If I were buying just for me, I woulda most likely bought a manual BUT, my fiancee can't drive a manual so, I bought an automatic.
Have you ever driven offroad with a manual? If you have a low enough crawl ratio, it's great!!! (My previous offroad toy had a manual trans and 117:1 crawl ratio) A Rubicon might be okay (4:1 t-case) BUT, I would think the standard (2.72:1 t-case) would be a challenge for rockcrawling with a stick shift!
If you do mud, an auto is the way to go, more consistent power output (no need to put in the clutch and change gears).
For onroad, it depends on what kind of area you live in, I live in a city area and a stick is MISERABLE in stop and go traffic!!! (BUT, I still miss rowing through the gears!!! Autos are boring IMO!)
As for tire size, the stock tire size is already 32" on anything other than the X. If you are going with a 3" lift, you can go with 35's!!! (easy, with proper bumpstops) Just don't forget to budget $$$ to re-gear your axles!
I am going to vote auto- for mild wheeling in a stock-ish vehicle, it is the way to go! (especially if you are new to wheeling, that way you can concentrate on the path you need to take instead of on what gear you need to be in and doing the three pedal shuffle, LOL!)
You are going to get 13 million responses telling you 13 million (and two) different things.
I have a JKU with an Auto and a 2 door JK with a 6 speed.
If I had to do it again they'd both have automatics in them for my uses. The six speed is nice offroad because you can put it where you want it, but around town I'm over shifting and thinking about one more thing while I'm driving.
Get an automatic and a Superchips and you'll be happy.
Wait and check out the 2012s and you'll get a better deal on a 2011 and know for sure if you think the new motor is worth the extra money.
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