The Truth About Cars » Jeep Cherokee The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 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 (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 Cherokee Don’t Hold Your Breath For A Diesel Jeep Cherokee Fri, 27 Jun 2014 12:30:44 +0000 550x365x2014-Jeep-Cherokee-001-550x365.jpg.pagespeed.ic.ku6Uutu7nr

The Jeep Grand Cherokee received a diesel option earlier this year, but don’t look for the Cherokee to get one any time soon – at least not in North America.

Speaking to Automotive News, Manley said that while the Grand Cherokee diesel take rate is about 8 percent, that number would have to increase before the Cherokee could get a diesel

“Cherokee is slightly different because of its weight and size. When I think about bringing Cherokee diesel here, I would like to see Grand Cherokee diesel get much higher than 8 percent…It would have to be in mid-double digits.”

While a diesel Cherokee likely has many fans on the internet, reality is more complex. A diesel Cherokee would have to sell in sufficient numbers to meet very stringent U.S. regulations, and would have to come in at a pricepoint that is palatable to American buyers. In the Grand Cherokee, the diesel carries a $4,500 premium.

There’s also the matter of capacity. With Jeep building about 250,000 units globally at its Toledo, Ohio plant, they may not have room to mess with the current model mix by adding a diesel. The Cherokee may not be tops on the compact CUV sales charts, sales are brisk and inventories are well controlled. Jeep is likely selling every Cherokee they can produce for the U.S. market, and a diesel may not be necessary – yet.

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Jeep Re-Builds UK Dealer Network In Advance Of Cherokee Launch Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:00:22 +0000 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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Car Guys & Gals You Should Know About – Roy Lunn’s Resume: Ford GT40, Boss 429 Mustang, Jeep XJ Cherokee, AMC Eagle 4X4 and More! Sun, 30 Mar 2014 14:00:05 +0000 Roy Lunn (on right) receiving an award from the Society of Automotive Engineers for the Eagle 4X4

Roy Lunn (on right) receiving an award from the Society of Automotive Engineers for the Eagle 4X4

You may not have heard the name Roy Lunn, but undoubtedly you’ve heard about the cars that he guided into being. You think that’s an exaggeration? Well, you’ve heard about the Ford GT40 haven’t you? How about the original XJ Jeep Cherokee? Lunn headed the team at Ford that developed the LeMans winning GT40. Later as head of engineering for Jeep (and ultimately VP of engineering for AMC) he was responsible for the almost unkillable Cherokee, Jeep’s first unibody vehicle, a car that remained in production for over two decades with few structural changes and could be said to be the first modern SUV. In addition to those two landmark vehicles, Lunn also was in charge of the engineering for  two other influential cars, the original two-seat midengine Mustang I concept and the 4X4 AMC Eagle. If that’s not an impressive enough CV for a car guy, before Ford, he designed the Aston Martin DB2 and won an international rally. After he retired from AMC, he went to work for its subsidiary, AM General, putting the original military Humvee into production. Oh, he also had an important role in creating one of the most legendary muscle cars ever, the Boss 429 Mustang. So, yeah, you should know about Roy C. Lunn.


Aston Martin DB2. Full gallery here.

Roy C. Lunn was born in 1925 in England. I haven’t been able to find anything out about his childhood, but he must have been a bit of a prodigy. He  earned mechanical and aeronautical engineering degrees and served for two years during World War II in the Royal Air Force, training as a pilot, all by the time he was a legal adult. In addition to his engineering degrees he also had training as a toolmaker and designer, and in 1946 he got his first job in the automotive industry, working for AC cars as a designer at the age of 21. His talent caught the notice of David Brown, who hired him a year later to be assistant chief designer at Aston Martin. Brown put him in charge of the DB2 program. By 1949, he was at Jowett, where he helped prepare the Jupiter sports car for production and had a hand in the development of one of the earliest fiberglass bodied cars. A competitive driver, he shared the saloon class victory co-driving a Jupiter Javelin for Marcel Becquart in the 1952 RAC International Rally of Great Britain. You can see Becquart racing that car in that rally starting at about 1:55 of this video:

Click here to view the embedded video.

After that somewhat peripatetic early career, as Lunn approached his 30s, he settled down and hired in at Ford in 1953 and was put in charge of starting up Ford of England’s new research and development center in Birmingham. His team there developed the original prototype of what would be the 105E Anglia, a critical car to the postwar success of Ford in the UK. Moving to Ford’s Dagenham works, he took on the job of product planning manager for Ford of England and ushered the Anglia into production.

105E Ford Anglia.

105E Ford Anglia.

Emigrating to the United States in 1958, Lunn was made manager of Ford’s Advanced Vehicle Center in Dearborn. He supervised a number of projects including Ford’s first front wheel drive vehicle, the Cardinal, which was developed into the Ford of Germany’s Taunus . While the Anglia and Taunus were important cars for Ford in Europe, they’re both sedans. Lunn’s role in the development of the Mustang I concept is probably of more interest to the average car enthusiast.

P4 Ford Taunus 12M

P4 Ford Taunus 12M

In the early 1960s, an idea that had been percolating around Detroit since Chevy ad man Barney Clark first proposed that GM build a small, sporting four seater with classic long hood short deck proportions finally got the attention of some higher-ups at Ford. Lee Iacocca gave the go ahead to the development of a small sporty car designed to appeal to young adults. Because of Lunn’s experience in racing and as a chief designer, his team was tasked with designing a chassis and mechanical components to underpin a design based on sketches by a young Ford designer named Phil Clark (who quite likely also originated the Mustang name and galloping pony badge). Ford senior designer John Najjar, in an oral history given to the University of Michigan, Dearborn, described Lunn’s role in creating the first Mustang concept car:

Roy Lunn designed all the tubular structure, the suspen­sion, the engines. He got all that equipment built and shipped out to [a fabricator on] the West Coast. It was all put together, we finished our clay model in something like eight weeks’ time, and, I guess, Roy had something like sixty days to build an operable vehicle. To see that thing go from an idea to finished product was an exciting time.

Ford Mustang I concept. Full galleries here and here.

Ford Mustang I concept. Full galleries here and here.

