The Truth About Cars » crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:00:11 +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 » crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2016 Buick Envision Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2016-buick-envision-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2016-buick-envision-revealed/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:31:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871634 envision1

 

Buick took the wraps of the front end of their new mid-sized crossover, dubbed the Envision – or Ang Ke Wei, in China.

Powered by the corporate 2.0L turbo-four making 256 horsepower and 260 lb-ft, the engine will feature a 6-speed automatic transmission, stop-start and all-wheel drive. The Envision is likely based on the Theta platform that underpins the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain.

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Chart Of The Day: Crossovers Are King http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chart-of-the-day-crossovers-are-king/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chart-of-the-day-crossovers-are-king/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:33:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=867074 BsrTeYECEAAYuq0

 

This chart, courtesy of IHS Automotive, shows that for the first time in America, crossovers have edged out sedans as the most popular body style.

While the data only shows new vehicle registrations through May, 2014, don’t expect this trend to reverse any time soon. The crossover’s rise to market dominance is an inexorable fact of our automotive landscape, both in America and around the world.

Now you see why Nissan isn’t so crazy to forgo the new IDx in favor of the Juke. Sure, nobody will ever cross-shop the two cars, but one plays in a space that is constantly growing, while the other competes in a market that has a future that’s slightly worse than the U.S. Postal Service. If you were an auto executive with a few billion to spend on a new car that must turn a profit (so, no fantasy brown wagon projects), the choice would be easy.

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Volkswagen Confirms New SUV Will Be Built In Chattanooga http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volkswagen-confirms-new-suv-will-be-built-in-chattanooga/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volkswagen-confirms-new-suv-will-be-built-in-chattanooga/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:43:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=865897 450x299x550x366xVolkswagen-CrossBlue-Concept-550x366.jpg,Mic_.uF-8gWFYml-450x299.jpg.pagespeed.ic.rA7817fp9x

Volkswagen will invest $900-million and add 2,000 jobs as part of a decision to build their long-awaited mid-size crossover in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The plant, which already builds the Passat, has been the site of a number of disputes, pitting the UAW and organized labor against an equally passionate opposition that includes the state level government and other anti-UAW entities.

The new crossover, considered a vital part of VW’s success, will be based on VW’s MQB platform, and be produced in 2016.

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Buick Gets Another Crossover – What Took So Long? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-gets-another-crossover-what-took-so-long/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-gets-another-crossover-what-took-so-long/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 18:10:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=856833 All-new high-end midsize SUV, the Buick Envision, will make its

 

Buick will launch a new mid-size crossover, dubbed “Envision” in China first, then presumably in other markets. All we can say is “hurry up”.

Given the sales strength of the Enclave and Encore, it’s amazing that Buick isn’t busting their hump to get this thing on sale tomorrow. Then again, China is Buick’s most important market, and their thirst for CUVs seems nearly impossible to satiate. No word on what platform this new CUV will ride on, but the Theta chassis that underpins the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain is a good bet.

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Slow Roll-Out For The Lincoln MKC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/slow-roll-out-for-the-lincoln-mkc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/slow-roll-out-for-the-lincoln-mkc/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 15:53:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=855961 2015-Lincoln-MKC-Main-2

Over the past week, two separate readers have emailed regarding the Lincoln MKC. “How can the most important Lincoln in years be hitting dealer lots,” asks one reader “and yet there’s zero marketing behind it?”

The most obvious answer seems to be a lack of supply. Automotive News shows just 300 units nationwide (or 12 days of supply) for the MKC. Industry sources I talked to suggest that Lincoln doesn’t want a marketing push that will get consumers excited for the car, only to have them show up at a dealer and find exactly zero units on hand to look at.

The other alternative theory being floated is that a last minute part change has led to unexpected delays – but our generally trustworthy sources have given no indication that this is the case.

Edit: From our colleagues at Autoblog comes this story. It seems that Lincoln is looking to avoid the same mistakes they made with the MKZ, where early advertising and a delayed roll-out led to less than desirable results. 

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Ford Will Market Long-Wheelbase Edge In China http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-will-market-long-wheelbase-edge-in-china/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-will-market-long-wheelbase-edge-in-china/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 13:34:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=853057 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our friends at Autos.ca are reporting that China will get a long-wheelbase version of the 2015 Ford Edge.

