Back in the day, the Jeep Wrangler was only for serious off-roaders. Posers might visit, but assaulted by the SUV’s sluggish acceleration, clumsy handling, rough noisy ride, and spartan hose-out interior they weren’t likely to stay long (or return after leaving). But Chrysler has worked steadily to eliminate these downsides and render the Wrangler fit for everyday use. Back in 2007 the Wrangler grew in size and became available in extended wheelbase four-door Unlimited form. Last year its interior was substantially upgraded. And this year the unloved 202-horsepower 3.8-liter “minivan” V6 has been replaced by a 285-horsepower DOHC 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V6. Meanwhile the chassis has been tweaked repeatedly to improve on-road ride and handling. So, with all of these improvements, is the 2012 Wrangler Unlimited as suitable as any other SUV for running the kids to school and then dropping by CostCo?
In something of an ironic twist for an off-road brand, Jeep has had trouble figuring out which path to take lately. Jeep was late to the soft-roader party last decade, and got off to an “interesting” start when a focus group (allegedly) indicated the need for a Patriot to appeal to men and a Compass for the ladies. Most companies would have simply picked one, but the temptation to attract female shoppers to an overtly masculine brand proved too strong and Jeep decided to make both. The result is a product line that offers two similarly-priced and similarly-capable vehicles. This might have been a passable set of circumstances, had the Compass not been saddled with both a cartoonish exterior and interior plastics that even Rubbermaid would have rejected. Instead, the Compass became a symbol of how lost the go-anywhere brand had become. But after a Fiat-led makeover, an updated 2011 Compass is making a bid to rescue Jeep’s small CUV reputation… is it up to the task?
Following the disastrous launch of the Chrysler Pacifica, which was supposed to take that brand upscale, Chrysler (the company, not the brand) did a 180 and started developing the cheapest, least refined, and least attractive vehicles sold in the U.S. End result: Chapter 11. But even before the bankruptcy Chrysler once again changed course, and set about developing more stylish, better-outfitted vehicles. The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the first of these. How good is it?
Behold the mighty off-road prowess of the Grand Cherokee SRT-8! Yes, my ratty-looking lawn is about as far off-road as most JGCs ever go. The 2011 Grand Cherokee even offers a couple of optimized drivetrain-and-suspension setups for those people who, as the nice Jeep PR man said during the introduction, “only go off-road… in their minds.”
The autojourno business is an odd one. Your not-so-humble author was one of the first people to have the chance to drive the 2011 JGC anywhere, and also very possibly the last journo on the planet to obtain a 2010 Grand Cherokee as a press vehicle. I’d like to think that, at the moment I achieved 88 miles per hour in the 2011 truck, I went back in time and successfully snagged a 2010 as a loaner.
There’s no SRT-8 in the 2011 lineup, although I strongly suspect there will be one debuting later on in the year, so if you want the combination of big-cube HEMI and Brembo brakes in your SUV, this is your only choice for now. The question is: with the demonstrated excellence of the new model, is there any reason at all to choose a 2010?
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Several years ago, I paid heed to my inner child and attended Iron Maiden’s “Aces (Very) High Tour”. During one of the breaks, singer Bruce Dickinson said, “I don’t know what’s going on. We’re still making records, and I think they’re pretty good. But nobody on the radio wants to play them. They don’t play that kind of music now. Even if people want to hear it.” Intrigued by his comment, I bought the new Maiden record. He’s right. It’s pretty good, even if the music industry has moved on. It’s also a completely standard, formulaic effort that sounds exactly like every Iron Maiden record after their final burst of creativity, “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.”
What if… the new Iron Maiden record had been a double album, with the first disc being an absolutely perfect distillation of every previous record, and the second one being ten jazz standards, all performed to the highest standard of musicianship? Would anybody buy it, or would they still line up for the latest MP3s from the Silversun Pickups? That’s the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee in a nutshell. It’s staggeringly competent off-road, but it’s also an absurdly composed, quiet, and comfortable freeway cruiser. Are you interested, or would you rather have a GMC Acadia?
“It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”. This was the vaguely condescending response I got when I queried my then-girlfriend and current wife about why in the world she would choose such an unrefined and slow mode of transportation. Surely, you can understand my point of view. I mean, the Jeep Wrangler is the ultimate, absolute antithesis of everything performance-related in the automotive world. Well, that is true so long as we are talking about road-going performance. Some, like my wife, get more excited about the prospect of slogging through mud and muck than teeter-tottering on the bare naked edge of control around a downhill decreasing-radius corner. And, for those who get their jollies in the dirt, the Wrangler Rubicon is the ultimate starting point for a true performance vehicle.
Used Review: 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
Walking up to the Jeep dealership, I nearly bumped into the Compass, idling in the gloom. Before I could assimilate its sheetmetal’s unintentional humor, Mike emerged from the fishbowl. His leather coat and tie were almost as dour as his face. My hand disappeared in his meaty paw as he greeted me with two words: “Take it.” My arched eyebrow worked its usual magic. “No really,” Mike insisted. “It’s got half a tank of gas. Take it for a long drive.” I waited for “and never come back.” No such luck. I mean, it would be lucky wouldn’t it? A free vehicle? I’d never driven a Compass. How bad could it be?
