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Jeep's been improved, off-road and on

Published On Sun Aug 21 2011




PORTLAND, OREGON — The top comes off, as do the doors, and if you really want the wind in your face you can fold down the windshield.

These unique features have been Jeep hallmarks for years and they're still included on the latest Jeep Wrangler, in both the two- and four-door models.

And they're timeless novelties, unlike the anemic cast-iron 3.8-litre pushrod V6 that has powered the open-air four-by-four until this year.

That engine was long due for a replacement, and for 2012 the Wrangler series (which got an upgraded, quieter interior and body-colour roof in 2011) gets Chrysler's all-new 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, which boasts a welcome 40 per cent increase in horsepower and 10 per cent more torque.

For number crunchers, that's 285 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The new all-aluminum DOHC 60-degree V6 is 9.4 cm shorter and 40 kg lighter than the 3.8 litre. It's also mated to a new five-speed automatic transmission, while hardcore trailblazers can choose a six-speed manual gearbox.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover a very quiet interior as I drove on the highway towards Tillamook State Park in the $31,495 Unlimited Sahara model, equipped with air conditioning, power locks and windows and a 268-watt, six-speaker sound system with Sirius satellite radio — among other frilly amenities.

Wind noise was well managed, an especially trick task when considering the Wrangler's traditionally boxy appearance is about as aerodynamic as a brick.

Ride quality was refined and well mannered, especially when considering the Wrangler's tall stance and off-road focus.

The new automatic is much smoother than the previous four-speed, and gears can be selected manually by moving the shift knob left or right when in Drive.

One oversight in the shifter's design is that there's no separate, parallel channel for manual shifting, and while in the passenger seat I turned to reach for something in the back seat and inadvertently pushed on the shift knob with my knee, downshifting the transmission and surprising my colleague behind the wheel.

So to avoid unnecessary bickering between couples, there should be a Drive lock feature.

We arrived at Tillamook at noon, where we swapped the Sahara for a top-of-the-line $34,495 Unlimited Rubicon. The Rubicon is equipped for serious off-roading with Tru-lok locking axles, Rock-Trac transfer case, electronic sway bar disconnect and tall, aggressively treaded tires on 17-inch wheels.

Our hosts guided us towards a 1.2-kilometre off-road course that posed several challenges.

With the sun beaming down on me in the topless Wrangler, it revealed its true colours here. After shifting the transfer case into low four-wheel drive, locking both axles (the rear can be locked independently) and disconnecting the sway bar, the new automatic's lower first gear allowed a slow, steady pace as the Jeep climbed the rocky incline like a mountain goat, many times with a wheel in the air.

The course ended with a steep, rocky descent, and here I let the Rubicon do the driving by turning on the electronic hill descent control.

It maintained a steady pace (adjustable by selecting gears manually with the auto transmission), and all I had to do was steer.

We ended the day with a chance to sample the outgoing 2011 model on the road, and after all the hype surrounding the Pentastar V6, I wasn't going to miss an opportunity to sample it back to back with the outgoing 3.8 litre.

Now, if you just bought a 2011 Wrangler, you may want to skip the next two paragraphs.

Immediately noticeable in the older model was its lethargic acceleration.

Pushing the gas pedal to the floor produced a lot of engine noise and not much of an increase in velocity. The four-speed automatic held gears a long time as the engine struggled to gain revs, and when it did shift, the gap between ratios was so great it put the engine out of its optimum torque range, especially noticeable going uphill.

The engine also revved higher at highway speeds (2,500 rpm vs 2,000 rpm at 100 km/h on the Pentastar), which increased interior noise noticeably.

As a former mechanic, the best I could describe the difference in performance is to liken it to disconnecting a couple of spark plugs (0-100 km/h time is now 8.4 seconds, a 25 per cent improvement). As an added bonus, the new engine boasts better fuel economy, now rated at 12.7L/100 km city, 9.5L/100 km highway (two-door model), compared with 14.5L and 10.0L respectively.

Jeep has done the Wrangler good with this new engine, and with the changes introduced this year, it's become quite the adult plaything.

2012 JEEP WRANGLER

PRICE: $22,595 - $34,495.

E
NGINE/POWER/TORQUE:

3.6 L V6, 285 hp; 260 lb.-ft.

FUEL CONSUMPTION: 12.7L/100 km city; 9.5L/100 km highway.

COMPETITION: It's in a class by itself, really; maybe a side-by-side ATV?