According to the site, the Edge will get longer rear doors, while retaining much of the same sheetmetal. The Edge will be built in Oakville, Ontario for global markets, but due to China’s restrictive tariffs on imported cars, there will presumably be a Chinese assembly site as well.

Long-wheelbase versions of sedans are highly popular with Chinese consumers, who value rear passenger space as an attribute of luxury vehicles. Being driven by a chauffeur is also a sign of wealth among affluent Chinese consumers, and a long-wheelbase crossover neatly capitalizes on these trends.

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Jeep Re-Builds UK Dealer Network In Advance Of Cherokee Launch http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jeep-re-builds-uk-dealer-network-in-advance-of-cherokee-launch/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jeep-re-builds-uk-dealer-network-in-advance-of-cherokee-launch/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=851425 382x350xphoto-13-382x350.jpg.pagespeed.ic.rJdyDkrfPC

For a brief stretch of time, Jeep did business in the UK as a purveyor of authentic American SUVs. The Cherokee, Wrangler and Grand Cherokee had a respected niche, even if they didn’t sell in particularly large numbers. And then it all went down the tubes.

According to Just-Auto, Jeep lost over half their dealer network in 2012, creating a problem for Jeep’s UK division. Major ad campaigns were useless, since it was impossible to advertise when franchises could be situated far away from major population centers.

But with the introduction of the Grand Cherokee, Jeep has rebounded. Sales are up 70 percent, and by year end, there should be over 70 dealers in the UK. The next step is the launch of the Cherokee, which Jeep is ambitiously positioning as a rival to the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, as well as the smaller Renegade. Sound crazy? Perhaps. But don’t forget, these are premium vehicles in much of the world.

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2015 Ford Edge Revealed [Updated With Live Shots] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/2015-ford-edge-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/2015-ford-edge-revealed/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 22:30:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=851433 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ford released photos and specs for their new Edge, becoming the first Ford to have a standard Ecoboost engine.

Riding on the same CD4 platform as the Ford Fusion and MKZ, the Edge come standard with a 2.0L Ecoboost making 245 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. Also on offer are a 3.5L naturally aspirated V6 and a 2.7L Ecoboost V6, with power figures not announced for either engine. FWD is available on the base four, with AWD standard on the other engines. The sole powertrain is a 6-speed automatic.

Ford’s new adaptive steering system which can vary the steering ratio is available, as well as active grille shutters, start-stop, MyFord Touch, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert and a 180 degree front camera. Ford will continue to build the Edge at its Oakville, Ontario plant with sales starting early next year.

[Thanks to AutoGuide.com for the live shots]

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Infiniti ESQ: Infiniti Gets A Small Crossover, But Only For China http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/infiniti-esq-infiniti-gets-a-small-crossover-but-only-for-china/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/infiniti-esq-infiniti-gets-a-small-crossover-but-only-for-china/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 16:41:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=842514 kcp6xowebol7ndrn3wfy

That Infiniti-badged Nissan Juke that seemed so outlandish? It’s coming – but only for China.

A Nissan spokesman confirmed to Jalopnik that the Infiniti ESQ, pictured here, is indeed a Chinese-only Infiniti product. Essentially a rebadged Nismo Juke, the ESQ makes next to no attempt to disguise its origins – it’s literally a rebadge job that only the least discerning consumers would ever confuse for a distinct Infiniti product. But it does give Infiniti a toehold in the red-hot compact crossover segment.

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Junkyard Find: 2003 Pontiac Aztek http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/junkyard-find-2003-pontiac-aztek/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/junkyard-find-2003-pontiac-aztek/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=832177 09 - 2003 Pontiac Aztek Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNow that we’re all about 21st-century Junkyard Finds this week, let’s admire another JF first: the Pontiac Aztek. A popular TV show really ended up muddying the cultural waters around the Aztek, in a process similar to what happened with the DeLorean DMC-12 in the late 1980s, so let’s try to remember back to a time when each of saw our first Aztek and thought what could The General have been thinking?
07 - 2003 Pontiac Aztek Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI live in urban Denver, which means I’m surrounded by vast armies of backpackers, skiers, campers, rock climbers, snowboarders, and the like, and many of these folks thought that the Aztek was a vehicle perfectly suited to the stuff they wanted to do on weekends. There are at least four Azteks that live within a few blocks of my house (and a half-dozen VW Vanagon Syncros, which indicates a masochistic and/or delusional streak to go with the tolerance of ugly vehicles that your typical Denver Aztek owner demonstrates), and I see them on the street all the time. It was only a matter of time before they started showing up at self-service wrecking yards, and now that day has come.