You can read Lunn’s own account of the development of what is now known as the Mustang I. In January of 1963, he published a technical paper with the Society of Automotive Engineers titled, The Mustang – Ford’s Experimental Sports Car. While the four cylinder, two seat, midengine Mustang I didn’t really directly influence the production Mustang, it did end up influencing early production midengine cars like the Lotus Europa and Fiat X/19. Using the V4 engine and transaxle from the Taunus, the Mustang I concept was possibly the first midengine car to move a front wheel drive powertrain to behind the driver. Indirectly, positive consumer response to the Mustang I when it was on the show circuit convinced Ford executives to go forward with the production pony car. 

By 1962 Lunn had became a U.S. citizen. Also, by then Henry Ford the second had been rebuffed in his effort to buy Ferrari. Despite the American car manufacturers’ public disavowal of racing in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Deuce wanted Ford to win, bankrolling efforts in NASCAR, and at Indianapolis with Lotus (a relationship that would also bear fruit in Formula One as the Cosworth Ford DFV engine). When Ferrari wouldn’t sell, HFII decided to beat him at his own game, at LeMans, a race important to Ferrari’s image and the racing world’s biggest stage.

The popular account of the history of Ford’s iconic 1960s racer is that to save time, Eric Broadley’s Lola Mk 6 was developed into the Ford GT40, which itself became the Mk II and Mk IV cars that won four years in a row at LeMans, 1966-69. According to the Ford engineers involved, though, while it was true that Ford used Broadley’s shop and design to jump start their endurance racing effort, the Ford GT40 was not a Lola. To manage Ford’s new GT racing effort, Lunn temporarily moved back to England, joining former Aston Martin factory racing team manager John Wyer at Broadley’s Lola, then little more than a garage. However, while Broadley’s skill at fabrication was respected, he soon was edged out and went on to develop his own very successful (and rather beautiful) competition car, the Lola T70.

One of the original Gulf livery race cars, this GT40 Mk II won LeMans as a privateer in 1968 and 1969. Full gallery here.

One of the original Gulf livery race cars, this GT40 Mk II won LeMans as a privateer in 1968 and 1969. Full gallery here.

In the Spring 1964 issue of Automobile Quarterly, an article based on another of Lunn’s SAE papers said, concerning Ford’s LeMans effort, “By July, 1963, a basic design and style had been established at Dearborn…”

Ford project engineer Bob Negstad, whose own resume includes designing the suspension of the Shelby Daytona Coupe, worked on the Ford GT project from the beginning and he was sent to the UK to join Lunn and Wyer at Broadley’s shop. Negstad, in an interview quoted at How Stuff Works, though, was adamant that the GT40′s design was Ford’s not Lola’s, though he acknowledged that Broadley did much of the prototype’s original build. A “brilliant fabricator”, is how Negstad described Broadley, who was trained as an architect, not an engineer.

“Broadley was technically naive,” Negstad said, “a trial-and-error man,” and the Lola shop was a “terribly old, obsolete building lit by a single 40-watt bulb.” He said that Ford was attracted to Broadley to save time. His ability to quickly build what they wanted, along with having a car of similar layout to Dearborn’s plans that could be used as test mule as they refined their own design was what put Ford and Lola together.

The Ford GT was introduced to the press and the public at the New York Auto Show in the spring of 1964. To say it had teething problems would be an understatement. Henry Ford II was increasingly embarrassed by the car’s lack of racing success, but he smartly turned the management of the factory team over to Carroll Shelby, who helped develop the GT40 into a dominant race car as well as putting together a professional racing team. Finally, in 1966, the GT40 finished 1-2-3 at LeMans. Again, Lunn published a technical paper with the SAE, in 1967, this time on the GT40′s development titled “Development of Ford GT Sports-Racing Car, Covering Engine, Body, Transaxle, Fuel System, Suspension, Steering, and Brakes.”

Because of the involvement of Broadley and the cars fabrication in the UK there may be some debate if the 1966 GT40 was the first “American” car with an overall win at LeMans. The next car that Ford took to LeMans, the GT40 Mark IV, was all American, designed by a team headed by Lunn in Dearborn, built at Kar Kraft in Brighton (Michigan, not England), and driven to victory by Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt.

The 1-2-3 finish at LeMans in 1966, with that famous staged photograph showing all three cars approaching the finish line, was cause for celebration but Lunn was already focused on a new, lighter car. Two candidates were evaluated, a prototype with a tub made of aluminum sheet, designed and fabricated by McLaren Racing Ltd, and an in-house project known as the J-Car (for meeting the standards in Appendix J in the rule book), with a tub made of lightweight 1/2 thick aluminum honeycomb sandwiched between two aluminum panels, with everything bonded together. Lunn, a forward thinking engineer, liked the more modern and very stiff honeycomb material and he convinced his superiors at Ford to go in that direction.

The J-Car and GT40 Mk IV were fabricated using lightweight sandwiched aluminum honeycomb.

The J-Car and GT40 Mk IV were fabricated using lightweight sandwiched aluminum honeycomb.

The first prototype, J-1, had a chassis weight of only 86 lbs, with a total vehicle weight of 2,660 lbs, coming close to meeting Lunn’s goal of a 300 lb weight reduction from the GT40 Mk II. A second prototype, J-2, was built, with Kar Kraft of Brighton, Michigan continuing with the fabrication as Ford had sold off Ford Advanced Vehicles. Unfortunately, the very talented driver, Ken Miles, was killed in a testing accident caused by mechanical failure in the J-2 car. Lunn, working with Ford chassis engineer Chuck Mountain and master fabricator Phil Remington, continued to develop the J-Car, creating a new body with a Can Am style tail, a longer nose on the front of the car and a new roofline that flowed more smoothly, allowing the use of a back window. The restyled car was renamed the GT40 Mark IV. Cars were prepared for the 1967 LeMans race, with J-5 being assigned to American drivers Gurney and Foyt. Henry Ford II was happy with the 1-2-3 finish in 1966, but he wasn’t thrilled about that car’s British origins or the fact that the drivers of the winning car, Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren, were both New Zealanders.

Note the "Gurney bubble" over the driver's seat in the 1967 LeMans winning Ford GT40 Mk IV. Full gallery here.

Note the “Gurney bubble” in the roof over the driver’s seat in the 1967 LeMans winning Ford GT40 Mk IV. Full gallery here.

