The Truth About Cars » Jeep http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:37:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Jeep http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/jeep/ Rental Grinders Of The Road: First Place http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-grinders-of-the-road-first-place/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-grinders-of-the-road-first-place/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 16:55:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=805434 jgcglass

You’ll search long and hard to find someone else as firmly committed to the removal of the SUV from the American road as your humble author believes himself to be. Although I drove four different Land Rovers during the company’s BMW and Ford periods (a ’97 five-speed Disco, a ’99 Rangie 4.0S that I talked my father into buying, an ’00 Freelander, and an ’03 Discovery 4.6) I had what I felt to be a valid excuse: a BMX and mountain bike hobby that found me on dirt roads and fire trails nearly every weekend. As soon as my knees fired me from those sports, I fired the Rovers and got a Phaeton like decent people do.

The bulk of SUVs foisted on the American public have been irredeemable pieces of garbage, misshapen and deeply offensive embarrassments, gravid with the moist spawn of limitless profit yet crawling with the maggots of brand destruction, long-term customer disappointment, and, occasionally, violent death at the hands of a collapsing roof. You could be forgiven for thinking that the Jeep Grand Cherokee is nothing but another such triumph of cynicism and Barnum-esque contempt for the motoring public, but you would be wrong.

I come to praise the JGC, not to bury it, but there are a few things that must be said before we drive the Ford Edge from the arena. To begin, the rear seat and cargo area in the Jeep aren’t as good as what you find in the Ford. I found riding in the back to be actively painful and so did my passenger. In the interest of fairness, I have to point out that we were both recently struck by a Hyundai Sonata directly in the pelvis; in the interest of accuracy, I have to point that shortly before being passengers in this car we were in a new Viper running hard laps around a California racetrack and were both perfectly comfortable.

Luckily, we were able to distract ourselves with the dual USB power ports and the AC-115 outlet in the rear console. This is such a fantastic idea, and so intimately familiar to Ohio white trash like myself who have Southwest A-List Preferred status and therefore are well-acquainted with the company’s dual-charge airport-lounge seats, that one wonders it wasn’t implemented by someone else years before. Not to worry, it’s here now.

Still, it’s worth noting that the car that a well-respected American autojournalist and club racer called “the American Range Rover” in an email I recently received doesn’t come anywhere near the English Range Rover when it comes to rear-seat accommodations. Even Dad’s ’99 4.0S was far superior to this brand-new Jeep, and the newest Rangies are light-years ahead. In the area of ride, as well, the Indians Brits have the advantage and have long had it. My Discoveries rode better than either the Jeep or the Ford. In this test, however, the Jeep has the clear advantage because the Edge has a weird secondary-ride characteristic that makes every road feel paved with thick gravel. There’s a kind of urrrrrrrrrggggggh that communicates itself along with the copious road noise to all seats in the Edge. It’s tiring and aggravating in equal measure. The Jeep’s no Range Rover but it’s on par with a Camry, ride-wise.

Our Limited didn’t have the boxy LED running lights, by the way. Which means that all the Jeeps you do see with them are Summits or Overlands or the BigTruck-approved JGC SRT-8. Think about that. The roads in the Midwest and East Coast are thick with those LED squares. I wonder what the model mix is for the Grand Cherokee? Betcha it’s heavily biased towards the big-money models.

Which explains why our forty-thousand-dollar Limited tester had the miniature uConnect screen. You need to give the punters a reason to step up to the high-end models, and fitting the Limited with the cheapo screen helps. Incidentally, my father and I went around and around about this when he bought his: he just wanted to spring for the bigger uConnect package, while I thought it was critical that he spring for an Overland or Summit, just so my friends would be impressed when he picked me up from school. It was his money, so he did it his way. Still, when I bought my Accord I briefly considered the JGC and I guarantee you that the Overland was my minimum entry point.

Not that the Limited doesn’t give a solid account of itself in all the touch points. This is where the surprise-and-delight comes in; everything you touch in this car feels pretty first-rate. Even the cheapo uConnect, sitting forlornly and miniscule in its monstrous double-DIN sized cavity like the rebound boyfriend of someone recently dumped by Kobe Bryant, feels reasonably upscale to operate. Even the secret volume-and-channel buttons that arrived in the original uConnect-equipped Chryslers have been upgraded with a smooth finish and a more dignified “click”. Someone’s sweated the details on this car again and again. In this respect, Jeep is more than well-positioned against the rest of the $40,000 brigade. The people who do Cadillac interiors should be locked inside this Jeep and denied food and water until they’ve learned how to make center-stack buttons feel like something other than the power switch on a knockoff Walkman radio.

For the two of us lucky enough to be in the front seat at any given time, then, the Jeep was a brilliant place in which to spend a nine-hour drive. The stereo was better than adequate, although again the rear-seat passengers were victimized, this time by an unpleasant sub-200Hz resonance in the cargo compartment during tracks as diverse as “How Ya Like Me Now” and “Night Passage”. Given that said cargo compartment was stuffed to the roof, one wonders how bad it would have been otherwise.

The HVAC was adequate for all four corners, although neither car could summon a genuine freezing blast of cold air such as what you’d get from a modern S-Class or a classic Fleetwood Brougham. Power, on the other hand, was better than adequate, aided by the 8-speed transmission. No, it’s not GT-R fast, but it’s faster than its V-8 powered predecessors and it returns a reported 25mpg on the freeway. (Incidentally, in response to the “what was your average speed” question in yesterday’s test, the answer is “we had little to no traffic both ways and rarely dipped beneath 75, never exceeding 90.) This powertrain makes the HEMI irrelevant to all but the most acceleration-obsessed and it reinforces my personal conviction that the Pentastar is one of the world’s best engines, initial quality misses be damned.

Unlike the Edge, the Jeep usually required a little correction after rapid lane changes or highway-object avoidance, but who suffers from that? You guessed it — the back-seat passengers, who get head-tossed as a consequence. Starting to see a pattern here?

As fate would have it, your humble author and his companion found themselves in the back of a loaded pre-facelift Lincoln MKX halfway through the show, courtesy of a friend who ordered an Uber ride to get us away from his party before my falling-down-drunk slightly inebriated lady friend harassed poor Travis Okulski any more. (“YOU! YOU’RE TRAVIS! YOU WERE CRYING DURING THAT YOUTUBE VIDEO! YOU’RE GREAT! HEY, EVERYBODY, IT’S TRAVIS!”) Twenty minutes in the back of that MKX, even over miserable roads, reinforced the Edge platform’s potential to serve the back-seat crowd much better than the Jeep can manage.

Oh, well. The era where well-dressed couples double-dated to society balls and country-club parties in deVille coupes or Holiday 98s is long gone, if it ever existed. Most of the time, these suburban warriors will find themselves with one trophy wife in front and one child, approximately the size of a roast turkey, in the back. So as long as you’re driving, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is our undisputed champion, and recommended without reservation.

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Rental Grinders Of The Road: Second Place http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-grinders-of-the-road-second-place/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-grinders-of-the-road-second-place/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 20:13:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804954 cheroedge

The assignment was simple: Take four people and an oversized amount of luggage from sunny Powell, Ohio to Manhattan for the New York Auto Show, using the 556-mile “high road” path down I-80. (The “low road” is the 555-mile grind on Route 70 and its endless Pennsylvania 55-mph construction zones.) To make things interesting, and to save the parking charges at Kimpton’s delightful but pricey “Muse” hotel, we decided to do it as a pair of one-way rentals.

Fate threw us a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with a fairly comprehensive equipment list, and a stripped-out Ford Edge SEL. The Cherokee had just two thousand miles on the digital odometer, while the Ford was livin’ on the edge of its 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Two nine-hour slogs, two crossovers-of-a-sort with two relatively different philosophies but surprisingly similar execution, one winner. Full disclosure: there aren’t any non-stock photos because everybody involved was a hurry to get to, and get out of, the city. Deal with it.

Second Place: Ford Edge SEL V6

This doesn’t really feel like a fair test, does it? Taking the highly-regarded, do-it-all, no-effort-spared-inside-or-out Grand Cherokee, a trucklet so near and dear to our hearts that my father just bought one, and putting it up against the old-platform Edge, a car that was never a favorite of the critics even when it was new. This is like letting Ivan Drago into the ring with Apollo Creed, right?

The thing is, the public doesn’t share the autojourno opinion. True, our own Tim Cain’s rankings show the mighty JGC at #21 in the US-market March sales chart, moving a strong YTD of 40,838. However, the Edge is #33, with a YTD of 33,238. Furthermore, both vehicles are showing a positive sales trend compared to last year. As far as your neighbor is concerned, the bloom is firmly attached to both of these roses.

Our silver Ford Edge SEL was the best of a fairly bad bunch of available CUVs and SUVs for the return leg from LGA to PWL (okay, I just made that up; Powell certainly doesn’t have an airport, although there’s a place to fly model airplanes near the Splash Park) and although we’d have liked to have had an example with lower mileage on the clock, it didn’t really make much of a difference. The Edge has always counted a remarkably solid-feeling structure among its obvious virtues. When my son’s mother traded her Flex Limited for an Edge Limited three years ago, I was immediately struck at just how much more solid, heavy, and inert the Edge felt compared to its larger and (it must be said) more pedigreed sibling. It’s an illusion; the Flex is bigger and it performs better in a crash. But the Edge just feels milled somehow. Probably because in some ways it’s basically an old Fusion with an extra half-ton of metal bolted on somewhere. Thirty-plus-thousand miles of rental abuse didn’t change that.

My first impression of the Edge, as Bark M. picked us up outside the hotel, was positive: it holds more actual luggage than the Grand Cherokee, by quite a bit. The assemblage of roller bags, Tumi carryalls, and laptop messenger cases that filled the Jeep to the roof didn’t even impede rear vision in the Edge. The same was true for the rear seat, which offered more room for shoulders and feet. On the negative side, the center rear armrest was remarkably crappy and, unlike the Jeep’s, forced you to choose between having cups in the fold-out holders and actually using it as an armrest.

Once on the move, however, it became apparent that road noise was going to be a conversational deterrent. Some vehicles are absolutely brilliant when it comes to having a four-corner talk among occupants; my Phaetons were almost too good at it, because you could hear the whispers between occupants in the other row. The Edge is on the other end of the spectrum; it’s necessary to raise your voice to be heard ahead or behind. The Flex, for what it’s worth, is better. In fact, the Flex is better than the Edge at almost everything. Had we been able to get a Flex to go face-to-face with the Jeep for this test, the finishing order wouldn’t have been nearly as obvious.

As a base SEL, the Edge has basic cloth seats. As we expected, the front seats didn’t measure up to the JGC Limited’s leather-lined chairs in any way — but in back, it was a different story. I’ve had a few ribs and vertebrae broken in the past few months and I found the Edge’s rear seats to be much better than the Grand Cherokee’s, in both short-term comfort and long-term support. The same three-hundred-mile stretch that had my ribs audibly cracking and snapping in the Jeep turned out to be no problem in the Ford, even though I’d been pre-brutalized by the trip out to NYC.

When it came my turn to drive, on the other hand, I immediately wished to be a passenger again. The Edge is so completely outclassed as an on-road proposition by the JGC that it’s hard to believe that the former is the transverse-engined platform sans off-road pretenses. Only in lane-change transitional behavior does the Ford have any edge whatsoever over the Jeep; there’s a secondary wobble-back that just doesn’t happen in the Edge. It’s a slightly more relaxing vehicle to pilot for that reason alone.

Nominally, the 3.5V6 in the Edge is a near equal to the 3.6 Pentastar V6 in the Chrysler product, but in the real world it’s not as good, possibly because of the brilliant ZF automatic you get with the Pentastar. Mileage, too, isn’t quite up to par. I drove both vehicles in a conscious effort to maximize reported economy, never exceeding 85mph and staying in cruise control for long stretches of time, and the Edge claimed 23.6mpg on a segment where the Grand Cherokee claimed 25.1. Brakes are okay on both cars, but neither offers the stepping-on-a-steel-block feel you’d get from, say, the monobloc Brembos on a Cayenne. These cars are built to go (shopping), not stop (global warming).

In most respects, the Edge feels a generation behind the JGC. It isn’t just the little touches, like the USB charging ports for both rear seats in the Jeep. Rather, it’s the entire touch-and-feel interface between you and the car. This is a long-in-the-tooth refresh of a twelve-year-old platform, and it feels like it. Nearly five years ago, I was pretty impressed by a loaded Limited, as you can see in the below LLN video of which I’m not particularly proud:

Okay, you have to admit the pizza thing was kind of funny. Or not. Anyway. This SEL doesn’t have most of the stuff you see in that video, which makes it feel even older than it is. Surely Ford’s amortized this platform to the point where they should be able to throw the full MyFordTouch system in at the $32,395 net price of our base AWD SEL, but they continue to expect that you’ll spend an additional two grand to get it. If you don’t — and National Car Rental certainly didn’t — you get a Fiesta-grade interior screen about the size of what you got with the original Nintendo GameBoy.

The net effect is surprisingly downmarket for a vehicle that costs more than a loaded Camcord. The stereo, in particular, is embarrassingly poor. There’s not a lot of surprise and delight here for the money. Some of the interior trim, like the door cards, just feels deliberately crappy. Other parts are simply plain, and that’s no longer good enough in this segment.

You can argue that the Edge SEL works best as a bait-and-switch to get you into a much better-equipped Limited. That vehicle would have been a better competitor to the Grand Cherokee Limited, which at a net $39,390 is more than twenty percent pricier. In fact for $38,695, you can get an Edge Sport AWD, which has the motor and the equipment to take the fight directly to Jeep. In the final analysis, however, it wasn’t the frosting that caused us to rank the Ford second. It was the cake underneath it, which is stale. Eventually, the sales numbers will reflect that. In the meantime, feel free to avoid adding to them.

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Capsule Review: Jeep Cherokee Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-jeep-cherokee-part-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-jeep-cherokee-part-two/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 15:12:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=782265 photo (13)

The problem with a “take-no-prisoners” approach to evaluating new cars is that when you’re the only one adopting a particular stance, it can get pretty lonely – even your own readers begin to doubt you. My initial review of the Jeep Cherokee was a great example of this. Most reports are fairly positive – and indeed, there was plenty to like about the car, as my own review mentioned – but many of the car’s flaws were glossed over or simply not mentioned. On the other hand, we at TTAC gave you the unvarnished truth about the Cherokee – and Chrysler was gracious enough to let us review the Cherokee again.

On the launch program in California, there was some confusion over whether the vehicles were pre-production or production units. This time, there was none, and it showed in the overall fit and finish of the Cherokee. The unsightly stitching on the steering wheel? Gone. The wobbly console? Not quite perfect, but less wobbly than before. Like the newly released Chrysler 200, the fit and finish, particularly of the supplied interior components, is very nicely executed. Next to an Escape, CR-V or RAV4, the interior of our Cherokee Limited tester was undoubtedly a cut above the others. If nothing else, Chrysler has managed to carve out a real leader with the UConnect 8.4, offering the best infotainment system along with excellent tactile controls.

Judging from my test example, Jeep has made strides in other areas that previously came up for criticism. After a harsh winter of volatile temperatures, our local roads have been mutilated by potholes and divots, but the Cherokee handled them with aplomb. It would be a stretch to call the ride “plush”, but the little trucklet felt much more sedate than it did on the launch loop, and if FCA plans on selling these in world markets, it’s a good indication of how it will fare on the roads of Europe and developing countries. Similarly, the ZF 9-speed was far less frenetic in its operation, and felt better equipped to handle the more-than-adequate power of the 3.2L Pentastar V6. The major disappointment here was the rather dismal fuel economy.

Driving mostly in heavy stop-and-go traffic, I netted just 15 mpg, despite slow speeds and a rather gentle foot (helped by the much improved throttle calibration – another bone of contention at launch). One can chalk that up to the (literally) freezing temperatures, winter tires, all-wheel drive or my incompetence as a vehicle reviewer. I had assumed that a V6 would be a more economical alternative to a larger turbo 4-cylinder such as the Escape 2.0T, which is known for delivering sub-par fuel economy in the real world. Apparently not. The EPA rates the AWD V6 Cherokee with Active-Drive II (included on my tester) at just 19 mpg around town, so perhaps the results aren’t terribly off base. This is also one heavy CUV, weighing in at over two tons, thanks to the sophisticated AWD, the V6 engine and the hearty CUSW architecture.

Of course, some of my original complaints still remain. The brakes, which I initially compared to a damp dishrag, are still weak, and seem to engage only when the pedal is millimeters away from the floor, as if the whole system was in bad need of bleeding and some new fluid.

The other problem, which is literally impossible to change barring a total redesign, is the rather cramped rear seat area and small cargo compartment. Having driven every vehicle built of CUSW, I realize that this is something that is endemic to this particular architecture, but the Cherokee especially is the kind of “lifestyle” vehicle that should be able to carry people and property with minimal fuss. Nearly everyone who rode around in the back found it cramped, especially if they were above 5’10″. Cargo room is tight, with just 24.8 cubic feet of space in the back – by comparison, a CR-V has 37.2 cubic feet, which makes all the difference when you’re doing a Costco run.

The last major annoyance was something that was not readily apparent on the launch, though it proved to be a real bear around town. The Rear Cross Path detection system would seemingly brake the car for no reason when parallel parking or backing into a stall at just a touch above crawl speed. While I can understand the good intentions and legal rationale behind this programming, it simply turned into annoyance in the real world, where experienced drivers can perform that at more than a snail’s pace. If I were to buy one, I would do whatever I could to opt out.

Having had the chance to experience the car on my home turf, and gain a better understanding of its capabilities, I was able to warm to it more than I did in September. In a segment full of anodyne entrants, the Cherokee is something unique, both aesthetically and mechanically. Unfortunately, it’s missing a few key elements in terms of practicality that would make it a true class leader.

Nonetheless, I’m far more optimistic after having driven the Chrysler 200. It seems that CUSW improves with each iteration: the Dart’s weak point was the powertrain. The Cherokee had a number of initial quality teething issues. The 200 still needs a bit more space for rear passengers. If the pattern of continuous improvement sustains itself, then the next-Cherokee could be a serious player in the market. Not that the Cherokee isn’t competitive, but you better be willing to accept some compromises for the sake of non-conformity.

Chrysler provided the vehicle and a tank of gas for this review.

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Jeep Considering Power-Retractable Top For Fourth-Gen Wrangler http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/jeep-considering-power-retractable-top-for-fourth-gen-wrangler/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/jeep-considering-power-retractable-top-for-fourth-gen-wrangler/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 14:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=768794 002-jeep-wrangler-polar-edition-1

Rumored to be in the early stages of development, the fourth generation of the Jeep Wrangler could have an power-retractable top as one of a few items designed to attract more customers to the off-roading legend.

Road & Track reports the top would be aimed as a high-end option at those who can’t be bothered undoing the soft-top or disassembling the hard top found on current models. Also on the agenda are removable doors and a frame redesign aimed at delivering a smoother ride while retaining the Wrangler’s solid axles.

What won’t make it to the new Wrangler? The folding windshield and rear-mounted spare tire, due to safety concerns and an overall goal of saving weight.

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Manley: Renegade Will Appeal To U.S. Customers Despite Italian Roots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/manley-renegade-will-appeal-to-u-s-customers-despite-italian-roots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/manley-renegade-will-appeal-to-u-s-customers-despite-italian-roots/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 20:30:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=767217 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

According to Jeep boss Mike Manley, the Italian-built Renegade will appeal to the off-road brand’s United States customer base despite its Italian roots, especially in Trailhawk form.

