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Friday, September 30, 2011

The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport 2012


The Jeep Wrangler has long been known as the vehicle of choice for serious off-roaders everywhere. That is why a Jeep Wrangler was named "4x4 of the Decade" by Four Wheeler Magazine and "best new car for off-roaders" in 2010 by Cars.com. After my test drive of the new 2012 Jeep Wrangler unlimited Sport today I think it is a vehicle of serious consequence for highway and city drivers as well.

In 2011 Chrysler unleashed its V6 Pentastar engine as an option in many of its Dodge and Chrysler vehicles. It entered the Jeep line-up in 2011 as the V6 alternative to the V8 Hemi in the Grand Cherokee. To the surprise of many this vehicle delivered horsepower like a V8 and fuel economy like a 4 cylinder. In 2012 Jeep has put this successful power plant in its Wranglers, replacing the 3.8 L V6 that replaced the old inline 6 in 2007. Many Jeep aficionados have long-awaited the arrival of the new 2012 with its Pentastar engine and its 285 hp replacing the 202 hp 3.8L. In addition, the new motor is paired with a 5 speed automatic transmission which delivers smoother performance and better fuel economy.


On a warm September morning I finally got the opportunity to drive the new 2012 Wrangler Sport Unlimited and see for myself how it compared to previous models. If you haven't driven a Jeep lately, the first thing you will note is the reduction of noise, vibration and improved handling (NVH). This initiative made leaps and bounds for the 2011 model and continues in 2012. You will also notice the improvement in pick-up as you merge into traffic. At 202 HP the 2011 had no problem with speed. At 285HP the 2012 not only has speed but the smooth pick-up to get you there. From a dead stop the new 5 speed automatic gears up smoothly to cruising speed with no lag, no excess vibration or hesitation. In no time I was up to speed only to find myself quickly stuck in traffic. Large slow moving trucks followed construction equipment and everywhere mid day traffic filled in the road to create congestion--not an ideal condition for a test drive but a reality in modern city driving. Although you may buy yourself a Jeep Wrangler with visions of off roading and rough country trails, the truth is that the majority of miles are put on most Wranglers in situations much like I was experiencing today--city driving.

In an effort to escape gridlock I turned off the busy route and headed down side streets through an industrial area just to keep moving the Wrangler forward. The roads were rough and barricaded with recent resurfacing patches which meant sharp turns weaving around traffic and barricades. The Wranglers tight turning radius and responsive handling made this the ideal vehicle for scooting through road work during construction season. And if you live in a northern city like Winnipeg, there are only two seasons, winter and construction.

I also reset the fuel economy indicator prior to leaving the main road during this portion of the test drive. I was pleasantly surprised to see the fuel economy hovering around 11L/100km. Environment Canada rates this vehicle at 13.2L/100km city and 10.0 highway. This is an improvement from last years rating of 14.5 city and 10.0 highway. The difference in city driving can be attributed to the new powerful Pentastar engine matched with the new 5 speed automatic. My city mileage didn't spike until I left the industrial area and reentered traffic, and with it the burst of acceleration to get up to 80 kph as quick as possible. Overall this vehicle averaged about 15L/100km for my little test drive.

The particular vehicle that I drove had a soft top--a great feature regardless of where you live. If you live in a northern city you want to take advantage of as much summer as possible and there is no better way to do that than with the top down, or as in this case with the sunrider top open. With a release of two clips on the front, the top flips back and is strapped in place giving the driver and passenger full access to the elements without having to remove the whole top, a great option for a short ride on a 28 degree C day in September. And unlike other convertibles, the Jeep Wrangler can be purchased with soft top, hard top, or both and changed seasonally as you prefer.

The other thing that I loved about the Jeep Wrangler Sport Unlimited is that it is a true 4 door with seating for 5 plus luggage, groceries or whatever. And with the longer wheel base, this vehicle has an exceptionally smooth almost car like ride. The Unlimited has been around since 2007 but now in addition to being a rugged off-roader, Jeep Wrangler is now even more than ever a rugged family vehicle capable of delivering city and highway performance, decent fuel economy, and still delivering you to the heart of the wilderness if you desire.

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