If you had told me ten years ago that one day I would take a ride in a four-door Jeep Wrangler equipped with heated leather seats; power windows and side mirrors, and a smooth yet commanding engine I would probably have said, “yeah right, and we’ll have an African-American President as well!” Well, both scenarios have certainly come to fruition and represent a new day and age for Jeep and its 2012 Wrangler.
With an MSRP of $22,545, the new domestic adventurer has been improved with a series of incremental upgrades since the introduction of the previous generation. This is in addition to significant advancements that were made to the interior of the 2011 model that now carry over into the latest model.
Nevertheless, before I get ahead of myself — and to put this review in perspective — you should be aware that I’ve owned a cadre of Wranglers as personal vehicles. So I consider myself a Jeep buff. Never mind that there’s some brand loyalty involved here. During my non-marital days each Wrangler was my boy and best bud. Together we had a go anywhere, do anything mentality. Whether it was camping, white-water rafting, mountain biking or off-roading we did it all together just to get away. And though long road trips weren’t exactly the most comfortable, it didn’t seem to matter at that point because certain trade-offs were expected and accepted. Moving along into the initial phases of family life I picked up a newer Wrangler as the “fun vehicle,” yet still realizing its limitations for the household. As our clan steadily grew, I came to the harsh realization that we needed something more adaptive. Having attended the press launch of four-door Wrangler in 2007 I became familiar with its incredible off-roading skills, however it lacked the interior and exterior ride comfort and refinement that my wife and kids deserved. Sadly, I moved on.
Jeep Wrangler without a doubt has become legendary for its off-road capabilities. So you can imagine what additional adjustments have done for the vehicle to enhance its physical prowess and drivability even further. This includes an all-new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that produces 285 horsepower along with 260 lb-ft of torque, while improving fuel economy to 21 miles per gallon. I had the opportunity to experience this power and performance on part of our test drive in Portland, Oregon when effortlessly overtaking an 18-wheeler on a narrow two-lane highway. In my earlier Jeep days such passing power was impossible. This was not the case with the 2012 Wrangler, which offers instant acceleration without the annoyance of high-speed vibrations, shakes or lack of torque experienced with previous models.
Upon entering the new Wrangler, aficionados will notice Jeep’s 7-slot grille and headlamps logo above the rear-view mirror almost smiling and welcoming you into a new era of Jeep Wrangler history. Other notable refinements include a thicker steering wheel with integrated controls, a voice command media center and 12V or 115V power outlets while still allowing one to experience the unapologetic optional freedom of going topless minus the doors.
Exterior options now include a matching body color roof and composite fenders on certain trim levels, along with chrome accents inside and out, and additional colors schemes including Dozer Yellow, Cosmos Blue and Crush Orange.
I remember attending the launch of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited and thought of it as a cool and useful option. But what kind of customer would buy such a vehicle? It was still rugged, yet too much so for a family I thought. Well, a few years and several worthwhile refinements later, I’m now that customer! And surprisingly, the four door models now account for 60% of Wranglers sold, so I’m certainly not alone.
Jeep’s athletic and camper attributes are still second to none. Whether ascending or descending mountainous terrain, rock crawling or traversing 3-foot deep craters, the 2012 Wrangler is capable of handling obstacles virtually without effort. However, it is now possible to conquer these challenges while adding optional power amenities and a Garmin-based GPS that can find the most remote roads and trails while keeping your “tushy” comfortable and warm with heated leather seats.
The new Wrangler will navigate proud owners straight from the craggy trails of Oregon and directly onto the paved highways of life. Equally at home it’s comfortable and capable in virtually every driving scenario. Jeep is still rugged, but also more refined.