“An aggressively styled, technologically advanced sport utility vehicle.”

“I’m all about working hard, standing out, and playing large.”

For the kind of people who eat baby carrots on road trips. I assume that GM had Avalanche ads running at the same time that showed dudes driving Avalanches over the skulls of endangered tortoises while knocking back Hog Blood Gushers™ and tossing M-1000s out the windows.

Sam and Kate like to swing to the beat.
05 - 2003 Pontiac Aztek Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThat’s because the Aztek had rear sound-system controls, which worked pretty well at tailgate parties. Of course, once Bluetooth-enabled smartphones allowed you to control your car’s sound system from a device in your pocket, the Aztek’s setup became less useful.
01 - 2003 Pontiac Aztek Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has been stripped of the tent and many of the options that made the Aztek so useful to outdoorsy types. All that remains is the ugly.
04 - 2003 Pontiac Aztek Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill, this was a better version of “hide the minivan” than most faux-offroader machines styled to look like military trucks. Who knows, maybe I’ll spot the notorious “bite the banana” Aztek in a junkyard one of these days.

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Editorial: Cadillac Is Abandoning Large Crossovers At The Wrong Time http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/editorial-cadillac-is-abandoning-large-crossovers-at-the-wrong-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/editorial-cadillac-is-abandoning-large-crossovers-at-the-wrong-time/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 16:56:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=829578 caddyinventory

A report by Ward’s Auto claims that Cadillac is scrapping plans to build a large, three-row crossover, similar to the Buick Enclave or GMC Acadia. Fear of competing with the two Lambda stablemates is being cited as a possible motive, along with a saturation in the large crossover market. They should do it anyways.

Even though they are held up as a symbol of everything that is against the state religion of automotive enthusiasm, crossovers are a global growth segment, especially small ones. And this is also one reason why Cadillac is apparently not going ahead with a large crossover. They want something smaller than the SRX, to help them compete with small luxury crossovers both at home, and in important markets like China and Europe.

This is an easy rationale to understand. Development dollars are finite, small crossovers are growing, and there’s lots of upside potential for something below the SRX. But that doesn’t mean Cadillac should abandon a larger crossover either. Think about the Acura MDX, the Audi Q7 and the Mercedes-Benz GL. These are all big, three-row crossovers that are globally successful (yes, even the MDX, which does sell in markets like Russia), and in the case of the MDX in Q7, they are a way to successfully leverage an existing architecture into something that can be sold at obscene mark-ups.

Cadillac would be foolish not to do this, if for no other reason than to leverage the profit potential at a tarted-up Lambda crossover. In the U.S, there is likely a price ceiling that they could charge for it, but you can bet that legions of affluent buyers would be clamoring for the chance to buy a more car-like big CUV from Cadillac. Given that the SRX is the sole Cadillac vehicle that doesn’t have over 100 day’s worth of inventory, it seems logical that another crossover would be a big seller. Why not kill off the Impala-based XTS entirely and replace it with a three-row CUV that can be sold to older customers and livery car services, as well as people who want something like an Escalade, but without the typical attributes of a BOF SUV (like reduced fuel economy and a more truck-like feel)? With the large car market tanking each passing year, getting out of a dying segment and into one that will be, at worst, stable in the next decade, makes a lot of sense.

And what about world markets? Take that price ceiling, multiply it 2-3x and that’s what you can charge for what is essentially a fancy Chevrolet Traverse. In China, a Buick Enclave sells for $81,000 USD – you can imagine what Cadillac would be able to charge for this kind of vehicle in the Chinese market, to say nothing of Russia, Brazil, Latin America and even India.

Assuming the marginal cost of turning a Lambda CUV into a Cadillac is low, the exercise seems like a slam dunk for GM. But we can’t always make these assumptions. Each individual business case is always a discrete entity, and trying to approach it with a “one-size-fits-all” mentality is a common fallacy in the world of automotive opinion writing. Even so, the case for a big Cadillac CUV seems to make sense – and GM’s track record of mis-managing Cadillac only furthers the thinking that cancelling this project is a mistake.

