2012 Jeep JK Wrangler Unlimited

    It’s Better Than We Thought it Would Be

    Phil HowellPhotographer, Writer

    Readers may remember that I was underwhelmed when I first drove a vehicle with the Pentastar 3.6L VVT V-6 that everyone else was gushing about. Now that I’ve spent some time driving a 2012 Wrangler with the 3.6L and the A580 five-speed automatic transmission, I’m eating my words.

    The 2012 JK Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is a great improvement over earlier models. The 3.6L VVT V-6 produces 80 more horsepower than the 3.8L V-6 it replaces, but does so at high rpm. The 2012’s low-end performance is better than earlier JKs, though. The real star, I suspect, is the A580 automatic.

    The transmission is a gem. With a 3.59:1 first gear, 2.19 2nd, 1.41 3rd, 1.0 4th, and 0.83 overdrive 5th (Reverse is 3.16), the new Wrangler never has a problem finding the right gear. Manual shifting is easy. With the selector in D, the shifter is rocked side to side to shift down (or back up). The A580 is so strong it’s also used in trucks and Hemi-equipped vehicles.

    The 3.6L’s relative lack of low-end torque is overcome with the automatic’s low 3.59 first gear. Ledge climbing and crawling is accomplished without a whimper.

    If you’re in the market for a 4x4, the 2012 JK Wrangler is worth a look.