Using the 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon as a domesticated family truckster is like inviting your single, beer-drinking, meat-loving, Texas roughneck buddy to give the best man speech at a dry bar, vegetarian-only, gay wedding. It’s gonna be uncomfortable for somebody and it could get ugly. This quarter our two-door Wrangler spent quite a bit of time handling Mr. Mom duties while still finding time to get away from the ol’ ball and chain and rug rats for a little dirt time.
Our biggest complaint this quarter? Not enough space for a family of three and the space that is there is hard to use and access. The gravity-dependent doors were the first to get noticed. Just like all CJ and Wrangler doors, they are limited by nylon straps, but these don’t keep the doors from closing on you or from slamming into the car next to you when the Jeep is parked on a sidehill. Trying to put groceries in the front seat is like juggling flaming tennis balls when you are chasing the door open and closed. The tailgate received a detent to keep it open several years ago; we think the doors should be next on the list. Although, if not well thought out, this will probably make door removal more difficult, if that’s your kinda thing.
Of course, as noted in our first report, it’s still impossible to put real people in the back seat of the Wrangler. Some single staffers sans-family prefer to simply remove the seat anyway. But those staffers with kiddos found a need for rear seat and cargo space improvement. A typical family trip to Costco would bury the back seat passengers with bulk items up to their eyeballs. A nice feature would be a split rear bench, similar to what you can find in the rear of a four-door Wrangler Unlimited, only smaller. This could allow a person to sit on one side with extra storage space on the other. Speaking of the fold and tumble rear seat, why won’t it lock in the up position? Aside from the domesticated interior complaints, the Wrangler Rubicon makes an awesome weekend-wheeling getaway car for one or two people. Yank the rear seat and you have plenty of storage.
We love that the Wrangler is small, fun, and darty on the highway. You can easily sew your way through tight spots in traffic. Pretty much anyone can park the Wrangler Rubicon, even in confined downtown Los Angeles, thanks to its small size, great visibility, and fantastic maneuverability.
The Sunrider soft top on our Wrangler has been fun during the warmer months. Over the long haul we’d probably opt for the hardtop, but in our experience neither top is the end-all solution. We like the hardtop for its durability, sound-deadening qualities, and how it does a slightly better job of sealing out the dust while off-road. The soft top is easier to take down, stow away, and remarkably, it’s a bit more water-tight than the hardtop. Flipping the Sunrider portion of the soft top back to create a sunroof is way easier than removing and stashing the hardtop roof panels. The material of our soft top is looking a little mud-stained. It’s due for a thorough scrubbing, and the windows are starting to show scratches from mud and brush encounters.
Next quarter, we’ll hit the rocks and make a road trip to the east coast in our long-term Wrangler.
Report: 2 OF 4
Previous reports: Sept.’12
Base price: $29,995
Price as tested: $32,900
Four-wheel-drive system: Lever-actuated part-time, two-speed
Miles to date: 6,208
Miles since last report: 3,505
Average mpg (this report): 16.81
Test best tank (mpg): 19.69
Test worst tank (mpg): 12.59 (off-road around Hollister, CA)
This period: None
Problem areas: None
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Easily maneuvers in traffic, great visibility, perfect for a single guy
Not: Doors swing shut on their own, rear fold-up seat won’t stay folded up, not a good Costco family shopping rig
“I wish the doors would stay open on their own.”
“It handles the road great.”
“The rear seat should fold up and lock in place.”
“I forgot how fun and darty the Wrangler is.”
“It’s really fun to hit the twisty dirt roads in 4-Hi with the ESP off.”