 

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Look What We’re Missing: Suzuki Launches New Crossover For Europe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/look-what-were-missing-suzuki-launches-new-crossover-for-europe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/look-what-were-missing-suzuki-launches-new-crossover-for-europe/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 13:45:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=820922 iv-4_concept_12_s

 

The compact crossover market is so hot that even a moribund auto maker like Suzuki is getting into it – and what you’re looking at could very well be the next Vitara.

Built in Hungary, the new B-segment CUV is expected to resemble the iv-4 Concept shown above. With a 2015 launch, we’ll have to wait a while to find out whether it’s a rugged off-roader like past Suzukis, or just another milquetoast urban runabout. The latter would be more profitable, thanks to leveraging the Swift architecture, while providing a more civilized driving experience – perhaps at the expense of Suzuki’s brand image. Or whatever is left of it.

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Crossovers Outsell Sedans For The First Time Ever http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/crossovers-outsell-sedans-for-the-first-time-ever/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/crossovers-outsell-sedans-for-the-first-time-ever/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 04:01:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=813289 20140430_largest_segments_tl

For the past decade, midsize sedans have been the most popular segment in America. But data from Polk and IHS Automotive suggests that might be changing.

According to Polk, the first two months of 2014 saw compact crossovers take the top spot in terms of market share. As Polk’s Tom Libby notes

We may now be at an inflection point in the U.S. automotive industry – IHS Automotive data based on Polk new vehicle registrations indicate that in the first two months of 2014 U.S. drivers purchased more small crossovers than any other type of vehicle, car or light truck. Non-luxury compact crossovers’ share of the industry has jumped almost six share points in the past five years, including more than three points in the last year alone.

We’ll know more as more sales data emerges today and in subsequent months. While many observers tend to focus on individual nameplate sales races (Camry vs. Accord, Ram vs. Silverado) and brands (BMW vs. Mercedes-Benz), the moment when CUVs eclipse regular passenger cars would be a true game changer for the American auto market.

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New York 2014: Outtakes Part 1 – The Masses Are Asses http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-outtakes-part-1-the-masses-are-asses/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-outtakes-part-1-the-masses-are-asses/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:01:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=808714 photo (20)

One of the cars I was least impressed with was the Mercedes-Benz GLA. Even when giving the show floor example the benefit of the doubt for being pre-production or early build, this car just screams “poor execution”.

Like the CLA, the interior has a veneer of “premium” – until you get up close and see that the wood “veneer” is really just molded plastic with a tortoise-shell looking finish. The switches are all horribly cheap and the screen jutting out of the dash is reminiscent of a cheap Taiwan-made Android tablet.

Most glaring was the rear hatch area. The amount of seam sealer placed on the top near the hatch struts is gratuitous, even for an early build car – especially for one sitting on the floor of a major auto show. You wouldn’t expect that on a $15k Hyundai Accent, let alone a Mercedes-Benz.

But it doesn’t matter. Mercedes will sell every single one of these cars (or lease them for $0 down, $299 a month at 36 months), just on the back of their stellar brand. Nobody will care about this, the crummy interior or the lack of cargo and passenger space. They won’t even notice it – just the three-pointed star on the hood. As my late grandfather used to say “The Masses Are Asses”.

 

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Beijing 2014: Hyundai ix25 Previews B-Segment Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/beijing-2014-hyundai-ix25-previews-b-segment-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/beijing-2014-hyundai-ix25-previews-b-segment-crossover/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=807906 hyundai-ix25-concept-1

 

It’s only a matter of time before Hyundai officially enters the small crossover space with something below the Tucson. The ix25 concept is a good indication of what we should expect. Powered by a 2.0L GDI engine, the ix25 is a much better example of Hyundai’s new design language – it looks a bit dull on the new Sonata, but it really works on a two-box shape.

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New York 2014: Chevrolet Makes Trax With New B-Segment Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-chevrolet-makes-trax-with-new-b-segment-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-chevrolet-makes-trax-with-new-b-segment-crossover/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:18:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=799298 2015-Chevrolet-Trax-7_edited-1

 

It’s impolite to gloat, but we called the introduction of the Chevrolet Trax back in March. It’s nice to be right once in a while.

Using the same underpinnings and 1.4L drivetrain as the Buick Encore, the Trax will go up against the Jeep Renegade, Nissan Juke, Honda Vezel and other entrants in the subcompact crossover segment. The Korean-made Trax is already on sale in Canada, starting at about $17,000 USD. That price probably won’t change much when it comes to America. Though versions with AWD and more equipment will get pricier.

