2012 Pentastar Wrangler at the UAE Jeep Jamboree

We Came, We Saw, We Got Very Dirty
By Imthishan Giado/Shahzad Sheikh

When Jeep called us up and asked if we’d like to try out the new Pentastar motor in the 2012 Wrangler, we said, “sure, maybe.” When they added that it would be at the offroad Jeep Jamboree, we said, “what time do we get there?”

Click through for our full report on the Jamboree, as well as a quick first drive on the Wrangler with this new V6. (Quick verdict: you’ll be amazed).

For those not in the know, the Jeep Jamboree is an annual offroad event hosted by local dealer Trading Enterprises for all owners of Jeep vehicles of any vintage, tackling some of the most challenging terrain in the country. Unfortunately, this naturally meant we had to leave our well-worn but still trusty Land Cruiser at the start point in Dubai’s Festival City, but it proved to be no hardship, as we were handed the keys to a brand spanking new bright red Wrangler Unlimited Sahara (and I mean new – it had just 13 miles on the clock when I turned the key for the first time).

Venerable though the Wrangler is, it’s been due some updates that make the old girl more habitable. Last year, it got the first of those updates with a more upscale interior that less resembles something you’d find in a commercial vehicle, but still looks good coated in six varieties in mud. This year the transformation is complete with the arrival of the new Pentastar engine. This is Chrysler’s new workhorse V6, a 3.6-litre unit with 280bhp and 260lb ft of torque that first appeared in the new Grand Cherokee.

The old 3.8-litre V6 was something of the worst of both worlds; neither particularly powerful nor fuel efficient. Off the line, it delivered (just) enough torque to get the 1800kg Jeep moving, but nothing more than a sigh of indifference at high speed, which is probably why you don’t see too many Wrangler drivers hogging the left lane. The Pentastar is actually smaller in displacement, but puts out 40% more power and 10% more torque. Chalk it up to lighter aluminium construction, whiz-bang VVT and every trick in the book that five years of engine development can muster. As you’d imagine, it feels quite a bit faster, but how much so? Night, say hello to Day.



Back to the event. After wisely foregoing stuffing ourselves with biscuits and coffee in anticipation of the gravity-defying action to come, we collected our roadbook and set off with the first group of Jeepers for the deflation point in the sands of Awir, just off the Dubai-Al Ain road.

It has to be said that driving in convoy with a whole bunch of super-modified Wranglers feels impossibly macho, like chomping on a cigar, or wielding a chainsaw in a forest full of Redwoods. Not necessarily politically correct, but a whole lotta fun!

Arriving at Awir, I set to work to deflating our Goodyear tyres, while Shahzad stood off at a comfortable distance providing moral support. Awir is a good place for beginners, actually; when you buy your Wrangler and receive a little coupon for training by the Jeep Academy’s own Peter Gladstone, this is where he’ll take you. The dunes aren’t too tall but the soft sand at their base can catch out the unwary, while the abundance of tree with sharp branches mean you quickly learn how to weave on sand, if you don’t want to rack up a nice bill at the paint shop.

Tyres aired down to the standard 15psi (at least, I think so, my gauge has delusions of greatness) we set off into the great unknown, with the stars as our compass and the roadbook as our guide.

Aaaand and as you’re probably expecting, we got lost almost immediately. Well, it’s a bit hard not to, really. At events like this, you tend to follow the crowd. With a crowd of Jeepers, that means Wranglers flying off in every direction, some literally so. Unfortunately for us, not all of them intended to follow the map as precisely as we would have liked, and most knew this stretch of desert like their own living room so they weren’t terribly bothered about getting lost. We on the other hand, were.

Nevertheless, the Jeep community is nothing if not friendly, and eventually we found a group of like-minded lost people. Sticking to the clever strategy of ‘following them’, we found our way back to the main path – if you can really call it that. Designed by our own offroad guru, the inimitable Fraser Martin, the route took us through the trickiest bits of Awir, then on to Fossil Rock and its majestic red dunes, followed by a foray into the wilds of the Sharjah – Dubai border.

