the world’s best offroader, gets better for 2012

With the addition of bold new colors, a few new options, and (most importantly) the new 3.6L pentastar-heart; Jeep pours some much needed life back into their icon for 2012.

Photo Courtesy of Chrysler

With its introduction for the 2007 model year, the JK Wrangler (the third iteration of the offroader since replacing the beloved CJ in 1987) brought with it more change than we had seen over the previous 20 years.  The standard 2 door’s wheelbase gained a few inches to its width and length; the Wrangler Unlimited, the extended wheelbase version that was introduced toward the end of the TJ run, was also beefed up, and given a second set of doors.  Sadly, the the last remaining piece of the Jeep’s AMC heritage, the 4.0L straight 6 cylinder engine, had been kicked to the curb to make way for a less than exciting 202 horsepower 3.8L V6.  Two major issues plagued the JK through the 2010 model year; a lackluster interior, and the underpowered 3.8L engine.  Few improvements were made to the JK prior to the 2011 refresh; which included a major interior overhaul, and the debut of the color match hard top for Sahara.

Photo Courtesy of Chrysler

The 2012 model picks up where Jeep left off with 2011 (still no pick-up though); boasting the new, higher horsepower, higher torque, and better fuel efficient engine, as well as the addition of an optional 5 speed automatic transmission.  The new auto brings with it a  3.59 first gear ratio, as well as the ability to manually select gears via the side-to-side toggle stick.  Thankfully, the 6 speed manual transmission (which offers the lowest crawl ratio of the entire brand due to its 4.46 first gear ratio and Rubicon’s 4.10 axle ratio) remains for ‘do it yourself-ers’ like me.  Though integrated into most of Chrysler’s lineup for 2011; the new 3.6L will be matched to a manual transmission for the first time with the 2012 Wrangler.

Photo Courtesy of Chrysler

Jeep claims that Wrangler’s new 3.6-liter V6 engine will boost fuel efficiency up to 21 miles per gallon on the highway, while delivering 285 horsepower, and 260 lb.-ft. of torque.  To boot; they’re not going to charge you anything extra for it! (on the base model, at least.)  The 2012 Wrangler Sport’s starting price tag will remain the same as the 2011s (Rubicon and Sahara will have modest increases of a few hundred dollars.)  The new mill is much needed, and a huge improvement over its replacement.  It’s not the HEMI or diesel (or 4.0L throwback) we were hoping for, but it should certainly get the job done.  Only time will tell if this promising engine can live up to the legacy that was the 4.0 litre; but with 95 more horses, and 30 more lb.-ft. of torque than the loved straight six; quality and durability will be the real test for Chrysler’s Pentastar.

Photo Courtesy of Chrysler

Across all models; the new engine increases the JK’s 0-60 time by 2 or 3 seconds.  It’s certainly not as impressive as the 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT’s 4.8 second time; but considering the JK’s weight, and billboard like aerodynamics, a highway entering 0-60 under 9 seconds should sit well with buyers.  Aside from the updated powertrain; Sport remains basically the same, Sahara gets new standard equipment, and Rubicon sees some new and interesting options.

Photo Courtesy of Chrysler

For ’12, Sahara’s color match hard top (like it’s color match fenders have been for years) is now the only optional hard top.  Rubicon, however, adds the option of a color match top and fender flares for 2012.  Thankfully, unlike the Sahara, the classic matte black hard top will still be available on Rubicon, and the only available hard top for Sport.

Photo Courtesy of Chrysler

Rubicon will see some interesting drive line changes for 2012 as well.  Due to the new 5spd’s numerically higher first gear than the outgoing 4spd’s; the Rubicon 4.10 axle gear ratio is no longer standard.  Rubicons with the new automatic will come with a 3.73 axle gear ratio, with an option for the 4.10s.  Jeep claims that automatic Rubicons, with the now standard 3.73 axle gear ratio, will have a better crawl ratio than the 2011 equipped with the 4.10s.  The standard 6spd manual transmission will continue to come with the 4.10 axle gear ratio on Rubicon; giving it the best crawl ratio of the JK fleet.  Even more reason to go for the row your own.

Photo Courtesy of Chrysler

The images that Jeep released of the new ‘Dozer Yellow’ and ‘Deep Molten Red’ look promising.  Yet to be seen are ‘Crush Orange,’ ‘Black Forest Green,’ and possibly, ‘Gecko Green;’ which was listed as an optional color on a fleet order sheet that was released prior to the official press release last week.  ‘Black Chrystal Pearl’ will replace the ‘Black Clear Coat.’ ‘Silver Metallic Clear Coat,’ ‘Bright White,’ ‘Cosmos Blue,’ and ‘Sahara Tan’ will remain for 2012.  We’ve heard no official word yet regarding the fate of the Call of Duty, or Mojave special edition Wranglers .  Hopefully we’ll see a new special edition this year; a Renegade edition based on the mopar concept, perhaps a return of the Golden Eagle or Islander, or maybe, an anniversary edition Wrangler; marking 25 years since its introduction in 1987.

1987 Jeep Wrangler

Photo Courtesty of Chrysler

UPDATE:  JEEP RELEASED NEW INFO ON SEPTEMBER 1, 2011 CONFIRMING THAT A 2012 CALL OF DUTY SPECIAL EDITION WILL BE AVAILABLE – DETAILS TO FOLLOW

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