Not all performance-tested vehicles are built to beat quarter-mile records or to take a hairpin turn at excessive speeds. At Truck Trend, our favorite types of performance vehicles are built to take the paths less travel and tend to involve getting a little dirty.
We were headed to Johnson Valley, California, to watch the Sixth Annual Griffin King of the Hammers off-road race, and we knew we would need a vehicle that can take on the steep hillsides and sandy desert terrains as we chased the off-road racing action. As luck would have it, we got our hands on an XPLORE Adventure Series Stage 4 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon for the weekend. And we loved it so much that we didn't want to give it back.
The Jeep Wrangler is known as one of the best out-of-the-box off-road vehicles on the market and is very popular within the off-road enthusiast groups. XPLORE Adventure Series takes the Wrangler to the next level -- offering several different staging options that extend from the Stage 2 casual adventure seeker to the Stage 4 weekend trail warrior. XPLORE worked with Mopar and a few other well-known companies to create the right packages for their program. Their goal is to bring the great outdoors to your driveway and to get you and your family trail-bound. Their program doesn't stop with just purchasing one of their stage builds -- It comes with a free Annual Pass to all the National Parks and Monuments, and with each XPLORE vehicle sold, delivers a donation to the National Park Foundation.
So surprise, surprise, a lifted off-road-prepped Jeep Wrangler doesn't ride all that well on the street? Honestly, when it looks ...
Our test Jeep comes to us as a built-to-order Stage 4 that includes all the goodies offered for Stage 3 -- plus the flexibility to custom design the vehicle as per buyers' needs. On this Stage 4, for instance, the factory bright white paint of our Wrangler has been given a matte clear coat for that popular low-gloss look. The XPLORE logo was painted on the hood in matte metallic gray. The matte metallic grey was carried on to the door hinges, Mopar stainless-steel hood hinges, and the ARB front and rear bumpers. Other standard exterior stage 4 modifications include MOPAR Black Aluminum Fuel Door, Mopar taillight guards, XPLORE brushed aluminum badges, and AMP Research PowerSteps. The ARB front bumper is equipped with a Warn winch and IPF off-road lights.
Keeping within factory parameters, XPLORE uses Mopar's 2-inch suspension lift kit with Bilstein shocks -- enhancing the handling on-road and on the trails without sacrificing much of the ride quality. The stock 16-inch wheels were upgraded to a 17-inch XPLORE/Method "The Standard" wheel with matching matte gray finish. The wheels are wrapped in BFG 35-inch Mud-Terrain KM2 tires and a matching spare wheel/tire combo is attached to the tail of the vehicle.
The interior was kept simple with Katzkin black leather and suede seats covers with embroidered XPLORE logos. The embroidery is on the floormats as well and Xplore Adventure Series Badges adorn the door panels. This Wrangler came from the factory with Uconnect GPS Navigation/Radio with 6.5-inch touchscreen.
Under the hood is the all-new 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar with 285 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 260 lb-ft at 4800 rpm mated with the five-speed automatic. A Mopar polished stainless-steel cat-back exhaust adds a nice subtle growl -- quite enough for daily driving -- with a beefy roar at open throttle. At the track, our modified Wrangler tested at 8.8 seconds 0-60 and 16.8 seconds at 79.4 mph on the quarter mile. At the truck scales it weighed in at 4900 pounds, roughly 550 more than a stock.
Though we racked up nearly 800 miles -- most of which were on the highway -- our time off-roading was the most enjoyable. With the lifted suspension and knobbier A/T tires, the Wrangler's highway ride was just a bit rough, and the steering wheel demanded your full attention as you felt every bump and crack on the road. The new Pentastar brought a new excitement for cruising in the fast lane, as we averaged 17-19 mpg on the highway. Our gas mileage didn't remain so great once we hit the sandy trails in Johnson Valley. We average 14.3 mpg as we gunned it on the flats and crawled the steep hillsides to get the best spots to watch the race. Even though we drove all over the valley kicking up sand and hopscotching over loop-de-loops, the XPLORE Wrangler performed perfectly as intended -- but screamed for a bigger challenge.
With many options and accessories available, XPLORE Adventure Series can make you're Wrangler as personal as you want and get you where you want to go with the right tuning. Pricing does vary depending on packages and custom requests. XPLORE Adventure Series Jeeps are available at participating Jeep dealers nationwide.
There's no denying that the Xplore Wrangler is a handsome vehicle. With its matte white paint job and contrasting black graphics, the Jeep really stood out on the road. I also liked the auto-retracting running boards and how the combination of off-road tires, foglights, and front-mounted winch made the Jeep look even more rugged. - Alex Nishimoto
How can something look so pretty and so rugged at the same time? It's beautifully coated with matte white paint, making one feel almost guilty for even thinking about taking it off-road. But once you look at what it's outfitted with, you realize this pretty sport/utility begs for a romp in the dirt. - Karla Sanchez
So surprise, surprise, a lifted off-road-prepped Jeep Wrangler doesn't ride all that well on the street? Honestly, when it looks this cool, who cares? Driving this Wrangler around our El Segundo HQ with the windows down and front roof panels off made me feel like a kid again - it just makes you so indescribably happy, and you feel like you can conquer anything. Sure, it might be pricey, but you can't put a price on the way driving this beast makes you feel. -- Christian Seabaugh
This thing was cool! I really like the new Wrangler's styling inside and out. The interior felt nice, yet rugged enough to match its personality. The four doors came in very handy for loading and unloading my two kids and their car seats, and the lift kit made the job even easier. My three-year old son was impressed by the view the lifted Jeep offered. My 5-foot-3 wife appreciated the automatic Amp Power steps to be able to climb in and out; I liked how they were lit and tucked away when the doors closed. - Andy Mock
|2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Xplore |
|PRICE AS TESTED|| $57,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT ||Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE ||3.6L/285-hp/260-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6 |
|TRANSMISSION|| 5-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)|| 4900 lb (53/47%)|
|0-60 MPH|| 8.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE ||16.8 sec @ 79.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH ||134 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION|| 0.67 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT ||30.4 sec @ 0.51 g (avg)|