The Wrangler 3.6L has equal length exhaust down pipes that attach to the integrated exhaus
On the Road
Our drive from Squaw Valley, California, to the trailhead of the Rubicon was a great test of the Pentastar’s tractability. Despite elevations ranging from 6,000 to 8,000 feet, we were instantly impressed with the power output of the 3.6L. We never found it running out of breath, even as it approached its redline. While the Pentastar doesn’t quite offer up Hemi power, it is a considerable improvement over the 3.8L, and you are no longer left longing for a V-8 in daily driving. Our only complaint, and it is a minor one, is that the 3.6L feels slightly flat pulling off the line when compared to the 3.8L (see sidebar), but once you get above 1,400 rpm it’s all Pentastar. The engine pulls hard and sounds good doing it with none of the harshness associated with the 3.8L.
We found the manual-equipped models to be quite a bit of fun to drive on the asphalt, and the Pentastar even doles out enough pop to get that elusive (to Wrangler, anyway) tire chirp on the 1-2 shift. While the clutch travel is long, the trans shifts smoothly and it is still our choice for those who want more control or an engaged driving experience. Just as in the current Wrangler, we did notice a bit of the gear noise in the 3-4 gate, which is not surprising considering that the Wrangler interior noise levels are down and the gearbox hasn’t changed.
As fun as the manual is, the real treat is going to be for those new buyers who currently drive an automatic JK. The 3.6L/five-speed automatic package is a substantial upgrade over the 3.8L/four-speed combo. No longer does the driveline feign power with noise or reluctantly shift at its leisure. With a wide powerband and a well-matched transmission, the ’12 Wrangler feels light on its feet and shifts are appropriate and well timed. Our favorite feature of the new transmission is ERS. Select a gear and the transmission will hold it all the way to the fuel cutoff at redline, never second-guessing your selection by upshifting on its own.
Out on the road it is clear that this is the quietest Wrangler ever. While NVH improvements are noticeable and appreciated, old-schoolers mustn’t worry because the upright windshield still makes plenty of wind noise on the highway—you’ll never feel too far removed from a traditional Wrangler experience. Want more? Just drop the top or pop off the front panels for more wind in the hair.
The W5A580 automatic transmission is the first five-speed automatic ever offered in a Wran
On the Trail
Jeep quotes the water fording depth of the Wrangler Rubicon at 30 inches, which came in handy as the Rubicon Trail was often underwater due to a particularly wet winter season. With the 4.0:1 transfer cases churning away under our Rubicon testers, we have to be honest when we tell you that the ’12s weren’t much different on the trail than the ’11s. And that is probably a good thing. The 3.6Ls performed flawlessly on the Rubicon and you wouldn’t know much has changed, which should make the purists happy.
We’d say the biggest change is from automatic-equipped models where we had the ability to lock in First via ERS and enjoy the improved crawl ratio.
No doubt about it, the days of the tractor-like power delivery of the 4.0L straight six are over, but if you are already used to the high-rpm powerband of the 3.8L, you won’t need to adjust your driving habits to adapt to the new engine.
The Pentastar V-6 is a fantastic upgrade that will appeal to majority of Wrangler buyers, especially those who may never have considered a Wrangler before. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the aftermarket coax more than 300 horsepower from this engine in short order and it should serve to increase the Wranglers popularity even further. The bottom line is that as good as the Wrangler is on the trail, this driveline upgrade makes it an even better all-around vehicle in daily use. The 2012 JK is the most versatile Wrangler ever, so if you’ve been waiting to buy one, the time is now.
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Sweet engine, more fuel efficient, more refinement, same capability
Not: Slightly less low end off idle, and…
Our Take: More of what you want and less of nothing else
Vehicle/model: 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 2DR
Price as tested: N/A
Engine: 3.6L 60-degree DOHC V-6
Rated hp/torque (lb-ft): 285/260
Transmission(s): NSG 370 6-speed manual/W5A580 5-spd automatic
Transfer case: NV241OR Rock-Trac
4WD system: 2-speed, part-time
Low-range ratio: 4.0:1
Frame type: Fully boxed ladder frame
Suspension, f/r: Live axle four-link w/coil springs and monotube shocks/Live axle four-link w/coil springs and monotube shocks
Axles, f/r: Dana 44, Tru-Lok electronic locker/ Dana 44, Tru-Lok electronic locker
Axle ratio: 4.10:1
Max crawl ratio: 73.0:1
Steering: Power recirculating ball w/ damper
Brakes, f/r: 11.9x1.1-inch vented rotor w/single piston floating caliper/12.44x0.47-inch solid rotor with single piston floating caliper
Wheels (in.): 17x7.5 painted cast aluminum
Tires: LT255/75R17 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain
Wheelbase (in): 95.4
Length (in): 152.8
Height (in): 70.9 (hardtop)
Base curb weight (lb): 3,760
Approach/departure angles (deg.): 44.3/40.4
Minimum ground clearance (in): 10.2
Payload (lb): 892
Interior cargo volume (cu ft): 61.2
Max towing capacity (lb): 2,000
Fuel capacity (gal): 18.6
Fuel economy (mpg): 17 city/21 highway