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Lexus Reveals Its Most Important Product Since The LS400 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/lexus-nx200/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/lexus-nx200/#comments Sun, 13 Apr 2014 17:56:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=796402 01-lexus-nx-concept-1

Lexus is launching their long awaited small crossover at this month’s Beijing Auto Show. Dubbed the NX, it will be the first Lexus product with a turbocharged engine.

Aside from the 2.0T engine, a naturally aspirated NX200 and an NX300h hybrid (which shares its powertrain with the Lexus ES300h) will also be offered. Exact specs haven’t been announced.

For TTAC readers, the NX is a non-event, another boring crossover to add to the ever-growing pile of soulless two-box vehicles that should be wagons. But for Lexus, this is a vitally important product, a competitor in the booming small crossover segment.

In Europe, Lexus has traditionally been an also-ran, fielding a lineup of cars that are considered uncompetitive thanks to thirsty gasoline engines, a dearth of diesel options and a lack of compelling reasons to pick one over a rival luxury brand. The NX is their best hope at changing things.

The small crossover segment could not be hotter, and if the pricing is right, Lexus might be able to make some headway against the Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1 and Audi Q3. The lack of a diesel won’t help, but the hybrid version might do well due to low CO2 emissions, even though hybrids traditionally have not done well on The Continent. In markets like China, Russia and Brazil and India, the diesel conundrum is less important. What matters is the “premium” perception that goes along with the Lexus brand and CUVs in general. The NX won’t break new ground in quality and value like the LS did – but it might just kick off a second wind for the brand in the markets that matter most.

 

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Honda Vezel Becomes HR-V In USA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-vezel-becomes-hr-v-in-usa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-vezel-becomes-hr-v-in-usa/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 04:36:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=788618 2015-Honda-Vezel-Main-Art3
Automotive News is reporting that Honda is reviving an old, but unused moniker for their new small crossover.

Honda fansite Temple of VTEC originally reported that Honda will ditch the “Vezel” name for North America, instead dubbing their new B-segment CUV the “HR-V”. This finding seems to be confirmed by AN, which found trademark filings for the moniker.

Like the Vezel, the original HR-V was positioned below the CR-V, though it never was exported to North America. For a Honda, its design was fairly progressive, though it was likely too small and too slow to succeed in the size-obsessed North American market in the early 2000′s.

This time, things are different. Crossovers, not SUVs, are the hot new thing, displacing sales of more traditional B, C and D segments. Honda will produce the HR-V at its new Mexican plant, which is set up to build both the Fit and the HR-V. And with the B-segment crossover space heating up, the HR-V is a well timed move for Honda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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America’s Best Selling Police Car Is Now A Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/americans-best-selling-police-car-is-now-a-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/americans-best-selling-police-car-is-now-a-crossover/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 23:02:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=780081 450x300xFord-Taurus-Explorer-Police-Interceptor-450x300.jpg.pagespeed.ic.EiSRv6Y6ye

When Ford killed off the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, the police car market was left wide open. But the Blue Oval appears to have managed to brought a suitable replacement to market, though it’s not the traditional three-box police sedan.

Many departments found the Dodge Charger too cramped and the Chevrolet Caprice a tough sell to those in charge of purchasing (due to not being built in America). Ford’s Taurus Interceptor was tested by TTAC, and it too, was found to be too small for most police officers wearing a utility belt and holster.

According to USA Today, the Explorer-based Utility Interceptor appears to be the most popular Ford police car, and the best-selling police vehicle in America. Last year, Ford sold roughly 14,000 UIs while moving just under 11,000 of the Taurus based Interceptors, for an overall police vehicle market share of about 50 percent.

The UI’s larger interior and ability to hold more gear appears to be a big draw for many departments, and is the natural extension of the trend towards the adoption of the Chevrolet Tahoe (which will finally get an all-wheel drive Pursuit Rated version to compete with the AWD UI). Officers apparently like being higher up and enjoy the space that the two-box bodystyle affords. The balance hasn’t completly tipped in favor of the UI, and many departments are still happy with sedans. But the shift towards SUVs and CUVs in place of large sedans could be a harbinger for the broader auto market.

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QOTD: Is The Chevrolet Trax Debuting In New York? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/qotd-is-the-chevrolet-trax-debuting-in-new-york/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/qotd-is-the-chevrolet-trax-debuting-in-new-york/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 15:14:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776665 800px-Chevrolet_Trax_LS+_1.4_4WD_–_Frontansicht,_11._August_2013,_Wuppertal

Sources tell us that General Motors is set to debut at least one new model at the 2014 New York Auto Show, and that model will apparently be a small crossover for the Chevrolet brand.

