2012 Jeep Wrangler Long-Term Road Test - Performance

2012 Jeep Wrangler Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
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  • Long-Term

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 Sport: Installing a Teraflex Front Stabilizer Bar Disconnect

March 27, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport

Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is the base Sport model, which means it doesn't have the motorized front stabilizer bar disconnect system found on the more expensive Rubicon.

Up until now I'd have to crawl underneath with a pair of 18mm wrenches and some tie wraps, spending about 5 minutes disconnecting the bar myself before I headed off into nasty territory.

But several companies sell an alternative system that replaces the bolts and tie-wraps with an easily removed pin. Teraflex makes a particularly good one, and they sell it for about $130.

Here's how the installation went. It took about 20 minutes, including photo breaks. Double everything you're about to see because the entire process is repeated on the other side of the car.

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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: 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: Unexpected Pentastar Cylinder Head Replacement Under Warranty

January 7, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

Wow, things can sure happen fast. One moment everything's fine. It's the Sunday before Christmas and our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is running great. Late in the afternoon the check engine light comes on, but there are no symptoms other than the light itself. We're not too stressed by this because we're almost back in our driveway at home.

Turns out the closest dealer, Glendale Jeep, is closed on Christmas Eve day in addition to Christmas, so this is going to have to wait until Wednesday the 26th when they open again at 7:00 a.m. No problem. With family in town and plenty of stuff going on it's easy to leave the Jeep parked until then.

That was how it began for John Adolph. Nothing seemed too alarming, but with a 1,600-mile New Year's day road trip looming on Thursday — including a side trip for some off-road action in Death Valley — he was eager to have this handled. Besides, it was time for an oil change anyway.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Recreational Towing

November 15, 2012

 flat_tow1.jpg Seeing a Jeep being towed by an RV is a pretty common sight. Since we have our Wrangler, I was curious about what the owner's manual said to do for flat towing. So I looked it up.

The steps listed in the manual are fairly detailed, but the summarized version is that the Wrangler's transfer case needs to be placed in neutral and the transmission needs to be in gear (say, Park for an automatic or first with a manual). This allows the axles to rotate freely while keeping the transmission and transfer case safe. The manual also states not to tow with just one set of wheels lifted (front or rear) and only to tow with the Wrangler facing forward. 

Now all we need is a Class A RV to test this out. This seems like a perfectly logical addition to the long-term fleet.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Holiday In Sequoia

November 13, 2012

 wrangler_sequoia.jpg Since Edmunds had Monday off, I took the opportunity to head up to Sequoia National Park for the day in our Wrangler. Enabling and encouraging you to go out and do something fun -- it's what our Jeep is best at, and what truly endears this vehicle to me.

It was also fortuitous that I made the trip in the Wrangler. A recent storm had dropped a few inches of snow, limiting park access to vehicles with 4WD and snow tires or vehicles with chains. I didn't have any problems taking on the snow and slush.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 22,243 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: I Liked the Post Office Special

November 09, 2012

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: Off Road With Company

November 07, 2012


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


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

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: Light Off Roading

October 22, 2012


Did about 25 miles of light off roading near Big Bear this weekend in the Wrangler. No rock crawling. No super steep inclines. Lots of decomposed granite roads and lots of small embedded rocks. Rough, but not rough enough to crawl.

Following are a few observations: 

  • The Mopar Stage 3 kit, despite its Fox shocks, is better at crawling than at actually moving. Perhaps you've heard the old expression, "the faster you go, the smoother it gets." Not so in this Wrangler where, by and large, the faster you go, the more Excedrin you need.
  • It just never really feels compliant. The spring rates feel too high and after an hour of bouncing over rocks and waterbars, I'd had enough. Crawling, yes. Flying, no.
  • Regular driving like this demonstrates the need for lower axle ratios nearly as much as crawling. Getting the Wrangler moving on steep hills gives the clutch an unnecessary workout. I ended up using low range on terrain that didn't demand it just to preserve the clutch. This means you find yourself in fourth gear at 20 mph, which is silly.
  • It's tough. I ended up giving the thing a pretty good pounding in this little test and it didn't care. Drives just like it did before, which it should with these mods.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Now It's Wet. And There Are Rocks

October 17, 2012


So we survived the wet, slick descent back to the valley and discovered a wet, rocky playground. This terrain is still on the soft end of the Wrangler's capability, but wet rocks do up the ante some.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: It's Getting Wet

October 16, 2012


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.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Up The Hill

October 15, 2012


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


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


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


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?

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:

Videos coming tomorrow. And for the next week.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Suburban Assault

October 1, 2012


That winch. Those tires. Is there any sight more incongruous than our Jeep Wrangler on a gentle suburban street?