J-5 needed some special bodywork that the other Mk IVs didn’t have. Dan Gurney is a rarity, a tall racer, and to give his helmet clearance, Kar Kraft had to build in a Zagato style bump in the roof, today known as the “Gurney bubble” that makes the LeMans winner immediately recognizable. Gurney celebrated by spraying the winners’ circle with champagne, initiating a racing tradition that continues to this day.

For 1968, an engine rules change meant Ford could no longer use their big 7 liter / 427 cubic inch big block. Having made his point to Enzo Ferrari and the racing world, the Deuce shuttered Ford’s endurance racing effort, selling the team to JW Engineering, where John Wyer was one of the principals. Wyer managed to convince Gull Oil’s CEO, who had some experience racing his own GT40, to sponsor the team. Gulf had recently acquired a subsidiary that fortuitously used a similar corporate color scheme to Gulf’s orange and dark blue. It was decided that the subsidiary’s powder blue and orange made a better livery for racing cars. It indeed looks great but I have to wonder that if a car wearing those colors had not won LeMans two years running, in 1968 and 1969, 45 years ago, if today we’d still consider that livery so ideal for racing cars.

Designing and building cars that won four years in a row at LeMans would make any automotive engineer’s career a successful one. Lunn’s successful management of Ford’s LeMans effort, though, was just one of his notable accomplishments.

With Ford ending its factory LeMans effort, Lunn turned his attention back to production cars. As the 1960s came to a close, muscle cars were still popular and Detroit was undergoing one of its periodic horsepower wars. Having had success in Trans Am racing and in the showroom with the Boss 302 Mustang, Ford executive Bunkie Knudsen decided to up the ante and went ahead with putting Ford’s biggest performance engine, the big block based 429 cubic inch Cobra Jet V8, into the Mustang. The 429 CJ isn’t just a big block engine, it’s a physically large motor, with spark plugs inserted through the exceptionally wide valve covers. To shoehorn such a big engine in something based on the compact Falcon took some doing. The entire front end of the car had to be reengineered, with narrower shock absorber towers and a different crossmember. The work was jobbed out to Kar Kraft, but the modifications were done at Roy Lunn’s direction.

Roy Lunn was in charge of shoehorning that big and wide 429 Cobra Jet into the Boss 429 Mustang. Full gallery here.

Roy Lunn was in charge of shoehorning that big and wide 429 Cobra Jet engine into the Boss 429 Mustang. Full gallery here.

The Boss 429 would almost be Ford’s last hurrah for the muscle car era. The next iteration of the Boss nameplate would be the larger and slower 1971 Boss 351 Mustang. Perhaps Lunn saw the writing on the wall for the muscle era, with emissions controls starting to be mandated, or perhaps he looked at off-road, as opposed to on-track, performance for his next challenge, or maybe he was just offered more money and a bigger title, but for whatever reason, in 1971, Lunn left Ford to become director of engineering for Jeep, which had recently been acquired by American Motors Corporation.

Lunn’s most notable contributions at AMC reverberate until today. He helped invent the modern SUV and if you drive something with all wheel drive that isn’t truck based, you can thank him as well. The first of those contributions was the original Jeep Cherokee, internally known as the XJ. The XJ platform was Jeep’s first attempt to build a unibody vehicle. Concerned that traditional unibody architecture would not be up to the rigors of being a trail rated Jeep, Lunn’s team came up with what AMC marketers would call the Uniframe assembly. Instead of “body on frame”, the XJ Cherokee was more like body welded to frame. The Uniframe more or less involved integrating a traditional ladder frame into a unibody top hat, welding the two into one very strong structure. Because of those beefy frame rails, to this day some people still believe that the XJ used BOF construction.

Lunn's team designed a unibody for the XJ Cherokee so strong they were able to cut it up to make the Comanche pickup truck. Full gallery here.

Lunn’s team designed a unibody for the XJ Cherokee so strong they were able to cut it up to make the Comanche pickup truck. Full gallery here.

Some have described the Cherokee as being overengineered, which may help explain the Jeep SUV’s legendary durability, on the road and as a production vehicle. Kiplingers listed the XJ Cherokee as  one of “10 cars that refuse to die”, with many late 1980s and early 1990s models reaching 200,000 miles and more when that wasn’t commonplace, particularly with American made vehicles. Starting being built in 1984, it stayed in production in the United States into the 21st century. It lasted even longer in China. The Cherokee was the first American branded car to be made in China, the product of Beijing Jeep, also the first joint venture by an American car company in China. After AMC was acquired by Chrysler, they continued making the Cherokee in China, where it stayed in production as the Jeep 2500 until 2005.


The Cherokee’s architecture was so strong that when AMC decided to make a small truck to compete with the Ford Ranger, the Chevy S-10 and the import trucks, they were able to hack off the back half of the Cherokee’s body, add an X-shaped reinforcement between the frame rails, and bolt on a conventional separate pickup truck bed without losing structural integrity.

The XJ Cherokee didn’t just live a long production life. It’s also said by some to be responsible for the continued survival of Jeep today. The Cherokee’s sales success convinced Chrysler that AMC had viable product that didn’t overlap with vehicles in Chrysler, Plymouth and Dodge showrooms, resulting in Chrysler buying AMC to get Jeep, which continues to thrive.

Lunn’s other major contribution to the automotive world while working at AMC, the Eagle 4X4, accomplished many firsts. Today you can’t sell a luxury car north of the Mason-Dixon line if you don’t offer all wheel drive and now that Fiat Chrysler is joining Subaru with a sub $30,000 2015 Chrysler 200 AWD model, we’re likely going to see AWD proliferate in bread and butter mass market sedans. The Eagle was the first American car based vehicle with all wheel or four wheel drive. It also could be described as the first crossover, a slightly raised passenger car capable of some soft-roading.


The Eagle started out as a skunk works project of Lunn and his team. The first drawings were done in the basement of Lunn’s Ann Arbor home (some very significant cars started out in designers’ and engineers’ basements and kitchens, by the way). Jeep had earlier introduced the first true production full-time four wheel drive system, offering it as an option on their utility vehicles. Based on the Ferguson Formula (FF) full-time all-wheel-drive system invented by Britain’s Ferguson Research Ltd, and developed by AMC/Jeep and the New Process Gear company, the first “QuadraTrac” system used a conventional differential between the front and rear axles. It could be engaged on the fly while driving on pavement, or just left in 4WD mode all the time.