Based on what we know, it’s likely that the vehicle in question is the Chevrolet Trax, which is related to the Buick Encore and Opel Mokka. The Trax is already sold in Canada, and ostensibly homologated to meet Canadian standards (which are very close to America’s FMVSS standard), which should reduce the normally prohibitive harmonization costs that tend to prevent world market vehicles from being sold in North America.

If the Trax is indeed the debut, it would be a shrewd one by GM. The small crossover segment is booming worldwide, and even Americans, with their legendary aversion to small hatchbacks, seem to be embracing them as long as they ride a little higher and look a little taller. The Buick Encore is selling better than expected (and completely counter to my own predictions), and while 30,000 units isn’t going to set the world on fire, it’s a good indication that a Chevrolet counterpart will succeed in the market. With Nissan’s Juke and the BMW X1 already occupying the segment, and competitors from Honda and Jeep on the way, as well as entrants from Mercedes and Audi, the small crossover segment will be the one to watch in the coming years. And don’t be surprised if sales of small sedans shrink proportionately.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe there is a new Zeta-based Caprice? Some kind of new Buick based on the Opel Adam or Cascada? Perhaps a new body-on-frame SUV? Or even the Orlando? We’ll know starting April 14th, when the NY Auto Show kicks off.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander SE FWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-2014-mitsubishi-outlander-se-fwd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-2014-mitsubishi-outlander-se-fwd/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 17:55:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770034 2014-Mitsubishi-Outlander-2

A week ago, I asked the Best and Brightest for help in understanding my wife’s desire for a 7-seat vehicle. Uninhibited by the premise of the question, recommendations on what to buy poured in:

  • Honda CR-V
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Planned Parenthood gift certificate
  • Cadillac XTS in Pearl White Tricoat
  • Dodge Caravan
  • Anything except a Dodge Caravan

Several readers submitted well-formulated responses, but the volume of possibilities was dizzying. Mitsubishi may have had a similar problem when redesigning the 2014 Outlander.

At most automakers, product planning is a tough job. Keep things too similar between generations and you risk falling behind. Stray too far from a successful formula and you end up with the second generation Scion xB. Every mistake is an expensive one.

But what about Mitsubishi? The previous generation Outlander was one of the cheaper, sportier rides in the segment and featured unique touches like magnesium shift paddles, a trick two-piece tailgate and an aluminum roof. Per data from TTAC contributor Timothy Cain on Good Car Bad Car, Mitsubishi’s best year for the Outlander was in 2003, with just over 34,000 sold. Crossover sales grew exponentially over the ensuing years, but only 7,750 Outlanders found homes in 2012.

With so few customers to alienate, almost any change would boost sales. So did Mitsubishi double down on sportiness or some other niche? Not really – at least not yet. A PHEV is coming, but for now we are left with a page borrowed from the 2012 Civic’s playbook – decreased MSRPs and a still-cheap interior.

Let’s start by giving credit where credit is due. Prospective buyers can make their own value propositions, but the Outlander is undeniably affordable. A base-trim ES, which includes a 166 hp 2.4 liter SOHC four-cylinder, a CVT, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry and auto-off headlights, costs $23,820 including destination ($200 less than last year). For $24,620, the SE adds in 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity entry, push-button start, heated front seats, a 6.1 inch touchscreen display with a rear camera and the FUSE hands-free system. Super All-Wheel Control, better known as “all-wheel drive” to everyone outside Diamond Star forums, is optional on the mid-level SE and standard on the top-shelf GT ($28,620).

Choosing the GT also yields a 224 hp 3.0 V6, a “Sportronic” six-speed automatic transmission and enables the privilege of ordering the $6,100 Touring package. For over 25% of the base price, this package includes radar-based cruise control, leather seats, a lane departure system and other gadgets.  Apparently, no amount of money can improve the integration of these toys though. Cheap touches like a slap-dash ignition-hole cover on push-start models, left a poor impression.

Regardless of trim level, the Outlander did well in NHSTA and IIHS crash testing. The “good” score on the IIHS small overlap front test, a rarity right now, should be very marketable compared to competing 2014 models.  Fuel economy is also competitive – 25 EPA city, 31 highway, 27 combined for units with FWD, the inline four and a CVT. This efficiency is certainly aided by a curb weight as low as 3,274 pounds in the FWD ES trim.

