January 29, 2013
One of the things our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport doesn't have is a factory navigation system. Heck, it didn't even come with Bluetooth, a matter we quickly rectified by installing a factory-developed U-Connect Mopar accessory.
But that didn't address navigation. Fortunately, the recent dust-up between Apple and Google has resulted in a very cheap and effective solution, an alternative to the factory nav system and the aftermarket Tom Toms of the world that make the purchase of either one unnecessary.
Apple got cocky and ditched the native Google Maps app that had always come pre-installed on their phones. The in-house Apple iOS map replacement was (and still is) a disaster, and within a matter of weeks Google came out with a fresh Google maps app that anyone could download from the iTunes store.
Thing is, Google Maps, the App is light years better than the old native Google Maps button that came on the iPhone before the infighting started. The new one reroutes, it issues turn-by-turn instructions with or without voice (through the car's speakers), it offers the choice of perspective view, the graphics are better, you can see traffic red zones along a planned route (the blue route line no longer obscures them), it displays and recalculates ETA as you go along and much more. It's better in almost every possible way, in fact.
And it's free.
This new Google Maps iOS app is especially effective in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler because an iPhone will perch comfortably atop the flat-topped steering column without obscuring the gauges. A non-skid rubber phone case helps greatly to keep it there, of course.
There are two drawbacks, however.
September 25, 2012
The so-called Chrysler RES radio is the base audio unit that came with our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport. Truly a base radio, it has nothing but a simple AUX jack, and because of that my 4,000-mile trip to Oregon and Moab was a nightmare of tangled cords as I attempted to listen to tracks on my iPhone out on the Lonliest Road in rural Nevada, where few radio signals dare to tread.
Unlike past years the 2012 RES radio has no dormant U-Connect button ready and waiting to be activated by the addition of a U-Connect kit, so previous upgrade kits meant for radios that did have the inactive button won't work with it. And it's not just our 2012 Jeep; '12 versions of the Avenger, Challenger, 200, Compass, Patriot, Durango, Grand Cherokee, Liberty, Ram trucks and the minivans are in the same boat if they have the RES base radio.
A few months back Mopar issued a new U-Connect upgrade kit to offer relief to those wishing to add U-Connect Bluetooth (streaming audio and phone), voice commands and iPod/USB input capability to the RES base radio (w/o U-Connect button) they've already got.
The kit costs $349, and the part number is 82213221 (please verify if you have something other than a 2012 Wrangler). For that you get everything shown above except the USB/iPod cable in the lower right -- that's another $35 (P/N 82212160) because, the thinking goes, not everyone has an iPod or iPhone. That's true, of course, but this interface cable works with USB memory sticks and other USB-connected music players, too.
Anyway, I decided to install this myself. Here's how it went.
August 28, 2012
Our Jeep's skinny 225/75R16 OE rubber was designed to run at 36 psi, but this pressure is brutally high when applied to the stiffer carcass of our 285/70R17 BFG Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 off-road rubber. The firmer ride of the 3-inch Mopar Fox/Terraflex lift kit isn't helping much, either.
So we dropped the static inflation pressure to 28 psi, a pressure our big BFGoodrich tires can live with because of their much higher load rating: 121/118 versus 103. But 28 psi is far too low for the OE 16-inch tires, so the factory-calibrated TMPS system gets all pissy when we do this. After all, it has no idea we've changed to different tires with more load capacity.
I wish there was some way to tell it, a way to reset the TPMS trigger threshold in the computer.
There is -- for 2007+ JK Wranglers at least -- and it's called an AEV ProCal.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 19,503 miles
August 20, 2012
A couple months ago I hinted we'd be adding U-Connect Bluetooth phone and audio to our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. Our 2012 Jeep is unusual in that its base radio lacks any U-Connect buttons whatsoever. Last year that would have been game over, as previous upgrade kits only worked with base radios that had inactive placeholder U-Connect buttons built in.
Now a newly introduced $367 kit allows one to add Bluetooth phone, Bluetooth audio and a USB/iPod input (the kit is ready for USB but it's another $37 for the required cord), as well as the necessary buttons (shown above) to control it all.
The installation process, which will be detailed here in a few days, takes less than an hour. But a crucial step or two -- activation of the unit by teaching it your car's VIN -- must be done by a Jeep dealer with specific tools. Turns out the one-hour minimum they charge for this step also covers installation -- at my local dealership, at least -- so in the end the DIY approach didn't save me any money.
But does it work?
In a word, yes. The Bluetooth audio is strong, phone calls come in loud and clear through the stereo speakers, and the iPod connection charges the iPhone while it plays my music.
The limitations of the base radio's tiny display does introduce a few limitations, of course. I'm still learning how to manipulate the iPod, for example, and I haven't yet figured out how to pause Bluetooth audio without going for the MP3 player itself. And I'm not sure there's any way to see phonebook entries. As you might have guessed from this my kit included no usage instructions, so I'm learning as I go along.
Still, I know I can select songs or artists with voice commands, as in "Play artist Pink Floyd," and I have dialed phone numbers in much the same way. I've also dialed people I know are in my phone's directory by name.
For me, the best part is I can ditch the aux cord altogether. My long trip to Moab and back was a nightmare of tangled power and stereo output cords. No more. Our base Jeep Wrangler Sport feels a little less basic and a lot more liveable.
As for those of you shouting "Crutchfield! Crutchfield!" consider this: Jeeps are ridiculously easy to break into, particularly ones that have a soft top. No one wants the factory base radio, but with this upgrade it now does everything I need it to do without drawing attention to itself.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 19,320 miles
May 27, 2012
Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler started out as a base model 2-door Sport with no options save air conditioning. As such, it has the entry-grade AM/FM stereo with a single-disc CD player and a basic AUX jack. There's no Bluetooth, no USB.
You could argue that the optional $460 Connectivity Group would have been a good deal, as it brings Bluetooth (phone and audio), a USB audio input and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with U-Connect and stereo control buttons built right in.
But let's say you find a new (or used) JK Jeep Wrangler Sport to buy that has everything you want except U-Connect Bluetooth and USB. What do you do? Pass it up and buy something loaded with more options than you want just to get Bluetooth?
You could go aftermarket, of course, but Mopar sells an add-on U-Connect Bluetooth module that plugs right in to the back of the stock factory radio. It provides a means to use voice commands to make calls. When calls come in the sound comes out through the factory speakers. In either case your Bluetooth streaming or USB-docked music gets auto-paused. In short, you get the factory experience from a factory-developed accessory.
The kit costs $368 or thereabouts, with another $37 or so needed for the USB cord. That's slightly cheaper than the Connectivity Group option, but when the dust settles you don't end up with the steering wheel buttons and there's still the matter of installation, which will cost you a little extra if you have the dealer handle it.
But at least you can retrofit a Jeep (or other recent vintage Chrysler product) with U-Connect after the fact. As soon as I carve out time in my schedule I'll install this kit and show you what's involved if you care to do it yourself.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 15,896 miles
February 29, 2012
"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, Edmunds
January 05, 2012
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
October 04, 2011
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