Lunn’s team took a Concord station wagon, jacked it up a few inches, and installed one of Jeep’s Quadra-Trac systems. AMC chairman Gerald C. Meyers saw it and later recalled, “our initial reaction to Lunn’s concoction was, ‘What the hell is it?’ The body was raised an extra four inches for transfer-case clearance and the wheel wells were wide open.” The second oil crisis, in 1979, had caused Jeep sales to dip and Meyers changed  his mind, seeing the concept as bridging the price gap between AMC’s economy cars and their less fuel efficient Jeeps, while giving consumers an option between the lower priced Subaru AWD vehicles and more expensive truck based four by fours from the domestic automakers. It also bridged the gap between two wheel drive cars and hardcore four wheel drive trucks. Muscular plastic fender flares bridged the large gap between the tires and the wheel wells and more body cladding visually lowered the sills.

AMC Eagle 4X4 Wagons. Full galleries here and here.

AMC Eagle 4X4 Wagons. Full galleries here.

As mentioned, Lunn and his engineers used Jeep’s first Quadra-Trac system on their prototype, but a later transfer case from New Process replaced that conventional differential with a unit that used 42 discs spinning in a silicone based viscous fluid. That allowed differential action with less drag (and thus better fuel economy) than conventional units, making it more suitable for a passenger car. Drivetrain drag causing poorer fuel economy has always been an issue with four and all wheel drive systems. The latest AWD system that Fiat Chrysler is installing in the new Jeep Cherokee has a mode that allows the rear axle to freewheel when the trucklet is operating in 2WD. My guess is that Lunn would approve.

Lunn with the chassis and drivetrain from an AMC Eagle 4X4.

Lunn with the chassis and drivetrain from an AMC Eagle 4X4.

At the rear of the Eagle’s automatic transmission is a single speed NPG119 transfer case which sends power to the front and rear of the car, using a Morse Hy-Vo chain to spin the front driveshaft. The viscous couplings in the transfer case are sensitive to velocity and allow slip between the two driveshafts, allowing them to spin at different speeds. What makes everything work is a fluid made by Dow Corning that some call “silly putty” and others call “honey-like”. It is a “fluid-shear force” silicone fluid that has high shear and heat resistance, allowing consistent performance from 40 below zero to over 400 degrees F. The viscous coupling also provided some anti-skid capabilities because the system tends to equalize driveshaft speeds. The front differential was mounted via a bracket to the left side of the engine crankcase and with the lifted suspension, Lunn and his engineers were able to run the right side half shaft underneath the oil sump, allowing the Eagle to retain the Concord’s independent front suspension.

The net result is that torque is transferred to the axle with the most traction, on wet or dry pavement, or, for the matter, on unpaved roads as well. Though it’s tempting to say that the Eagle was ahead of its time, that idiom is usually reserved for market failures. The Eagle, and later the hatchback Spirit based 4X4 were moderate successes for AMC. Of course the Eagle was indeed ahead of its time, anticipating jacked up station wagons with all four wheels being powered, like the Subaru Forester, the Audi Allroad and the Volvo XC models.


As was his practice, Lunn contributed a technical paper on the Eagle to the SAE. It should be noted that at AMC, he also had a hand in the continued development of what began as the AMC inline six and ended up as the Chrysler Jeep 4.0, an engine whose durability matched that of the XJ Cherokee. Five million of those engines were made.


Wrapping up his career at AMC, Lunn returned to performance cars after Renault bought American Motors. He was named president of Renault Jeep Sport, in charge of all AMC and Renault racing in the U.S. Part of that job involved the design of cars for a low-cost spec racing series in the SCCA. Some of Lunn’s 500 Spec Racer Renaults are still being raced today in NASA, while his basic design is still being used by SCCA’s Spec Racer Ford series. Returning to his rallying roots, in 1984, Lunn was in charge of the first ever American entry in the Paris-Dakar rally.


Lunn retired from American Motors Corp in 1985, but that retirement was short lived as he was immediately named VP of engineering for AMC’s AMC General subsidiary, which made mostly buses and military vehicles. The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), better known as the Humvee, progenitor of the Hummer, that AM General had designed for military use was approaching production. The company was running into issues getting the Army to issue acceptance approvals and Lunn’s task was to fix those problems and get the Humvee into production.

After an accomplished career that spanned over four decades, Lunn left AMC for good in 1987, retiring to homes in Florida and later in Italy. As far as I’ve been able to determine, he’s still alive. To be perfectly frank, until I started working on a post about one of the original Gulf Oil livery cars, the Ford GT40 that won at LeMans in both 1968 and 1969, I had no idea of Lunn’s involvement in the project. Had that been the only notable car he worked on, he would have been worth profiling, but as you have seen, the GT40 was just one of a number of Lunn’s historic accomplishments. As TTAC’s managing editor, Derek Kreindler, told me when I pitched him the story, “talk about an unsung hero”. Even as I edited and buttoned up this post, I discovered additional significant contributions that Lunn made, like his involvement with the Jeep 4.0 Six. I’m hard pressed to think of many other engineers that had a role in developing so many historically important cars as Roy C. Lunn did. He’s undoubtedly a car guy you should know about.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Capsule Review: Jeep Cherokee Take Two Thu, 27 Mar 2014 15:12:20 +0000 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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Ur-Turn: Saturation Dive Into The ZF 9-Speed Tue, 25 Feb 2014 18:03:02 +0000 fig1

A TTAC reader is an engineer with a major powertrain company, and offered his extremely detailed analysis of the ZF 9-speed. Consider this an AP level course in powertrain engineering.

Before we dive right in to the 9-speed gearbox, let’s take a quick refresher on the basics of gears. The simplest gear set consists of 2 parallel gears mounted on 2 parallel shafts. Shown in Fig.1 is a gear set with a 20 tooth drive gear on the right and a 30 tooth driven gear on the left. For this gear set the speed of the driven gear is 1.5 times lower than the drive gear, and assuming no frictional losses anywhere, the torque on the driven gear is 1.5 times higher. This gear set has a ratio of 1.5:1. This type of a gear set is usually not favorable for packaging since it requires 2 parallel shafts, and there are largest separating forces that push the 2 gears apart which means that the bearings supporting the shafts have significant radial loads on them, in addition to an axial load if the gears are helical.


