Jeep’s legendary Wrangler has gotten incredibly refined in the last two years. For 2011, an all-new interior made the SUV much more inviting, and now there’s an equally impressive engine with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. Horsepower and torque have never been the highlights of the Wrangler’s spec sheet, but 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque mean you will no longer have to apologize for holding up eighteen-wheelers leaving a stoplight. There’s a decidedly trucky feeling through the steering wheel thanks to the Wrangler’s signature solid axles and relatively long suspension travel. Not many vehicles are capable of hauling five people and a respectable amount of luggage to virtually any destination you can imagine. And no other vehicle can do so while allowing passengers to enjoy the unique open-air experience of driving without a top or doors. Speaking of which, the Wrangler’s soft top is somewhat easier to take down and put up than was the case in earlier Wranglers, and you can flip back the front portion to create a makeshift sunroof. The hard top offers additional flexibility and can now be had in body-matching colors. The Wrangler handles every situation, from cruising around the beach to taming the famed Rubicon Trail, with equal ease. Previous Wranglers required a lot of sacrifices from owners and didn’t make much sense for daily use, but the 2012 Jeep Wrangler has managed to become civilized enough for the mainstream market without abandoning its off-road heritage or sacrificing capability.

Drive: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim levels: Sport, Sahara, Rubicon, Unlimited Sport, Unlimited Sahara, Unlimited Rubicon
Body style: SUV, 4- or 5-passenger
Engine: 3.6L V-6, 285 hp, 260 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 5-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 102.9-104.0 cu ft
Capacities: Towing 2000-3500 lb; cargo
(Wrangler, rear seats up/down/removed) 17.2/56.5/61.2 cu ft; (Unlimited, rear seats up/down) 46.4/86.8 cu ft

Stealing a play from its German competitors, Jaguar has taken the already obscenely fast XKR and added even more power to create an exclusive line-topper. The XKR-S, available only as a coupe, packs 550 hp, rides on a stiffened and lowered suspension, and wears more sinister sheetmetal. The “regular” XKR coupe and convertible get new exterior touches to better differentiate the Rs from the rest of the line. All XKs get mildly revised front and rear fascias.

Multistage front air bags are standard, and side air bags are optional. Traction and stability control, roll mitigation, ABS, brake assist, and hill-start assist are standard. An optional tow package adds electronic trailer-sway. No fancy blind-spot detection or automatic parking system here.

All: 16-17 mpg city/20-21 mpg highway

  • Topless fun
  • Strong engine
  • Ultimate off-roader
  • Trucky steering
  • Ponderous around town

The off-road icon gets a new heart.

  • Nissan Xterra
  • Suzuki Grand Vitara
  • Toyota FJ Cruiser

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