather/cloth, Dark Khaki/Medium Khaki vinyl, Black premium leather, Black/Dark Olive premium leather, Black/Red premium leather, Black/Dark Olive leather, Camel, Camel/Dark Green, Black Dark Saddle, Black Dark Saddle leather/cloth, Dark Saddle premium leather
Popular Features: Soft Top, Hardtop, Back-up camera, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, Multi-Zone Climate Control, AWD/4WD, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Aux Audio Inputs, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Post-collision safety system, Rear Bench Seats, Stability Control, Tire Pressure Warning, Upgraded Engine, Alarm, Blind Spot Monitoring, Parking sensors, Bluetooth, Trip Computer, 3500lb Towing Capacity, Mobile Internet, Navigation, USB Inputs, Towing Hitch, Heated seats, Remote Start, Auto Climate Control, Upgraded Stereo, Leather Seats
Engine/Mechanics: 6, 4 cylinders
Transmission: AUTOMATIC, MANUAL
Fuel Types: regular unleaded
Drivetrains: four wheel drive, rear wheel drive
used 2012 Jeep Wrangler Overview
The used 2012 Jeep Wrangler is offered in the following submodels: SUV. Available styles include Sport 2dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M), Unlimited Sport 4dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M), and Unlimited Sahara 4dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M). Pre-owned Wrangler models are available with a 0-liter gas engine, with output up to 0 hp, depending on engine type. The used 2012 Wrangler comes with four wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed manual.