A simple planetary arrangement is shown in Fig.2 - this is the basis of most modern automatic transmissions. A simple planetary gear set has 3 members mounted on concentric shafts, the innermost gear is called a sun gear, the outermost gear is called the ring gear, and there are evenly spaced planetary pinions that mesh with both the sun gear and the ring gear. These pinions are free to spin around their own axes, and ride on the planetary carrier, which is the third concentric member. The radial forces in a planetary gear arrangement cancel out due to symmetry, and therefore the bearings supporting these shafts do not see much, if any radial loads. Since the 3 shafts are concentric, there are significant packaging advantages as well. This particular planetary arrangement has a 30 tooth sun gear, 72 tooth ring gear, and 21 tooth pinions. For this gear arrangement to go together, the difference between the number of teeth on the ring gear and the number of teeth on the sun gear has to be an even number, and the sum of teeth on the ring gear and the sun gear has to be divisible by the number of planetary pinions. In this case, the sum of the number of teeth on the ring gear and the sun gear is 102, which is divisible by the number of planets (3), hence this is a feasible gear arrangement.

Since there are 3 members in a planetary gear set, one member has to be grounded (i.e. forced to stand still) for there to be a ratio. There are 3 possible ground members (the sun gear, the ring gear, or the carrier), and 2 possible input and output combinations possible for each ground member, therefore this arrangement can provide 6 different speeds. If the number of teeth on the ring gear is denoted by R and the number of teeth on the sun gear is denoted by S

  1. If the ring gear is grounded by the use of a brake, the sun gear is the input and the carrier is the output, the
    ratio of this arrangement is S+R/S or 3.4, i.e. the carrier is rotating 3.4 times slower
    than the sun gear. Therefore in this configuration output is underdriven with respect to the input. If the carrier is
    the input, and the sun gear is the output, then the output is overdriven by the same ratio.
  2. If the sun gear is grounded, the ring gear is the input and the carrier is the output, the
    ratio of this arrangement is S+R/R or 1.417, i.e. the carrier is rotating 1.417 times
    slower than the ring gear. If the carrier is
    the input, and the ring gear is the output, then the output is overdriven by the same ratio.
  3. If the planetary carrier is grounded, the sun gear is the input and the ring gear is the
    output, the ratio of this arrangement is R/S or -2.1875, i.e. the ring gear is rotating
    2.1875 times slower than the sun gear and in the opposite direction. Therefore this arrangement
    provides a reverse underdrive gear. If the ring gear is the input and the sun gear is the output,
    this arrangement becomes a reverse overdrive, and who needs a reverse overdrive?

If 2 of the members are tied together, then the ratio of planetary becomes 1:1, as all members turn at the same speed. A single planetary gear with the right set of clutches and brakes to change the ground member, the input, and the output can provide 5 forward ratios and 2 reverse ratios with 9 shifting elements (6 clutches and 3 brakes). Of course it is not be possible to package the all 9 of the shifting
elements in a practical manner, and the 5 forward ratios are 3.4, 1.417, 1.0, 0.7, and 0.29 – not very useful even if it were possible to achieve them. In engineering literature, a stick diagram”is often used as short-hand to describe planetary gear sets, for the planetary shown in Fig.2 the stick diagram is shown in Fig.3.


Planetary gears can also carry a lot more torque in the same packaging envelope because the load is distributed between multiple gear meshes. Need more torque capacity than the 3 planet gears can provide? You can nearly double that by putting in 6 planets on the planetary carrier.

Now on to the ZF 9 speed – there is a high level presentation available from the ZF website. This presentation has some detailed CAD renders in it, but not a whole lot of detail on the exact function of the transmission. The 2 CAD renders are shown tell us that there are 4 planetary gear sets in this transmission.


Image converted using ifftoany

Image converted using ifftoany

From these CAD renders the patient among the B&B can see that the one ring gear visible in Fig.4 has 86 teeth, and the 4 planets have 22 teeth, which means the sun gear that is not fully visible in the view is a 42 tooth gear. Fig.6 shows the stick diagram representation of the ZF 9 speed transmission, with 4 planetary gear sets numbered 1 through 4 from left to right. If one were to spend 10 minutes gawking at the cut-away transmissions that ZF does bring to trade shows, the following gear specifications can be established quite easily

  1. Gear set 1 has a 42 tooth sun gear and a 110 tooth ring gear
  2. Gear set 2 has a 42 tooth sun gear and a 110 tooth ring gear
  3. Gear set 3 has a 91 tooth sun gear and a 133 tooth ring gear 1
  4. Gear set 4 has a 42 tooth sun gear and a 86 tooth ring gear


The input is the output shaft of the torque converter, which is not shown in Fig.6. The torque converter is obviously driven by the engine. The planetary carrier of gear set 1 is the output to the final drive of the transmission. The following elements are rigidly linked

  1. The 2 sun gears for gear sets 1 and 2 are connected together, in fact it is one wide gear
  2. The ring gear for gear set 1 is linked to the planetary carrier of gear set 2.
  3. The ring gear for gear set 2 is connected to the planetary carrier for gear set 3, which is also the
    planetary carrier for gear set 4
  4. The sun gear for gear set 3 is linked to the sun gear of gear set 4

Additionally, the 6 shifting elements work as follows

  1. Dog clutch A in connected state connects the sun gear of gear set 3 and the ring gear of gear set 4 to the
    input shaft
  2. Friction clutch B couples the sun gear of gear set 4 to the input shaft
  3. Friction brake C ties the sun gear of gear set 4 to ground, i.e. stops it from turning
  4. Friction brake D ties the ring gear of gear set 3 to ground
  5. Friction clutch E couples the planetary carrier of gear set 2 and the ring gear of gear set 1
    to the input shaft
  6. Dog brake F ties the sun gears of gear sets 1 and 2 to the ground

Now on to the gory calculations

First gear

First gear is achieved by engaging shift elements A, F, and D. In this configuration gear sets 1, 2, and 3 are used in series as underdrives, gear set 4 is just along for the ride. The sun gear of gear set 3 is connected to the input, and the ring gear is grounded, which leads to the carrier going slower than the input. The carrier is in turn connected to the ring gear of gear set 2, while the sun gear for gear set 2 is
grounded, causing the carrier of gear set 2 to be further under driven. Since the planetary carrier of gear set 2 is connected to the ring gear of gear set 1, and the sun gear of gear set 1 is connected to ground as well, the transmission output is underdriven even more. The overall ratio is