Buyers of the first generation KJ Liberty fell into two camps: those who appreciated the trucklet for its off-road, severe weather and towing capabilities; and those who thought it was adorable. Let’s face it: the oh-isn’t-it-darling? brigade made the Liberty a star; they drew it to their collective bosom like a Hollywood starlet clutching the only real friend she ever had (a Chihuahua). The Liberty became one of America’s hottest selling mini-SUVs. As fashion dictates, those days are gone. Upon the redesigned Liberty, dubbed the KK, Chrysler’s cute ute comeback hopes reside. But this time its neither fish nor foul.
Jeep Liberty Review Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
Every morning at 4:00 am, I’m woken by an automotive alarm clock. It’s the sound of my neighbor beginning his daily commute, firing-up his 6.7-liter Turbo Diesel Dodge Ram. The oil burner nestling in the pickup’s snout embodies all the characteristics that American car buyers of a certain age associate with Rudolph Diesel’s powerplant. It’s loud, dirty and smelly. Its rattle makes the vehicle vibrate like a cheap motel bed. Is in any wonder Jeep’s website doesn’t go out of its way to advertise the diesel option in its Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland? Yes and no.
Grand Cherokee Overland Diesel Review Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
High gasoline prices, foreign wars in oil producing nations and fears of global warming have made fuel efficiency the new patriotism. Yet many Americans reject clown-sized economy cars and suppository shaped CUV’s and minivans. They cling to the outdoorsy lifestyle and the go-anywhere freedom embodied by rough-and-tumble SUV’s. In a second attempt to address these shifting values, Jeep has unveiled the Patriot. It's an SUV for gas conscious Americans! Actually, never mind all that. Please, oh please, just let it be better than the Compass.
We’re sitting in Jeep’s newest Wrangler pointed up a steep hill. Freak December rain has turned the ground into goopy glop. The transmission is in 4-Low, both axles are locked and the front sway-bar has been disconnected. A light tap of the gas slowly but oh-so-steadily begins to motivate our Trail Rated off-roader up the treacherous path. And then… we’re at the top. Huh? Too easy. We circle back down, turn off the lockers, reattach the sway-bar and put the Jeep into two-wheel drive. A moment later we are once again atop the hill. I’m saying it right here: the Wrangler Rubicon is the most capable vehicle ever badged a Jeep.
No vehicle represents America’s can-do spirit as authentically as the Jeep Wrangler. Born from the conflict that defined our Greatest Generation, the Jeep embodied our nation’s core values: simplicity, honesty and never-say-die durability. That was then. Now, not one but two badge engineered CUV’s are dragging the Jeep brand’s hard-core off-road rep through the [ankle deep] mire. Which puts a lot of weight on the ’07 Wrangler Unlimited’s elongated shoulders. Does the new Wrangler have enough talent and gumption to make up for the sins of the sons?
Since Chrysler acquired AMC from Renault in ‘87, the Jeep brand has been the domestic manufacturer’s canary in the coal mine. When Jeep’s done well, Chrysler’s done well. When Jeep’s languished, Chrysler’s tanked. Chrysler’s German masters are not blind to this correlation. Jeep's new corporate parent has shortened product development cycles from decades to six years. And now Doktor Z und ze Boyz are looking to grow DaimlerChrysler by expanding Jeep's model lineup. Does the Compass point the way to a bright future for "America's sports car"?
A certain Mr. E. Ferrari used to refer to Jeep as 'America's only real sports car.' I never fully understood the Italian automaker's claim until I handed the keys to my Cherokee to my SUV-hating girlfriend. As my liver busied itself processing bourbon, she kicked the Jeep's 4.0-liter straight-six into life. Carving through the Silver Lake hills, the Jeep's right-now acceleration, scrappy handling and elevated driving position pleased her almost as much as I did. Enzo was right: Jeeps are a buzz. When DCX lent me the new Jeep Liberty Renegade, I slipped on my steel-toed Wolverines and readied myself for a good 'ole thrash in America's redneck Ferrari.
The model replacing Jeep's venerable Cherokee exchanges the Cherokee's near-perfect two-box design for something that looks like a VW Bug after a visit to Barry Bonds' doctor. Macho dignity is upheld (literally) by the Renegade's seven slot grill and its over-sized, over-compensating wheel arches– attached by marble-sized bolts as garish as diamond teeth. Rock rails and fog lights (disguised to look like KC lamps) reinforce the strong man aesthetic. That said, as I admired the Renegade on my drive, a desperate homemaker walked up and commented, 'That's cute.' Yes, well, the Liberty's UniFrame construction makes it stiffer, lighter and more crashworthy than the body-on-frame construction used by truck-based competitors. So it's still as tough as nails (the metal kind).
You can't blame Jeep for launching a retro-styled seven-seater at a time when dealers' forecourts have become sport utility tar pits. The Dark Lords of DCX pulled the trigger on the Commander when the petrochemical sun was shining, hay was being made and the word "hybrid" applied to orchids, vegetables and farm animals. The logic was sound: build a more commodious SUV to keep fecund followers of Jeep's trail rated trucks within the fold. Something that would also lure lifestylers helming less venerable vehicles. But the execution is inexcusable. Even if Shell V-Power was free, you wouldn't want to waste it on the new Jeep Commander.