2012 Jeep Wrangler Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
NHTSA Overall Rating
- 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 Rollover25.6%
- Side Impact TestPoor
- Roof Strength TestNot Tested
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintMarginal
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestGood
More About This Model
If you think the eggheads in Stuttgart labor over every change to the Porsche 911, imagine what the Jeep guys go through when it comes time to take the scalpel to the Wrangler.
Traditionalists, being traditional, loathe change, and the 2012 Jeep Wrangler entails the plucking of the Wrangler's very beating heart for a new and improved unit. You can almost hear the traditionalists gasping for air.
One run through the gears of the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is all that's needed to prove that the traditionalists can relax. There's nothing to worry about. In fact, there's plenty to be excited about.
New Engine, Transmission
To soften the blow of too many changes all at once, the caretakers of America's most cherished trucklike thing spread them out over two model years. OK, that's kind of a lie. In reality, the Wrangler's 2011 cabin tweaks were originally thought to be accompanied by a powertrain upgrade, but the vagaries of manufacturing postponed the heart transplant by a year. So the 2012 Wrangler essentially completes phase two of the model refresh that started with last year's model.
Headlining the changes for 2012 is the adoption of Chrysler's DOHC 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. It kicks out 260 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm and 285 horsepower at 6,400 rpm, some 23 lb-ft and fully 83 hp more than the old-school pushrod 3.8-liter V6 it replaces. For some perspective, the Pentastar generates more torque at 1,900 rpm than the outgoing engine produced at its peak, and continues making meaningful grunt all the way to 6,400 rpm.
Sheer output isn't everything, and to ensure Jeep-worthiness, the Pentastar received some tweaks. Wranglers need to be able to ford water that's 30 inches deep, so the alternator was relocated to the top of the accessory drive. A deep-sump oil pan and pickup was fitted to ensure reliable lubrication while crawling up ridiculous grades, and a rejiggered intake tract improves torque output.
All told, the new engine is 3.7 inches shorter in length and 90 pounds lighter than the old 3.8-liter mill, though the weight savings is largely offset by the new, beefier automatic gearbox. Yes, for 2012 the Wrangler's four-speed automatic has been consigned to the dustbin of history. In its place is the A580 five-speed autobox that backs Chrysler's Hemi products including the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The six-speed manual gearbox is carried over and remains standard equipment, along with a low-range transfer case.
With the new gearbox ratios and a taller standard axle ratio of 3.06, the automatic-equipped 2012 Jeep Wrangler's overall gearing is now a touch shorter in 1st and a smidge taller in top gear.
Save for a few bits and baubs, the rest of the Wrangler's hardware carries over essentially as is.
Nobody Will Miss the Old Engine
Turned loose on the billiard table-smooth blacktop outside of Portland, Oregon, the reinvigorated Wrangler is more enthusiastic, and the autobox is more likely to have the right gear for the occasion. This is still a near-4,000-pound truck with the aerodynamic profile of the Parthenon, so those hoping the Wrangler has been transformed into a tire-fryer might be disappointed.
The numbers are encouraging, though. Zero-to-60 drops to 7.7 seconds for the two-door Wrangler (8.4 for the four-door), compared to 10.4 for the 2011 model. In practice the engine's flat torque curve masks the rate at which speed rises, making its urgency feel appropriate, rather than the old engine's asthmatic.
The net effect of more grunt and another gear is less hunting between gears on freeway grades, too. It's an incremental improvement, as the gearing is still rather tall. The move to five gears might be a big deal to Jeep guys, but this is one application where a six-speed autobox wouldn't be a bad idea.
Jeep officials were proud of the new engine's improved NVH characteristics. When cruising, you'll be hard-pressed to hear a difference, as wind noise still dominates everything else that makes noise, including the engine. But when you give it the spurs, the new engine makes better sounds than the old lump.
The steering remains recirculating-ball type, and it remains hilariously ropey on pavement. It's nonlinear, lacks feel and exhibits significant yaw delay. With live axles front and rear, the ride bucks and shudders over pavement imperfections. Refined and honed as it has become over the years, driving a Wrangler is still kind of like driving a forklift. Call it part of the charm of the thing, along with being able to fold the windshield down and remove the doors, which is too cool for words.
Still a Wrangler
Wait, this is a Jeep, right? All this talk of pavement and NVH and efficiency and steering feel might have you wondering where their priorities are. Not to fear. The Jeep staff insists that all the changes that improve the Wrangler's day-to-day livability will never compromise its off-road capability.
As if to prove it, part of our drive of the 2012 Jeep Wrangler included stints in the off-road-focused Rubicon model up a trail that was crafted to show off the depth of the truck's talents. To the uninitiated, the path would appear impossible, yet the Wrangler crept up and down the steep, rocky, log-strewn, rutted pass littered with sinkholes the size of Kias without even breathing hard.
Though the electronic throttle calibration doesn't always provide instant response, there's ample torque down low in the new engine. It runs cool, too, thanks in part to a new variable-speed 600-watt cooling fan and a larger A/C condenser and transmission cooler. Hell, the A/C didn't even flinch in the hot weather no matter how slow we crawled. The Wrangler remains a staggeringly capable off-road steed.
Imagine, all that added capability and the 2012 Jeep Wrangler even burns less fuel. Yes, its EPA fuel-efficiency numbers are now 17 city/21 highway mpg for two-door models, a 2-mpg bump up last year's numbers.
All that, and Jeep held the line for pricing of base models, while the MSRPs of high-zoot Sahara and Rubicon models swell by just $300.
It's like having your cake, eating it, and then finding out it lowers your cholesterol, too. Even traditionalists will have a hard time arguing with that.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report.
Used 2012 Jeep Wrangler Overview
The Used 2012 Jeep Wrangler is offered in the following submodels: Wrangler SUV. Available styles include Sport 2dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M), Unlimited Sport 4dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M), Unlimited Sahara 4dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M), Unlimited Rubicon 4dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M), Sahara 2dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M), Rubicon 2dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 6M), and Unlimited Sport RHD 4dr SUV 4WD (3.6L 6cyl 5A). Pre-owned Jeep Wrangler models are available with a 3.6 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 285 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2012 Jeep Wrangler comes with four wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed manual. The Used 2012 Jeep Wrangler comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 100000 mi. powertrain warranty.
What's a good price on a Used 2012 Jeep Wrangler?
Price comparisons for Used 2012 Jeep Wrangler trim styles:
- The Used 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport is priced between $21,000 and$30,998 with odometer readings between 10472 and93616 miles.
- The Used 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara is priced between $24,997 and$33,998 with odometer readings between 42553 and113247 miles.
- The Used 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is priced between $18,446 and$33,990 with odometer readings between 8890 and138855 miles.
- The Used 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport is priced between $21,995 and$27,499 with odometer readings between 66522 and133544 miles.
- The Used 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is priced between $21,899 and$29,590 with odometer readings between 90291 and132585 miles.
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Which used 2012 Jeep Wranglers are available in my area?
Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2012 Jeep Wrangler for sale near. There are currently 33 used and CPO 2012 Wranglers listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $18,446 and mileage as low as 8890 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2012 Jeep Wrangler.
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Should I lease or buy a 2012 Jeep Wrangler?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.