Second gear

An upshift to second gear is achieved by turning friction brake D off and engaging friction brake C, i.e. shift elements A, F, and C are engaged. Now gears sets 1, 2, and 4 are used as a cascaded series of underdrives. Operation of gears sets 1 and 2 is identical to the first gear, gear set 4 acts as an underdrive, while gear set 3 is along for the ride now. Gear set 4 acts as an underdrive because the transmission input is connected to the ring gear, the sun gear is held stationary by brake C, and the planetary carrier is the output. This leads to a ratio of


Third gear

The upshift to third hear is accomplished by releasing brake C and engaging clutch B. This operation causes both the ring gear and the sun gear of gear set 4 to be connected to the input, therefore the planetary carrier also turns at the same speed as the input. Since the planetary carrier of gear set 4 is connected to the ring gear of gear set 2, they both turn at the same speed, i.e. the input speed. The operation of gear sets 1 and 2 is unchanged, and they act as cascaded underdrives, yielding a gear ratio of


Fourth gear

By releasing clutch B and engaging clutch E, the transmission up shifts to 4th gear, i.e. shift elements A, F, and E are engaged. This action connects the ring gear of gear set 1 to the input, while the sun gear is connected to ground, setting up a straightforward underdrive ratio of


At this point, the 4 gear ratios have been achieved by leaving the 2 dog” elements engaged, and
cycling through the 4 friction elements – and the shifts between these gears are therefore expected
to feel normal”. At this point, the vehicle is going at 30-35 mph and the shift to gear 5 is coming
up, and things get a little interesting.

Fifth gear

To achieve fifth gear, dog brake F needs to be disengaged. This now leads to a brief torque interruption because as brake F is disengaged, the transmission is in Neutral and engaging the frictional element B prematurely would just lead to wear and tear on the transmission for no reason. At this point the transmission ECU and engine ECU are working in tandem to get this upshift done as quickly as possible. The ratio calculation is fairly trivial though, all 4 gear sets are turning at the speed of the input. Why? Because engaging elements A, B, and E means that

  • The ring gear and the sun gear of gear set 4 are connected to the input, i.e. the planetary carrier
    spins at the same speed as the input
  • Consequently, the sun gear and the planetary carrier for gear set 3 are spinning at the same
    speed as the input, i.e. the ring gear gears for gear sets 2 and 3 are turning at the same speed as
    the input
  • Through shift element E, the carrier of gear set 2 is turning at the same speed as the input,
    therefore the sun gear of gear set 2 (which is also the sun gear for gear set 1) is spinning at
    input speed
  • Since the ring gear and the sun gear of gear set 1 is turning at the same speed as the input,
    the planetary carrier which is the transmission output is turning at input speed

The ratio therefore is quite simply


Sixth gear

So far, things have been pretty simple but now the magic begins where planetary gear sets are going to act as mixer” modules, i.e. the input and output turn at different speeds, but the reacting or grounding member is also turning at some speed. The upshift to sixth gear is achieved by releasing clutch B and engaging brake C. This causes gear set 4 to act as an underdrive just like second gear, therefore ring gear of gear set 2 is turning at a speed which is approximately 1.5 times slower than the input speed. The difference between second gear and sixth gear is that brake F is disengaged andclutch E is engaged, which means that the common sun gear for gear sets 1 and 2 is spinning at approximately 1.85 times faster than the input. This sets up a kinematic state for gear set 1 where the ring gear is turning at the same speed as the input but the sun gear is turning at 1.85 times the speed of the input, therefore the carrier has to spin at approximately 1.25 times faster than the input speed – overdrive!. Since the B&B do not deal in approximations, the exact ratio is


Seventh gear

As sixth gear shows us, an underdriven ring gear of gear set 2 sets up an overdrive, seventh gear kicks it up a notch by underdriving the ring gear of gear set 2 even further. This is accomplished by releasing brake C and engaging brake D. The sun gear of gear set 3 through clutch A is connected to the input, while the ring gear is connected to the ground via brake D, which means that the carrier spins 2.46
times slower than the ring input, and the carrier is connected to ring gear of gear set 2. Therefore gear set 3 is in the same kinematic state as it is in first gear. This sets up a kinematic state for gear set 1 where the ring gear turns at the same speed as the input, but
the sun spins at a speed that is 2.85 times higher. Therefore at 2000 rpm engine speed, the sun gear of gear set 1 is spinning at 5700 rpm. A dog brake has essentially 0 parasitic losses, while a friction brake would have cost about a 0.2 horsepower drag. The ratio is


Eighth gear

Eighth gear is achieved by closing brakes C and D at the same time, while disconnecting clutch A. At this point in time, the torque levels are low enough that in my humble opinion only the most discerning driver would be able to feel the torque interruption. This causes gear sets 3 and 4 to stop turning entirely, therefore the ring gear of gear set 2 is grounded. This causes the sun gear for gear sets 1 and 2 to spin faster – 3.65 times the input speed and sets up another over drive ratio


Therefore at 2000 rpm engine the sun gear for gear sets 1 and 2 is turning at 7300 rpm. But we are
not done yet – things turn faster.

Ninth gear

If underdriving the ring gear of gear set 2 set up 2 overdrives, and grounding it set up another one, there is only one thing left to do, spin it backwards. Ninth gear does exactly that – by connecting clutch B and by the virtue of the fact that the ring gear for gear set 4 and the sun gear for gear set 3 are linked together, we have a very interesting kinematic state. Sun gear of gear set 4 spins at the input speed, the carrier for gear set 4 spins backwards at approximately half the input speed, and the ring gear turns backwards at 1.2 times the input speed. This means that the ring gear for gear set 2 is now spinning backwards at approximately half the input speed. The sun
gear of gear sets 1 and 2 is now turning at 4.95 times the input speed. If the car is going at 85 mph in the 4 cylinder engine variant at an engine speed of 2000 rpm, this little gear is going at any eye watering 9500 rpm. The use of a dog brake at F instead of a friction brake is saving 0.4 hp or about 0.4 miles per gallon, the ratio is


The interesting thing about the Ninth gear is that there are parts in the transmission spinning
backwards to send you forward.