Automotive News Europe reports the main concern regarding the Renegade is its off-road capability, which Manley believes will be resolved once the trail-rated Trailhawk arrives in showrooms in 2015 along with the rest of the Renegade family. He also noted the design language expressed by the entry-level Jeep, as well as its footprint, echo that of the CJ family:

The Renegade’s footprint is similar to one of the CJs. It’s much more Wrangler. We’re very pleased, and I think it will work well in the United States.

Though Manley remained silent on the subject of sales figures for the Renegade and platform sibling Fiat 500X, supplier sources expect a total of 280,000 units annually between the two, with Jeep moving 150,000 units and Fiat accounting for 130,000. Price of admission will be announced by Jeep in Q4 2014 for the U.S., Q2 2014 for the European market.

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Smaller Jeep To Slot Beneath Renegade http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/smaller-jeep-to-slot-beneath-renegade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/smaller-jeep-to-slot-beneath-renegade/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=766177 Jeep-Renegade-18

Though the Jeep Renegade already bowed at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show, the off-road brand has plans for not only a fullsize SUV similar to the discontinued Commander, but an A segment SUV slotted beneath the Renegade, as well.

Auto Express reports the A segment vehicle could possibly be underpinned by the next-generation Fiat 500, though would face greater engineering challenges than those faced by the Renegade — built upon Fiat’s “small-wide” archecture underpinning the upcoming 500X — to make it Rubicon-ready, as Jeep boss Mike Manley explained:

We couldn’t make an SUV off of “small wide” as you can’t get the ground clearance. It was completely changed by Jeep engineers so now it’s “small wide 4×4″ architecture.

The A segment Jeep could also aid in bringing the brand into compliance with increasing CO2 emissions standards, though the improvement drive — much like the vehicle itself — will be a long, hard road to hew:

There’s relentless pressure to reduce CO2 and there’s much more for us to do. We’re trying to stay away from complexity and improvements are slowly coming.

Meanwhile, Manley’s focus is toward the Grand Wagoneer, which will slot above the Grand Cherokee. The fullsize SUV will boast room for seven and “be bigger than the old Commander” made between 2006 and 2010.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Latitude 4X4 V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-2014-jeep-cherokee-latitude-4x4-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-2014-jeep-cherokee-latitude-4x4-v6/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=749809 2014 jeep cherokee at sunrise

This is the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. By now, you’ve probably even seen it out on the road. For sure, you’ve seen it in pictures and likely reacted viscerally.

Shut up.

2014 jeep cherokee rear view

If running the King of the Hammers is on your “to do” list, your Jeep is the Wrangler. While it’s available in four-door Unlimited form, it makes a preposterous family car.  The Liberty, which the new Cherokee replaces, did better with families but was still happier on unimproved roads than filling the back with boxes full of “New and Improved!”

Even the beloved XJ Cherokee, a family vehicle thanks to fashion-conscious families with money to blow, was not roomy or frugal. The 2014 Cherokee is the best family-car Jeep in more than a generation. That’s because the Cherokee actually is a family car. The Compact US-Wide platform, the stuff of cars like the Dodge Dart and the upcoming 2015 Chrysler 200, forms the basis of the 2014 Cherokee.

Is it weird that Jeep, the quintessential American nameplate, is basing its latest entry on passenger cars from Europe? It’s a talking point, but it probably doesn’t matter. Besides, the XJ had a whole bunch of French stuff in it, courtesy of Renault. All you really need to know is this: because it’s car based, the Cherokee is the best mid-range Jeep in…forever.

2014-Jeep-Cherokee-008

The 2014 Cherokee fits in right above the Compass/Patriot and just below the Grand Cherokee. Enthusiasm for the new Cherokee has followed a similar pattern. While the Grand Cherokee gets all the gushes and accolades, the Compass and Patriot are universally derided. Response to the Cherokee is an average of both extremes. After early drives in the Cherokee, TTAC’s own Derek Kreindler voiced significant reservations. Derek makes plenty of valid points, but my outlook for the Cherokee is rosier.

I drove a 2014 Cherokee Latitude and came away terribly impressed. First, the styling moves all of Jeep beyond seven slats, round lights, and blocky shapes. The looks are polarizing, but the Cherokee stands out on the road, and that means that there’s more people asking “what’s that?” I do think it looks better in person than in pictures. In fact, I think the Cherokee looks fantastic, and it’s still got some visual toughness while breaking new ground. Styling is hard, and getting everyone talking is sometimes the best you can hope for. Generating interest is going to help Jeep grab the brass ring of 1 million vehicles sold.

Lately, Jeep is on a roll, selling 731,000 vehicles in 2013. The Cherokee didn’t have a whole lot to do with that. Barely on dealer lots in 2013 after delays related to the 9-speed automatic transmission, there have only been four months of Cherokee sales figures reported so far. The best month was December 2013, with 15,038 Cherokees sold in the US, but that number dropped back to 10,505 units sold during January 2014. If the Cherokee naturally settles in around 11,000 per month, that represents 132,000 per year, putting it in third behind the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee (and mid-pack in the small CUV segment). Maybe that’s something to celebrate, but it’s a sales position the Liberty also occupied, so fool me once, won’t get fooled again. Third place in the Jeep lineup only means you managed to not be outdone by the ancient Patriot and Compass. The Liberty held those two off by moving just over 75,000 examples. So while the Cherokee is doing better than that in monthly numbers, let’s let it play out for a whole year before declaring the Cherokee as some kind of revolution.

2014-Jeep-Cherokee-012

Your impression of the Cherokee is going to hinge on what you expect out of it. Do you want it to be the Jeep of mainstream crossovers, or do you want it to be everything to everyone shopping in the segment? If you want to cover all of the on-road bases, there’s a multitude of choices, from the Honda CR-V to the Kia Sorento, Toyota RAV-4, and the Ford Escape. They all take their best whack at satisfying new parents and downsizing boomers alike. Jeep has wisely gone the other way. The Cherokee is hefty, it’s got actual off-road chops and a lockable center differential. It drives like it was taught by the Grand Cherokee. If that’s not enough, there’s the more hardcore Trailhawk that will get you even further into the woods before you run out of talent.

Taken as the Jeep in the segment, it’s brilliant. That said, because it’s the Jeep, you pay more and get less. Many are willing to make that tradeoff, but objectively, you get less cargo space, less fuel economy, and less car-like behavior. I came at the Cherokee expecting that it would be a significant improvement over the Liberty while also delivering an experience that wouldn’t alienate a Grand Cherokee intender. What I found was a vehicle that basically succeeds at that mission.

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The Cherokee is luxuriously quiet inside, and the clear controls and easy ergonomics are welcome in this class dominated by buttony center stacks. The seats in the Latitude-trim Cherokee I tried were comfortable, though the bottom cushion is short, reducing thigh support, important for long stints behind the wheel. The passenger seat has a storage compartment under the cushion, a nice trick the Cherokee learned from several veteran Chrysler products. Those controversial low-mounted headlamps are only adequate, at best, and my average fuel economy of 22.2 mpg is what you’d expect out of a significantly larger vehicle.

Manufacturers often send out the most loaded-up examples for the media to drive, so it was refreshing to get a mid-spec vehicle. Standard for the Latitude 4X4 trim I tried is the 2.4 liter four cylinder, cloth upholstery, UConnect 5.0 with 5” screen, manually-adjusting front seats, 17” alloy wheels, instrument cluster with 3.5” TFT display, and a $26,495 starting point. My Cherokee was powered by the smooth, punchy 3.2 liter Pentastar. Instead of the four cylinder Tigershark’s 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque, I was treated to 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque. When you’re tipping the scales at 4,044 lbs unladen, it makes a difference. The V6 no doubt added to the air of refinement, and even with the excellent sound insulation, I’m sure a four cylinder Cherokee would feel less premium to me.

As it is, the cloth seats feel out of place in a vehicle carrying a $32,970 bottom line. For $33K, you’re in Grand Cherokee Laredo territory, and a Limited-trim 4X2 Grand Cherokee isn’t that far away at $37,000. What’s four grand when you’re financing? With the V6, UConnect 8.4 (but no nav, only “nav-ready”), Active Drive II, Trailer Tow Group and Customer Preferred Package 27J, the Cherokee I drove was well-equipped, the equivalent of a $40,000-plus Grand Cherokee 4X4. If you’re looking for those kinds of features and capabilities, the Cherokee is your huckleberry.

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On the family measures, the Cherokee is banking on Jeep’s name to carry the day. With just 24.8 cubic feet, cargo room is noticeably tighter than the major players. Folding the second row will net you 54.9 cubic feet, but you’ll get 70.9 cubic feet in the CR-V, and 72.5 cubic feet in the value-by-the-pound Kia Sorento. Even the Ford Escape, which has drawn space efficiency flak, has more cargo space. All of the competition offers four- or all-wheel drive that may lose to the Cherokee in the woods, but proves more than adequate on paved roads and, most importantly, the showroom floor. While there’s more rear legroom in the Cherokee than others, it’s narrower, and headroom is on the low side in the rear, too. There are spacious storage cubbies in the doors, adequate storage areas in the dash and center armrest – helpful when hauling the kids, but that small rear cargo area is a real Achilles’ heel.

The ride and handling of the Cherokee may be off-putting to some, too. It feels substantial and solid, because it is. But it’s not as light on its feet as the non-Jeeps, and while it feels like a smaller Grand Cherokee, that’s not what everyone is looking for. The nine-speed transmission was a question on everyone’s lips during my time with the Cherokee. I didn’t find it to be an issue, a bump here and a slow response there, perhaps, but it’s easy to find evidence of Extra-Terrestrials if that’s what you’re searching for. There are lower-tech issues with the Cherokee that bite way before the transmission ever will. The SUV-grade ride and handling – this thing is no Mazda CX-5 – and higher ground clearance leads to higher entry and load height.

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If you like Jeeps, you’ll like the Cherokee. If you’re looking for the best value in the segment, this is not it. The Cherokee is a waypoint for the future of Jeep, however. It’s going to influence the styling of models to come. It’s also not likely to outsell the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee, but I’ll take a more optimistic view than Derek and suggest that it will come in as a solid #3 in the lineup by doubling the just-barely-third performance of the Liberty. Call it tempered optimism.

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]]> http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-2014-jeep-cherokee-latitude-4x4-v6/feed/ 109 Review: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 4×4 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-jeep-cherokee-limited-v6-4x4-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-jeep-cherokee-limited-v6-4x4-with-video/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 14:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739825 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-002

The folks at Jeep have known for some time that high volume on-road models have to be part of the mix to keep low volume off-road models viable. From the 1946 Willys Station Wagon and the original Wagoneer, to the Grand Cherokee and the Compass, Jeep has been on a steady march towards the word no Wrangler owner wants to hear: “crossover”. Their plan is to replace the off-road capable Liberty and compete with the RAV4, CR-V and 20 other small crossovers with one vehicle: the 2014 Cherokee.

With two ambitious (and contradictory) missions and unconventional looks, the Cherokee has turned into one of the most polarizing cars in recent memory. It is therefore no surprise the Cherokee has been getting mixed reviews. USA Today called it “unstoppable fun” while Consumer Reports called it “half baked” with a “choppy ride and clumsy handling.” Our own Derek Kreindler came away disappointed with its on-road performance at the launch event, though he had praise for the Cherokee’s off-road capabilities. What should we make of the glowing reviews, and the equally loud dissenting voices?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I’ve always said styling is a personal preference and although the Cherokee is far from my cup of tea, I’m glad Chrysler decided to color outside the lines. The “bent” 7-slot grill still strikes me as peculiar, but what made me scratch my head more is the lighting. You’ll find the headlamps in the middle of the bumper cover behind a smoked plastic lens, while the daytime running lamps and turn signals live in a separate module high up on the front, Meanwhile, the fog lamps are nestled at the bottom of the bumper. Out back the Cherokee is far more mainstream with a fairly plain (and very vertical) rear hatch. Overall the looks are certainly striking and unmistakable, I’m just not sure if that’s a good thing.

The Cherokee is “kinda-sorta” based on the Dodge Dart which itself is more-or-less a stretched and widened Alfa Romeo Giulietta. While some Jeep fans call any car-based Jeep heresy, the Cherokee isn’t the first car/SUV hybrid at Jeep and it won’t be the last. The side profile, specifically the front overhang, is where the Cherokee’s dual mission starts to show. A transverse mounted engine creates a long overhang compared to a traditional RWD SUV. This isn’t a problem in the Patriot, which has much lower aspirations, but does pose a problem for “the off-road crowd.” To compensate, the Cherokee rides higher than the competition (7.8 to 8.8 inches) and uses two different bumper designs. Sport, Latitude and Limited trims get a more traditional (if you can call it that) bumper design with a fairly flat front while Trailhawk models pull the bottom of the bumper up to allow a 50% better approach angle and causing a “wedge-like” front profile. Out back similar changes to the rear bumper improve the Trailhawk’s departure angle.

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Interior

While the Grand Cherokee continues it’s mission as the “American Range Rover,” anyone looking for the Cherokee to be the “American Evoque” is going to be disappointed. Even so, I found the the interior to be class leading in many ways, with more soft touch plastics than you’ll find in the competition. Chrysler fitted the Grand Cherokee’s chunky steering wheel to the smaller Jeep which gives the cabin a more premium feel. Most Cherokees on dealer lots will have a leather wrapped wheel, but base models get a urethane tiller. The Cherokee retains the optional steering wheel heater from the Grand Cherokee, but ditches the paddle shifters.

The wide front seats are deeply padded, supportive and easily the best in the segment in terms of comfort. Thankfully, the engineers ditched the “dome-shaped” bottom cushion found in other Chrysler products allowing you to sit “in” the seats, not “on” the seats. Most models get a fold-flat front passenger seat improving cargo versatility, but that option is incompatible with the optional “ventilated front seats and multi-way with four-way power lumbar support” package for the front passenger.

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Although not as comfortable as the front, the second row is easily the most comfortable in the segment. Seat cushions are thickly padded, recline, and slide fore/aft to adjust the cargo area dimensions. (Or get a child seat closer.) The Cherokee offers two inches more rear legroom than CR-V, three more than RAV4 and nearly four inches more than Escape. The seat bottom cushions also ride higher off the ground so adults won’t feel like they have their knees in their chest.

Because of the need for off-road-capable departure angles and ground clearance, a compromise had to be made and I found it behind the [optional] power tailgate. The Cherokee suffers from the smallest cargo hold among its target cross-shops by a wide margin at 24.8 cubic feet. The next smallest entry (the CX-5) will hold over 40% more behind the second row (34 cubes) while the Rogue’s generous booty will swallow 40 cubic feet of whatever. Note: The Cherokee’s spec sheet lists cargo capacity at 29.7 cubic feet but that measurement is taken with the 2nd row adjusted all the way forward in its tracks which cuts rear legroom down to well below the competition.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior uConnect 8.4

Infotainment

Depending on trim level, you’ll find two different systems in the dash. Things start out with uConnect 5.0 in the Sport and Latitude. Running on a Microsoft OS (like Ford SYNC), this unit is more sluggish than the UNIX-based 8-inch system but offers many of the same features excluding navigation. While other Chrysler/Fiat models with uConnect 5.0 have the option to add TomTom navigation at a later date, that doesn’t seem to apply here. The touchscreen features full USB/iPod integration, optional XM satellite radio and a Bluetooth speakerphone in addition to acting as the climate control display and seat heater controls. Sound thumps out via 6-standard speakers, and you can pay $200 for an optional CD player if you haven’t joined the 2st century.

Optional on Latitude and standard on Limited/Trailhawk is the 8-inch QNX UNIX based “uConnect 8.4.” The system features polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. All the features you expect from a connected car are standard, from voice commands for USB/iDevice control to smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart or Slacker. You can have text messages read to you, dictate replies and search for restaurants or businesses via Yelp. In addition to the smartphone-tied features, it integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store.” Since there’s a cell modem on-board, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices. Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services from traffic updates to fuel prices. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports.

For an extra $795 you can add Garmin’s navigation software to the system and Chrysler tells us that the nav software can be added after purchase. Our tester had the $395 optional 9-speaker sound system with a subwoofer. Sound quality ranged from average with the standard 6-speaker setup to excellent with the optional speakers. Unfortunately, the up-level speaker package requires you have navigation as well, bringing the price bump to $1190 if you were only after the louder beats.

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Drivetrain

All trims start with Chrysler’s 2.4L “Tigershark” four-cylinder engine delivering 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of twist. Optional on all but the Sport is a new 3.2L V6 good for 271 horses and 239 lb-ft. Sadly we won’t get the 2.0L Fiat diesel on our shores, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to burn oil in your country, that engine delivers 170 ponies and 258 lb-ft of twist. Power is sent to the ground via a controversial 9-speed automatic designed by ZF and built by Chrysler. The 9-speed is very similar to the one used in the Range Rover Evoque although few parts are directly interchangeable.

While most crossovers offer a single AWD system Jeep gives you three options. First up we have a traditional slip-and-grip AWD system with a multi-plate clutch pack (Active Drive) that sends power to the rear when required. Jeep combined this with a “rear axle disconnect” feature to improve fuel economy. This is the system you’ll find on most of the Sport, Latitude and Limited Cherokees on dealer lots.

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Available on Latitude and Limited is Active Drive II which adds a segment-exclusive rock crawl ratio. Because of the way transverse transaxles work, this system operates differently than a longitudinal (RWD) system in that there are actually two two-speed transfer cases. Power exits the transmission and enters a “PTU” where power is split front and rear. Up front, power flows from the PTU to a 2-speed planetary gearset and then back into the transmission’s case to the front differential. For the back wheels, power flows from the multi-plate clutch pack and rear axle disconnect clutch inside the PTU to an angle gear unit which rotates power 90-degrees and connects to the prop shaft. The prop shaft connects to another 2-speed planetary gearset and then finally to the rear axle.

Engaging 4-Low causes the PTU to engage the rear axle and engage the primary low ratio gearset.  At the same time, the low ratio gearset in the rear axle unit engages. Vehicle electronics confirm that the system has engaged both units before you can move forward. Should you need the ultimate in off-road ability, the Trailhawk throws in a locking rear differential (this is the third system, called Active Drive Lock), hill ascent/descent control and various stability control programs for off-road terrain. Before you ask “is this a real low-ratio?” 4-Low is 56:1 with the 2.4L engine and 47.8:1 with the 3.2L. That 56:1 ratio is lower than anything Jeep has sold, save the Wrangler Rubicon’s insane 73:1.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-004Modifications

Being the owner of a Jeep with a minor four-inch lift kit installed, after-market options are near and dear. Of course RAV4/CR-V/Escape shoppers aren’t your typical lift-kit demographic, so for many of you, this section isn’t germane. Because of the Cherokee’s design, ride height modifications are not going to be as easy as with solid-axle Jeeps of yore. With longitudinal engine mounting and solid axles, lifting is an easy task up to around four-inches, at which point you may need to start thinking about new driveshafts and possible U-joint replacements. With a design like the Cherokee’s, anything beyond an inch or two can result in serious suspension geometry changes that have a huge impact on handling and tire wear. While it would be possible to design kits with four new half-shafts, springs and suspension bits that would lift and correct the geometry change, I suspect the costs would be prohibitive, so don’t expect much more than a 2-3 inch spring-spacer kit for base models and 1-2 inches for the Trailhawk.

Pricing

Most shoppers will be deciding between the Sport, Latitude and Limited trims starting at $22,295, $24,495 and $27,995 respectively for FWD models. Adding AWD increases the price tag by $2,000 and on Latitude and Limited and you can get the low ratio gearbox with a 1-inch suspension bump for an additional $995. The Sport model comes well equipped compared to the competition with that 5-inch infotainment system, auto-down windows and most creature comforts you expect except for air conditioning. You’ll find A/C in the oddly named $795 “cold weather group” which also includes heated mirrors, a leather steering wheel, remote start, heated front seats and a windshield wiper de-icer. At the base level the Sport is roughly the same price as the Toyota and Honda but adding the $795 package pushes the price comparison in the Jeep’s favor by more than $1,000.