An increased use of high-strength steel in the crash structure gets some credit for the lithe curb weight, but where did the rest of the savings come from? The recently-reviewed Cherokee weighs about 700 pounds more with just FWD, and even a Dodge Dart weighs 3,348 pounds with the 2.4 and an automatic. Both the Cherokee and Dart are lauded for being relatively quiet vehicles though. Can the Outlander make this claim?

NO. I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MANY DECIBELS WE EXPERIENCED WHEN CRUISNG AT 70 MPH, BUT MY WIFE AND I HAD TO TALK LIKE THIS. Road noise is pervasive, but the inline four will likely be the bigger issue for most drivers.

Show me a raucous, performance-tuned engine, and I’ll smile.  Show me another Outlander with the 2.4, and I’ll groan – like the MIVEC. From the parking lot to the freeway, the engine constantly made itself known. More sound-deadening is a must.

Interior fit and finish also need another round of polishing. It may have just been an issue with the dealer’s specimen I drove, but a constant dash rattle was a disappointment. My wife’s car has 86,000 miles and rattles. My car has 145,000 miles and rattles. This car had 21 miles and rattled. That isn’t progress.

As expected, the 2.4 and CVT provide a driving experience best described as “imitation vanilla”. While not inappropriate for a crossover, most competitors offer more polished, anodyne experiences. Acceleration around town was acceptable, but highway passing required planning. Good visibility in all directions was a positive, and maneuverability in and out of tight spaces was good. Still, I don’t disagree with TTAC alum Michael Karesh describing the suspension as “under-damped”. I also found the electric steering to require constant adjustments on-center, even at city speeds.

Driving dynamics may not be a big deal in this segment, but aesthetics can be. I’ll leave the critical analysis to our in-house styling expert, but a schnoz this unique needs to be mentioned. The shark-nosed Outlander (2010-2013) drew neutral-to-positive responses from everyone I spoke to. The 2014 generally left those same people puzzled. Mitsubishi needs to stand out from the herd to survive, but this may not be the best way to attract attention.

The seventh inning stretch of the review has been reserved for the most important part of the car – its interior space. Don’t stretch too far though or you’ll likely strike a passenger. With 183.3 inches of length, the seven-seat Outlander is shorter than all other seven-seaters save the 2014 Nissan Rogue (182.3’’). For a point of comparison, the five-seat Chevy Equinox (187.8’’) is longer than either.

I had no issues with front seat space, though seat padding was thin and my back disagreed with the contours. I have a trim build and average height, so larger individuals might have more issues.

Tumbling the second row isn’t as smooth as some competitors, but it does slide fore and aft easily. That’s good, because you’ll need to slide those seats forward for even children to fit into the third row. A photo of me stuffed in the third row exists but did not come out well. Picture a grown man in a Cozy Coupe and you’ll get the idea.

Comparing manufacturer-calculated interior space is tricky business, but the 2014 Outlander loses space even compared to its predecessor.  Folding the second and third rows yield a flat floor with 63.3 cubes of space, but the 2013 featured 72.6. The ’14 can only hold 10.3 cubes with the seats up, so this isn’t likely to be the right car for livery duty in a large family.

For some buyers, all of these warts will be covered by the generous warranty – 10-years/100,000 miles on the powertrain. Will Mitsubishi will be here to replace recalcitrant CVTs over the coming decade? Maybe. Most companies would have already left the market rather than launching a new crossover and compact car. Perhaps the risk-averse should look elsewhere, but they likely already have.

If you want a cheap, safe crossover with a long warranty, the Outlander should be on your list. How much are you willing to overlook for as little as $23,820 though? Maybe the PHEV will quell the noise and improve interior finish, but current buyers have a lot of provisos to consider.

Mitsubishi is probably drowning in possibilities though, so what is my advice worth? In my debut article, several commenters advised to just let my wife pick whatever she wants. The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander isn’t that crossover.

When first published, this article incorrectly described the 4-cylinder engine as being a carryover from 2013. Commenter Mitsu_fan straightened me out. Displacement is unchanged, but the 2014 Outlander features a newer SOHC design relative to last year’s DOHC. My apologies for the mistake.