One of the best things about driving this thing around town is the fact that other drivers scatter like flies when you come barreling by. No doubt about it, our Wrangler is intimidating.

What's the most menacing-looking vehicle you've ever driven?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 20,362 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Twenty Thousand Miles

September 20, 2012


Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler rolled past 20,000 miles yesterday morning. I wish I could say it happened whilst being winched up a rock face or crossing the the Rubicon trail, but the reality is far less exciting.

Instead it happened on a strip of asphalt that runs between ships at sea...


...and airplanes taking off from LAX overhead. The abandoned Surfridge neighborhood was condemned and leveled in the 1970s to "facilitate airport expansion and address concerns about noise from jet airplanes."

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ go ahead and guess miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler to Moab: Crossing the Sierra

April 01, 2012


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.

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

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

March 24, 2012


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.

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. 

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

RTI = 518

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

February 23, 2012


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.

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

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Mopar Pre-Runner Shake Down

February 13, 2012

2012 _Jeep_Wrangler_Modjeska_Peak_cloudy_f34_2.jpg 

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:

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.

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: Off-Road Tire Comparo With Photo and Video

February 07, 2012


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.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing.  

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

January 24, 2012


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.

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

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Big Tire Track Test

December 30, 2011


We just came back from the test track, where we put our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport through its paces on its new LT285/70R17 BFGoodrich Mud Terrain T/A KM2 off-road rubber.

Before I tell you how it did, here are few facts to consider as you make your predictions:

  • It stands 1.9 inches taller on account of the larger rolling radius of the BFGs. But the Wrangler's center of gravity increase has to be something less than 1.9 inches higher because...
  • It weighs some 200 pound more, and, with the exception of the high-mounted spare, this weight increase is low down. Each wheel and tire assembly is 40 pounds heavier.
  • It rests on a track width that's more than 4 inches wider at the center of the tread, and that track width increases to something over 6 inches if you measure from outer tread rib to outer tread rib. (We still have to confirm these estimates with real measurements.)

Here's how things shook out.  


0-60 (seconds): Stock = 7.1; Big Tires = 7.5

1/4-mile (seconds @ mph): Stock = 15.4 @ 89.3; Big Tires = 15.8 @ 85.6

Not unexpected with what amounts to taller gearing. Comparing actual speed to VBox GPS speed, we measured the difference in effective gearing at 13 percent taller, which more or less matches what I came up with by comparing tire dimensions.

Interestingly, this makes it possible to complete the 0-60 speed run in 2nd gear. On real roads, the close ratio 6-speed manual now drives like an ordinary 5-speed, with 6th gear a useless lug-fest. It still feels stronger than any unmodified 2011 Wrangler would have, on account of the 83 additional horsepower churned out by the new 3.6-liter V6 engine. 


30-0 (feet): Stock = 35; Big Tires = 33

60-0 (feet): Stock = 140; Big Tires = 136

Here it seems the extra tire width (and probably a stickier rubber compound that is less concerned with low rolling resistance and fuel economy) is more than offsetting the increase in rotational inertia. This matches up with the subjective brake feeling on the road, which comes across as no more perilous than before.


100 ft radius (lateral g): Stock = 0.63; Big Tires = 0.65

Once again the extra track width, extra tire tread width and presumably stickier rubber more than offsets any increase in weight and center-of-gravity height. Indeed our re-tired Jeep feels very well mannered (for a solid-axle off-road machine) on cloverleaf freeway off-ramps. It goes down the freeway a bit less nervously and somewhat straighter than before, too.


600 ft x 6 gates (t/c off, mph): Stock = 55.4; Big Tires = 53.0

Here the very dynamic nature of this maneuver finally reveals a weakness. The extra "stick" we observed around the skidpad may or may not be overwhelming the stock tuning of the stabilizer bars and shock absorbers, but the extra unsprung mass certainly isn't helping keep the tires planted over the cone #3 bump.

On top of that, the outside edges of the open lug BFG Mud Terrain KM2s are designed to be most proficient at clawing through mud and gripping rocks and sand. Catching a slaloming Jeep in quick transitions and balancing it on a knife edge is not their forte. In deference to that fact Monticello didn't beat a dead horse and repeat this test too many times in order to preserve the outer tread lugs for their intended off-road use. All-Terrain T/As would have done a bit better here, I'd wager. 


Idle (dbA): Stock = 49.4; Big Tires = 43.8

WOT (dbA): Stock = 81.0; Big Tires = 78.7

70 mph cruise (dbA): Stock = 73.2; Big Tires = 72.0

At first, this data made no sense at all. And, frankly, it still might not make any sense. But it does match up to the subjective feel on the road. Yes, there is more tread noise, but it's not as bad as I expected and it's still not the loudest component of the overall sound; it's not the peak the meter is measuring -- that's the trouble with meters and peak-only measurements.