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Latitude adds a standard 115V outlet, leather wrapped steering wheel, auto up/down windows, fold flat front seat, ambient lighting, A/C, steering wheel audio controls and fog lamps in addition to allowing access to the more robust AWD system, V6 engine and navigation. Limited tosses in power front seats, the 7-inch LCD instrument cluster (seen above), an auto dimming mirror, heated steering wheel, soft touch plastics on the doors, automatic headlamps, one year of XM radio, turn signals on the side mirrors and the ability to option your Cherokee up to $40,890 by adding self-parking, cooled seats, HID headlamps and more options than I care to list.

Then there is the Trailhawk. As the only CUV with a 2-speed transfer case, locking differential, tow hooks, off-road oriented software programming and all-terrain rubber, this Cherokee is in a class by itself. It’s also priced in a class by itself. Starting at $29,495 and ending at $40,890, the Trailhawk has a similar MSRP spread as the Limited but it trades the optional luxury items for off-road hardware.

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Drive

Chrysler decided to make the Cherokee the first recipient of their new technology onslaught. If you’re willing to pay, you can option your Jeep up with a full-speed range radar cruise control, collision warning and collision prevention with automatic braking, cooled seats, lane departure warning and prevention and rear cross path collision detection. The Cherokee is also Chrysler’s first self-parking car, and like the new Mercedes S-Class, the Jeep will back itself into perpendicular spots in addition to parallel parking. The tech worked well and is as easy to use as Ford’s system, although I’m not sure I want to live in a world where folks can’t perpendicular park. (You know, in regular old parking spaces.) If you opt for the ultrasonic parking sensors, the Cherokee will also apply the brakes before you back into that shopping cart you didn’t see.

Most reviewers are so caught up in the way the 9-speed automatic shifts. The truth is, hybrids, dual clutch transmissions, robotized manuals, CVTs and automatics with new technologies are only going to become more common and it’s time we in the auto press adjusted. If you want to know more about why the 9-speed does what it does, check our our deep dive on dog clutches. All I’m going to say here is that I got used to the way the transmission shifts and it never really bothered me.

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At 4,100lbs the Cherokee is 600lbs heavier than a comparable RAV4 or CX-5. The extra weight is caused by the structural reinforcements required for off roading. Unfortunately it causes some on-road compromises. Acceleration with the 2.4L engine is adequate but sluggish compared to the lighter competition. The V6 on the other hand hits 60 MPH in 6.5 seconds which ties with the 2.0L Ecoboost Escape as the fastest in the class. Regardless of the engine you choose, the Cherokee has one of the quietest cabins in the segment thanks to extensive sound deadening. All the foam comes in handy on 2.4L models as the small engine spends more time in lower gears thanks to the Cherokee’s heft.

Once on the highway the 9-speed automatic helped the porky crossover average a respectable 23.7 MPG, just 1.3 MPG behind the much slower RAV4. The economy is all down to the rear axle disconnect feature and the 9-speed transmission. By completely disconnecting the rear axle via a clutch, parasitic losses drop to nearly zero when compared to other small crossovers. The downside to this is that when the system is in “Auto” power is sent 100% to the front axle until there is slip at which point the Cherokee must re-connect the rear axle then engage a secondary multi-plate clutch to move power. This system allows greater economy but is much slower to react and adds some weight to the mix. To compensate, the Cherokee allows you to fully lock the center coupling and engage the rear axle at any speed by engaging various drive modes. Thanks to an extremely tall 9th gear, the V6 spins at a lazy 1,500 RPM at 82 MPH allowing a reported 25 MPG on level ground.

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The heavy and substantial feel on winding roads and reminded me more of the Grand Cherokee than your average CUV. Soft springs and well-tuned dampers delivered a supple ride on a variety of surfaces and the Cherokee never felt unsettled. However, those same suspension choices allow plenty of body roll in the corners, tip when accelerating and dive when braking. As with most entries, the Cherokee uses electric power steering so there is precious little feel behind the wheel. When pushed near its limits, the Cherokee delivers reasonable grip thanks to wide tires and a 57/43 (F/R) weight balance which is essentially the same as the CX-5. If this sounds like the on-road description of a body-on-frame SUV from 10 years ago, you’re not far off base. But is that a bad thing? Not in my book. Why? It’s all about the other half of the Cherokee’s mission.

With more ground clearance, a rated water fording depth of 20 inches, 4,500lbs of towing capacity and a more robust AWD system, the Cherokee can follow the Grand Cherokee down any trail without fear. Of course both Jeeps should be careful not to follow a Wrangler, as neither is as off-road capable as they used to be, but the gist is that both are far more capable than the average crossover. Jeep’s traction and stability control systems are different than what you find in the on-road oriented competition in that the software’s objective is to move power from wheel to wheel rather than just limit wheel spin. Competitive systems reduce engine power first, then selectively brake wheels. The Jeep system in “Mud” mode is more interested with keeping the wheels all spinning the same than curbing engine power. The Cherokee also allows the center coupling to be locked at higher speeds than the competition, offering a 20-inch rated water fording depth, 7.9 to 8.8 inches of ground clearance and available skid plates. While the Cherokee will never be as much fun off-road as a 4Runner, Wrangler, or other serious off-road options, you can have a hoot and a half at the off-road park in stock Trailhawk trim.

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If a crossover is supposed to be a cross between a family sedan and an SUV, the Cherokee is the truest small crossover you can buy. Trouble is, most shoppers are really just looking for the modern station wagon: something with a big cargo hold and car-like manners. In this area the Cherokee comes up short. It’s big and heavy and it drives like it’s big and heavy. But it’s not without its charms, the Cherokee is the only compact crossover capable of the school run and the Rubicon trail. It’s also the quietest and most comfortable crossover going, even if it is short on trunk space. If you’re willing to pay, it’s also the one loaded with the most gadgets, goodies and luxury amenities.

Is the Cherokee half-baked like Consumer Reports said? Perhaps. The Cherokee’s off-roading mission results in limited cargo space and vague handling while the on-road mission demanded a FWD chassis with high fuel economy. But it faithfully manages to give 99% of Liberty shoppers and 80% of RAV4 shoppers a viable alternative. Is that half-baked or a successful compromise? If you’re after a soft-roader to get you from point A to point B with stellar fuel economy, great handling and a massive cargo area, there are better options than the Cherokee. If however you “need” a crossover but “want” a go-anywhere SUVlet, this is your only option.

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.15 Seconds

0-60: 6.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.75 Seconds

Average observed fuel economy: 23.7 MPG over 453 miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 67 dB

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Meet Our New Long-Termer, Sorta http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/meet-our-new-long-termer-sorta/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/meet-our-new-long-termer-sorta/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 15:30:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=731626 IMG_4523

No, this isn’t my new car. That’s still two weeks away, at least, as the wheels of the insurance machine grind exceedingly fine. It’s the next closest thing to my new car — my father’s new car. Insofar as he bought it at my direct suggestion, and insofar as no manufacturer has ever given us a long-term Cayenne or Mulsanne or all the other piggy vehicles cluttering up apartment garages everywhere from Automobile to Autoblog, we’ll take our long-termers where we can get them.

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This is replacing a 2009 ML350 4Matic. The best thing you can say about the 2009 ML350 was that it was much, much better than the 1999 ML320. But the best thing you can say about the new Grand Cherokee is that it is, in many ways, the best product in its segment. This particular one is a relatively conservative choice: an RWD Limited Pentastar with just a few options. To Dad’s chagrin but my secret joy, it happens to have the Class IV towing package on it. It’s not quite the loaded SRT-8 I suggested, but the Limited probably represents the best value for money in the lineup and it has everything you could reasonably want in an SUV that will basically be used as an airport runabout.

The dealer was Hilton Head Chrysler Jeep, and the sales and finance people involved were Mike Greggo, Dustin Adams, and John Lyons. They made Dad a square deal on the Benz and the Cherokee, enough so that I expect his overall costs for the next 75,000 miles to be lower despite the additional expense of purchasing the new vehicle.

We’ll keep you apprised of the ownership experience as it progresses. While this purchase might not sound like a bold move to most TTACers, it is to my father; it’s the first domestic-brand vehicle he’s owned since he chopped in his Town Car on a 1987 Maxima SE stick-shift. Watch this space!

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Jeep Aiming For 1 Million Units Sold in 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/jeep-aiming-for-1-million-units-sold-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/jeep-aiming-for-1-million-units-sold-in-2014/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 17:05:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=701209 2014-Jeep-Cherokee-front-closeup-1024x640

Chrysler Group LLC CEO Sergio Marchionne threw down the gauntlet for Jeep during an interview on Detroit’s WJR-AM at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, proclaiming that the Rubicon-rated brand will move 1 million units onto the trails and highways by the end of this year.

Global sales of the iconic off-road brand rose 4 percent in 2013 for the fourth consecutive year, topping out at a record 731,565 units moved. Though Marchionne is confident Jeep will make his stated sales goal, brand president Mike Manley is taking a more conservative stand, stating that the figure might come by 2015 rather than 2014.

However, Manley believes the new Cherokee could bring the remaining 300,000 or so units to the table by the end of the year should the SUV do well at home and abroad. Sales of the Cherokee in the United States, in spite of its face, are 15 percent to 20 percent ahead of Chrysler’s expectations after only two months in the market; total U.S. sales account for 67 percent of Jeep’s overall global sales.

As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Fiat has plans to build a subcompact Jeep in Italy for sale in Europe in 2014, with arrival in the U.S. due sometime in 2015. The parent automaker also plans to expand production in America, as well as in China and Brazil.

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Review: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-with-video/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2013 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=666978 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-004

If you want a high performance SUV today, you’re left with relatively little choice. GM hasn’t dabbled in the market since their Trailblazer SS / Saab 9-7 Aero and Ford never even gave it a try with the old Explorer. That means your only options for ridiculously fast boxes on wheels come from BMW, Porsche, Mercedes… and Jeep. Is it possible that the “bat-shit-crazy” Chrysler that I remember and love is back?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

This isn’t the first Grand Cherokee with sporting pretensions, as 1998 Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited was arguably the first fast Grand Cherokee. Despite the RWD layout making a performance version “easy to do” (in a relative sense), we wouldn’t see another until the third generation “WK” SRT8 in 2006. With a 425 horsepower 6.1L engine, it was the most powerful Jeep ever built. Sadly, a Cerberus-era interior kept it off my wanted list. After a hiatus, another SRT landed in 2012, this time with 470 horses under the hood. Although improved, the interior still underwhelmed and the Mercedes sourced 5-speed transmission was hardly a team player.

While the basic vehicle remains unchanged, 2014 brings more changes than your typical refresh. Up front we have a new nose featuring LED daytime running lamps, headlamp washers and standard HID headlamps.  Out back we get a refreshed rump with twin exhaust tips, which are far more practical than the central tips on first Jeep SRT,e because it allows a standard hitch receiver to be mounted behind a trim panel in the bumper. It’s worth noting that Chrysler rates the Grand Cherokee SRT for 7,200lbs of towing.

Now it’s time to talk about competition. When it comes to high horsepower SUVs, you don’t have many options. Sure, we have that new Porsche Macan, but it’s smaller than the Jeep and less powerful. When you do the numbers, the only 470+ horsepower beasts on the market are the closely related Mercedes ML63 AMG, the new supercharged Range Rovers, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo/Turbo S. And… That’s it. BMW has taken a break from X5M for 2014, likely to return as a 2015 model. Audi Q7? Too wimpy. Acura MDX? Weaksauce. That means that while the Grand Cherokee plays with the Explorer, GMC Terrain, Toyota 4Runner, VW Touareg and others, the Grand Cherokee SRT appeals to two different sorts of buyers. The performance enthusiast that wants an AWD Chrysler 300 SRT, and the luxury SUV shopper on a value hunt.

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Interior

As with the exterior, 2014 brings more interior changes than your typical refresh. The Jeep gets Chrysler’s chunky new SRT steering wheel complete with metal shift paddles, a heated soft leather rim, a flat bottom, and more buttons than Apollo mission control. The refresh also brings an entirely new stitched leather dashboard, leather coated doors, carbon fiber trim, and improved plastics all around. Below the carbon fiber, little has changed. This means we still have hard plastics which belie the SRT’s luxury credentials.

Dominating the dash is the latest 8.4-inch uConnect infotainment system joined by a 7-inch LCD disco dash.  The LCD gauges put the Jeep well ahead of BMW and Mercedes and, interestingly, only a notch below the full 11-inch LCD used in Range Rovers. Finishing the transformation is an Audi-like shifter in the center console. Sadly the SRT doesn’t get the Alcantara headliner that the Grand Cherokee Summit gets. Combined with the easily scratched plastic shifter surround, the SRT is obviously not running with the luxury pack but it is a notch above the crossover rabble and feels  worth the $63,995 base price. More on that later.

The  front seats are modified versions of regular Jeep thrones with more bolstering and are available in your choice of “baseball glove” brown or black with Alcantara inserts. (The full-leather seats will run you $1,995 more.) Although the seats are less comfortable than those found in the Merc, Rover or Bimmer, I had no problem finding a comfortable position on multi-hour drives. Unlike less expensive versions of the Grand Cherokee, the SRT’s seats seem to be designed for you to sit “in” the seat rather than “on” the seat, something that I was pleased to note.  Rear seat passengers will have little to complain about with reclining rear seat backs, air vents and the same soft-touch leather door treatment as the front. New for 2014 are two high-current USB power ports in the center console so your kids can charge their iWidget without cigarette adapters.

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In addition to improved voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new Chrysler “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem onboard, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well. Keep in mind speeds are 3G, not Sprint’s WiMAX or LTE network.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. The navigation interface is easy to use, but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. The SRT trim gets Chrysler’s home brew 9-speaker sound system with a 506-watt amplifier. The sound is acceptable for the price tag but I’d buy the 19-speaker, $1,995 Harmon Kardon Logic7 system if I were you. Quite similar in timbre to the Logic7 systems BMW uses, the system holds its own compared to the up-level audio packages in the luxury set. Because BMW’s X5M is on hiatus, the infotainment win in this segment has to go to the SRT. COMAND is well past its prime and Porsche and Land Rover’s infotainment systems are unintuitive and lag in terms of feature functionality.

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Drivetrain

The first Jeep to wear the SRT badge used a 6.1L V8 that was accused of having a narrow power band, a “peaky” torque curve and poor fuel economy. To address this, Chrysler released a new 6.4L V8 in 2012. Instead of revising the 6.1, the engineers went back to the drawing board and created a new engine based off the second-generation 5.7L Hemi. This means that unlike the luxury competition, you won’t find overhead cams, direct injection or 32 valves. Don’t let Top Gear or the iron block fool you, this engine is a modern design with some tricks up its sleeve. Despite the push rods, Chrysler managed to fit variable valve timing, a variable length intake manifold, cylinder deactivation, alloy pistons and 16 spark plugs. The combination is good for 470HP and 465 lb-ft of torque.

Thanks to the “Mercedes years”, Chrysler was still using a Mercedes 5-speed transmission behind the 3.6L V6 and the 6.4L V8 in 2012 and 2013. While not a bad transmission, the 5-speed’s ratios were not well mated to the 6.4L V8. In order to get SRT levels of performance, a different final drive was fitted making the engine spin over 2,400RPM at 70 MPH. The new ZF 8-speed automatic allows a lower effective first gear, a more balanced ratio spread and a taller final gear so the engine can at 1,900 RPM at 70. Directing power to all four wheels is an MP 3010 electronic proportioning transfer case. The driver can select from five drive modes that control the torque split, shift pattern and the dynamic suspension system. Auto gives the softest suspension, slowest shifts and sends 40% of the engine power to the front for balanced handling. Sport stiffens and makes the shifts crisper, while sending only 35% of the power to the front for more rear bias. Track provides the stiffest dampening and sends 70% of the power to the rear for even more of a RWD feel (2012 and 2013 models topped out at a 35/65 split). Should you like things 50/50, Sport and Tow modes provide balanced power front and rear. One thing you still won’t find however is a torque vectoring rear axle, Jeep retains the electronic limited slip unit found in other Grand Cherokee models.

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The Grand Cherokee SRT has all the right numbers for bat-shit-crazy status, but can it deliver? In a word: Yes. Backing that answer up is a blistering 4.1 second run to 60 and an eye-popping 1.37 second 0-30 time. But can it truly compete with the Germans? Despite the new interior and 8-speed automatic (basically the same transmission Porsche, BMW and Range Rover use) the SRT isn’t as refined, inside or on the road. Driven back to back with the competition, the SRT feels more like the Range Rover or the Mercedes than the tighter BMW or Porsche. The Merc comparisons are especially interesting since the ML and the Grand Cherokee share plenty of design DNA.

Although Mercedes has fitted a more powerful twin-turbo V8 (515 HP / 516 lb0-ft or 550 HP / 560 lb-ft), the Merc feels less connected to the road than the Jeep. Part of this is due top the air ride suspension Mercedes uses and part of it is due to the narrow 265 width standard tires. While you can get 295s all the way around, it’ll cost you dearly as the ML63 is easy to option over $100,000. Factor in the dated COMAND system and the 7-speed auto that is 1 gear shy of everyone else and the ML comes in last.

Land Rover’s Ranger Rover Sport continues to march to a different drummer. Although the 5.0L V8 produces 510 HP and 461 lb-ft of twist, the Rover’s mission is more luxury than sport. The English mountain climber retains all the off road hardware of the lesser models, all season tires and a high ground clearance. Thanks to the supercharged engine’s lack of torque compared to the rest, the Range Rover is also the slowest to highway speeds. While the Range Rover would be my choice if I had the cash, the fact that it isn’t really the same kind of animal puts it in fourth place.

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Porsche’s Cayenne is, without question, a beast. With sharp handling, an excellent weight balance and a well-trimmed interior you’d logically expect the Touareg’s rich cousin to take top billing. However, there’s a big value problem. In order to get 4-second 0-60 performance like the rest, you have to throw down at least $146,000 for the Turbo S model and getting crazy with the option sheet can bump your out the door by more than $25,000 without trying very hard.

BMW’s X5M would take top billing if it was still made, but, for the moment at least, there is no X5M for shoppers to contemplate. The outgoing X5M model’s torque vectoring axle, insanely wide tires, low stance and underrated twin-turbo V8 are a lethal combination. The fact that the outgoing X5M was also cheaper than the ML63 and the Cayenne certainly helps the value proposition as well. That is, if you can call a six figure vehicle a “value.”

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That means that the $70,135 Jeep (as tested) is my pick for 2014. And now let’s talk about why. The fact that you could literally get two for the price of a Cayenne is huge, and that’s because I’m all about value. Value isn’t being the cheapest (although the Jeep wins that award by over $30,000 in this mash-up) it’s about delivering the same or similar experience for less, and that’s something the SRT has down. But there’s also something rough and rugged about the Jeep that elicits more charm. The Jeep’s interior is more utilitarian, the throttle blips on down shift lack the fanfare and overrun “pops” you get with the competition and there’s still that Jeep logo on the hood. More skill is required to pilot the SRT around a canyon road making it more engaging than the Teutonic competition. (It isn’t just the product that’s a little crazy, Chrysler allowed folks to drive the Jeep on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, other manufacturers kept their toys out of harm’s way.)

