2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Off-Road in Moab in Jeep's Jeeps
April 5, 2013
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.
But first there was a warm-up run over Hurrah Pass to Chicken Corners. This is an easy trail, but the scenery is stunning. I wouldn't be surprised if our Honda CR-V could get here, but don't take that as a guarantee that it'll make it up here. There are rocks and ledges that require clearance along the way.
Next day we hooked up with Jeep to try some of their production equipment on Elephant Hill, a more difficult trail that is a good test of unmodified stock Jeeps.
They brought a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel with the height-adjustable air suspension option, a combination I drove in Austin, Texas a month ago. But this trail was much more serious, despite the rather calm scene depicted here.
The axle articulation isn't huge, but the sophisticated 4x4 drive system makes up for it, at least on this trail. I glanced at the tachometer a few times while climbing some tough obstacles and noticed the engine was giving me everything I needed at just 1,100 or 1,200 rpm.
There was a 2013 10th Anniversary Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. The 10th Anniversary package combines all of the Rubicon stuff we're used to, plus hill descent control and a TMPS system that finally displays all four individual tire pressures.
There are trick new bumpers, too. The front one can hold a winch and has removable outer ends that can be unbolted to create a "shorty" bumper for extra obstacle clearance. The rear one has a fitting to accept a swing-away tire carrier.
The tires are 32-inch versions of the BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 tires on our own 2012 Wrangler project car. Two huge vents are built into the hood and the interior is dotted with 10th Anniversary touches.
Elephant Hill is far too easy for this one.
I hadn't driven the new-for-2013 Moab version yet, but we might have started with one of these if this model had existed when we began our 2012 Jeep Wrangler project.
Why? It's pretty much a Sport with a rear locker, rock rails and a winch-capable front bumper (but not the unique configurable one on the Rubicon.) It has the same axles and 2.7-to-1 transfer case that we have, and the tires fall somewhere between the 29-inch rim protectors our Jeep came with and the knobbies found on a Rubicon.
That rear locker is very nice to have. And so are the rock rails, especially on this four-door Unlimited. And it's nice to know that you don't need to buy a new bumper if you want to add a winch.
Elephant Hill is not a terrible puzzle for this one, but the locker was necessary a few times. And the long Unlimited wheelbase required a few three-point turns in places where the two-door simply made the turn. The four-door's less favorable breakover angle also puts it right on the edge of needing a lift for anything rockier than this.
Elephant Hill is an in-and-out trail with several one-way sections because it's simply way too narrow to let others pass in many stretches. One of the viewpoints ends where a small hike leads you to the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers at the Center of the Park.
I don't have pictures of the toughest obstacles because I was too busy driving over them. For example, there's a whole switchback section that's far too tight to make any turns. You drive forward up one switchback and then reverse up the next. I have some Go-Pro video that I'll post when I get it edited and uploaded.
Elephant Hill is a beautiful trail in a stunning national park about 90 minutes drive south of downtown Moab. Go and do it sometime. You can rent a Rubicon right there in Moab if you don't own one.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 30,456 miles