2012 Jeep Wrangler Review
2012 Jeep Wrangler Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
by the Edmunds Experts
- Superior off-road capability
- strong engine
- surprisingly fun to drive around town
- two- and four-door variations
- rough-and-tumble image
- it's a convertible.
- Soft top is difficult to use and creates security issues
- noisy cabin
- choppy ride
- long braking distances
- poor side crash ratings.
After soldiering on with an antiquated engine for years, the Jeep Wrangler finally gets more modern power in the form of a 285-horsepower V6. A five-speed automatic is also now available, and every Wrangler is now four-wheel drive.
Though more civilized than ever, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler remains a no-nonsense American icon. Its quirky character and unique off-road abilities continue to hold appeal.
Calculate my fuel costs
Cost to DriveCost to drive estimates for the 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport 2dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M) and comparison vehicles are based on 15,000 miles per year (with a mix of 55% city and 45% highway driving) and energy estimates of $3.11 per gallon for regular unleaded in Virginia.
Monthly estimates based on costs in Virginia
$207/mo for Wrangler Sport
Avg. Compact SUV
Rarely does a car reviewed on Edmunds.com have as many pros and cons as the 2012 Jeep Wrangler. Most vehicles have a lot of one and not much of the other. The Wrangler, on the other hand, has a wealth of extremes. It has old-school solid axles at both ends and standard crank windows. It's incredibly noisy and rough-riding. The soft top is a puzzle to operate and is basically a big "break in!" sign to potential thieves. Indeed, measured against virtually any other new SUV, the Wrangler is in many ways, well, terrible.
And yet the Jeep Wrangler not only remains appealing but remains one of the best-selling SUVs in the country as well. Part of the reason why is because some of those foibles are actually indicative of an incredibly honest, back-to-basics off-roader. Of course, the Wrangler also looks pretty cool and can dive headlong into places where few other vehicles would dare dip their toes. Plus, what other new car allows you to remove not only the roof, but the doors and windshield as well? The answer is none.
Of course, some of the Wrangler's issues can't be brushed off as simply "quaint." The soft top's issues are real, as are long braking distances and limited secured storage. But there is finally good news for what lies under the hood. Gone is the agricultural and gutless old V6, and in its place Chrysler's new "Pentastar" 285-hp V6. Smooth, robust and reasonably efficient, this engine radically transforms the Wrangler. Boasting a whopping 83 more horses than the outgoing engine, the new V6 is more than a second quicker from zero to 60 mph. A newly available five-speed automatic improves power delivery and efficiency as well.
Whether you get a basic two-door Wrangler with crank windows and a soft top or a high-dollar four-door Wrangler Unlimited Sahara with heated leather seats and a hardtop, this iconic Jeep is without question a unique vehicle. However, we highly recommend taking it on a lengthy test-drive and paying attention to the above issues to see if you could really deal with them on a day-to-day basis. It's not uncommon for folks to be taken in by the Wrangler's cool factor only to quickly realize after purchase that a compact crossover or a more livable off-roader like the Nissan Xterra or Toyota FJ Cruiser would've been a wiser choice.
If you know what you're getting into, however, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is a wonderful way to not only get back to basics, but nature as well.
Performance & mpg
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler comes standard with a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 285 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. Four-wheel drive is also standard and includes high- and low-range transfer case gears, though the Rubicon features an upgraded transfer case with extra-low gearing. A six-speed manual transmission with hill-start assist is standard, while a five-speed automatic is optional.
In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped, two-door Wrangler went from zero to 60 mph in a surprisingly quick 7.1 seconds. A much heavier automatic-equipped Wrangler Unlimited did it in 8.8 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the two-door is 17 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined regardless of transmission. The Unlimited is 16/20/18 with the automatic and 16/21 with the manual.
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, and hill start assist. Front side airbags are optional. In Edmunds brake testing, both two- and four-door Wranglers came to a stop from 60 mph in about 140 feet.
It should be noted that the Wrangler's doors do not provide the same level of protection as regular doors do in a side crash. As such, it shouldn't come as a surprise that it didn't fare well in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's side crash test. Without side airbags, the two-door Wrangler earned the worst rating of "Poor," while the Unlimited got the second-worst "Marginal." However, the Wrangler did get the best possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset test.
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler is pretty much unstoppable in off-road situations, especially in Rubicon guise, thanks to its specialized hardware. The Wrangler Unlimited four-door isn't as maneuverable on tight trails as the much shorter two-door model, but its roomier interior means you can carry more gear. It also feels more stable around corners and on the highway. Nonetheless, all Wranglers suffer from tippy handling, a rough ride and steering that is kindly described as nebulous. Road and wind noise are also excessive.
The Wrangler also used to be described as slow, but no longer. It won't be winning any drag races, but the new V6 is a thoroughly modern engine that can actually get the heavy Wrangler moving briskly. The standard six-speed manual features precise but long throws and an easily modulated clutch. The automatic is now a much more modern five-speed unit that further aids power delivery and fuel economy.
Despite the increase in available niceties over the years, the Jeep Wrangler is still a vehicle meant to drive through dust, dirt and muck and then be easily cleaned afterward. Interior materials and switchgear were dramatically improved last year, and the design now has a rounder, more organic look.
The two-door's backseat can host only two passengers and suffers from limited leg- and foot room. If that isn't sufficient, the Unlimited has room for three and its extra set of doors makes for easier access. The four-door also offers 86 cubic feet of cargo space when the second-row seats are folded, which is quite substantial.
With any Wrangler's soft top, however, storing cargo inside can be a risky situation since only the meager glovebox and center console can be locked. The soft top is also complicated to raise and lower, and requires you to store its bulky plastic windows somewhere inside the cabin (which is tough in the two-door). The optional hardtop, which features removable T-top-style panels over the front seats, is a smart solution for those who don't intend to routinely go completely al fresco.