WHAT'S BEST: Pentastar V6 brings performance to where it should have been long ago.

WHAT'S WORST: Automatic gear shifter doesn't lock into Drive.

WHAT'S INTERESTING: Still the only production car that lets you drop the windshield.


 

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Discussion Starter #2
New 2012 Jeep® Wrangler: A New Heart, the Same Soul
All-new 3.6-liter V-6 powertrain provides more fuel efficiency, improved on-road driving dynamics and refinement, more power and torque – and even more legendary capability


The most capable production off-road vehicle in the world gets better: dramatically improved on-road performance combines with even more
off-road prowess
All-new premium powertrain will excite core Jeep® followers and attract
new customers with improved everyday on-road performance
New 3.6-liter V-6 engine improves fuel efficiency up to 21 miles per gallon, while delivering 285 horsepower (40 percent improvement) and 260 lb.-ft.
of torque (10 percent improvement)
Wrangler powertrain now includes new five-speed automatic transmission
– shared with Jeep Grand Cherokee – for refined shifting and greater performance
All-new powertrain combined with new-for-2011 interior equal completely new Jeep Wrangler experience
Wrangler Rubicon now shares body-color hardtop with Sahara models


August 21, 2011 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - Jeep® Wrangler – the most capable and recognized vehicle in the world – becomes even more capable both on- and off-road for 2012, courtesy of an all-new, more fuel efficient and more powerful 3.6-liter V-6 engine, and a new five-speed automatic transmission – both of which it shares with the award-winning Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The all-new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and five-speed automatic transmission dramatically enhance Wrangler’s on-road driving performance – delivering up to 21 miles per gallon, 40 percent more power and 10 percent more torque – while also taking the vehicle’s legendary off-road capability
to a new level.

“Jeep Wrangler – the most capable and iconic vehicle in the world – has a new heart but retains the same soul for 2012,” said Mike Manley, President and CEO – Jeep Brand, Chrysler Group LLC. “Our new 3.6-liter V-6 engine gives the ever-capable Wrangler a completely new, more refined on-road driving experience – complete with more fuel efficiency, power and torque.

“Available in 2-door and 4-door models and boasting an untouchable combination of efficient design, open-air freedom, significant towing capability, improved real-world drivability, and unique 4x4 systems that deliver unmatched off-road prowess, Jeep Wrangler once again resets the benchmark and offers consumers the ultimate vehicle for any driving adventure,” Manley added.

Chrysler Group’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine – winner of the prestigious Ward’s 10 Best Engines award – delivers 285 horsepower (209 kW) and 260 lb.-ft. of torque (353 N•m), with greater fuel efficiency. The improvement, when compared to the previous 3.8-liter V-6 engine, is 40 percent in horsepower and 10 percent in torque. Additionally, for refined shifting and greater performance, the Jeep Wrangler migrates from a four-speed to a new five-speed automatic transmission. The 2012 Jeep Wrangler also features the company’s first application of a manual transmission to the Pentastar V-6.

The Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited will continue to be available in four models: Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon. Combined with an all-new interior for 2011, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is virtually all-new over the past two model years and will excite core Jeep followers while appealing to new customers.

Engineering
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler delivers unmatched off-road capability with legendary four-wheel drive and is produced with more than seven decades of 4x4 engineering experience. Wrangler continues to offer a body-on-frame design, front and rear five-link suspension system, live axles, electronic lockers, and is one of the few mid-size SUVs that offers a six-speed manual transmission – in addition to its new five-speed automatic transmission.

The new automatic transmission benefits the 2012 Wrangler as much as the new engine with more refined shifting and gear selection. By increasing the number of speeds from four to five, the transmission allows the engine to operate in a more efficient RPM range, which helps increase fuel economy. More speeds also enable the engine to remain in the torque curve, increasing acceleration. The 2012 Jeep Wrangler boasts a 25-percent improvement in 0–60 mph time, which is now 8.4 seconds. Also, a lower first-gear ratio in the new automatic transmission gives the Wrangler more off-road capability via a lower overall crawl ratio.

Jeep Wrangler is now available with more axle gear ratios allowing customers to optimize fuel economy and/or vehicle capability. Wrangler is available with 3.21, 3.73 or 4.10 ratios depending on model. Also, Wrangler offers towing capability up to 3,500 lbs.

A best-in-class approach angle of 44.6 degrees, breakover angle of 25.5 degrees and best-in-class departure angle of 40.6 degrees, helps the Jeep Wrangler scale the toughest terrain.