The lack of a torque vectoring rear axle means you have to be in control of the Jeep, while more refined nannies and vectoring systems in the Porsche and BMW can make anyone feel like a pro. The Cayenne and X5M are also better balanced than the Jeep which wears 54% of its weight up front thanks to that cast iron engine, but when pressed hard the Jeep gives up little to the Germans. Even in a straight line the Jeep’s numbers stack up well. Thanks to the 8-speed auto in the Jeep, and the old 6-speed ZF unit in the 2013 X5M we tested, the Jeep’s power deficit resulted in a scant 1/100th 0-30 penalty, 1/10th 0-60 penalty and by the 1/4 mile the Jeep was still neck and neck at 1/10th and 6 MPH slower.

After a week with the Grand Cherokee SRT I was sad to see it go, even after I noted my 15.5 MPG fuel economy average. Perhaps it is because I recently bought a Saab 9-7 Aer0 with GM’s 390 horse LS2, so I seem to be the target market for a value performance SUV. Perhaps it is because I’ll nver be able to afford the SRT’s German competition but the Jeep is within reach if I sell a kidney. Or, perhaps the real reason is that a 5,150lb Jeep with a 6.4L push-rod V8 engine making 470 horsepower that ticks off a 0-30 time faster than a BMW M6 rain or shine is bat-shit-crazy. Anyone know the going rate for a kidney?

Chrysler provides the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review. Chrysler provided an SRT Grand Cherokee at a Mazda Raceway event for local press.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 1.37 Seconds

0-60: 4.1 Seconds

0-100: 11.33 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.7 Seconds @ 107 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 15.5 over 989 miles

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Capsule Review: 2014 Jeep Cherokee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/capsule-review-2014-jeep-cherokee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/capsule-review-2014-jeep-cherokee/#comments Thu, 12 Sep 2013 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=515249 IMG_4625

There may not be a more important car launched this year than the Jeep Cherokee. A symbol of the union between Chrysler and Fiat, designed to lead Jeep’s push into the booming global crossover market, a bold new styling direction for the brand – these elements are all inextricably bound with the vehicle itself, with the Cherokee’s success in the marketplace vindicating all three. Predicting how well a vehicle will sell is always a crapshoot. I try to refrain from forming opinions of vehicles before driving them, but I couldn’t help but root for the Cherokee a little. It had sufficiently angered the Internet Product Planning division with its out-there styling, car-based platform and bold claims of off-road superiority. Charmed by the sheer gall of its contradictory mission (a CUV that can hang with true SUVs off-pavement), I wanted it to be a good vehicle on its own and succeed in the marketplace.

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My first preview of the Cherokee came last December, at a preview session at Chrysler’s Auburn Hills headquarters. A number of journalists were herded into the design wing as part of a product preview, with the Cherokee revealed last. After the sheet was pulled off, there were plenty of polite murmurs about it how it was “different” and “unique”. At a reception later that night, it was mocked mercilessly. I didn’t warm to it at first, but slowly came around to the idea, put forth by our own Marcelo De Vasconcellos, that it had to be polarizing

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In the flesh, it is much less jarring. Like most post-Bangle designs, bigger wheels are much more flattering, while the Trailhawk edition, with its black cladding, off-road rolling stock and red painted tow hooks, is downright desirable, morphing the car from a left-field cute-ute to an undeniably masculine looking off-roader. A walk around the car (which various Chrysler reps claimed were pre-production or early build cars) revealed fairly tight panel gaps, high quality paint and little evidence of sloppy assembly or corner cutting. Initially, I was optimistic that the numerous delays related to the Cherokee had yielded a nicely finished product that was done properly, even it wasn’t done on schedule. But the interior proved to be a major letdown.

The center stack will be familiar to anyone who has driven a Chrysler product, whether it was a Dart or a Durango. This is hardly a bad thing. If MyFord Touch is my benchmark for how not to engineer a user interface for a mass market automobile, then the UConnect/Chrysler parts bin layout used here is a shining example of how to get it right. Everything is intuitive, easy to use and free of lag, hesitation or any cheap-feeling materials. But beyond the center stack, there were some interior elements that felt alarmingly flimsy.

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The armrest/lid of the cubby just aft of the shifter felt like it was about to break off when opened, and giving it a little wiggle, like you would a child’s loose tooth, shook the entire shifter surround. The gauge needles, which are supposed to be red, look like they’ve been left in the California sun for a decade, while some of the stitching on the steering wheel was so wonky that it didn’t even need close examination – it was simply staring at me every time I moved the steering wheel and felt the poor stitching, which looked a bit like sutures performed by a drunken naval corpsman. I examined other Cherokees for similar quality defects, and they were largely uniform in having the same issues..

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Any hopes that the Cherokee would redeem itself with a Grand Cherokee-like driving experience were dashed within a few miles of leaving our starting point. While Jeep should be applauded for delaying the Cherokee on multiple occasions to iron out the trucklet’s various quirks, they didn’t quite go far enough. The downsized 3.2L V6 Pentastar engine is just as good as its 3.6L big brother, but its shine is tarnished by the much-touted 9-speed transmission. The ZF ‘box is about as calm as Robin Williams at his most amphetamine-addled, constantly hunting for gears on even minor grades, holding them for far too long, downshifting abruptly and generally doing everything it can to disrupt what should be a calm, collected driving experience. The throttle calibration is similarly abrupt, with a lifeless tip-in followed by a surge of power, while the brakes offer all the resistance of a sopping sponge.

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Even more damning was when the Cherokee was driven back to back against the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape Titanium on the “competitive loop”. The CR-V, charmless as it may be in the eyes of many TTAC readers, is at least quiet, smooth and composed on the road. It may look dated and even spartan inside, but it’s full of little touches – things like a very low load floor and one-touch rear folding seats – that matter a lot to the target demographic. There’s a reason it sold nearly 300,000 examples last year. The Escape, even with the dreaded MyFord Touch and gas guzzling 2.0 Ecoboost motor, puts on a clinic for what a pseudo-premium SUV should feel like. In my opinion, it’s just as sharp and responsive as a Mazda CX-5, while the 2.0 Ecoboost is an absolute monster at eating up the road (even if it eats up fuel at a similar rate). If the CX-5 is the Miata of crossovers, then this is the two-box, jacked up Focus ST. Only the Toyota RAV4, with its drab interior and half-baked dynamics, made the Cherokee look good. Against the others, it failed to shine, with discombobulated body motions on the handling loops and a surprisingly small cargo area. All the more damming was the $37,000 MSRP for my Cherokee Limited trim level tester.

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Where the Cherokee does redeem itself is off-road. All the talk from Jeep about the Cherokee’s off-road competence is not just PR messaging. Jeep set up a treacherous off-road course with rock crawling, deep-craters, steep dirt inclines and sphincter-clenching downhill sections. For any of the competitive set, it would be the automotive equivalent of a Turkish prison. But the Trailhawk testers we used to traverse the course didn’t break a sweat. With Jeep’s ActiveDrive Lock AWD system, a rear differential locker and the nifty Selec-Speed Control (which can limit your speed to as low as 0.6 mph for crawling scenarios), the Cherokee acquitted itself admirably off-road. It makes one wonder why body-on-frame SUVs need to exist if a crossover, let alone a more rugged unibody SUV, can handle off-road driving so well. On the on-road sections, our Limited tester had ActiveDrive II AWD, which does not have the rear locker (it’s an option), but adds two low-range (2.92:1) planetary gearboxes at both front and rear differentials, as well as a Neutral mode, in addition to selectable Auto, Snow, Sport and Sand/Mud modes. Other models have either the basic ActiveDrive I (your typical CUV AWD system that keeps it mostly in FWD mode) with ActiveDrive II as an option.

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Any reservations about the new Cherokee dishonoring the vaunted XJ Cherokee of years past, as well as the Jeep brand, can be put to bed. This is the real deal as far as off-road capability. The big problem is that the vast majority of Cherokees, Trailhawk models included, will probably not see an off-road course. At most, they’ll traverse a gravel driveway or a turnout. If you want a crossover that can hang with a Wrangler Rubicon, then there is no other option. But for anybody looking for a solid CUV option for the daily grind, it’s tough to recommend the Cherokee. Discounting its amazing off-road abilities, it does not appear to be competitive with the current class leaders in terms of on-road performance, build quality and cargo capacity. The fact that its big brother, the Grand Cherokee, is so competent makes the Cherokee’s faults even more disappointing. The current Grand Cherokee is my favorite SUV at any price. All trim levels, from the lowliest Laredo to the insane SRT, shine with excellence. I wish I could say the same for its baby brother.

Chrysler provided airfare, meals and accomodations for the writer on this driving event.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/capsule-review-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt8/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/capsule-review-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt8/#comments Mon, 29 Jul 2013 14:03:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=497292 DSC_2383

My junior year of high school involved a social studies course taught by a dour, acid-tongued woman, a Scottish leftist in the tradition of George Galloway, who delighted in admonishing us for our bad behavior by labeling us “a bunch of spoiled, upper-middle class brats”. Well, guilty as charged for this writer. Despite the not-so-hidden proletarian contempt she may have had for us, I credit her with teaching a lesson on the Simon-Erlich wager, an event that proved formative in shaping my view of the world.

In 1968 Paul Ehrlich wrote a book entitled The Population Bomb that predicted all kinds of catastrophic events, namely famine as a result of overpopulation. 12 years after its publication, Ehrlich and Libertarian academic Julian Simon made a bet on a basket of commodities, with Ehrlich betting that their prices would rise, to the detriment of humanity.

Neither of Ehrlich’s predictions came to pass, but doomsday catastrophe narratives are still central to our discourse: Y2K, peak oil, global warming, the zombie apocalypse and so on and so forth. As silly and alarmist as theories of global collapse may be, people are happy to buy in to them (especially the zombie apocalypse) no matter how ill-prepared they may be for the consequences.

I strongly suspect that a lot of it has to do with the sense of alienation many people feel in regards to our modern existence. How perverse, if not sadistic, must one be to gleefully anticipate the breakdown of civilization and the mass expiration a variety of the globe’s species, humans included?

This phenomenon extends to muscle cars as well. It seems that every few years, we are ready to give the muscle car its last rites, though it’s less of a desire to do so rather than a dispassionate look at reality; between CAFE, rising fuel prices and increasingly burdensome ownership costs, it’s hard to imagine a future automotive landscape involving the V8 powered American sports coupe.

But time and time again, the Big Three manage to outdo themselves. 2005 brought us the retro-looking Ford Mustang. 2008 was the year of the Dodge Challenger. 2010 saw the Chevrolet Camaro return to much fanfare. A year later, Ford brought back the 5.0 nameplate. And a year after that, we got the most mental Mustang yet, the 662 horsepower Shelby GT500.

2013 – or, more accurately, 2014, brings us yet another over-the-top muscle car, except, this isn’t a muscle car in the traditional sense. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 is a bit like the Canadian-market Pontiac Parisienne wagon with wood paneling and a 400 cid V8 that my cousin once used in the late 1980s to dispatch Porsche 928s in various Traffic Light Grand Prix.

That may not be an entirely fair comparison. On the one hand, the JGC SRT does have a big V8 – 6.4L, 470 horsepower and 465 lb-ft – and it also weighs close to three tons. But no B-Body station wagon ever looked this mean, wore such high performance Pirellis or Brembo brakes. Nor did it have an 8-speed automatic transmission (new for 2014, and said to help improve fuel consumption) with Launch Control.

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I have to admit that up until now, I never really bothered with launch control systems. To me, it seemed like yet another gimmick meant to impress the kind of people who enthusiastically told me about how enthusiastic the folks on Top Gear were about the Nissan GT-R and were unable to fathom why I didn’t like it. But since SRT decided that there would be a big button marked “launch” with a nice pictogram of a “christmas tree” right on the center console, I decided to give it a go. Closed course, professional wanker, all that sort of stuff. Don’t try this at home.

Engaging Launch Control is simple.

  1. Come to a stop.
  2. Make eye contact with the attractive woman in the car next to you, especially if she is in the passenger seat and somebody you presume to be her life partner is driving. Bonus points if she regards your black-with-red-brake-calipers-and-booming-rap-music with utter disdain.
  3. Press the button marked “Launch”
  4. Left foot on the brake, right foot should mash the throttle into the carpet. At this point, the computer takes over and holds the revs at a steady three grand.
  5. When appropriate, release the brake. Wait a split second for your brain to wrongly assume nothing is happening. This is simply the tires getting traction. At this point, you’ll wonder if leaving the open packet of Dare® Real Fruit Gummies on the dash was a good idea.
  6. The 5331 lb Jeep will blast towards extralegal speeds faster than you can think of an overwrought motoring journalism cliche to describe the experience. Dare® Real Fruit Gummies will pepper the cabin like birdshot. On subsequent days, you will find them in the vehicle’s carpet, debate whether to eat them, and then do so, because this car brings out the disgusting fratboy in everyone.

In accordance with my pledge to maintain some semblance of decorum at TTAC, I will refrain from bragging about my exploits on the ragged edge of the pursuit of V-Max, the various Teutonic luxury sports coupes driven by Chinese exchange students that I obliterated from stoplights, the half-screamed, half-giggled mock pleas from various women to “stop driving soooo fast” as their boyfriends sat terrified and helpless.

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Instead I’ll say this; my week with the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 cost me $260 in fuel over one week and 500 miles of driving. It was worth every single penny and I would do it again if I was lucky enough to get that opportunity, and I don’t say that because of my firm belief in cornucopian theory and the ease with which we’ll be able to recover “tight oil” in the future. In those seven days, I was able to, variously, transport myself 4 of my friends and all of our gear to a lake house, a bachelor party, a wedding, drive my brother to a rural campground in Northern Ontario and take my parents out for dinner in peerless comfort. On one highway cycle I saw 23 mpg while driving at 75 mph with the A/C going strong, and I could have maintained that figure consistently if I kept my foot out of the throttle. Which is, of course, impossible in this car.

I cannot think of one vehicle that does everything with such ease and grace, that can still look elegant and subdued while possessing the capability for unrestrained belligerence. You would not be embarrassed if you had to take a client out to a round of golf, or if you were to line up against someone on a north Georgia drag strip.

The best part about the Grand Cherokee SRT8  is that its overall character has filtered down to the civilian-grade versions as well. A V6 powered Laredo obviously isn’t going to behave in the Silverback-gorilla-in-heat manner that the SRT does, but it’s still a very nice car for people who don’t want to bankrupt themselves at the gas pump. But you still get the same composed ride, nicely-weighted steering and high quality interior. The real test will be for Chrysler to imbue forthcoming products like the Cherokee, the 200 and others with the same overall greatness. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 proves that it’s within the realm of possibility for Chrysler – or any American manufacturer. But in the end, it all comes down to the execution – or lack thereof.

 

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Review: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-summit-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-summit-video/#comments Fri, 12 Jul 2013 20:47:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494701 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I got a call from my folks a year ago. It went something like this: “your mom wants a new Grand Cherokee for her birthday, what do you think?” I called up Chrysler and snagged a 2013 Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, the last major Mercedes/Chrysler vehicle to launch before Fiat took the reins. I came to the conclusion the American Range Rover was all kinds of crazy, had drivetrain deficiencies and she should wait until the 2014 refresh. That refresh has landed, so should mom buy one?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Mom [not so] secretly wants a Range Rover, but living in the middle-of-nowhere Texas, the only dealers within 70 miles sell Detroit’s wares. Bang went the Range Rover Sport.

The 2011 GC was a shock to the Jeep faithful. Not because it is the Mercedes ML’s half-brother, which itself is quasi related to the Mercedes E-Class, which is quasi related to the Chrysler 300. (My incest is complicated isn’t it?) What shocked Rubicon runners was the combination of independent suspension and portly curb weight. If you haven’t gotten over that shock, stop reading now.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Exterior

2014 brings a trimline reshuffle to the GC. The Laredo X is replaced by a cheaper Laredo E, and the Summit ditches “Overland” to become a separate trim at the top of the range. There is more going on here than just trim renaming if you read between the lines. In 2013, the “Overland Summit” was a GC with all the luxury AND all the offroad bits. In 2014, the Summit is the realization that people don’t take their $52,000-$57,000 Jeep rock crawling any more than Range Rover owners joyride in the Sahara on weekends. As a result the 2014 Summit loses the skid plates and tow hooks found on lesser models and doesn’t have an option to add them from the factory.

For 2014 we get a de-chromed tailgate, new bumper covers, exhaust tips and a headlamp re-style. In addition to the removal of the large chrome strip below the tailgate glass, Jeep has gone up-market with more aggressive tail lamps and more differentiated trims. Laredo and Limited models get new bumper covers with round exhaust tips while premium trims get trendy trapezoids. Further cleaning up the Overland and Summit models, the hitch receiver and 4/7 pin trailer wiring connector are hidden behind a panel in the bumper. Speaking of towing, the factory towing setup is no longer available on base Laredo models. Want to haul? Step up to that Laredo E.

The GC’s grille has become less prominent and more integrated. Foglamps have shrunk to an almost cartoonishly small proportion, and the lower air intake gets a more aggressive shape. Overland and Summit models get LED daytime running lamps, headlamp washers and a design reminiscent of the refreshed Chrysler 300. While some of our Facebook users whined about the black strip under the lamp, it didn’t bother me.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

The GC’s interior sees more evolution than expected. 2014 brings a new steering wheel with optional heating, a revised center console with the latest uConnect systems, upgraded wood trim and the same 7-inch LCD disco dash found in other Chryslers. The 7-inch LCD gauge cluster is flanked by a traditional tachometer, fuel and temperature gauge. The unit puts the Jeep well ahead of the competition and, interestingly, a notch below the full 11-inch LCD cluster used in Range Rovers.

Laredo and Limited shoppers get soft touch injection molded door and dash bits, while the premium trims get Chrysler’s latest fix for interior plastic problems: stitched leather. If you look at the photo above, everything above the wood trim is soft stitched leather and everything below is hard plastic. As long as you keep your hands above the meridian you’re in for a premium experience equal to the most expensive luxury cars in America. Drop below and you’re in Chevy-Cruze-land. That’s not unusual for a mass market vehicle however, and 2014 brings near flawless color matching (finally). Our summit tester took things up a notch by coating the hard plastic A-pillars, sun visors and headliner in Alcantara faux suede. The awkward gated shifter is gone, replaced by an Audi-esque joystick affair.  On the down side, the plastic center console trim scratches easily and felt a little cheap. Chrysler: make that center console out of wood and you’ll have a winner.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior, Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

As with most recent Chrysler products, the front seats have a pronounced “bump” in the center of the cushions making you feel like you’re sitting “on” the seat and not “in” the seat. Rear seat passengers will have little to complain about with reclining rear seat backs, air vents and the same soft-touch leather door treatment as the front. New for 2014 are two high-current USB power ports in the center console so your kids can charge their iWidget without cigarette adapters. Since the 7-seat Mercedes ML and Dodge Durango share the same DNA as the 5-seat Grand Cherokee, there is a surprising amount of rear legroom and cargo room for a 5-seat midsize SUV.