Reverse gear

Reverse and 9th have the same kinematic states for gear sets 3 and 4, i.e. the ring gear for gear set 2 turns backwards at approximately half in the input speed. But gear sets 1 and 2 are switched over to an underdrive configuration which is identical to the configuration in First gear, i.e. brake F is engaged. The ratio is therefore



The only real kink when shifting up through the gears is that the 4 to 5 shift might have an objectionable torque interruption, but otherwise this transmission is going to be well behaved. Downshifting from say 7th to 5th is no problem as well, but a downshift from 8th or 9th to 5th is hard work for this design. As an example if the engine speed is 1700 rpm and a shift from 8th to 5th
is required (passing on 2 lane highways), clutch A has 1700 rpm of slip that needs to be reduced to 0 before it can be engaged. So as a first order of business brakes D needs to be disengaged (100 milliseconds), then engine ECU needs to blip the throttle” to increase speed to approximately 2350 rpm (another 400 milliseconds), then engine power needs to be cut and dog clutch A needs to be
engaged (another 100 milliseconds), and now you are in sixth after a half a second of no torque at all at the wheels, then another 200 milliseconds of low torque as the transmission finds fifth with a more conventional frictional clutch to frictional clutch shift and your engine speed is finally at the 2900 rpm.

From eighth gear to fourth gear is going to be even more of a contortion, with a torque interruption that is about a second long as the transmission ECU and the engine ECU do this delicate dance required to get both the dog shifting elements to engage. When you are looking to pass on a 2 lane road at 60 mph, a second can feel like an eternity, especially to a driver who has to use those paddle shifters to get into the right gear before executing the pass.

Gear spacing

Another issue that the reviewers (including our own Alex L. Dykes) tend to take note of is the wide spacing between first and second gears. Unfortunately this is a direct result of the transmission lay out. Gear set 3 is pushed to the limit with the ratio, trying to make first gear ratio any lower than 4.7 would make the planetary gear pinion speed unreasonably high. So the first gear ratio is more or less
a given. It would be possible to change the tooth count on gear set 4 to numerically increase the second gear ratio. As a thought experiment, we could change the sun gear of gear set 4 to 46 or 50 teeth instead of the 42 it has, the result?

Gear Ratios with S4 = 42 Ratios with S4 = 50 Ratios with S4=46
1st 4.700 4.700 4.700
2nd 2.842 3.020 2.931
3rd 1.909 1.909 1.909
4th 1.382 1.382 1.382
5th 1.000 1.000 1.000
6th 0.808 0.790 0.799
7th 0.699 0.699 0.699
8th 0.580 0.580 0.580
9th 0.479 0.454 0.467
Rev -3.805 -2.891 -3.308

So a 50 tooth sun gets better spacing between first and second, somewhat worse spacing between second and third, all other gears are largely unchanged, expect that reverse gets screwed up – it is perhaps not low enough for vehicles with off road ambitions. So perhaps a happier middle ground could have been a 46 tooth sun of gear set 4, that leads to a reverse of 3.308 with a second gear ratio of
2.9307. It also gives the transmission an overall ratio spread of 10.065, which sounds better for marketing purposes than the 9.81 that exists currently. This alternate reverse ratio is almost identical to the reverse in the ZF 8 speed RWD transmissions. So this 42 tooth sun gear is a bit of a head scratcher – perhaps keeping the tooth count at 42 saves some money because there is manufacturing tools can be shared between this sun gear and the sun gear for gear sets 1 and 2.


I give a Colbert Tip of the Hat” to the engineers at ZF for this design. It is obviously a clever design but one that could cause some drivability surprises to an average driver, though durability-wise, I see nothing that causes major concerns. Design and development of a transmission concept like this ranges from 20 million dollars
to 50 million dollars, so the ZF management had some serious cojones to OK this design, it is a risk that has paid off to an extent. I know of many a management teams that would have said no, but time will tell just how compact other 8/9/10 speed transmissions and just how good a decision this is..

Some CAD renders
available on line show a 78 tooth sun with 114 tooth ring gear, this is a kinematic
equivalent of 91 tooth sun gear and 133 tooth ring gear

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Review: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 4×4 (With Video) Thu, 20 Feb 2014 14:00:29 +0000 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.


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


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.


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


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.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited 3.2L V6 Engine-002


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.


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.


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.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-008

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.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-014


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.


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.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-015

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

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited 3.2L V6 Engine 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited 3.2L V6 Engine-001 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited 3.2L V6 Engine-002 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-001 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-002 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-003 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-004 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-005 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-006 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-007 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-008 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-009 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-010 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-001 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-002 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-003 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-004 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-005 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-006 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-007 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-008 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-009 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-010 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-011 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-012 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-013 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-014 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-015 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Wheel IMG_1373 IMG_1374 IMG_1376 ]]> 114
The Wobble Comes To An End As Consumer Reports Echoes TTACs Criticisms Of The Jeep Cherokee Tue, 11 Feb 2014 21:22:05 +0000 450x337xIMG_4625-450x337.jpg.pagespeed.ic.CmfCHZbR1g

In late 2013, TTAC was invited to review the Jeep Cherokee. As the journalist assigned to cover the launch, I gave what I felt was a nuanced but critical assessment of the vehicle: that it delivered with respect to its off-road prowess, but left a lot to be desired in other areas, namely the on-road driving experience and overall packaging.

TTAC was alone in its criticisms, with other outlets heaping praise on the Cherokee for attributes that I felt were lacking. A backlash from readers, Mopar fans and other entities ensued, and we were left looking like a fringe element of anti-Cherokee cranks, despite what we as an organization felt was a fair and nuanced, if – ahem – slightly colorful review of the car. It turns out that in the end, we weren’t alone.

Consumer Reports recently delivered their verdict on the Cherokee, and their examples (ostensibly one that they purchased) were criticized for many of the same issues that TTAC did, namely, poor dynamics, a choppy ride and an unrefined 9-speed automatic transmission. Only TTAC and CR have called out the Cherokee for these issues, with other media outlets either downplaying, ignoring or outright praising these elements. Since then, the media has been happy to give the car more positive press, spinning its respectable but mid-pack sales figures into some kind of Cinderella story.

When you are the lone outlet taking a controversial stance on a new car, it can be tough to weather the accusations of bias or even outright malice. Everyone wonders why your impressions are so different from the rest of the pack. In addition, you are left even more vulnerable to punitive actions from the auto maker for having strayed off message. But CR’s impressions of the car, even months later, feels like vindication on some level.