The capable driveline of the Sport and Sahara models include a Dana 30 front axle and Dana
44 rear axle. The Command-Trac® NV241, part-time, two-speed transfer case, features a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio. In addition, an optional Trac-Lok® limited-slip rear differential provides extra torque and grip in low-traction environments such as sand, mud or snow.

The Wrangler Rubicon model features heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles and the Rock-Trac® NV241 two-speed transfer case with a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio. Rubicon also includes electric front and rear locking differentials, disconnecting front sway bar and 32-inch tires, taking the Wrangler to the highest level of capability.

Design
In 2011, Jeep introduced an all-new interior to Wrangler that combines rich styling, versatility, comfort and improved feature use. Highlights include upgraded materials, automatic temperature controls, heated seats, power mirrors and steering wheel controls for vehicle systems. Larger rear windows are engineered for greater visibility. A USB port connects to the media center, 12-volt accessory outlets are located throughout the Wrangler and a 115-volt AC outlet is available to power select two-pronged home electronics.

Jeep Wrangler’s signature features include classic round headlamps, seven-slot grille, trapezoid wheel flares, removable doors, exposed hinges, a fold-down windshield and innovative removable and convertible tops and half-doors that allow the Wrangler to retain the brand’s iconic appearance and function. New for 2012, Wrangler Rubicon models now share a body-color hardtop option with the Sahara model, offering a premium appearance.

With room for five adults, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited remains the only four-door 4x4 convertible on the market.

Safety and Security
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited are available with an array of safety and security technology features. Standard electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, Trailer-sway Control, Hill-start Assist and brake traction control are among two dozen available safety and security features. Jeep safety systems are engineered to improve handling and accident avoidance while providing occupant protection, allowing Jeep Wrangler customers the ability to safely "go anywhere and do anything."

Connectivity
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler stays connected with Uconnect systems, including voice recognition, Bluetooth® streaming audio, navigation and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The Wrangler’s connectivity systems have improved ergonomics by giving the driver control at their fingertips. Intuitive buttons on the front and rear of the steering wheel control a number of features allowing the driver to keep hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

Quality
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler underwent millions of durability testing miles during development in the company’s scientific labs, at its proving grounds and on public roads in various climates.

The Wrangler’s 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar engine recorded more than 12 million customer-equivalent miles on engine dynamometers prior to production. Testing was increased by 50 percent compared to previous Chrysler Group V-6 engines, to guarantee a long life against severe conditions and accommodate high-load applications such as trailer towing. Reducing noise, vibration and harshness was a key objective for every engine component and was achieved using advanced computer-aided engineering techniques.

As the Wrangler approached production, the company also tested day and night, on- and off-road to put the equivalent of three years of wear and tear on the vehicle in approximately three months time. This accelerated testing occurred on public roads, paved and unpaved, in an attempt to find and fix any issues before the first SUVs were delivered to customers. The test drivers checked all the functional aspects of the vehicle, such as heating and cooling, window operation, convertible and removable hardtop operation and navigation system.

Manufacturing
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited are built in the Toledo Supplier Park in Toledo, Ohio. The plant features the flexibility to integrate the all-new powertrain with the addition of new engine carriers and transmission lift equipment.

The 3.6-liter V-6 engine is manufactured at the Trenton engine plant in Michigan. The five-speed automatic transmission is produced in Kokomo, Indiana (ITP2), and the manual six-speed transmission is produced in Gaggenau, Germany.

Wrangler Sahara and Rubicon models offer a body-color hardtop and fender flares. A new paint process was developed to match the body color to the sheet molded compound (SMC) hardtops that exceeds the corporate quality standards of paint adhesion and UV resistance in the harshest environments. The body and top are painted separately with blended and matched paint to assure color continuity.

Jeep Brand
Built on 70 years of legendary heritage, Jeep is the authentic SUV with class-leading capability, craftsmanship and versatility for people who seek extraordinary journeys. The Jeep brand delivers an open invitation to live life to the fullest by offering a full line of vehicles that continue to provide owners with a sense of security to handle any journey with confidence.

The Jeep vehicle lineup consists of the Compass, Grand Cherokee, Liberty, Patriot, Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited. To meet consumer demand around the world, all six Jeep models are sold outside North America - and all are available in right-hand drive versions and with gasoline and diesel powertrain options. Chrysler Group LLC sells and services vehicles in approximately 120 countries around the world.
 
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