Why are the peak measurements (and subjective impressions) lower, especially at idle? The only theory I can come up with has to do with the Wrangler's newfound additional ground clearance of about 1.9 inches. The component of noise that's reflected back at the cabin by the ground will surely be dissipated by this larger air gap. But by 5.6 dbA at idle? I'm not so sure.

Got another theory? Let us know. In the meantime we're going to repeat this measurement to see if it's a real thing or not.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

Photo by Rex Tokeshi-Torres 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: RTI Ramp Trip #2 (Wheels & Tires)

December 21, 2011


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.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 6,233 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: We Built An RTI Ramp

December 12, 2011


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.

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: Great on Power, Short on Looks

November 23, 2011

Obviously I'm referring to the plastic-cover clad engine in our Wrangler and not the Jeep as a whole. It's a fine-looking machine even with its pizza cutter tires.

One of the main reasons we decided to get a Jeep Wrangler was this new engine. It may be smaller in displacement than the old 3.8-liter V6, but its delivers far more power and torque. This is not unusual for newer engines, but in this case the new V6 is a huge leap forward for the Jeep. As torquey as the old motor was, it sucked wind at any moderate rate of speed.

This new engine is stronger across the board. So strong in fact that our Wrangler is actually pretty damn quick for a 4x4. It runs form 0-to-60mph in 7.1 seconds and the quarter mile in the mid-15s. Not bad for a brick.
Obviously, the Wrangler is no street racer, but the engine makes it far more enjoyable to drive no matter how you use it. Gets better mileage, too, a definite win-win.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Track Tested

November 04, 2011

 jeep wrangler track tested.jpg

The big news for the 2012 Jeep Wrangler wasn't so much the spruced up interior, but rather the new, standard, 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. This engine makes 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Those are big numbers for a Jeep that starts at just over $20 grand.

Not only does our Long Term Wrangler have the new motor, but it's also got a six-speed manual. We've already tested the 2012 Wrangler Sahara Unlimited with the five-speed manual and were as curious as you are as to how the smaller, lighter Wrangler with row-your-own box did when pushed to its limits at the track.

You asked for it so here we go... 

Vehicle: 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport

Odometer: 728
Date: 09-20-2011
Driver: Chris Walton

Price as tested: $23,740

Drive Type: Four-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Six-speed manual  
Engine Type: Naturally aspirated, port-injected V6, gasoline
Redline (rpm): 6,600
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 285 @ 6,400
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 260 @ 4,800
Brake Type (front): 11.9-by-1.1 inch Ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): 12.44-by-0.47 inch solid discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Suspension Type (front) Solid live axle, shock absorbers, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Solid live axle, shock absorbers, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): P225/75R16 (104S)
Tire Size (rear): P225/75R16 (104S)
Tire Brand: Goodyear
Tire Model: Wrangler ST
Tire Type: All Season
Wheel size: 16-by-7.0 inches
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,865

Test Results:

0-30 (sec): 2.8 (2.9 w/TC on)
0-45 (sec): 4.7 (5.0 w/TC on)
0-60 (sec): 7.1 (7.4 w/TC on)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 6.9 (7.1 w/TC on)
0-75 (sec): 10.8 (11.3 w/TC on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 15.4 @ 89.3 (15.6 @ 88.3)

30-0 (ft): 35
60-0 (ft): 140

Slalom (mph): 55.7 (55.4 w/TC off)
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.63 (0.63 w/TC on)

Db @ Idle: 49.4
Db @ Full Throttle: 81.0
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 73.2

Acceleration: Long-travel, high-point engaging clutch is great for off-roading but horrible for a drag strip. With TC off, in 2WD it'll light the rear tires. A little spin works, but too much is too much. Upshifting to a different zip codes with the long-neck shifter takes time, but it'll still chirp 1-2 and 2-3 if done quickly enough. Tall gears let the engine pull (for a long time in each gear) all the way to redline where power fades slightly.

Braking: Lots of dive, lots of wiggle and some directional change even requires steering to keep straight. Tires howl every time. Moderate fade.


Skid pad: Silly, really, considering how low the threshold is for non-defeat ESC. So low that the Jeep barely leans at this slow speed. Steering barely loads up. Barely a measurable difference with TC off.

Slalom: Also silly with early onset ESC intrusion -- best run was with minimal steering input and staying below the ESC's radar. Also essentially no reason/difference with TC off.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: This Is More Like It

October 07, 2011

Jeep frontal.jpg

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.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 2,025 miles.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Liking the Drivetrain

September 26, 2011


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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Past Long-Term Road Tests