2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon new car reviews

The Wrangler actually looks small when parked in a normal parking space.

Better than: Toyota FJ Cruiser
But not as good as: 75 series Land Cruiser
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 69.83

Jeep Wranglers are legendary for their off-road prowess, and this Rubicon model is currently Jeep’s most capable vehicle. Along with luxuries like a leather-wrapped wheel and a hard drive-based entertainment system, this Jeep sports locking front and rear differentials, a disconnect-able front anti-roll bar, and extra-low transfer case gearing.

This Jeep is arguably the most capable stock 4x4 on the market, but how does it make a bunch of automotive journalists feel?

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Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I admire a vehicle that does one thing really, really well, but the Wrangler still isn't for me. I just don't have to cross too many creeks and boulders on my way to work. When I need to go off road, we're usually talking about dirt roads--places where my Impreza does just fine.

Alan Cesar Alan Cesar
SuperDork

This is a strange vehicle to pilot. Driving over street irregularities and exiting parking lots—indeed, even just weaving left to right—gives an entirely different feel than most other things I've driven. I can feel those huge, solid axles at both ends stay planted while the body bobs around on its springs. Mid-corner bumps produce a tug at the steering wheel. It's a throwback to something, but I can't recall exactly what. I just know it's not anything I've driven in quite some time.

It has a commanding view of the road, with a long step-out height to match. Most of my off-roading has been limited to a 1.0-liter Renault runabout rental car on dirt roads in Brazil. If that little thing could pull itself through plowed mud—not an insubstantial feat—while carrying 3 people and their luggage, I don't know that I could ever make proper use of this Jeep's capabilities. It's comfortable enough for the street, but really, this thing belongs where its name suggests: the Rubicon.

Tom Suddard Tom Suddard
Associate Editor

I think I'm the only one on staff who really "gets" Jeeps and off-roading in general. As I type this, my lifted and locked Trooper is covered in dirt, dust, rock scrapes, and OHV passes.

So, it wasn't hard to convince David to let me borrow the Jeep. As I walked out to the GRM parking lot, I passed my truck, wondered just how much I'd hate it after I experienced the holy grail, the Jeep Rubicon. For years I'd watched them scramble up obstacles like they were mall parking spaces, and now I was finally going to get to drive one!

Long story short, I hated it. For starters, it was too small on the inside. I'm not a big guy, but I felt cramped. Visibility was also terrible. Shouldn't a vehicle designed to wedge itself between boulders have great visibility?– I had no idea where my corners were when I was driving it, which wasn't exactly confidence inspiring. In addition, it drove like, well, my Trooper. It was bouncy and loud and rough and crude. I'm perfectly happy when a $3,500 truck drives like this, but why does a $35,000 truck drive this way?

And that, I think, is the reason I don't like the Rubicon. It's great off-road, but I don't understand why it has heated seats and power windows and an automatic and GPS navigation and a harddrive for your music. None of this stuff belongs in a vehicle with solid axles and locking differentials, and it just feels wrong when you're driving it.

This Jeep is a contradiction, and proof that you really can't have it all. That said, when they're worth $5,000 in 20 years, I'll probably own one.

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Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
billswebspace
billswebspace New Reader
11/1/12 9:52 a.m.

Most cars have rack and pinion steering and Jeeps still use recirculating ball- this is where the difference in feel comes from for the most part.

oldtin
oldtin UberDork
11/1/12 10:12 a.m.

Rubi's have more offroad capability than anything else off the shelf which makes them cool, but the girth of the JKs over the old TJs make them less capable/agile than they used to be - at least on wooded trails. Mostly a moot point since about .1% are used to do what they are made for.

EvoRoadster
EvoRoadster New Reader
11/1/12 1:51 p.m.

For most buyers its not about off-road capability. Its all about projecting a rough and tumble outdoor image. It says "I can climb that mountain trail if I want" when reality is more of the "I don't have to avoid that pothole on the way to the supermarket."

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
11/2/12 7:45 a.m.

I have taken stock and modified Rubicons way, way off road. Even drove them through an off-road instructional course that demonstrated what the Rubicon can really do. Few owners (that I have seen) will ever reach the performance limits of the Rubicon while offroading, let alone dropping the girls at Lacross practice. For those who will, nothing else will suffice because nothing else will do what a Rubicon will do.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Associate Editor
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

Jeep Wranglers are legendary for their off-road prowess, and this Rubicon model is currently Jeep’s most capable vehicle. Along with luxuries like a leather-wrapped wheel and a hard drive-based entertainment system, this Jeep sports locking front and rear differentials, a disconnect-able front anti-roll bar, and extra-low transfer case gearing.

This Jeep is arguably the most capable stock 4x4 on the market, but how does it make a bunch of automotive journalists feel?

Like what you read here? You can get a whole magazine full of these types of articles delivered to your home or shop 8 times a year. Subscribe now or visit the Grassroots Motorsports online store for back issues.
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