 

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In Defense Of: The Honda CR-V http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/in-defense-of-the-honda-cr-v/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/in-defense-of-the-honda-cr-v/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 15:17:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=760329 2012-Honda-CR-V_04-550x366

I’ve spent a fair amount of time driving and writing about crossovers. It’s not exactly the way I wanted things to work out, but we can’t all be Chris Harris. Having spent the last few months behind the wheel of the segment’s big players, I’ve come to a conclusion that seems to be a frequent theme of my automotive recommendations: what I’d pick for myself is not what I’d recommend to anyone else.

Having just had seat time with an Ecoboost-powered Escape and a Mazda CX-5, I am pretty sure that if I ever needed some kind of two-box vehicle, those would be at the top of my list. Both the Escape and the CX-5 are the only entrants that could be called “fun to drive” with a straight face. The Ecoboost powered versions of the Escape have plenty of power and decent chassis dynamics, while the Mazda trades some of that grunt for a much better chassis, and an overall car-like feeling. The Escape gets pretty awful fuel economy, while both are hobbled by frustrating infotainment systems – the Mazda’s looks like something from the 32-bit era of video gaming, while the Escape’s options range from “unusable” to “distracted driving hazard waiting to happen”.

I could find a way to cope with their respective quirks, but that’s because I value some kind of driver engagement, no matter what kind of car it is. The CX-5 would make a great daily driver for someone like me. But I am not most people. Most people don’t care about how a crossover drives. If they’re asking for advice on any car, it likely means that they need the simplest, most trouble-free experience possible. If they’re asking for advice on a crossover, it’s probably somebody in Daniel Latini’s shoes, who has a young family, and is looking for something that makes their life easier.

This is where the Honda CR-V comes in. I’ve driven the CR-V plenty of times. It’s about as exciting to drive as eating Bran Flakes. The interior looks like a more contemporary version of 1990′s Honda fare (lots of hard plastic, plenty of buttons). It’s a little noisy and a little down on power, like most Hondas tend to be. But it’s one of the most brilliantly packaged CUVs ever created.

Rather than lift objects up and into the cargo compartment, the floor sits at about knee height, eliminating the much of the strenuous motion required to put strollers and suitcases into the cargo area. For anyone who has to load and unload something like a stroller or suitcases, it’s a wonderfully thoughtful touch. If more room is required, a pull-tab located on the rear seatback will let the rear bench fold with just one pull. No fiddling with headrests and levers – it’s easily accessible from the cargo compartment and takes two seconds. The cherry on top for the CR-V’s triad of useful gadgets is a backup camera, which was integrated with the navigation unit on our EX-L test car. The backup camera has three modes; a standard view, a wide-angle lens and a 90 degree downward view, akin to a periscope, that gives the driver a better view of protruding objects (pillars, poles and the like) that can cause expensive bumper damage with only light contact.

Instead of going for the Ford or Mazda route with fancy tech or engaging dynamics, Honda chose to focus on little incremental improvements, things that will sell the car on the showroom floor during the dealer’s sales pitch. It seems to be working. The CR-V was the best-selling crossover last year, with over 300,000 units moving off showroom floors. I don’t expect that lead to evaporate any time soon. As long as people like Daniel come knocking for advice, my recommendation will stay the same.

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2015 Jeep Renegade: 9-Speeds And A Manual-Only Powertrain http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2015-jeep-renegade-9-speeds-and-a-manual-only-powertrain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2015-jeep-renegade-9-speeds-and-a-manual-only-powertrain/#comments Sun, 02 Mar 2014 19:30:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=759417 2015-jeep-renegade

 

Our friends at Jalopnik published the first decent photo of the new Jeep Renegade – which shares a platform with the Fiat 500X and replaces the Jeep Patroit/Compass – but kudos to Autoblog for publishing tiny thumbnails of the Trailhawk’s rear end (above is the Trailhawk) and the standard model’s front end. Both are in the gallery below. UPDATE: Two more photos added.

Our sources tell us that North America will get a 1.4T powered version with a 6-speed manual as the sole transmission option. The other engine will be the familiar 2.4L 4-cylinder with a 9-speed automatic. Reports claim that some kind of removable roof will be an option as well.

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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 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.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-004

Interior

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

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

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

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

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior uConnect 8.4

Infotainment

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

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

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

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Drivetrain

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

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

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

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

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-004Modifications

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

Pricing

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

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

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

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Drive

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

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

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

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

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Wheel

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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