Surprisingly, we actually didn’t pass too many people that got stuck. The chap in the picture above only found himself in that predicament when trying to pull out a much heavier Grand Cherokee. Like any good journalist, we pulled up to offer moral support, click pictures and then drive away with our fingers pointing in derision. That could never happen to us, with our years of experience!

Famous last words. Even the mighty new Wrangler couldn’t save us from being beached on a crest, but thankfully, it was a cinch for our accompanying group to yank us free and we returned back to our duly-scheduled dash bashing. That’s not the most accurate description; while rival events like the Fun Drive or Xplore UAE are very much centered around tackling multistorey dunes in the company of hundreds of similar mentalists, the Jamboree – as befits the wishes of Lord Fraser of Martin – is a more slow-paced, technical affair that rewards patience and navigational ability. Yes, you can drive very quickly, but the thrills here are in coming over a dune and discovering glorious sights that you never knew existed in the UAE.

And what of our faithful steed for the day? Despite theoretically being in its heaviest and slowest Unlimited auto form, the Wrangler never let us down and went wherever we pointed it with nary a complaint. It also proved what I’ve been saying for some time now – you don’t need to lift your car up into the ionosphere and fit chunky great tyres to go into the sand. With nominal ground clearance and suspension fresh from the factory, our red devil went everywhere the Tonka toy jeeps did, without sustaining a single scratch on the bodywork or so much as a bent fender. Credit too, goes to those Goodyear tyres; not the most aggressive tread pattern, but they skated over the sand like Katarina Witt in her prime. Yes, you can modify your car to get better performance, but this Wrangler proved that until you’re a better driver, you don’t need to.

But the biggest surprise of all is this engine. It bears repeating that the old one was such a dog that it put me off Wranglers entirely, but the Pentastar is an revelation. Good in the Cherokee, in the lighter Wrangler it transforms this relic of the Second World War into something frankly magical. Yes, it’s a little soft on torque off idle, but that’s to save gas and once you get moving, you’ll find that the real world torque curve is exceptionally usable, with real power accessible at the top end. This is a Wrangler finally capable of cutting it on the roads (and actually quite quick – I’d wager that it would easily beat the FJ and Xterra in a drag) loping along at 120kph with a perfectly acceptable 2000rpm on the tach. Dip into the throttle, and your major limitation will be the cinder block aerodynamics and loosey-goosey suspension, not this motor.

Off the beaten track, it’s even better with a finely-judged electronic throttle that metes the power out effectively to all four wheels. It’s a tribute to how flexible this engine is that we never once had to resort to the low-range box even in the softest sand. Credit should be also be given to that rock-like five-speed auto, which made offroading almost too easy. If there’s any complaint, it’s that I don’t much like the left-right tap-style shifting, which often leaves you confused about what gear you should be in. That’s a relic from when this was a Mercedes ‘box, but you can hardly complain about the pedigree. It’s so good in fact, that if I had to choose, it would make the standard six-speed manual a tough sell, except for the commited misers.

OK, to prevent this from being a total rave, I’m contractually obliged to point out that the Wrangler is not The Best Car In The Universe (TM) – it’s still noisy at speed (less than before, though), blessed with poor rear visibility, lacking in creature comforts unless you open up the chequebook, hates fast cornering and steers like a wayward horse buggy. And the boot space will have FJ and Xterra owners falling overthemselves with laughter. It’s a lot to put up with, especially if you just want something comfortable to tool about, not something that can conquer the Kalahari with fuel to spare. But if you’re the kind of person for whom roads are a mere suggestion, then look no further – the once and future king is back.

One response to “2012 Pentastar Wrangler at the UAE Jeep Jamboree”

  1. YacineBenamane says:

    Many thanks for this very exciting report full of useful informations and tips .I’m looking for the jeep academy contact details if available as I couldn’t find it on the web .thanks

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