Infotainment

uConnect 2 is the first major update to Chrysler’s 8.4-inch touchscreen system that launched in 2011 and the first version of this system the GC has ever had. It couldn’t have arrived any sooner. If you have memories of sub-par infotainment from the Mercedes era, forget them, this is a whole new uConnect. Based on a QNX unix operating system, the system features well polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. For the second edition of uConnect, Chrysler smoothed out the few rough edges in the first generation of this system and added a boat-load of trendy tech features you may or may not care about.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior, uConnect 2, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

In addition to improved voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new Chrysler “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem onboard, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well. Keep in mind speeds are 3G, not Sprint’s WiMAX or LTE network.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. Garmin’s navigation software is still available as a $500 add-on (standard on Summit) and it still looks like someone cut a hole in the screen and stuck a hand-held garmin unit in the dash. The interface is easy to use but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. If this bevy of techo-wizardry hasn’t convinced you Jeep is now in the 21st century, consider this: our tester didn’t have a CD player. If the bevy of USB ports has you confused, you can rock your Cat Stevens CD by paying $190 for a single-slot disc player jammed into the center armrest. Excluding the Garmin navigation system, uConnect 2 ties with BMW’s iDrive in my book for the best infotainment system. Add in the somewhat clunky nav software, and it’s still among the best.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Engine 3.6L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Under the hood it’s a new world for the big Jeep. The same 290HP/260lb-ft 3.6L V6 and 360HP/390lb-ft 5.7L V8 are carried over from last year but that’s where the similarities end. In addition to the two gas mills there is a new 3.0L diesel V6 made by VM Motori S.p.A of Italy. (VM Motori is half owned by Fiat and General Motors if you were wondering.) The 24-valve DOHC engine uses a cast iron block, aluminium heads and a single computer-controlled variable geometry turbo to crank out 240 ponies and 420lb-ft. (There’s also the 470HP SRT version, but that’s for a different review.) The V6 is the base engine on all models (SRT excepted of course) and it is the only engine offered in the Laredo and Laredo E for 2014. Limited, Overland and Summit buyers can drop $2,695 for the V8 and $4,500 for the “EcoDiesel” V6.

All four engines (yes, even the SRT) are mated to a ZF-designed 8-speed automatic. V6 models use the low torque variety made by Chrysler while V8 and diesel models use a heavy-duty 8HP70 made in a ZF factory. If you’re up to date on Euro inbreeding, you know this is the same transmission used by BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover and Rolls Royce. To say this is a step up from the vilified Mercedes 5-speed or the Chrysler 6 speed (the 65RFE featured some of the strangest ratio spacing ever) is putting it mildly. Fuel economy jumps 9% in the V6, 10% in the V8 and the diesel model claims 30MPG on the highway. No small feat in a 4,500-5,400lb SUV. Thanks to the heavy-duty cog-swapper, towing jumps from 5,000 to 6,700lbs for the V6 and the V8 and diesel hold steady at 7,400 lbs in RWD form and 7,200 lbs for the AWD model.

Our Summit had the optional Quadra-Trac II AWD system which uses a 2-speed transfer case to split power 50:50 for normal driving, features electronic locking, and provides an improved 44:1 low range for off-road use (up from 30:1 in 2013). Jeep’s variable height air-suspension dubbed “Quadra-Lift” is option on Limited and standard on Overland/Summit allowing you to air-lift your way from a parked 6.7 inches to 11.3 (0.6 more than last year.) Of course those numbers are only valid if you: A. remove the air dam properly before you go off-road, or B. slam into a rock and rip the air dam off while off-road.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

If you think a transmission doesn’t make much difference, drive the 2013 and 2014 Jeeps back-t0-back. Not only is the 2014 V6 model 2/10ths faster to 60 than last year’s V8, the on-road feel has been substantially approved. The old model felt like it was never able to find the right gear for anything, while the 8-speed seems psychic in comparison with the right gear ready and engaged before you knew you needed it. That’s a good thing, because a 5,000+ pound SUV with 260lb-ft and an 8-speed with a tall overdrive gear are a recipe for frequent shifts. Indeed on Highway 101, the transmission would routinely downshift to 7th to go up freeway overpasses. Quick shifts and a wide gear-ratio spread pay dividends when towing. I hooked up a 5,000lb trailer and the V6 Summit had no problems hauling it up and over a 2,200ft mountain pass.

In a sea of sharp-handling FWD crossovers, the GC is practically the only mid-size 5-seat SUV left that still drives like a truck. The soft suspension, over-boosted steering and tall ride have a positive effect on highway ride quality, but take a toll on handling. Despite wearing wide 265-width tires, the GC will only carve corners in the off-road-incapable SRT model. Still, that’s not this Jeep’s mission. Much like a Range Rover, the Summit’s raison d’être is to drive like a Barcalounger regardless of the road surface. Mission accomplished. Sort of.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Weight is something you can more easily ignore on-road than off-road. Why? Because the traction surface is predictable and grades are never going to approach the GC’s advertised approach/departure angles. Off road, I got the Summit stuck twice on a moderate trail I am very familiar with (my neighbor has a private 380 acre off-road park that is his “backyard”). The lighter Jeep Patriot had no troubles on the same course. Yes, tire choices have a huge impact, but keep in mind the Patriot had road rubber as well. The first problem was a log about 9″ in diameter. The GC climbed over it but couldn’t reverse off of it. The suspension clearance wasn’t an issue, it was weight and traction. Again, better rubber would have helped, but so would a lighter curb weight because the Patriot didn’t have the same issue on the same log. The second location the GC got stuck for a while was on a steep and “gravely” slope. Again, the lighter SUVs on the same trail had no issue. Yes, QuadraDrive II excels in situations where you have one or more wheels in the air, giving you a very smooth transition of power that can’t be matched by slip-and-grip systems. But seriously, how often do $57,000 SUVs encounter that on the school run?

I must now comment on QuadraLift. Yes, you can increase the suspension height to 11.3 inches, but most people I encountered had no idea what this does to the geometry. Allow me to explain. This GC has four-wheel independent suspension. That means each wheel’s suspension hinges at a point near(ish) the center line of the vehicle. At “normal” ride height, the suspension is in the middle of it’s travel. Lower it for parking mode and the wheels move “upwards” toward their bump-stops. Raise the ride height and the wheels move “downwards” in the wheel wells pushing the car up. When you’re in Off Road II mode at 11.3 inches, you’ve pushed the wheels as far down as they can go nearly hitting their lower maximum travel. This leads to some very peculiar off-road manners, some loud bangs as the suspension hits its lower stops in off-camber situations and a rough ride. Compare that to something like an FJ cruiser which has more suspension travel at similar ride heights and the FJ is going to be the more comfortable off-road companion. How much of a problem is this? Not much, most Grand Cherokee buyers think of their gravel driveway as “off-road.”

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Grand Cherokee is deeply conflicted SUV if we look at it through the lens of modern crossover comparisons which have eschewed every reason the SUV was invented except for ride height. If however you’re a shopper that expects a 5-seat SUV to be able to tackle more than a gravel road or the occasional speed bump, tow 7,000lbs and accommodate a winch, you don’t have many options. In truth, the Grand Cherokee is one of the best handling “traditional SUVs” ever made, it’s just that the competition has moved toward on-road performance. Sound like a Range Rover to you? It should and Jeep knows it.

Although the Summit has become a tad pricier this year, it’s still $13,000 less than a Range Rover Sport.  Brand image is important, but the Jeep-Range Rover delta is strangely not as wide as the Dodge-Jaguar delta, especially for folks like my mom in the middle of the country. What about me on the left coast? I own a 2001 GMC Envoy (gasp) that has 140,000 miles on it. I’m that 1% that actually tows with their SUV. Frequently. A pickup truck doesn’t fit my lifestyle and I find my 14-foot box trailer more useful for farm/ranch/construction duty (I built my own home and everything arrived on-site in the trailer). When my GMT360 SUV grenades its fourth transmission, I’ll need a replacement. My options: The VW Touareg or the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The options may be narrow, but they have never looked better.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Best interior Chrysler has ever made. And they didn’t even use Corinthian Leather.
  • The V6 and 8-speed will make you forget the thirsty V8 exists.
  • Oil burners rejoice!
  • High tow ratings are incredibly rare today.

Quit it

  • Curb weight is a real problem for this Jeep both on and off road.
  • The V8 is still thirsty.
  • Some interior plastics are still too cheap for $57,000.

 

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.57 Seconds

0-60: 7.09 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.33 Seconds @ 77.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 19.8 MPG over 768 miles

 

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Engine 3.6L V6 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Engine 3.6L V6-001 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Engine 3.6L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior-001 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior-003 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior-004 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior-005 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior-006 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior-007 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior-009 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior-010 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior-011 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior-012 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior-014 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Exterior-017 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-001 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-002 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-003 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-004 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-005 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-006 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior, Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-008 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-009 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-010 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-012 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-013 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-014 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-015 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-016 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior, uConnect 2, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-018 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-019 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Interior-020 ]]>
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NAIAS 2013: LEAKED – Jeep Grand Cherokee Gets First Diesel Since Dr. Z Era http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/naias-2013-leaked-jeep-grand-cherokee-gets-first-diesel-since-dr-z-era/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/naias-2013-leaked-jeep-grand-cherokee-gets-first-diesel-since-dr-z-era/#comments Mon, 14 Jan 2013 14:09:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=473640

The big news to come out of Jeep today: DIESEL. And we aren’t talking about some HD truck diesel from a Ram pick-up. No, a proper fuel-sipping one, in the form of a 3.0L V6, will be available on the Grand Cherokee starting in the 2014 model year.

Whoa, I think I just experienced the weirdest deja vu…

Oh, right…remember when the Germans kinda sorta owned Jeep and they used one of their executives as a pitchman? He was old, had a moustache that would be a great supporting actor on Magnum P.I., and he tried to hock Jeeps to children?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Anyway, back to the new Grand Cherokee.

After receiving a bit of a refresh, some higher-end models will be offered with the new-fangled 8-speed automatic from ZF – the same transmission that allows the Ram 1500 to get better fuel economy than a Caravan. Will it be mated with the new diesel? We’re not sure. Maybe Sergio will tell us during the official reveal later in the week.

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Review: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/review-2013-jeep-grand-cherokee-overland-summit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/review-2013-jeep-grand-cherokee-overland-summit/#comments Sat, 29 Sep 2012 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=460597

So, you really want a Range Rover but your trust fund hasn’t recovered from the “bankocalypse?” What’s a guy to do? Well, you could take advantage of the British brand’s cliff-face depreciation curve and buy an off-lease Rover, but do you really want to test your reliability-fate with used wares from Old Blighty? The answer comes from the only other brand that has “off-road” coded into its near-luxury DNA: Jeep. Gasp! A Chrysler product you say? While Chrysler would not say the phrase “American Range Rover,” they did throw us the keys to the top-of-the-line Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit 4×4 so see what a refresh and stitched leather goodness could do for our soul.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Grand Cherokee started life in 1993 as a mid-sized SUV attempting to slot between the full-size Grand Wagoneer and the smaller Cherokee. Since that time, like many cars in America, the Jeep has been getting bigger. Unlike many cars, the Grand Cherokee has been something of a social climber receiving newer trim levels with luxury features hitherto unseen in a Chrysler product. Now in its fourth generation the Grand Cherokee has grown by a foot in length, six inches in width and gained nearly a ton in curb weight. Despise the “Americansizing,” the Grand Cherokee’s exterior is well proportioned and elegant thanks to a redesign in 2011 that replaced the cartoonish front with a more attractive and elegant design. Further upping the luxury ante, Jeep bedazzled the Overland edition with chrome, even slathering the tow hooks in bling.

Interior

I have come to the decision that adding stitched leather to anything is a recipe for success. If you don’t believe me, hop in a Laredo trim Grand Cherokee then step inside an Overland. Even though Jeep improved the plastics in the 2011 refresh, the plebeian models receive a rubbery dashboard that collects dust and is difficult to clean. Meanwhile the Overland gets one of the best stitched dashboards I have had the pleasure to fondle see. Seriously, the quality of the stitch-work is second to none in the luxury industry and the contrasting piping on the seats screams Range Rover. This is a good thing. The Range Rover parallel continues with an interior color palate that runs from black-on-black to a series of contrasting leather combinations culminating in the striking “new saddle”  leather interior our model wore. Jeep has tossed plenty of real wood in for good measure and topped everything off with tasteful matte and shiny chrome trim. As you would expect from the “budget” Range Rover, all the creature comforts you could ask for are available including: radar cruise control with pre-collision warning to a heated steering wheel, cooled seats, automatic high beams and keyless go.

A common complaint with the first two generations of the Grand Cherokee was rear seat legroom. While the Grand Cherokee will never be mistaken for a limousine, rear leg room has improved and is no longer a problem point for most passengers. This increase in leg room came with a general increase in the Grand Cherokee’s dimensions. While this increase makes the SUV a bit less capable off-road in some ways, it pays dividends in passenger  comfort, cargo room, and, my personal favorite: lumber capacity. If you own a WJ series Grand Cherokee you’ve probably noticed that it’s hard to get 8-foot long items in the vehicle, this is not a problem with the WK’s increased dimensions. While the Jeep still can’t swallow a 4×8 sheet of plywood, four-foot wide items will fit in the cargo area easily. As before, the rear tailgate features a glass section that opens independently allowing longer items to hang out the rear, this is a feature that is notably absent in the competition.

Infotainment

The positive impression of the Overland’s interior is tarnished once you get settled and reach for the infotainment system. Because Chrysler’s finances were in the toilet when the Grand Cherokee was refreshed in 2011, the infotainment systems from the previous generation remain with essentially no change. All but the base model of the Grand Cherokee get the same 6.5-inch touch-screen interface with the more expensive trims getting more software options in the system. At the top of the food chain, Overland models get “everything” which includes: Bluetooth, iDevice/USB integration, Sirius Satellite Radio and a backup cam. While the feature set is competitive, the system’s graphics are old school, the software operation is far from intuitive, voice commands are few and far between, call quality is mediocre and the system is sluggish. Expect this to change for 2014 as we’re told Jeep is jamming the snazzy new 8.4-inch uConnect system into the dash. If you’re a gadget hound, wait for the upgrade. On the bright side, the Jeep’s English competition has an infotainment system that is just as lackluster, just as ancient and just as infuriating.

Drivetrain

As a nod to those interested in fuel economy, premium interior trappings no longer come bundled with a larger engine. As with all Grand Cherokee models, the Overland starts with the 3.6L V6 which produces 290HP at 6,400RPM and a respectable 260lb-ft of torque at 4,800RPM. Jumping up to the 5.7L V8 gets you 360HP at 5,150RPM and 390lb-ft at 4,250RPM. Attending the V8 party takes a toll on your fuel economy, dropping from 16/23 to 13/20 (City/Highway.) Compared to the Range Rover Sport’s 5.0L naturally aspirated engine, the Jeep delivers 15lb-ft more torque at the expense of 15HP and 2MPGs on the highway (13/18 MPG.)

The rumor mill tells us to expect both engines to get Chrysler’s  ZF-designed Chrysler-built 8-speed automatic for the 2014 model year. Until then, the V6 is paired with a Mercedes 5-speed while the V8 gets Chrysler’s in-house designed 65RFE 6-speed transmission. Our Overland also had the optional Quadra-Trac II AWD system which uses a 2-speed transfer case to split power 50:50 during normal driving situations and provides a 2.72:1 low range for off road use. Four-wheel-drive Overlands also get Jeep’s variable height air-suspension dubbed “Quadra-Lift.” Jeep claims the system is one of the fastest acting in the industry and compared to the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport I’m inclined to agree. Going from the low ride height of 6.6 inches to the 10.7 inch “rock climbing” height takes around 30 seconds while lowering the Jeep takes a similar amount of time.

Drive

Out on the road the Jeep’s hard-core roots are obvious. In a sea of sharp-handling FWD crossovers, the Grand Cherokee sticks out as a marshmallowy soft traditional SUV with standard RWD, a longitudinal mount engine, and a stout 7,200lb towing capacity. This means that despite wide 265-width rubber, the Grand Cherokee will only carve corners in the off-road-incapable SRT8 variety. Still, that’s not this Jeep’s mission. Much like a Range Rover, the Overland’s raison d’être is to drive like a Barcalounger regardless of the road surface. Mission accomplished.

With 360HP and nearly 400lb-ft of twist on hand, you would think the Overland 4X4 V8 would be fast. You would be wrong, our Overland took 7.3 seconds to hit 60 putting it firmly in the “average” category. The first impediment to forward progress is the mass of the Overland which rings in at 5,264lbs (V8 4X4) without a driver. The second is the Chrysler 65RFE transmission under the hood. Compared to GM, Ford and ZF’s 6-speed units, the shifts are slow and soft, first gear isn’t as low as the Mercedes 5-speed the V6 uses and the ratios are somewhat oddly spaced for normal driving. While I expect the new 8-speed unit to deliver better acceleration for the V8 with its low 4.69:1 first gear, don’t expect 2014 to improve HEMI fiel economy by much as the 65RFE’s 6th gear is already a tall .67:1, the same as the Chrysler/ZF 8-speed’s final gear. While we were unable to 0-60 test a V6 Overland, the V6 doesn’t feel that much slower than the V8 and it saves 351lbs of curb weight. The transmission’s ratios and shifting are likely the reason the Range Rover Sport (which manages to be even heavier) is 4/10ths faster to 60 despite the similar power numbers from the engines.

The high curb weight of the Overland causes a few problems off-road for the big-boy Jeep limiting the amount of fun you can have at the off road park. If you see that Grand Cherokee Laredo in front of you barely making it through the mud, just turn around, he’s 632lbs lighter than you. If you see a Patriot playing in the soft-stuff, it’s 2,000lbs lighter. Still, this isn’t likely to be a huge problem for you as I have yet to see a new Grand Cherokee let alone an Overland at my local SVRA. That being said, like the Range Rover, the Grand Cherokee provides all the off-road hardware you’d need to tackle the Rubicon. On our short course at Hollister Hills the Jeep proved that it still has a serious off-road setup that never flinched regardless of which wheel we had up in the air. There is a great deal of debate about whether Jeep’s move to a four-wheel independent suspension in the Grand Cherokee was the right move or not and I must throw my $0.02 in the ring. It doesn’t matter but Jeep made the right business decision. I appreciate both sides of the argument but since most Grand Cherokee buyers think of their gravel driveway as “off-road,” Jeep’s focus on asphalt manners is the way to go.

Branding is important to many shoppers, but just how important is that Range Rover brand to you? If the answer isn’t $16,195, then the $51,500 (as tested) Overland Summit is your “frugal” alternative. Not only does the Overland deliver an honest-to-goodness similar experience for considerably less, it is a viable option for those that simply prefer buying an American brand, or those living in Middle America where you can’t find a Range Rover dealer. Like the Range Rover, the Grand Cherokee Overland is all kinds of crazy, it’s big, brash and heavy but coddles the driver in a leather cocoon. Like the Range Rover, nobody “needs” an Overland, yet I secretly want one.

 

Jeep provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.9 Seconds

60: 7.22 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.64 Seconds at 87 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 15.2 MPG over 819 miles

 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-001 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-002 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-003 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-004 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-005 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-006 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-007 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-008 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-009 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-010 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-011 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-012 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-013 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-014 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-015 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-016 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-017 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-018 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-019 IMG_0555 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, Interior, stitched leather dash, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, Interior, stitched leather dash, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, Interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, Interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/review-2012-jeep-patriot-latitude/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/review-2012-jeep-patriot-latitude/#comments Sun, 24 Jun 2012 16:13:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=449171

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the Jeep Patriot was the Cherokee reincarnated; the last utilitarian Jeep with solid axles, four doors and a real back seat. Instead, this boxy “baby Jeep” is the most unlikely offspring of the Chrysler/Mitsubishi alliance that gave birth the “plastastic” Caliber and the Compass (aka the Lady Jeep). Unlikely how? Because the Patriot is as attractive as the Caliber is ungainly.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

From the outside, the Patriot hit the nail on the head when it was released in 2006 with slab-sides, horizontal tailgate, trapezoidal wheel arches, “Wrangleresque” headlamps and high beltline. While 2011 brought major changes to the hot mess that was the Compass’s exterior, only minor tweaks were applied to the Patriot. Those tweaks followed the “don’t fix it if it ‘aint’ broken” mantra; the only exterior tweaks are revised fascias and some standard equipment like fog lights and an increased ride height on the base 4×4 model. (Models with “Freedom Drive II are unchanged.) The overall form screams Jeep, and that’s just how Jeep shoppers like it.

Interior

As a testament to how awful the interior was on the 2007 Patriot, Chrysler hasn’t refreshed the interior once but twice. In 2010 Chrysler killed the awkward “silver effect” center stack and replaced it with a monochromatic hard plastic dash with round vents. 2011 brought another raft of improvements ditching the old steering wheel and Mercedes-like cruise control stalk for the thick-rimmed corporate steering wheel, better upholstery, revised doors, armrests and switchgear. While plastics are a notch below the Honda CR-V and the new Ford Escape, the Patriot starts $6,500 less than the Japanese competition and $2,500 less than even the Kia Sportage. Given what you find in other $16,000 vehicles, the plastics finally are firmly (and honestly) competitive. However, should you option your Patriot Limited up to the nearly $30,000 ceiling, the plastics may seem out-of-place for the price tag.

The Patriot delivers excellent cargo capacity despite being shorter than the RAV-4 and CR-V. As we have said at TTAC before, pay little attention to the official cargo numbers from each manufacturer – the way they are measured doesn’t always translate to real-world useability. While the Patriot is around 10 cubes behind the RAV-4 and CR-V, the square cargo area makes the space extremely useable for bulky items. With the rear seats folded, the numbers are essentially a tie in my real-world comparison and the Patriot trumps with a folding front passenger seat for schlepping those long IKEA purchases. If your cargo is primarily of the human persuasion, the Patriot’s boxy form provides adequate headroom and for a quartet of 6’5″ Americans which is more than can be said of the competition.

 

Infotainment

With a low starting price and a focus on off-roading, corners had to be cut somewhere and the gadget fund took the hit. The base radio and speakers are adequate for people who need basic entertainment; for others, stepping up to the “Media center 430” gets you a 6.5-inch touch screen and the ability to browse your tunes off USB drives. Fortunately, we had no problem playing iTunes AAC files on the head unit. A further bump up to the 430N model (only available in the Limited) gets you the same head unit with a Garmin designed navigation system on the 6.5-inch screen. Moving up the option list to the more expensive head units does nothing to the stock speakers, so if you are looking for a bit more boom, a 548-watt, 9 speaker Boston Acoustics system is also available. The navigation system is easy to use but lacks voice command for destination entry that Ford’s SYNC offers. Buyers beware that to get the integrated flip-down “tailgate boombox” pushed heavily on Jeep’s web page, one has to opt for the $1,295 “sun and sound” package (which includes a moonroof and those Boston Acoustics speakers).

As before, if you need some Bluetooth/Apple iDevice love, be ready to pony up $475 for the uConnect package to add these items. This is a serious omission when most states in America have a hand-held phone ban in place and the competition is starting to offer Bluetooth as standard on some models. Despite the gadget options being somewhat limited, package costs can add up rapidly with the fully loaded Patriot Limited ringing in at $29,260 (just a whisker away from a Grand Cherokee Laredo) so shop wisely.

Drivetrain

Power numbers remain unchanged at 158HP and 141 lb-ft for the 2-liter and 172HP and 165 lb-ft for the optional 2.4-liter engine. With Jeep’s renovation budget being tight we won’t see the revised “Tigershark” engines with improved NVH characteristics under the Patriot’s hood for a while. While both engines can still be described as “gutless and unrefined”, Jeep improved the CVT tuning and sound isolation making the cabin quieter than before. With 3,346lbs to motivate, acceleration in our tester was leisurely but interestingly faster than the “non Trail Rated” model, scooting to 60 in 8.4 seconds vs 9.0 thanks to the lower gearing provided by the Freedom Drive II package.

Jeep would like shoppers to believe the Patriot is the cheap, fuel-efficient alternative to the rest of the Jeep lineup. However the reality is somewhat different because of the Dodge Caliber based AWD system. Unlike the rest of the Jeep lineup, the Patriot has no transfer case, no low-range gearbox, no locking differentials and no center differential. Like most FWD biased systems, the open front and rear differentials are connected via an electronically controlled wet clutch pack. This means that if all wheels have traction and the system is fully locked, the power is split 50/50 (front/rear). While this operation is essentially the same as the systems on the competition, what Jeep does to make the system “Trail Rated” is drop in a lower final drive ratio, tweak the traction control software and raise the ride height to 9-inches. The drop from a 6.12:1 to 8.1:1 final drive is what allows Freedom Drive II package to advertise a 19:1 “rock crawl” ratio (still considerably lower than the rest of the other Jeeps). This is also the reason fuel economy dives from 21/26MPG  to 20/23MPG. FDII’s tweaked traction control system applies the brakes to the wheels that are spinning without reducing engine power to imitate a limited slip differential. Because this essentially “consumes” engine power (because the braking wheel is turning the energy into heat in the brakes) the wheels that do have traction don’t really get a larger share of the power than if all wheels had traction. This also means that if you are using the feature for a long time, especially in combination with steep down-hill runs, brake overheating becomes a worry.

Drive

On the road, the tall and narrow proportions of the Patriot and tall ride height conspire to make the Patriot less nimble in the corners than most other crossovers. The flip side is a soft ride that is more comfortable than many CUVs with sporty aspirations. We took the Patriot to Hollister Hills SVRA and it acquitted itself on the basic traIls, as well as some very moderate ones without issue. As with most stock SUVs, the limitation isn’t snazzy AWD systems, but ground clearance. While the “brake lock” system proved helpful in off-camber situations (deep diagonal ruts), it demonstrated that plenty of slip is needed before the system intervenes. Also, because the brakes essentially consume their wheel’s share of engine power, it leaves the Patriot feeling somewhat out of breath. Despite these short comings I have no doubt that none of the competition except perhaps the Range Rover Evoque (which uses similar software) would have been able to follow us. While our foray into the mud proved the Patriot isn’t the efficient replacement for your lifted Wrangler, it is a vehicle that can handle life on a farm, ranch, or rural countryside without getting stuck as easily as the competition.

While I have to agree with the “forum fan boys” that the Patriot isn’t a real Jeep despite the trail rated badge, it is probably the most capable CUV on the market. The combination of utility, fuel economy that isn’t abjectly horrible, a low starting price and an interior that no longer makes me want to put my eyes out is finally competitive makes the Patriot a CUV that should be at the top of your list if you live in the country. If you’re a city dweller, the off-road looks and low price of the FWD Patriot is also quite compelling. After spending a week with the Patriot, the only problem I foresee  with the baby Jeep is convincing shoppers to take that second look at the Jeep dealer.

 

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Jeep provided the vehicle, one tank of gas, and insurance for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.2 Seconds

0-60: 8.38 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.66 Seconds @ 82.2 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 19.9 MPG over 675 miles

 

 

2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, latitude logo, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, wheel, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, front, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, Jeep logo, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, fog light, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, trail rated badge, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, tow hook, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, passanger side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, dashboard, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, steering wheel, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, driver's side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, steering wheel, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, center console, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, 4WD switch, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, front seats, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, rear seats, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, rear seats, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, rear seats folded, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, dashboard, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, gauge cluster, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Engine, 2.4L "world engine", Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Engine, 2.4L "world engine", Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Engine, 2.4L "world engine", Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, Jeep logo, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, seats folded, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, seats folded, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-jeep-wrangler-rubicon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-jeep-wrangler-rubicon/#comments Fri, 10 Feb 2012 15:53:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429357

I love progress, I love technology, and I don’t have an aversion to comfort. With that in mind, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and I seem like an unlikely pairing. Jeep promises however that they have made the most civilized Wrangler ever without sacrificing off-road performance. While Wrangler shoppers with kids and a commute may be inclined to opt for the four-door Jeeplet, the 2-door variety has a large California following from the hip urban set to “rural-suburbanites” like myself, especially since GM killed off Hummer.

While the Wrangler has its roots in the Willys CJ, the Wrangler as we know it started in 1987 when AMC decided the off-roader needed some on-road creature comforts to boost sales. Back in 2007 Jeep ruffled more feathers by stretching the Wrangler’s wheelbase and track several inches to improve road manners. Despite 25 years of continual improvements to make the Wrangler more suited to the commuter shopper, thankfully little has been done to alter the look of the go-anywhere brand. Much like Porsche’s dedication to the 911’s classic styling, Jeep has resisted styling the Wrangler into a mainstream SUV. From the flat black fenders, rubber hood straps, to the removable doors and roof, the Wrangler seems to have lost little of its off road charm over the years.

Because of the off-road ready height, jumping into the Jeep isn’t a euphemism. Once inside the tall cabin, it’s obvious the Wrangler’s new interior was designed with daily driving comforts in mind. While some portions of the interior may well be waterproof and you can still remove the carpet to access drain plugs, I’d keep the garden hose away from the dashboard and seats. The off-road faithful will be glad to hear that the dash plastics, while more visually appealing are still hard and easy to wipe down. The rest of us will just be glad to know that Chrysler finally decided to add some sound insulation to the cabin. Our Rubicon model came equipped with a few luxury features never before seen on a Wrangler, including heated front seats, heated side view mirrors and steering wheel audio controls.

While the serious off-roader will likely scoff at butt-warmers as further evidence that the Wrangler is getting soft in its old age, an end to “Wrangler minimalism” brings beneficial changes to the commuter and weekend off-roader with stability control, tire pressure monitoring (when I’m rock climbing I’d like to know if my tire is flat) electronically locking differentials and sway bars that can be disconnected at the touch of a button. While “electronic sway bar disconnect” may sound like a superfluous option, it helps the new Wrangler maintain serious suspension travel for rock crawling without the safety issues of permanently removing the sway bars as some Wrangler owners have in the past. Despite these improvements, the rear seat remains an afterthought with difficult access and little room.

Wrangler shoppers have never had so many options to choose from, including 6 different trim-lines, multiple axle choices, two transfer cases, two different door styles (glass or plastic window), a variety of radio and navigation options and of course a manual transmission is still available. Our tester was the Rubicon model which is perhaps paradoxically the most luxurious model and the most “hard core off-road” model sporting a 4:1 low range transfer case and large 32-inch BFGoodrich off-road tires.

Regardless of which Wrangler you choose, all Wrangler models share the same engine: the new 3.6L “Pentastar” V6 which replaces last year’s ancient push-rod 3.8L V6. The new mill uses an aluminum block and dual variable valve timing to crank out a best-ever 285HP and 260lb-ft of torque, an improvement of 83HP and 23lb-ft versus the outgoing engine, while improving highway mileage by 2MPG. Chrysler didn’t just pluck the engine out of the Caravan and drop it into the Wrangler, as they tweaked the exhaust, added a variable speed electric fan for better cooling, relocated the alternator high up on the block and pointed it rearward to keep it dry and installed an intake snorkel (you can see it on the left in the picture above) to improve the Wrangler’s water fording ability. While the new V6 is considerably quieter and more refined than the 3.8L, it lacks the iconic sound the old AMC inline-6 delivered. While I’m still wondering why Jeep didn’t pull a ZF 6-speed off the shelf, the Mercedes W5A580 5-speed automatic is much better suited to the Wrangler than the Grand Cherokee, delivering fairly quick shifts and a willingness to hold lower gears when called upon. Also available is a 6-speed manual for those that prefer to row your own. Forum fan-boys are complaining that the old skid plates are incompatible due to the new engine’s exhaust routing, so bear that in mind before trying to reuse your old accessories.

I’ll leave comparisons of the off-road abilities to the rock crawler rags, but I will say that a brief trip to Hollister Hills SVRA with the Wrangler and the Toyota FJ proved the benefit of a short wheelbase, wide track and steep approach and departure angles. If road manners matter in your next SUV, look somewhere else. On the highway, its obvious that Jeep’s passion remains off the beaten path; the Wrangler is still a pig with plenty of body roll, vague recirculating ball steering, mushy pedals, and a really twitchy rear end on the skidpad. The poor on-road performance has as much to do with the seriously heavy-duty Dana 44 solid front and rear axles as the 10.3 inches of ground clearance, mud tires and 3,800lb curb weight.

Instead of 2012 bringing the slick new large-screen uConnect systems from the Chrysler 300 or Jeep’s own Grand Cherokee, Wrangler buyers have to make do with Chrysler’s last generation radios and nav systems. The “Media center 130″ is the standard unit with MP3 playback from a data CD or USB stick, an aux input jack and six speakers. Sahara and higher models get a 7-speaker setup with a subwoofer by Infinity and steering wheel audio controls, but strangely, Bluetooth phone integration and iPod connectivity are optional on all models. Sahara and Rubicon models can optionally choose between the $1,035 Garmin based navigation system, or the $1,845 Harmon based navigation system which includes some more sophisticated GPS equipment and allows voice command of the navigation system. Both navigation systems offer XM radio and XM traffic (1 year subscription included), Bluetooth phone interface and iPod integration. Before commuter-types scoff at the price of the nav systems, you should know that this generation uConnect doesn’t exactly love the iPhone 4 and browsing your iPod playlists on the base radio is a real drag. Step up to the basic nav or just go aftermarket.

Despite complaints of high sticker prices, a base $29,995 Wrangler Rubicon is firmly “average” in the new car market according to last year’s sales data. Take solace in the fact that the Wrangler only increased $225 for the Sahara and $175 for the Rubicon vs last year’s model. Our Wrangler was equipped with $2,930 in options including: the $735 hard top, $385 Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, $685 for power windows, locks and mirrors and $1,125 for the automatic transmission.

Toss in the steep $800 destination charge and our Wrangler topped out at $33,725 or about $1,500 less than a similarly configured Toyota FJ cruiser. While I was temped to draw FJ comparisons, the Wrangler is more powerful, smaller, considerably lighter, and is available with a locking front axle for the serious off-roader. In the end, the Wrangler continues to be a unique vehicle in a class all to its own. Despite some serious on-road shortcomings, with the 2012 improvements, the Wrangler has achieved a decent balance of being a passable commute car for the weekend trail warrior.

Jeep provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

statistics as tested

0-30 MPH: 2.63 Seconds

0-60 MPH: 7.27 Seconds

1/4 mile: 15.67 Seconds at 86.9 MPH

Observed Fuel Economy: 18.3 MPG over 629 miles

2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, Rubicon, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, trail rated badge, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, trail rated badge, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, hard top removed, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, hard top removed, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, hard top removed, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, storage, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, storage, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, rear seats folded, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, cargo area, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, subwoofer, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, front seats, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, steering wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, 4WD and gear selector, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, front door, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, axle lock and sway bar controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, gauge cluster, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, gauge cluster, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, Jeep logo, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, Jeep logo, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, Jeep logo, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, 3.6L "Pentastar" V6 engine, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, 3.6L "Pentastar" engine, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Intake "snorkel", Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes wranglerthumb Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/review-2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/review-2012-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara/#comments Wed, 30 Nov 2011 22:28:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=420871

Back in the day, the Jeep Wrangler was only for serious off-roaders. Posers might visit, but assaulted by the SUV’s sluggish acceleration, clumsy handling, rough noisy ride, and spartan hose-out interior they weren’t likely to stay long (or return after leaving). But Chrysler has worked steadily to eliminate these downsides and render the Wrangler fit for everyday use. Back in 2007 the Wrangler grew in size and became available in extended wheelbase four-door Unlimited form. Last year its interior was substantially upgraded. And this year the unloved 202-horsepower 3.8-liter “minivan” V6 has been replaced by a 285-horsepower DOHC 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V6. Meanwhile the chassis has been tweaked repeatedly to improve on-road ride and handling. So, with all of these improvements, is the 2012 Wrangler Unlimited as suitable as any other SUV for running the kids to school and then dropping by CostCo?

The Germans aren’t uniquely capable of tastefully refining an iconic shape redesign after redesign, decade after decade. The current Wrangler isn’t a cartoonish “retro” reinterpretation of a classic vehicle from the distant past. Like a Porsche 911, it’s a special purpose iconic vehicle that has undergone an uninterrupted evolution over the years. Chrysler has made many mistakes, but messing up the Wrangler’s styling isn’t one of them. Unchanged since the 2007 redesign, the exterior retains an unmistakable resemblance to the original Jeep. Form relentlessly follows function. The Sahara’s chunky five-spoke 18-inch alloys, though up two inches from the base Wrangler’s wheels, remain well short of over the top. Unlike with some supposed off-road vehicles, you’ll find no mere rim protectors here. There’s no “DUB Edition.” Given the 2007’s increased width, the four-door actually has better proportions than the two-door. The Jeep might not be a beauty, but no one with any appreciation for design (as opposed to “styling”) can fail to find it attractive.

The revised interior is nicer yet still suited to the Wrangler’s intended use. Though heated leather seats and automatic climate control are now available, you’ll still find no luxury car cabin inside a Wrangler, nor should you. After all, it’s still possible to remove not only the roof but the doors, and even to fold the windshield. Functionality is the clear priority. The various buttons and knobs are large, close at hand, and logically laid out. Interior storage is plentiful. Though the upright windshield can block traffic signals, the view from the cushy, thick, high-mounted driver’s seat is otherwise commanding. You’re clearly piloting no ordinary vehicle. The main ergonomic slip: there’s no good place to rest your left foot. The rear seat is similarly high and cushy, but comfort suffers from a bottom cushion that stops mid-thigh. With the four-door legroom is sufficient for the average adult to sit behind the average adult. With the rear seat in place, the Wrangler can hold 46 cubic feet of stuff. Fold the seat and you can squeeze in another 36 cubes. Both figures are competitive with mid-size crossovers.

Does the addition of 83 horsepower transform the Wrangler from slug to rocket ship? Though I half expected it to, even aided by a fifth ratio in the automatic transmission the new mill effects no such transformation. Instead, while the 2007-2011 Wrangler felt painfully slow over 40 miles-per-hour, the 2012 feels…adequate. Though sixty arrives in about eight seconds if you plant your right foot to the floor, the Wrangler doesn’t feel even that quick. Despite its 6,400 rpm horsepower peak and 4,800 rpm torque peak, the engine doesn’t ask to be revved, with some audible strain if and when the throttle is opened more than halfway. But then neither does the engine, despite its DOHC configuration and these lofty on-paper peaks, feel peaky or out of place in the Wrangler, where low-end torque has always been the priority. The new engine seems happiest in casual suburban driving, where shifts occur around 2,700 rpm. It likely feels more energetic when hitched to the six-speed manual transmission, which provides a direct mechanical connection and includes much shorter initial gearing. [Update: the optional lower final drive ratios would also help. The tested Wrangler had the standard 3.21 axles.] For even more thrust, some aftermarket firms will swap in a HEMI, and a boosted V6 should also be a possibility—all it takes is money. But would a shockingly quick Jeep even make sense?

Given the chassis, no. The latest Wrangler does ride much better than those from decades past, especially in not-as-trail-friendly 116-inch-wheelbase Unlimited form. And it even has better-controlled rear body motions than a Land Rover LR4 or Toyota’s conventional SUVs. But compared to just about any other similarly-dimensioned vehicle, the Jeep’s on-road handling, though also much improved, remains sluggish and clumsy. At 4,294 pounds, the Wrangler isn’t terribly massive, but it drives about a quarter-ton heavier than it actually is. On the road, the Jeep’s steering feels loose on-center, its body rolls considerably (if in a well-controlled, predictable manner), and its all-terrain tires readily lapse into a mushy slide. On the plus side, in 2WD (required on pavement, as the 4WD system is part-time) the Wrangler can easily be steered with the throttle. Noise levels are lower than in pre-2007 Wranglers, but at highway speeds there’s still wind rush over the header. EPA ratings of 16 city, 20 highway further suggest that the Jeep wasn’t designed to cheat the wind. Instead, it remains optimized for off-road driving, with on-road behavior a second priority.

With many bespoke bits, the Jeep Wrangler isn’t going to be cheap. A four-door Sport starts at $26,345. But opt for the plusher Sahara with an automatic transmission and body-color hard top, as with the tested vehicle, and you’re looking at a $34,585 sticker even without options like heated leather seats, automatic climate control, Bluetooth, and nav. TrueDelta’s Car Price Comparison Tool suggests that a similarly-equipped Toyota FJ Cruiser is only couple hundred dollars less at MSRP but about $1,500 less when comparing dealer invoices. Price isn’t likely to be the deciding factor between these two.

Given the list of improvements to the Jeep Wrangler over the past few years, culminating in the new V6 this year, some people might be expecting a vehicle that can go toe-to-toe with the latest crossovers in the daily commute, then tackle the Rubicon on the weekends. This isn’t quite the case. Though no longer a penalty box liable to trip over its own feet while failing to get out of its own way, the Wrangler continues to drive like…a Jeep. The latest iteration of this real thing might require less severe day-to-day hardship from the off-road enthusiasts it’s designed for, but it continues to require sacrifices nonetheless. It’s not thrillingly quick. It’s not remotely athletic through curves. It’s somewhat (down from tremendously) noisy and thirsty on the highway. Rear seat room and comfort are merely sufficient. Which, frankly, is very much the way a Wrangler should be. Any closer to being suitable for everyday life, and its essential authenticity would be lost. The world needs at least few cars that to their core aren’t meant for the daily grind, and that consequently drive differently from everything else. For those willing to compromise off-road prowess for on-road comfort and capability, perhaps because they’re never going to venture off the road, Jeep offers the Grand Cherokee.

Vehicle provided by Michael Williams at Southfield Jeep in Southfield, MI (248) 354-2950.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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Review: 2011 Jeep Compass Latitude http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/review-2011-jeep-compass-latitude/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/review-2011-jeep-compass-latitude/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2011 18:05:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=401010

In something of an ironic twist for an off-road brand, Jeep has had trouble figuring out which path to take lately. Jeep was late to the soft-roader party last decade, and got off to an “interesting” start when a focus group (allegedly) indicated the need for a Patriot to appeal to men and a Compass for the ladies. Most companies would have simply picked one, but the temptation to attract female shoppers to an overtly masculine brand proved too strong and Jeep decided to make both. The result is a product line that offers two similarly-priced and similarly-capable vehicles. This might have been a passable set of circumstances, had the Compass not been saddled with both a cartoonish exterior and interior plastics that even Rubbermaid would have rejected. Instead, the Compass became a symbol of how lost the go-anywhere brand had become. But after a Fiat-led makeover, an updated 2011 Compass is making a bid to rescue Jeep’s small CUV reputation… is it up to the task?

In a testament to what a hot mess the original Compass was, several Chrysler employees freely admit the “Lady Patriot” was a verruca that should have been sliced off the corporate heel back in 2007. And Chrysler has been trying hard to make a silk purse out of the plastic ear ever since. After only two years on sale, the Compass received a discount nip/tuck which did nothing for sales, which slid to 11,739 in 2009, a paltry 30% of 2007 sales (Patriot volume has remained somewhat stable). To stem the tide, the Compass received yet another much-needed update for 2011. If this timing seems odd to you, you are not alone. Two facelifts in just over four years is unusual enough for a domestic brand, but the all-new Compass is widely expected to debut in only 2 years giving this ‘lift a short life expectancy as well. Is it worth it? Check back this time next year.

The exterior re-design takes the Compass from an unholy union of a Wranger and Dodge Caliber to an 8/10ths scale Grand Cherokee. Although striking, the resemblance to the Grand Cherokee makes perfect sense as the new GC is by far Chrysler’s hottest product in terms of sales and media success. Possibly proving that some of the JGC’s halo might just rub off on the slowest-selling Jeep, the Grand Cherokee’s mini-me received unexpected styling praises from my usual Friday lunch group. Out back are some new LED tail lamps marking about the only change to the exterior, apart from the rhinoplasty. Unfortunately this means the side profile of the Compass still looks un-Jeep-like and the vertical rear door handles remain an awkward form of ingress. But taken as a whole the Compass is no longer a car you need to hide from your friends and neighbors.

While the interior still lags behind the snazzy new Kia Sportage, it is finally up to par with the American and Japanese competition in terms of materials and fit-and-finish. Interior changes wrought in 2011 are: new seating surfaces with improved padding, tweaked plastics, new armrests, the new corporate tiller, new infotainment options and some new switch gear. The new steering wheel ditches the rubbery plastic feel of the 2010 model and dispenses with the silly cruise control stalk in favor of easy-to-use wheel-mounted controls. Like other Chrysler products, the radio controls remain on the back of the steering wheel where you can’t see them. This arrangement takes some getting used to but ends up being practical, ensuring your eyes are on the road while fiddling with your tunes. While the dash design still has the feel of an economy car (because it borrows heavily from the Dodge Caliber), the parts of the car that you actually touch are finally (and honestly) a notch above the Ford Escape, my personal benchmark for comparison. I might even say the revised interior is a touch better than the 2011 Escape overall, but that’s just my opinion.

When it comes to gadgets, it is obvious the budget for renovation was small. Conspicuously absent on our $26,570 (as equipped) Compass Latitude 4×4 tester were a Bluetooth speaker phone and Apple iPod/iPhone interface. Call me picky, but I tend to expect a car with a sticker this high to give me Bluetooth and some Apple-love. Our “Latitude” tester is the mid-line trim between the Sport and Limited models so it seems doubly odd that these are not standard features on an “up-level” trim. Neither were these niceties included in the $2,300 “customer preferred” package our tester came with, which includes: A/C, power mirrors, power windows, height adjustable seats, power locks, keyless entry, heated front seats, a 110V inverter, and leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. Our tester also wore the $650 “convenience package” which included: an alarm, front side airbags, trip computer, garage door opener and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with microphone. (The irony of a microphone without Bluetooth was not lost on us). Buyers need to either pony up $375 or step up to the Limited (base price of $24,295) in order to get some Bluetooth phone-love.

The base radio and speaker equipment are adequate for people who need basic entertainment; for others, stepping up to the “Media center 430” gets you a 6.5-inch touch screen and the ability to browse and play your tunes off USB flash drives. Fortunately we had no problem playing iTunes AAC files on the head unit. A further bump up to the 430N model (only available in the Limited) gets you the same head unit with a Garmin designed navigation system on the 6.5-inch screen. Moving up the option list to the more expensive head units does nothing to the stock speakers however, so if you are looking for a bit more boom, a Boston Acoustics speaker system is also available. The navigation system is easy to use but lacks the voice command ability for destination entry that Ford’s SYNC systems offer. Buyers should beware that in order to get the integrated flip-down “tailgate boombox” pushed heavily on Jeep’s web page, one has to opt for the steep $1,295 “sun and sound” package which includes a moonroof and those Boston Acoustics speakers I mentioned. Despite the gadget options being somewhat limited, package costs can add up rapidly with the fully-loaded Compass limited ringing in at $31,150 (just a whisker away from a Grand Cherokee Laredo) so shop wisely.

In addition to the interior tweaks, the 2011 Compass comes fitted with new springs, new dampers with rebound springs (similar to the ones on the new Grand Cherokee) and anti-sway bars that are 10% stiffer than last year’s model. These few changes have made noticeable improvements in the Compass’ on and off road manners especially on curvy mountain roads and rough gravel where the old model would pitch and roll like a boat on the bay. Unfortunately the stock 215 width tires are a step behind the 235 rubbers worn by the Escape and Sportage and the difference in grip is readily apparent.

For 2011, the Compass can finally be had with the “Trail Rated Freedom-Drive II” AWD option (formerly only available on the Patriot). Like the regular AWD system, the FDII uses a wet clutch pack to connect and disconnect the rear differential as opposed to a true center differential. The clutch pack “slips” to allow the front and rear to turn at different rates, de-couples completely at highway speed to improve fuel economy and can offer a certain degree of “locking” when needed. The FDII system uses a modified CVT tweaked to deliver an imitation low range, the ability to force the clutch pack to lock for an approximate 50/50 maximum power split, and an extra inch of ground clearance. I say imitation because at 19:1 vs 14:1 (for the regular CVT) the effective “low range” is far from the low compared to the automatic transmission equipped Wrangler (32:1) and Liberty (25:1).

Low-range shortcomings aside, the Patriot and Compass are the only soft-road CUVs that even offer this feature… that has to count for something. On the other hand, I had the Compass during a freak hail/snow storm in May, and the lever seemed to make little difference on the road as the fully-automatic system connects or disconnects the rear at-will and the front and rear diffs don’t lock anyway. There is no annoying binding during parking lot maneuvers with the system in lock mode, which does make parking on ice a fairly drama-free event if you tires are up to the task. Side-to-side power splitting depends on the brakes to slow the spinning wheel, as the front and rear diffs are open units, and unless you are trying to do some serious off-roading, the automatic systems do their job just fine. Of course, if you were intending to do serious off-roading, you probably bought a Wrangler and you don’t need to worry about the little lever anyway. While Jeep labels the Compass as “Trail Rated,” they are a bit cagey about the specific metrics that must be met in order to attain the badge. If you’ve taken your Patriot or Compass on the Rubicon trail, let us know how it went in the comment section below.

The renovation budget being what it must have been, no improvements have been made in the engine department. Both the 2.0 and 2.4-liter engines can still be fairly described as gutless and unrefined. Power numbers remain unchanged at 158HP and 141 lb-ft for the 2-liter and 172HP and 165 lb-ft for the 2.4-liter engine. As the engines have only to motivate a little over 3,000 lbs, the math looks good on paper but is less satisfying in person due to the torque coming on quite late and quitting early. Since some shoppers may be interested in the manual transmission (available on the Sport trim FWD and AWD), they should be aware that the ratios of 3.37, 2.16, 1.41, 1.03 and .72 just don’t seem to jive well with this engine line up. The Nissan sourced CVT should allow the down-sized engine to reach (and stay at) its high and peaky power band quickly (like the Nissan Versa) but it doesn’t. Acceleration from a stop takes some time because the transmission starts varying the ratios early meaning the engine doesn’t arrive at its peak power RPM for some time.

Perhaps this is designed to make the event a little more pleasant on the ears as the 2.4L engine is not the smoothest 4-cylinder I have ever tested. For reasons best left in Michigan, engineers decided the Compass needed some fake gear ratios and an auto-stick. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the auto stick in my Eagle Vision TSi, but it is odd mated to a CVT. While you can select “gears” with the shifter, the ratios seem fairly arbitrary and useless. Nissan’s “L” range in their CVT vehicles provides far more consistent engine braking for hill descending than the forced “fixed” ratios the Compass employs. The Compass delivers MPG numbers of 21/27 in FWD trim, 21/26 in AWD trim (as tested) and 20/23 when equipped with the low-range CVT. These numbers essentially match the heavier Ford Escape and fall short of the South Korean competition. It should be noted that the Kia Sportage turbo delivers almost 100 more ponies for essentially the same mileage (at the cost of lower ground clearance). Over a 700-mile week we averaged a fairly acceptable 22MPG in mixed driving.

The Compass is a fairly compact SUV for American roads being slightly shorter than the Sportage and Escape and more than a full-foot shorter than the Equinox. Despite the proportions however, interior space easily matches the Equinox, CR-V and Sportage in most critical dimensions except for cargo capacity. Behind the rear hatch the 22.7 cu-ft capacity falls short of the 26.1 on offer in the Sportage, 31 cu-ft from the Escape and 35 from the CR-V. Some of this difference in cargo capacity is explained by the larger back seat in the Compass, which delivers more legroom for adult sized people. With the rear seats folded, the cargo room expands to a useable 67 cu-ft, more than enough for most small SUV shoppers and not far off the competition in the same folded position. If you routinely carry passengers in the rear, the smaller cargo area is an easy tradeoff for the four inches of additional legroom out back.

New clothes are not cheap and the Compass’ new look is no exception and perhaps it’s biggest sales challenge. The 2011 Compass gets a $4,000 price hike compared to the outgoing 2010 model, admittedly some of this increase is due to the increased levels of standard equipment vs the outgoing model but also means the Patriot is now some $3,300 cheaper. For a car that barely sells more than some luxury imports, raising the price seems a strange move to me. On the other hand, Chrysler’s turning a profit again, so who am I to judge?

With the Compass’ new looks and Patriot matching off-road ability, Jeep hopes the Compass will achieve at least the sales success the Patriot has. The only problem I foresee after a week with the baby Jeep is convincing shoppers to take that second look at the Jeep dealer. If the marketing mavens in Auburn Hills are unable to convince new shoppers to stop by, the Compass may just end up taking half of the Patriot’s small market share. If that were to happen it would be a pity since the Compass is finally worth a second look.

Jeep provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

0-30: 3.64 seconds
0-60: 9.3 seconds
1/4 Mile: 17 seconds @ 83 MPH

Not a fan of our Facebook page? Too bad. For our facebook peeps, here’s what you wanted to know: Jason: the towing capacity is 2,000lbs which is fairly small but no worse than the competition. Darren: Jeep finally figured that out themselves. Kristian: Day two wasn’t hard, it has seriously become a very middle-of-the-road vehicle. Nick: While I’m sure it would be easy, I didn’t encounter a task where getting it stuck would not have also gotten a “real” Jeep stuck. Next time I need to try an off-road park. CoolLikeMe: Yes to everything. Jim: the Sam Houston Tollway is about 1800 miles from where I am.

 


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Review: 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/review-2011-jeep-grand-cherokee-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/review-2011-jeep-grand-cherokee-take-two/#comments Fri, 14 Jan 2011 19:34:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=380508

Following the disastrous launch of the Chrysler Pacifica, which was supposed to take that brand upscale, Chrysler (the company, not the brand) did a 180 and started developing the cheapest, least refined, and least attractive vehicles sold in the U.S. End result: Chapter 11. But even before the bankruptcy Chrysler once again changed course, and set about developing more stylish, better-outfitted vehicles. The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the first of these. How good is it?

The new Jeep Grand Cherokee is considerably larger than the old one, with a wheelbase of 114.8 inches (up 5.3), a length of 189.8 inches (up 3.2), a width of 76.3 inches (up 3.0) and a height of 69.4 inches (up 1.7). The new body is rounder and smoother, but still far from generic. Especially given that the new SUV is based on the Mercedes ML, Chrysler did an outstanding job creating an exterior design that is both clearly a Grand Cherokee and thoroughly up-to-date, with athletic proportions (the wheelbase grew more than the length) and no trendy details to mar the clean, muscular bodysides. The interior design is almost as successful, with a similarly clean design, tight fits, and higher quality materials than in the 2010. “Almost” because the interior design is somewhat generic and, even in the most expensive trim levels, increasingly passe silver plastic trim covers the center stack and center console. Certainly Chrysler’s designers can come up with something better than this trim, and few parts are cheaper to alter.

The seats are high and comfortable, with a large, moderately raked windshield contributing to an excellent driving position. Compared to that in a Toyota 4Runner, with its upright windshield, the view forward in the Grand Cherokee is like that in a car, just much higher off the ground. One oddity: the A-pillars bow inward to an unusually large degree at the top and bottom, so the shape of the windshield is like that of an old television. Thanks to larger exterior the rear seat is much roomier than before, so adults now have plenty of room for their heads, shoulders, and legs. Cargo volume is about the same as before. Plenty for most uses, but you’ll find more in other SUVs.

Two engines are offered so far, a 290-horsepower 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V6 and a 360-horsepower 5.7-liter “Hemi” V8. The Pentastar will replace older V6s in many Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep models during the 2011 model year, but it was introduced in the new Grand Cherokee. Not the best introduction. Though the new 3.6 is a fine engine, with very good power and refinement for its size, in the all-wheel-drive Jeep it’s saddled with 4,660 pounds of curb weight (up about 200). An antiquated five-speed automatic doesn’t help; a transmission with more ratios could provide a shorter first gear. An eight-speed automatic is likely on the way. Until it arrives, the V6 Grand Cherokee feels sluggish at low speeds and never feels quick. As hard as it would once have been to imagine, 290 horsepower seem merely adequate. The V8 feels considerably more energetic, but still isn’t quick, with 0-60 times similar to those for the V6-powered Toyota 4Runner. The Hemi could also sound more special; in the new Grand Cherokee they’ve muffled it overly much.

The new Grand Cherokee employs a sophisticated all-independent suspension based on a Mercedes design, so it should come as no surprise that it handles and rides much better than any previous Grand Cherokee save the SRT8, with excellent on-road body control and little noise. On paved roads the more softly suspended Toyota 4Runner feels squishy and imprecise in comparison. But the Jeep’s mass and high center of gravity cannot entirely be avoided—it leans more in turns than the typical car-based crossover. The new Grand Cherokee might be a very refined SUV, but it is still an SUV. Though less than in past Jeeps the steering is light and numb, and on-pavement driving is far from engaging. By which I mean it’s very pleasant, but boring. With Jeep developing ever more luxurious versions of the Grand Cherokee, with a new Overland Summit recently introduced at the 2011 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Lexus has far more to worry about than BMW. So far. SRT worked wonders with the chassis of the previous Grand Cherokee, and the new one provides a much better starting point. I’ve seen an SRT prototype around, so a new SRT8 is coming.

I did not drive either Grand Cherokee off the pavement [Ed: Despite what the press shots might have you believe], so cannot report how well it performs there. Jack Baruth’s press launch review suggests that, despite the Mercedes underpinnings, off-road performance remains worthy of the Jeep name, especially when equipped with the optional adjustable-height air suspension (also Mercedes-derived).

Even a minimally optioned 2011 Grand Cherokee with the V8 lists for $38,490, and it’s easy to configure one deep into the forties. Compared to the 2010, prices are up about $1,800, but the content level is up even more. Adjust for these additional features using TrueDelta’s car price comparisons. and the 2011 is actually $2,800 to $4,500 less pricey than the 2010, depending on trim level. These comparisons do not consider incentives, which were much higher with the 2010. More of a surprise: the 2011 Grand Cherokee V6 is about $4,000 less than a Toyota 4Runner or the even heavier new Ford Explorer when these are comparably loaded up. Though initially the prices might seem high, on closer examination Chrysler has priced the new Grand Cherokee aggressively.

I’ll be the first to admit that people don’t buy the Jeep Grand Cherokee for driving excitement. The things people do buy it for—style, luxury, the promise of off-road capability—have all been substantially improved with the 2011. Most impressive of all, the Grand Cherokee now has the look and feel of a premium vehicle, without a premium price. If you want these things, but also want to be thrilled by the driving experience, just wait for the SRT8.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo Interior 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.6L Engine for 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
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Review: 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/review-2010-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-8/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/review-2010-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-8/#comments Mon, 05 Jul 2010 15:05:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=360242

Behold the mighty off-road prowess of the Grand Cherokee SRT-8! Yes, my ratty-looking lawn is about as far off-road as most JGCs ever go. The 2011 Grand Cherokee even offers a couple of optimized drivetrain-and-suspension setups for those people who, as the nice Jeep PR man said during the introduction, “only go off-road… in their minds.”

The autojourno business is an odd one. Your not-so-humble author was one of the first people to have the chance to drive the 2011 JGC anywhere, and also very possibly the last journo on the planet to obtain a 2010 Grand Cherokee as a press vehicle. I’d like to think that, at the moment I achieved 88 miles per hour in the 2011 truck, I went back in time and successfully snagged a 2010 as a loaner.

