2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Long-Term Wrapup

Our 2012 4x4 Of The Year Goes Home

Rick PéwéPhotographer, Writer

Our 2012 4x4 of the Year winner was the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (Feb. ’13). Pitted against the venerable Ram Power Wagon Crew Cab, it was still a solid-axle slugfest with double throwdown lockers and all the good equipment. However, the Rubicon shone brighter than the Ram. As the winner, the Jeep was ours to punish and enjoy over the course of a year.

We say “punish” because the Rubicon won its marks as the no-holds-barred winner for a few straightforward reasons. First of course is capability. A custom-fabbed 4x4 could easily outdo the Rubicon in many off-road venues, but for a mass-produced, production-based vehicle straight out of the box, the Rubicon is hands-down the most capable rig ever made. Face it: What other vehicle could drive cross-country in comfort while negotiating many of the country’s toughest trails and do it all for a price many of us could afford? We have had a chance to wheel this Rubi far more than any other 4x4 of the Year winner for this one reason.

Even with all our griping, we are going to miss our Rubicon

Second on our list is the confidence-inspiring reliability. Sure, any vehicle can break, but when the going gets tough, what other contemporary, available rig would you take? There just isn’t any other choice. Any trail that goes beyond the pale is still possible by pushing through with the 4:1 transfer case gearing in 4.10 axles that can be locked with the flip of a switch, and a suspension supple enough to handle nearly anything short of competition climbing and speed contests. And speaking of speed, torque, and power, the new 3.6L V-6 is more than enough engine for whatever the Rubicon is tasked for, unlike the old 3.8L, which was more than underwhelming.

But as with any 4x4, there are shortcomings and areas where Jeep should have made more of an effort. What SOB decided to hide the locker and sway-bar controls under the left side of the dash? And what kind of lousy lawyers does Chrysler have that mandates that electronic nannies stay on after you turn them off? Come on, guys, does Ford have better lawyers? Liability is one thing but not having power to escape a bad off-road situation due to overcautious controls is downright criminal. Of course, the rear seat could be deleted too for more room in a two-door like ours, or at the very least, how about a strap to keep it in the folded-up position rather than banging around?

Even with all our miniscule griping, we are going to miss our Rubicon. No, there aren’t heated seats, it can’t carry a sheet of plywood easily, it doesn’t get 39 mpg, it can’t scale walls, and a family of four on a vacation will need to leave their luggage behind. But if you want a no-holds-barred wheeling machine straight from the factory, this is the ride for you. It easily gets 20 mpg, can burn rubber in at least three gears, and gives you the vision and confidence to explore that new trail or byway without the worries of lesser machines. We’ll miss Rubi.

The new Pentastar 3.6L V-6 far outshines the old 3.8L mill in torque, horsepower, and tractability. While the oil filter location on top is a pain, we piled on 24,000 miles without a single problem.

Manufacturer Jeep
Model Wrangler Rubicon
Base Price $29,995
Price As Tested $32,900
Options As Tested $2,105
Remote USB port; Electronic Vehicle Info; Uconnect Bluetooth; power heated mirrors, windows, and locks; remote keyless entry; alarm; CD/DVD/MP3/HDD/nav stereo

Type V-6
Displacement (L/ci) 3.6/220
Bore & Stroke (in) 3.78x3.27
Compression Ratio 10.2:1
Fuel Req. (octane)/Capacity (gal) 87/18.6
SAE Peak Horsepower 285 @ 6,400 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 260 @ 4,800 rpm

Type 6-speed manual
Model NSG 370
Ratios First: 4.46:1
Second: 2.61:1
Third: 1.72:1
Fourth: 1.25:1
Fifth: 1.00:1
Sixth: 0.79:1
Reverse: 4.06:1

Transfer Case
Type 2-speed, part-time
Model NV241OR Rock-Trac
Low-Range Ratio 4.00:1

Front Type Dana 44
Front Diff Selectable electronic locker
Rear Type Dana 44
Rear Diff Selectable electronic locker
Hubs N/A
Ratio 4.10:1
Traction Aid Brake-based

Front Live axle, leading arms, track bar, coil springs, gas shocks, sway bar w/ elec. disconnect
Rear Live axle, trailing arms, track bar, gas shocks, sway bar

Type Recirculating ball, power-assisted w/ steering damper
Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.5/16.7:1
Turning Circle (ft) 34.9

Size (in) 17x71⁄2
Material Aluminum

Size LT255/75R17
Brand BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain

Front 11.9-in vented disc
Rear 12.4-in disc
60-0 (ft) 143.91

Standing 1⁄4-mile
(seconds @ mph) 16.65 @ 81.81

Weight (lb)
Curb Weight 4,104
Advertised GVWR 5,100

Mileage (mpg)
EPA Estimate (city/hwy) 17/21
As Tested 13.47

Dimensions (in)
Wheelbase 95.4
Overall Length 152.8
Overall Width 73.7
Overall Height 70.9
Front/Rear Track 61.9/61.9
Front/Rear Overhang 30/40.5
Min. Front Ground Clearance 8.8

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