2012 Jeep Wrangler models
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler is a convertible SUV available in two-door Wrangler and four-door Wrangler Unlimited versions. Each comes in Sport, Sahara and Rubicon trims.
The Sport comes sparsely equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, front and rear tow hooks, foglamps, a removable soft top, crank windows, manual locks and mirrors, cruise control, a tilt-only steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, and a six-speaker sound system with an auxiliary audio jack, CD player and steering wheel controls. The Unlimited gets a bigger gas tank, four doors, more backseat and trunk space, air-conditioning and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. The Power Convenience Group adds heated power mirrors, power locks and windows, and keyless entry. Air-conditioning (two-door), satellite radio, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels are also optional.
The Sahara adds the above optional items plus 18-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded suspension, under-hood insulation, side steps, automatic headlamps, body-colored fender flares and a six-speaker Infinity sound system.
The Rubicon is not the most abundantly equipped trim level, per se, but rather the trim that boasts the most robust off-road credentials. It adds on top of the base Sport equipment special 17-inch wheels, 32-inch tires, heavy-duty axles and transfer case, electronic front and rear locking differentials, a disconnecting front sway bar, rock rails, air-conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and satellite radio. The Power Convenience Group is optional on the two-door, but standard on the Unlimited.
The following packages are available on all trims. The Connectivity Group adds Bluetooth, an iPod/USB audio interface, an upgraded trip computer and a leather-wrapped wheel on the Sport. A multi-piece removable hardtop with a rear defroster and wiper is optional with or without the standard soft top remaining. It comes standard in textured black, but can be had in body color on the Sahara and Rubicon.
Optional on the Sport and two-door Rubicon are a limited-slip differential and half doors that include plastic side windows. The Sahara and Rubicon can be equipped with leather upholstery and heated front seats, automatic climate control and a navigation system that includes a touchscreen interface, digital music storage and real-time traffic.
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
4.63 out of 5 stars
Finally back in a Jeep Wrangler!
2012 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 2dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M)
I custom ordered a 2012 Black Jeep Wrangler Sahara (6-Speed), and finally took delivery 2 weeks ago. This thing is awesome! I've owned a 1998 Jeep Wrangler Sahara, and this one is substantially better in every way. Build quality feels strong and as if it will last a very long time. A few things... 1) Don't buy a Jeep Wrangler without test driving and loving everything about it. If you … have a big smile on your face each time, you are good to go. 2) There is at least $4,000 or so in markup, so do your shopping research and negotiate. Mine stickered at $32,500, got it for $27,800. 3) So far in city driving I'm getting about 320 miles per tank. 4) Custom ordering took 7 weeks.
4.13 out of 5 stars
Is this really legal?
2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M)
I just bought a 2012 Unlimited Rubicon. So far, I love it. Don't get hung up on the reviews. It's a Jeep. It should be no surprise that it doesn't ride or perform like a luxury sedan. One thing buyers should be cautioned about though is that Jeeps do not come with an owner's manual. Is it just me, or is it absolutely absurd that a $40,000 vehicle, or any vehicle for that matter would not … come with an owner's manual. If you want one you have to buy one from the Jeep website for $50.00! How can that possibly be legal? At a minimum it is pathetically cheap. Jeep is cheap!
4.75 out of 5 stars
2nd JK Owner
2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport 2dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M)
5 months and 5000 miles later, I'm still excited to wake up every morning to drive my Jeep. Traded in a 2010 Unlimited Sport (auto) for the new 2012 Sport (6 speed). Instant upgrade in power and cabin presence. It's a little squirrely at highway speeds compared to the 4 door. If you have kids, the getting in and out of a 2 door is work. I'd think twice if this was your primary … vehicle. I'm one leg in, one leg out to belt my 5 year old in, my wife climbs in to do it. Passenger side only. Great price point of $22k for a base sport. Don't let the looks of a Rubicon/Special Edition suck you in. If you aren't going to wheel it regularly, you're wasting 10 grand.
5 out of 5 stars
My first 1100 miles
2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport RHD 4dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 5A)
Living in S. Texas, I took delivery of my 2012 Jeep Sahara Unlimited out of a dealership in Roswell, just North of Atlanta, GA during the Labor Day weekend. I was planning on a leisurely trip back through New Orleans but Tropical Storm Lee changed all that. I skirted the storm as close as Baton Rouge and encountered very heavy rain and high winds but my new Jeep took it like a trooper. … Between Baton Rough and Lafayette, I even encountered some minor flooding that backed up traffic for over a mile but my trusty new Jeep forded the rising water like a champ. Once leaving Lake Charles, the rains receded and it was off to Houston. Never did I notice even a drop of water penetrate the interior
2012 Wrangler Highlights
|Combined MPG||18 MPG|
|Cost to Drive||$207/month|
|Cargo Capacity |
All Seats In Place
|Drivetrain||four wheel drive|
|Warranty||3 years / 36,000 miles|
NHTSA Overall Rating
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverallNot RatedDriverNot RatedPassengerNot Rated
- Side Crash RatingOverallNot Rated
- Side Barrier RatingOverallNot RatedDriverNot RatedPassengerNot Rated
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront SeatNot RatedBack SeatNot Rated
- RolloverRollover3 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of Rollover27.9%
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
- Small Overlap Front Driver-Side TestNot Tested
- Small Overlap Front Passenger-Side TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front Test – OriginalGood
- Moderate Overlap Front Test – UpdatedNot Tested
- Side Impact Test – OriginalPoor
- Side Impact Test – UpdatedNot Tested
- Roof Strength TestNot Tested
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintMarginal