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. Fri, 01 Aug 2014 20:56:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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/ Chrysler Group Asks For Hitch Production Boost Amid NHTSA Inquiry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chrysler-group-asks-for-hitch-production-boost-amid-nhtsa-inquiry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chrysler-group-asks-for-hitch-production-boost-amid-nhtsa-inquiry/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=870010 A day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked what was taking so long for a supplier to make enough hitches to cover 2.5 million recalled vehicles, Chrysler Group ordered its supplier to boost production. Automotive News reports the inquiry, sent July 2, noted that it would take five years for Chrysler to repair […]

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A day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked what was taking so long for a supplier to make enough hitches to cover 2.5 million recalled vehicles, Chrysler Group ordered its supplier to boost production.

Automotive News reports the inquiry, sent July 2, noted that it would take five years for Chrysler to repair all 2.5 million 1993 – 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002 – 2007 Libertys with trailer hitches meant to minimize the potential for fuel tank ruptures and fires in low-speed rear-end accidents. In turn, Chrysler told supplier Northern Stamping Inc. to raise its daily production rate from 2,205 to 3,511 hitches.

The affected vehicles will be able to be equipped with the hitches beginning August 1, with the last ones to receive theirs by March of 2015.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Jeep Wrangler Sport S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2014-jeep-wrangler-sport-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2014-jeep-wrangler-sport-s/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:30:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=868346   A common complaint among the Best & Brightest is that certain consumer oriented publications don’t get the Jeep Wrangler. America’s sports car, as Enzo Ferrari once labeled it, is unfairly docked for performing poorly on-road, without taking into account that its mission is to excel off-road. Even though I’ve driven off-road precisely twice in my life, […]

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A common complaint among the Best & Brightest is that certain consumer oriented publications don’t get the Jeep Wrangler. America’s sports car, as Enzo Ferrari once labeled it, is unfairly docked for performing poorly on-road, without taking into account that its mission is to excel off-roadEven though I’ve driven off-road precisely twice in my life, I decided to get to the heart of the matter.

Most press vehicles are fully-loaded, top trim examples with abnormally high sticker prices and all the bells and whistles that one can possibly order. Not this baby.

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The Wrangler Sport seen here has – get ready for it – manual locks, crank windows, no touch screen and an honest-to-god manual transmission. In any other car, this level of equipment would bear the odious stench of poverty and poor credit. In a Jeep, it’s somewhat charming. The UConnect 130 is an old-school head unit unlike the rest of the range, with knobs and buttons replacing touch screens and QNX software. There’s an auxiliary port and a hidden USB port – you’re better off using the former if you want to play your music off of an iPod.

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As refreshing as it may be to see an honest Wrangler on paved roads, rather than a top-spec Mickey Thompson-shod Unlimited Rubicon, there’s still the unavoidable fact that no Wrangler is particularly pleasant to drive on the street. It’s simply not made for it, in the same way that a McLaren 650S, with its carbon fiber bodywork, shouldn’t be driven on a dirt road pockmarked with rocks and divots.

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Unfortunately, the majority of our infrastructure does consist of paved roads, and depending on their condition, the Wrangler’s ride quality ranges from “oscillating” to “back of the school bus”, in terms of how severely it crashes and bounds over bumps, ripples and potholes.

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Is it my own damn fault that I’m driving the Wrangler in an environment that is totally unsuitable for the car? Yes, but, I’d venture to say that the majority of these vehicles are driven in urban and suburban areas, and buyers hardly seem to care – or they put up with the Wrangler’s dynamic drawbacks because of its aesthetic appeal and rugged image.

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That’s not to say it’s all negative: with its small footprint and ultra-high driving position, you get a good view of the road, even if the Wrangler isn’t the most nimble-footed beast. Parking is a cinch relative to a lot of other SUVs, and the rear can be used for either human or material cargo in a pinch – but not necessarily both. That distinctive shape may give it tough-guy “Defender-lite” looks, but it also has the aerodynamics of a garden shed, and fuel economy in town was dismal, around 15 mpg.

The sole glaring drawback is with the removable soft top, which is needlessly complex to operate and poorly explained in the instruction manual. I will cop to being a bit dense when it comes to manual tasks that require pattern recognition, and the multiple latches, zippers, tabs and closures required to raise and lower the roof are my own idea of hell. Perhaps I was under the mistaken impression that should one get caught in a rain storm, one could simply pull over by the side of the road, hop out and raise the top, like you can in a Miata. I was wrong, and my passenger and I got a 55 mph baptismal thanks to my ineptitude. At the very least, Jeep should look into a new technical writer for their owner’s manual.

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Despite the myriad flaws and unsuitability for my own driving conditions, I kept coming back to the Wrangler with an overriding sense of affection. Car enthusiasts talk about the purity of the XJ Cherokee and the Mazda Miata as if they are two sides of the same enthusiast vehicle proposition, and always seem to skip over the one that started it all. But here we have an honest-to-god basic vehicle, made in America, for $25,295 (if you don’t need A/C, a base model sport is just $22,395) that has charm and authenticity in spades. The Wrangler is not for everyone – and certainly not for me. But Jeep manages to sell every example they make, and consumers seem utterly unaffected by these negative reports.

 

 

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Next-Generation Jeep Wrangler To Take Fight To Soft-Roaders, Hold Rubicon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/next-generation-jeep-wrangler-to-take-fight-to-soft-roaders-hold-rubicon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/next-generation-jeep-wrangler-to-take-fight-to-soft-roaders-hold-rubicon/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860793 With more SUVs preferring the high street over muddy, rocky trails, Jeep boss Mike Manley plans for the next-generation Wrangler to better compete against these soft-roaders while still maintaining its Rubicon cred. Automotive News reports Manley’s plan to include “continued improvements of the powertrain package,” which may mean being fitted with Chrysler’s eight-speed automatic and […]

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With more SUVs preferring the high street over muddy, rocky trails, Jeep boss Mike Manley plans for the next-generation Wrangler to better compete against these soft-roaders while still maintaining its Rubicon cred.

Automotive News reports Manley’s plan to include “continued improvements of the powertrain package,” which may mean being fitted with Chrysler’s eight-speed automatic and either a smaller gasoline engine than the current 3.6-liter V6 or a diesel like that found in Ram’s 1500 EcoDiesel.

Regarding weight, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne believes aluminium would be another key ingredient in not only bringing down weight, but improving fuel economy on top of the aforementioned powertrain upgrades.

As for the solid front and rear axles that give the Wrangler its off-road prowess to compensate for increased weight and rougher highway travel, Manley didn’t say whether or not they would stay for the next generation of the iconic vehicle — due sometime in 2017 at the earliest — though he vowed Jeep would not “dilute what Wrangler stands for,” citing his killing of the two-wheel-drive Wrangler upon taking the brand’s reins.

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Capsule Review: Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-jeep-grand-cherokee-ecodiesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-jeep-grand-cherokee-ecodiesel/#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 16:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=848298 To most North American consumers, diesel is an exotic powertrain option, full of promise when it comes to torque and efficiency. It rarely delivers on the promise. Based on our impressions of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, the same 3.0L V6 fitted to the Jeep Grand Cherokee seemed to be extremely promising – especially now that […]

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To most North American consumers, diesel is an exotic powertrain option, full of promise when it comes to torque and efficiency. It rarely delivers on the promise.

Based on our impressions of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, the same 3.0L V6 fitted to the Jeep Grand Cherokee seemed to be extremely promising – especially now that gas prices have spiked to record highs. But something was lost in the transition from truck to SUV.

The most jarring difference is the lack of smoothness that won us over in the Ram. The same engine that is nearly silent and effortlessly smooth in the Ram seems to have a much more audible, agricultural note, with inferior NVH characteristics. Somehow, the leisure-oriented SUV ends up feeling more like the work vehicle.

Diesel die-hards may shrug this off as panty-waist behavior from someone not used to compression ignition engines, but convincing customers to spend the extra $4,500 is going to be a tough sell for anyone who didn’t buy a diesel Grand Cherokee last time around. Especially when they hit the remote start only to be greeted with a school-bus soundtrack on cold starts.

That’s not to say that there are only drawbacks with the diesel. There is prodigious torque on tap (420 lb-ft, and 240 horsepower), and all that power is a great match for the silky smooth 8-speed ZF gearbox. Even compared to the 5.7L Hemi, passing is effortless at speed, while highway cruising tends to downplay the drivetrain noise. Only the woosh of the turbo is heard when you summon the prodigious twist of the VM Motori V6.

The rest of the car, like all Grand Cherokees, is superb. The steering has more feel than many passenger cars, while the air suspension gives superb ride characteristics on any road. I am on record as being UConnect’s biggest fan, and I can think of no better car to cover long distances in. Except for a gasoline powered Grand Cherokee.

Even though the EcoDiesel returned about 27 mpg (and that’s cruising at 75 mph with the A/C on – the EPA rates it at 28 mpg highway), I would find it hard to justify buying anything beyond the Pentastar V6/8-speed combo, similar to what Jack’s father bought.

If you are doing serious towing, or covering enough miles to justify the added cost of the diesel engine (and the higher resale value of the diesel should also help), then perhaps it makes sense. For myself, and many other consumers, the V6, V8 – hell, even the SRT – models will make more sense, given how quickly the higher trim level Summit models with the EcoDiesel can breach the $60k barrier.

As far as I’m concerned, the Grand Cherokee is still the best SUV on sale at any price. It has just the right mix of luxury, performance and discretion to be appropriate in any environment. The driving experience is more in line with premium European offerings than anything built by America or Japan. And given all this, I had high hopes for the diesel, and it did deliver on the promise of V8-like power with much better fuel economy. But I’m not sure it’s the all-purpose solution that many people were expecting. For me, that would be a nicely equipped Laredo with the gasoline V6.

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Select 2015 Chrysler 200, Jeep Cherokee Models To Receive Stop-Start http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/select-2015-chrysler-200-jeep-cherokee-models-to-receive-stop-start/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/select-2015-chrysler-200-jeep-cherokee-models-to-receive-stop-start/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=852065 A select group of 2015 Chrysler 200s and Jeep Cherokees will enter showrooms with stop-start technology on-board later this year. Automotive News reports Chrysler Group will install the tech in Cherokees equipped with its 3.2-liter V6 in Q3 2014, while 200s with the 2.4-liter I4 will receive it in Q4 2014. Cherokees with the 2.4 […]

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A select group of 2015 Chrysler 200s and Jeep Cherokees will enter showrooms with stop-start technology on-board later this year.

Automotive News reports Chrysler Group will install the tech in Cherokees equipped with its 3.2-liter V6 in Q3 2014, while 200s with the 2.4-liter I4 will receive it in Q4 2014. Cherokees with the 2.4 and 200s with the 3.6 V6 will not have stop-start aboard.

With stop-start, the Cherokee will net 19 mpg in the city at its most fuel-efficient configuration. The 200 fares slightly better at 23 mpg for its most efficient model.

Both the sedan and crossover share the same platform and a number of components, including Chrysler’s new nine-speed automatic transmission.

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JD Power Initial Quality Study Shows GM, Hyundai, Porsche Leading The Pack http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846905 J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles. Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. […]

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2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles.

Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. Meanwhile, Hyundai and Porsche were ranked best overall mass-market and premium brand, respectively, where the former reported 94 issues per 100 vehicles reported in the first 90 days, 74/100 for the latter. Porsche also dominated the IQS, having the best score of all brands surveyed.

On the other end of the scale, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ranked poorly in the study, with Fiat holding dead last at 206 problems per 100 vehicles reported in the survey period. Jeep came second-to-last with 146/100, while Dodge was just below the industry average at 124/100. Only Ram and Chrysler fared the best, matching or just exceeding the average of 116/100.

Part of the results may be due to automakers pushing the envelope on technology and new features to make consumers’ lives easier. J.D. Power Vice President of Global Automotive David Sargent says “almost all automakers are struggling” to introduce these pieces “without introducing additional quality problems.” In turn, some consumers are noting the technologies involved are “hard to understand, difficult to use, or [do] not always work as designed.”

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NHTSA Investigates Chrysler Group Air Bag, Ignition Issues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nhtsa-investigates-chrysler-group-air-bag-ignition-issues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nhtsa-investigates-chrysler-group-air-bag-ignition-issues/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 11:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846881 General Motors no longer has the monopoly on ignition and air bag problems, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler Group over those very issues. Detroit Free Press reports the agency has opened two investigations into 1.2 million vehicles as follows: 2005 – 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee; 2006 […]

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General Motors no longer has the monopoly on ignition and air bag problems, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler Group over those very issues.

Detroit Free Press reports the agency has opened two investigations into 1.2 million vehicles as follows:

  • 2005 – 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee; 2006 – 2007 Jeep Commander: Faulty air bags; 700,000 under preliminary investigation
  • 2008 – 2010 Dodge Journey; 2010 Chrysler Town & Country; 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan: Ignition switches shifting out of “on” position; 525,000 under recall query

The NHTSA received 23 complaints over air bags problems, though none involved non-deployment, and 32 complaints about the ignition switch. Both parties are working to find any links to the problems, though no more information has been made available thus far.

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Jeep’s Nine-Speed Undergoes Second Reflash For 100k Cherokees http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/jeeps-nine-speed-undergoes-second-reflash-for-100k-cherokees/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/jeeps-nine-speed-undergoes-second-reflash-for-100k-cherokees/#comments Fri, 30 May 2014 10:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=834313 Remember the nine-speed transmission in the new Jeep Cherokee that gave our rising superstar managing editor a hard time, followed by everyone else giving him a hard time about the truth of this car before walking back their statements in light of their seeing the light? More than 100,000 of the crossovers built before May […]

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2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-002

Remember the nine-speed transmission in the new Jeep Cherokee that gave our rising superstar managing editor a hard time, followed by everyone else giving him a hard time about the truth of this car before walking back their statements in light of their seeing the light? More than 100,000 of the crossovers built before May 5 will need theirs readjusted.

Automotive News reports the software in the affected units will be subject to a five-minute software reflash, followed by a 78-minute test drive to ensure the transmission’s ability to learn how its owner drives is no longer hindered by digital bugs. While all owners will not need to bring their vehicles in for the work, those who do feel their transmission is lacking will have the fix covered for free under warranty.

The nine-speed, which also feeds power to the front and/or all four corners of the 2015 Chrysler 200, has been reflashed once before, and problems early on led to a delay in the introduction of the new Cherokee to sort out the kinks. For what it’s worth, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne isn’t concerned about what may be dinging the quality of the new transmission:

There are always teething issues with every transmission I’ve ever built, and I mean that literally. We keep tuning the transmission more and more as we get more familiar with it.

I’m never satisfied, but I think I’m OK with its application in the current car. It will get better six months from now, trust me.

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Marchionne: Aluminium Better Used In Wrangler Over Ram 1500 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionne-aluminium-better-used-in-wrangler-over-ram-1500/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionne-aluminium-better-used-in-wrangler-over-ram-1500/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=819721 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne may be watching Ford experiment aluminium-bodied pickups from afar, but as far as the 2018 Jeep Wrangler is concerned, the lightweight metal may wind up on the iconic vehicle before the Ram 1500 considers taking the plunge. Automotive News reports Jeep’s engineers and designers are already at work finalizing […]

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2014 Jeep Wrangler

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne may be watching Ford experiment aluminium-bodied pickups from afar, but as far as the 2018 Jeep Wrangler is concerned, the lightweight metal may wind up on the iconic vehicle before the Ram 1500 considers taking the plunge.

Automotive News reports Jeep’s engineers and designers are already at work finalizing design work for the next-gen Wrangler, set to enter production in 2017. Based on recent job postings, the brand as an eye on dropping weight for the vehicle as part of its plan to meet ever-tightening CAFE goals. The current Wrangler holds an average of 17 city/21 highway while weighing anywhere from 3,785 to 4,340 pounds depending on trim, while the new Cherokee 4×4 — based on a lighter foundation — pulls 19 city/25 highway at a weight of 4,044 pounds.

Other key components of the plan on the table include an eight-speed automatic and an expanded lineup of fuel-efficient gasoline and diesel powerplants.

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Marchionne’s Grand Vision For FCA Faces Hard Financial Road To Success http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionnes-grand-vision-for-fca-faces-hard-financial-road-to-success/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionnes-grand-vision-for-fca-faces-hard-financial-road-to-success/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 12:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817858 Though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s five-year plan announced this week may be ambitious, analysts are raising questions about how the plan will be funded — and how much will be needed — if it is to be successful, let alone live up to Marchionne’s vision. Automotive News Europe reports a large part of […]

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Sergio Marchionne - FCA

Though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s five-year plan announced this week may be ambitious, analysts are raising questions about how the plan will be funded — and how much will be needed — if it is to be successful, let alone live up to Marchionne’s vision.

Automotive News Europe reports a large part of the problem for the plan, according to Bernstein Research analyst Max Warburton, is debt:

Much as we admire the ambition and think elements are achievable… it is hard to find conviction on the financing of the plan. Fiat is weighed down with huge debt, burdened by financing costs and is only thinly profitable. It’s (sic) cost of capital is huge.

Warburton adds FCA’s grand plan and its potential capital expenditure and R&D appear to be unaffordable and not prudent for investors, stating the company would need “a capital raise” for any part of the plan to pan out.

Aside from its debt, FCA also faces sales challenges from markets that are peaking or slowing down, with the European market being the biggest drag upon the automaker. However, independent analyst Marianne Keller said that with the recovery now taking place in Europe, paired with North American profits and a strong Jeep brand, Marchionne could “pull it off”; Marchionne himself announced during the five-year plan’s unveiling that he was considering a mandatory convertible bond to bring the needed financing for the plan.

Finally, FCA’s Q1 2014 results — a net loss of 319 million euros compared to a net profit of 31 million euros the year before — serve as a sign for both the company and its investors that FCA has more hard road ahead, a view best summed up by Macquarie Group analyst Jens Schattner:

If it was so easy just to launch new products to be successful in this industry, why wouldn’t everybody do exactly the same.

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Detroit Three Lead The Charge In Chinese SUV Boom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/detroit-three-lead-the-charge-in-chinese-suv-boom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/detroit-three-lead-the-charge-in-chinese-suv-boom/#comments Tue, 29 Apr 2014 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=812234 Long after the first SUV gold rush in the United States, the Detroit Three are gearing up for a second gold rush, this time in China. Automotive News reports SUVs and crossovers have snagged 19 percent of the local market in 2013 as the once-dominant luxury sedan market fell from 47 percent in 2000 to […]

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2014 Lincoln MKX Concept

Long after the first SUV gold rush in the United States, the Detroit Three are gearing up for a second gold rush, this time in China.

Automotive News reports SUVs and crossovers have snagged 19 percent of the local market in 2013 as the once-dominant luxury sedan market fell from 47 percent in 2000 to 15 percent. General Motors forecasts as many as 7 million SUVs will leave the showroom by 2020, with president Dan Ammann noting that 60 percent of first-time buyers in China bought an SUV last year. Further, Ford credits crossovers for a sales surge of 49 percent in 2013, pushing Toyota out of the No. 5 slot in a local market that views SUVs and crossovers as being, in the words of Chevrolet dealer He Sei, “sportier, more fashionable and more youthful” than other vehicles.

To capitalize upon the upcoming boom, GM brought the Chevrolet Trax to last week’s Beijing Motor Show with plans to add 10 SUVs during the next five years, while Ford introduced concept versions of the body-on-frame Everest and Lincoln MKX crossover, both of which will soon see production. Finally, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will resume Jeep production in China through a joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group Company, with three models due in 2015.

Meanwhile, Lexus, Audi, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Citroen are following the Detroit Three’s lead into the Chinese SUV/crossover market, bringing a number of concepts and production-ready vehicles to Beijing. That said, they will have a hard battle against the three U.S. automakers, as SUVs and crossovers have been their bread and butter since the first rush in the early 1990s through the late 2000s.

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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, […]

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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 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. 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, […]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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 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 […]

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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.

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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, […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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

 

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