There’s no SRT-8 in the 2011 lineup, although I strongly suspect there will be one debuting later on in the year, so if you want the combination of big-cube HEMI and Brembo brakes in your SUV, this is your only choice for now. The question is: with the demonstrated excellence of the new model, is there any reason at all to choose a 2010?

If you’ve just stepped out of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, stepping into the 2010 will shock you. The ergonomics are all wrong — at least, they are for me at 6’2″, 225lbs, and a 48 Long suit size — and the steering wheel seems to sit in one’s lap. The rear seat is cramped, as was the case in all Grand Cherokees prior to the new model, and the general state of trim quality seems a bit low for a $49,000 vehicle (as tested). I compared this back-to-back with my Ford Flex Limited and Audi S5; the Jeep comes in a distant third for interior ambiance. The dashboard and center stack, in particular, aren’t up to the standards of the class.

The instrument panel itself has a few nice surprises. It’s well-trimmed, with convincing chrome rings and two high-resolution two-line LCD displays. One of those displays can be configured on-the-fly to record g-force in four directions and time to distance for braking and acceleration. Set the display for 0-60, apply the brake, use the throttle to strain the big HEMI against the four big red Brembo brakes to the tune of 2200rpm or so, and release the brake when the light turns green. Instant no-hassle 5.0-second 0-60, with passengers, just about perfect, every time. If that sounds slow by magazine standards, don’t be fooled. Most exotic cars struggle to break five seconds to sixty in the real world, on dirty roads, with a slight curve or hill thrown in. The SRT-8 is extremely quick.

I find the first-to-second shift performed by the Mercedes-sourced WA580 transmission particularly charming. There’s a very brief ignition cutout during the shift, which happens with almost DSG speed, and when the ignition switches back on there’s a wonderful “brap” as the motor re-fires as the new, lower rev level. It’s pretty much the same thing you get with a PDK-equipped Porsche or a Nissan GT-R.

Both of those cars, by the way, will need to stay on their toes around the SRT-8. A normally-aspirated 911 won’t keep up with this truck from a slow roll, and the Grand Cherokee is capable of stealing a car length or two on a GT-R until the turbos really wake up. The 6.1-liter V8 may drink fuel at a rate that seems astonishing by modern standards — I recorded 15.5 average on the freeway and 10-11 during my two-lane commute, about which more in a moment — but it does the business in a straight line.

My current daily commute takes me about 108 miles from my front door to the garage at Switzer Performance. About thirty-five miles of that happens on Ohio two-lanes in “Amish country”. The roads are marked 55 and 65, but the traffic commonly crawls at 35 to 50, slowed down by tanker trucks struggling on hills and the desperate, rural poor in death-rattling old Cavaliers, trying to make it to work or their crystal-meth lab. In these situations, every possible pass has to be made, every time, no exceptions, no waiting. The difference between making every pass and waiting behind traffic is, literally, ninety minutes of commuting time every day.

Not every car is perfectly suited for this. My Boxster S is absolutely lousy, since I can’t see around the pickup trucks and it requires snagging second gear to step out with alacrity from behind the traffic. My S5 is better, since it has torque. A GT-R is better still, since it requires less space. Best of all is the Grand Cherokee SRT-8. The infamous “high and mighty” view, toned-down a touch by the low suspension, allows me to see the pass. The HEMI allows me to make the pass, and the Brembos allow me a solid haul-down back into the traffic line if I can’t snag everybody in one run. No, the Brembos probably aren’t enough for track work, since this truck weighs 5300 pounds, but for wiping off fifty or sixty miles per hour in a single press, they are spectacular.

The only fly in this back-road ointment is, regrettably, the SRT-8′s solid rear axle. Not all SRA cars are terrifying on rough roads — see “Ford Mustang, post-2005″ for an example of one that’s more than okay — but the Jeep’s weight, size, and rollover point combine to obtain one’s full attention when hitting potholes, pavement waves, or uneven patching. At full speed, the back end will step out, and the stability control seems to have little to say about it. After a few all-hands-on-deck episodes, I learned to be very careful about applying full throttle on broken pavement. The new SRT-8, when it arrives, won’t suffer from that problem.

Let’s tally up the pros and cons of buying a 2010 SRT-8. Pros: you can buy one now. You can get a hell of a deal. They retain their value in the used market and are likely to do so. It’s fast. It’s comfy enough for front-seaters. Cons: the new one is better in every single way, it will probably have more power, and your children/parents/other rear-seat denizens will thank you profusely.

Speaking personally, I’d wait for the 2011. If you want a truck now, then the SRT-8 makes a solid case for itself. You won’t go faster for less money in a truck, and you won’t really go much faster for two or three times the price. The mechanicals are well-proven, and you won’t have a hard time selling it. I wouldn’t blame you for pulling the trigger today, but don’t blame me when you see that the next one is far, far better, okay?

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Review: 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/review-2011-jeep-grand-cherokee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/review-2011-jeep-grand-cherokee/#comments Fri, 02 Jul 2010 14:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=359770

Several years ago, I paid heed to my inner child and attended Iron Maiden’s “Aces (Very) High Tour”. During one of the breaks, singer Bruce Dickinson said, “I don’t know what’s going on. We’re still making records, and I think they’re pretty good. But nobody on the radio wants to play them. They don’t play that kind of music now. Even if people want to hear it.” Intrigued by his comment, I bought the new Maiden record. He’s right. It’s pretty good, even if the music industry has moved on. It’s also a completely standard, formulaic effort that sounds exactly like every Iron Maiden record after their final burst of creativity, “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.”

What if… the new Iron Maiden record had been a double album, with the first disc being an absolutely perfect distillation of every previous record, and the second one being ten jazz standards, all performed to the highest standard of musicianship? Would anybody buy it, or would they still line up for the latest MP3s from the Silversun Pickups? That’s the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee in a nutshell. It’s staggeringly competent off-road, but it’s also an absurdly composed, quiet, and comfortable freeway cruiser. Are you interested, or would you rather have a GMC Acadia?

I’m an absolutely lousy off-road driver. When I’m on my own, I get stuck at least half the time. I require constant hand-holding from spotters and I barely understand the basic concepts involved in clearly obstacles. In other words, I’m the off-road equivalent of the average journalist on-road. The Grand Cherokee, however, was perfectly willing to do all the work for me on a rather technical and difficult sand course at Hollister Hills in NorCal. The new Selec-Terrain rotary controller mimics Land Rover’s “Terrain Response”, and it’s teamed with a first-for-Jeep “Quadra-Lift” air suspension. It can lift the “JGC” to eleven inches off the ground or drop it for passenger loading.

There are two off-road-oriented AWD systems available. Quadra-Trac II has an intelligent center diff and a brake-operated traction control system all the way ’round. Quadra-Drive II adds an electronically-controlled LSD in the rear. Both variants feature a hill descent control that also works in reverse to permit a safe back-out from over-enthusiastic climbing attempts. Using a V-6 powered, Quadra-Lift-and-Quadra-Drive-II Grand Cherokee Overland, I was simply unable to get myself stuck. Even the most rookie moves, like stopping just short of the breakover point on a sand-covered rock, couldn’t faze the Jeep. Applying any amount of throttle simply “tells” the Grand Cherokee to find the wheel with traction and gently feed it through until the obstacle is cleared. It’s the next best thing to the off-road ideal of triple locking diffs… hell, it might be better for those of us who are clueless about how to maintain traction.

You get the idea. Although this is the first Grand Cherokee to have IRS all the way ’round, the off-road ability has been manifestly improved by the additional ground clearance and the available intelligent drive systems. The notion of off-road supremacy is a core part of the Jeep “brand fundamentals”, and it’s present and accounted for here. In the real world, however, these trucks rarely leave the tarmac, and that is why Jeep and Land Rover are not the leading volume nameplates in this segment. Real-world buyers want real-world usability, and that’s where the Grand Cherokee has fallen far behind the car-based competition.

Chrysler’s chosen to address this deficiency in the most aggressive way possible. The new JGC still looks like a Grand Cherokee, but the visual similarity hides larger rear doors, four desperately-needed inches of rear-seat room, and a class-competitive interior package. Interior materials are of similar quality to what you’d find in a Flex, and if the uConnect isn’t even close to SYNC in terms of usability and eye appeal, the Jeep has an Audi-style multicolor display between the tach and speedometer that can be very addicting to use. Active Cruise Control is available and it works better than it does in the competition, permitting a closer gap and “falsing” less often on two-lane roads.

The new Pentastar V-6 is the engine the Grand Cherokee has needed for eighteen years. It’s an oversquare engine, revs with alacrity, and returns 23mpg in RWD variants. It has more than enough power off-road and on fast roads. The only reason to choose the cylinder-deactivating HEMI would be to bump the tow rating from 5000 to 7400 pounds; the Pentastar is that good.

Nor does the chassis let the motor down. It’s possible to have your JGC completely optimized for on-road use; in addition to the RWD model, there’s a no-low-gear, no-touch AWD system available. Either can be had with 20″ wheels and reasonably sticky rubber. The 17″ and 18″-wheeled off-road variants, however, can still hustle on-road. It’s possible to easily double posted corner speeds and tuck into the triple digits between turns on twisty two-lanes. I’ve been on BMWCCA “fast road drives” where this JGC would have been twenty miles ahead by lunchtime. Don’t expect a Chevy Traverse or RX350 to come close to the Grand Cherokee on a twisty road.

If you have a Land Rover LR4 and an Acura MDX in your garage, and you don’t require a third row of seats, you can send them both to the auction and replace them with this Grand Cherokee. It’s that good. There’s just one little issue: this is no longer the vehicle the market seems to want. It’s the perfect Iron Maiden album, delivered a decade too late. The market has clearly indicated its preference for car-based crossovers. The original Grand Cherokee debuted into a market full of truck-framed, molasses-slow, cramped and unwieldy entries. This one arrives in a market where a Camry-platform variant is king. It won’t meet the needs, perceived or actual, of the average buyer. I’d love to own one, but what do I know? I’m still listening to Iron Maiden.

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Used Review: 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/03/used-review-2008-jeep-wrangler-unlimited/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/03/used-review-2008-jeep-wrangler-unlimited/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2009 15:48:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=246681

“It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”. This was the vaguely condescending response I got when I queried my then-girlfriend and current wife about why in the world she would choose such an unrefined and slow mode of transportation. Surely, you can understand my point of view. I mean, the Jeep Wrangler is the ultimate, absolute antithesis of everything performance-related in the automotive world. Well, that is true so long as we are talking about road-going performance. Some, like my wife, get more excited about the prospect of slogging through mud and muck than teeter-tottering on the bare naked edge of control around a downhill decreasing-radius corner. And, for those who get their jollies in the dirt, the Wrangler Rubicon is the ultimate starting point for a true performance vehicle.]]>

“It’s a Jeep thing; you wouldn’t understand”. This was the vaguely condescending response I got when I queried my then-girlfriend and current wife about why in the world she would choose such an unrefined and slow mode of transportation. Surely, you can understand my point of view. I mean, the Jeep Wrangler is the ultimate, absolute antithesis of everything performance-related in the automotive world. Well, that is true so long as we are talking about road-going performance. Some, like my wife, get more excited about the prospect of slogging through mud and muck than teeter-tottering on the bare naked edge of control around a downhill decreasing-radius corner. And, for those who get their jollies in the dirt, the Wrangler Rubicon is the ultimate starting point for a true performance vehicle.

The Wrangler Unlimited’s exterior style remains true to its stack ’em high and send ’em overseas cubist pedigree. Overall, it looks a lot like the original two-door version stretched to house a backseat and a little more cargo space. And there you have it. In fact, Jeep’s engineers extended the standard model’s wheelbase 20.6 inches to make such accommodations.

My tester came in a shade of dark green straight out of a Vietnam-war flick, complete with jungle-ready mud tires. Among other off-road equipment, it was fitted with locking front and rear differential, rock rails, skid plates and a 4.10 rear axle ratio. With its suspension and the aforementioned tires, the Wrangler’s looked every inch the OEM monster truck.

Considering the Chrysler’s current cabin quality, my expectations for the Wrangler’s interior fell somewhere between Yugo and Ford Tempo. Obviously, leather and other high-zoot convenience features aren’t de rigeur for any vehicle designed for the great outdoors. So I wasn’t surprised to encounter stain resistant cloth seating and lots of plastic and rubber. But the plastic was brittle, nasty and poorly fitted. The rubber looked like it had a half life half as long as the Jeep’s. The Wrangler Unlimited illustrates the difference between spartan and disposable.

The Unlimited’s instrumentation is straightforward and glove-friendly. Navigation is touch-screen and electronic in nature, so mud-bogging with the top down is probably not a great idea. Semi-city slicker that I am, I was delighted to find that the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited’s sound-deadening materials do a halfway decent job sealing out the outside world—a tall order considering its tires and removable hard top.

While driving my tester, I couldn’t escape the thought that I’ve now come full circle in terms of Jeep power trains. I’ve driven everything from a 1980s CJ to a 1997 TJ to this four-door Rubicon tester. During this journey, I’ve sampled everything from the utterly gutless 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder (which was crippled even further by enormous mud tires) to the 4.0-liter inline six, the 4.2-liter inline six, and finally this year’s 3.8-liter V6.

There is no doubt in my mind that this most recent engine is the best in terms of power and refinement. Of course, put this engine in a family sedan and you’ll get a decidedly different take on its virtues. Drive through the city and you’ll find the mill’s acceleration adequate and its fuel consumption disconcerting.

Now, if you are a Jeep die-hard, you are going to find this part of my review downright unforgivable. I didn’t get a chance to take the Rubicon off-road. Single digit temperatures and scheduling made a trip to the trails impossible. However, I’ve logged plenty of time in Wranglers off-road, so I know just how good they are. With its ground clearance, 4WD system and suspension, the current generation Wrangler can handle its business in the dirt. Frankly, it’s the asphalt jungle where Wranglers have historically fallen short. Way short. Besides, admit it, you spend far more time on the street anyway.

The Unlimited Rubicon is a better handling Wrangler than the two-door versions of yesteryear. I realize that this is a little like being the best player on the Pittsburgh Pirates roster. But driving the Rubicon on city streets I was able to keep all my teeth in my head, which is a win as far as I’m concerned. However, it must be said that the Wrangler Unlimited’s off-road roots generate plenty of slack in the steering wheel and a tendency to walk the road.

According to the spin doctors at Chrysler, the Wrangler Unlimited is generally purchased by married men with kids and an upper-middle-class income. ChryCo’s demographic profile makes sense to me. The Warngler Unlimited is the perfect vehicle for the outdoor enthusiast who needs extra space for camping gear and kiddos but doesn’t need it for daily driving duties. However, if you live in the city and you really just like the off-road look, do yourself a favor, go get a Columbia fleece jacket and a Toyota Corolla. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

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Review: (2007) Jeep Compass Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/review-2007-jeep-compass-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/review-2007-jeep-compass-take-two/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2008 14:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=192081 Walking up to the Jeep dealership, I nearly bumped into the Compass, idling in the gloom. Before I could assimilate its sheetmetal's unintentional humor, Mike emerged from the fishbowl. His leather coat and tie were almost as dour as his face. My hand disappeared in his meaty paw as he greeted me with two words: "Take it." My arched eyebrow worked its usual magic. "No really," Mike insisted. "It's got half a tank of gas. Take it for a long drive." I waited for "and never come back." No such luck. I mean, it would be lucky wouldn't it? A free vehicle? I'd never driven a Compass. How bad could it be?]]> Walking up to the Jeep dealership, I nearly bumped into the Compass, idling in the gloom. Before I could assimilate its sheetmetal’s unintentional humor, Mike emerged from the fishbowl. His leather coat and tie were almost as dour as his face. My hand disappeared in his meaty paw as he greeted me with two words: “Take it.” My arched eyebrow worked its usual magic. “No really,” Mike insisted. “It’s got half a tank of gas. Take it for a long drive.” I waited for “and never come back.” No such luck. I mean, it would be lucky wouldn’t it? A free vehicle? I’d never driven a Compass. How bad could it be?

The Compass looks a fright. I have no idea of the designer’s remit. I assume it was something along the lines of “shrink a Cherokee, clad it like a Pontiac (clad it like it’s hot, clad it like its hot) and throw in some Audi Quattro cues. And cover up that rear window with some duct tape until we can call the supplier.” The result puts the patsy in pastiche.

The Compass’ interior is brought to you by ChryCo’s one-size-fits-all parts bin, assembled by workers who couldn’t care less if they were paid not to (as if). That said, I’m a big fan of minimalism– even it owes its existence to the kind of corporate cost-cutting that would fill Santa’s sack with coal. To my mind a Jeep– especially a cheap Jeep– has no business being fussy. Unfortunately, the design’s simplicity is assembled using the latest advances in paper-mâché plastics. The fake rivets on the fake aluminum piece on top of the almost dash-mounted autobox knob tells you all you need to know about that.

Once underway, the Compass’ central locking system emits an almighty KA-CHUNK. Having almost ripped off the graunching door on the way in (29k on the odometer), it was a reassuringly solid sound– that quickly revealed itself as something more sinister. I was trapped inside a cacophony of cheap. Incessant tire roar eliminated any idea that Jeep had traded off-road expertise for refinement. Turning onto a country road, the bouncing and jouncing suspension issued a series of muffled reports that sounded like a distant Civil War reenactment, and felt like a drug store shiatsu pad.

Our William C. Montgomery complained that the Compass’ 2.4-liter 172hp four-cylinder “world engine” didn’t have enough grunt to motivate the porky Jeeplet. My CVT-equipped model seemed fast enough for government work. If you use it to deliver mail in a gated suburb, you’re good to go. Despite the salesman’s implications, I felt no compulsion whatsoever to drive the Compass like I stole it. As the French would say (after a Gallic shrug) ca marche. And driving the Compass slowly brings you closer to optimal comfort (i.e. parked). If the Compass was a fuel-efficient vehicle, I’d cut it some slack. Jeep claims the non-Trail Rated four-seater’s 23/27 EPA numbers make it best in class. What class would that be? Detention?

Buying a Jeep for on-road handling is like downloading porn to savor the cinematography. That said, the Compass doesn’t roll excessively through the corners. If you’re pushing the vehicle beyond its safe, predictable limits, one way or another, you’re headed to the emergency room. On the other hand, the Compass’ four-wheel disc brakes are the exact opposite of my brother’s first wife: aggressive – passive. After a ferocious initial bite, they’re worryingly squidgy and vague. If a car is only as good as its brakes, d-i-v-o-r-c-e.

OK, off-road. Are you kidding? No? Setting aside Mike’s formidable size and the lingering scent of eau de desperation… no problem. Up, down and around. Bit of mud, some rocks. Fine. Obviously, we’re not talking about “real” off-roading. Just messing around in some fields and dirt tracks like you would with an old Toyota Corolla. Flooring it when you’re in danger of bogging down. Laughing like Hell if you are.

And here’s where fans of the Jeep brand get their rock-crawling knickers in a twist. A “real” Jeep is supposed to leap tall boundings in a single build. Goldly Bo where no Derrick has gone before. Brand zealot that I am, I couldn’t agree more. But I can agree less. The real problem with the Compass: it’s a thoroughly miserable car: noisy, slow, uncomfortable, inefficient and cheaply made, with A pillars large enough to support the colossus of roads.

I have no idea why anyone would choose a Compass over any number of similarly-priced new or used cars, SUVs or CUVs. Anyone doesn’t. When faced with a Compass, even Jeep snobs don”t lose their bearings. In fact, you’d have to have lost your marbles to buy one.

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