2012 Jeep Wrangler: Road King
October 31, 2011
You know, I like the Jeep. You never know where itll take you.
Its taken me plenty of places with boulders and wash-outs and water bars, but its 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 doesnt 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 doesnt 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 doesnt ride bad at all. The wheels articulate pretty decently, so the Wrangler doesnt try to buck you off over the bumps.
You just have to get used to a fairly lively ride. The axles arent 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 wouldnt 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 its 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 Wranglers 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.
Ive 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.