As the winner of the 2012 Four Wheeler of the Year competition, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon long-term tester has been a welcome part of our fleet. So far it’s been used as a makeshift minivan, parts hauler, desert explorer, commuter, and now, cross-country shuttle. It also served as the pre-run rig for this year’s Four Wheeler of the Year competition. That grueling recon run garnered the Jeep a new dent in the oil pan and crossmember, along with a crushed steering stabilizer, which we quickly swapped out for a new one.
Despite the slight underbelly beat-up, the short wheelbase Jeep continues to impress us off-road—especially by how well it handles rough terrain at low speed. High-speed desert-romping works OK too, but the soft top tends to let in dust from the rear hatch, which can be a tad annoying. Part of its off-road prowess is thanks to the electronic-disconnecting sway bar. Speaking of the sway bar, after a tough day of wheeling, the light continued to flash as though it was trying to engage. It was obvious to us that it was locked-in, so when we took the rig in for its mandatory service (oil change) at the dealership, we had them take a look.
The dealership’s prognosis was that the sway-bar module was bad. While the part was covered under warranty, Technical Editor Ali Mansour was flying in the following week to pick up the Wrangler for a cross-country drive from our Southern California headquarters to his coastal plain digs in North Carolina. There simply wasn’t enough time to get the new part in and have it installed. Oddly enough, a few miles into Mansour’s cross-country trek he encountered a rather large pothole and the sway bar light stopped flashing. As of now, it seems to be working fine. We’re thinking it was a simple case of a plug that was ever so slightly disengaged.
As for the 3,000-mile trek from coast-to-coast in the soft top Wrangler, aside from netting an ever-growing crack in the windshield from a piece of road debris, it went relatively smooth and trouble free. With sat-nav, cruise control, and modern interior comforts, it’s a pretty nice way to see the nation. Sure, there is a bit of wind noise to contend with, the clear-windowed soft top offered virtually no security for our gear, and the flat windshield looked more like a flying-insect slaughter field after 200 miles, but the Jeep felt very smooth and stable at highway speeds. Even as chopped as the tires are becoming from our use in jagged and rocky terrain, they don’t make much noise.
We also managed to score the best mileage to date with a tank netting us 21 mpg. Once we wrapped up our week-long cross-country drive we began to notice that the throwout bearing was making a little noise. It’s not consistent, and only seems to be noticeable after driving the vehicle for long periods, which generally points to a heat-related issue. Upon arriving on the east coast, we also ditched the rear seat, which makes the Jeep way more usable for hauling gear and assorted parts. We don’t have many friends that we want to watch contort themselves into the back, only to find that there is just enough room to almost be comfortable, almost.
We’ll continue to put the Jeep to work over the next couple of months and give you the latest update as we wrap-up our long term review next quarter.
2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
REPORT: 3 OF 4
Previous reports: Feb. ’13
Base price: $29,995
Price as tested: $32,900
Four-wheel-drive system: Lever-actuated part-time, two-speed
Miles to date: 9,999
Miles since last report: 3,791
Average mpg (this report): 16.93
Test best tank (mpg): 21.15
Test worst tank (mpg): 12.59 (off-road around Hollister, CA)
This period: $173.68 (oil change, tire rotation, and steering stabilizer replacement at dealership)
Problem areas: Sway bar plug came loose, cracked front windshield
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Great power, comfy enough for long trips, stable and fun to drive almost anywhere
Not: Soft top lets dust in, dirt-stained top and scratched soft top windows, intermittent throwout bearing chirp
“The steering wheel controls and front seats are great for road trips”
“I’d be OK if the rear seat was optional”
“Factory onboard air would be very handy”
“Smooth shifting and easy to drive”