Chrysler has graciously offered to let TTAC have another go at the Cherokee, and I’m slated to have my own re-test in April. It’s been my hope that these issues have been ironed out, especially after the costly delays that Chrysler implemented with the objective of improving the Cherokee’s transmission. They deserve immense credit for having the courage to do so. Whatever the outcome, you can be sure that we will refrain from The Wobble. We will continue to bring you The Truth About Cars.

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ZF’s 9-Speed 9HP Transmission Puts Dog Clutches On The Leash Sun, 09 Feb 2014 03:34:39 +0000 ZF 9HP Transmission, Picture Courtesy of Land RoverIn a week we will post our first full review of the all-new and all-controversial 2014 Jeep Cherokee. The new Jeep isn’t just raising eyebrows for the love-it or hate-it styling. Or the resurrection of the Cherokee badge. Or the constant delays in production. Or the transverse mounted engine. Or the lack of solid axles. None of that laundry list seems to cause as much discussion around the automotive water cooler than ZF’s 9HP 9-speed transmission. Click past the jump for a deep dive into the tranny with more speeds than my bicycle. If you don’t want to explore transmissions in detail, don’t click. You have been warned.

When Derek drove the Cherokee at a launch event he complained about the transmission. When I drove a pre-production model for a very brief hour and a half I was more perplexed than anything. I chalked it up to pre-production programming issues and the fact that the transmission has 50% more speeds than a 6-speed, so I expected 50% more shifting. A month later I was able to sample a different Cherokee with newer software and some of my shifting complaints had been solved but something still felt “wrong.” Now three months later a full production Cherokee landed in my hands and while the shift logic (when and why the transmission would shift up or down) was finally where I thought it should be, the shifts themselves felt different from what I am used to. The reason is all down to clutches, but let’s start at the beginning.

In general terms an engine is most efficient in a somewhat narrow band of RPMs. That exact band varies from engine to engine based on what the designers intended at the time. The longer you can keep the engine in this range of RPMs, the more efficient the car will be. Secondary to this is a desire for improved off-the-line performance, this necessitates ever-lower first gear ratios. The distance between the lowest and the tallest gear in a transmission is called the ratio spread. (You get it by dividing the lowest ratio by the tallest and that gives you a number that represents the delta between first and last.) GM’s venerable 4-speed 4L80 has a spread of 3.3 while their new 6-speed 6L80 has a spread of 6. The deeper first gear and taller 6th allow the 6L80 to deliver better performance and better fuel economy. The reason ZF’s 8-speed 8HP doesn’t have the same delta in performance over the average 6-speed as the 6-speed had over the 4-speed, is easy to explain. The 8HP’s ratio spread is 7, just 1 higher than a 6 speed while the 6-speeds had a 3 point advantage over the 4-speeds. Aisin’s new 8-speed transaxle in Volvo and Lexus models goes a small step further with a 7.59 spread. These can all be seen as progressive improvements. The 9HP is different. With a 4.7:1 first gear and a 0.48:1 ninth gear the overall spread is a whopping 9.8.


On closer inspection you’ll notice something interesting about the 9HP’s ratios. Fifth is the 1:1 ratio where the output shaft of the transmission is spinning at the same rate as the engine meaning there four overdrive ratios. In contrast both ZF and Aisin’s 8-speed transmissions have just two overdrive ratios with 6th gear being the direct-drive (1:1) ratio. As a result the 9HP’s lower gears are farther apart, especially first and second gear. When you look deeper at the numbers you’ll also notice that the 9HP is geared much taller at the top end with 7th gear being approximately equal to 8th in the Aisin or ZF 8-speed units. Many reviewers of the Cherokee noted they never experienced 9th gear during their test drive and I now know why. At 0.48:1 with the 3.2L V6 (3.251 final drive) you have to be going faster than 80 MPH to engage 9th because at 80 your engine loafs around at 1,460 RPM. (The 2.4L four-cylinder in the Cherokee Trailhawk would be going about 1,810 RPM at 80.) According to ZF this results in an impressive 12-16% improvement in fuel economy versus the same final drive ratio and their own 6-speed automatic and 11-15% when compared to their 8-speed.

OK, so the 9HP has plenty of gears, but why does it shift the way that it does? It’s all down to the clutches. While a traditional automatic uses friction clutches in the form of either band clutches or multi-plate friction clutches, the 9HP blends friction clutches and dog clutches in the same transmission case. Dog clutches are “interference” clutches more commonly found in manual transmissions and transfer cases. Friction clutches work by pressing two plates together. The friction between them allows the transfer of energy and it allows one plate to spin faster than the other or “slip.” Think of slipping the clutch in a manual car, it is the same action. Automatic transmissions use this clutch type to their advantage because changing gear doesn’t always require engine power to drop, the transmission simply disconnects one clutch as it engages another, they slip and engage and you’re in another gear. Dog clutches however are different. If you look at the illustration below you can see a dog clutch on the right. Power is transmitted by the tooth of one side pressing on the tooth of the other. This type of clutch cannot slip so it is either engaged or disengaged. This is the type of clutch used inside manual transmissions. When you move the shifter to a different gear, you are physically disengaging and engaging dog clutches. This style of clutch is used because it suffers little parasitic loss and it is simple and compact. The use of a dog clutch in an “automatic” transmission isn’t new, dual clutch robotized manuals use this style of clutch internally as well, but it is the key to understanding why the 9HP shifts the way it does.


Because dog clutches can’t slip, their engagement must be controlled and precise. Going back to the manual transmission example, this is why modern manual transmissions have “synchros” or synchromesh. A Synchro is a mechanism that aligns the dog teeth prior to engagement. Without them you get that distinct gear grinding noise. Synchros work well in a manual transmission because when you are changing gear you are disconnecting the engine with the clutch (a friction clutch), then engaging a dog clutch for your gear selection. Because one end of the transmission is “free” the synchro synchronizes the two sides and then allows the toothed gear to engage. There is a “pause” in power when a shift occurs. If you look at an acceleration chart of a car with a good manual driver and an automatic you will see pauses in acceleration in the manual while most autos just have “reductions” in acceleration. That’s down to the pause required to engage a dog clutch vs a friction clutch that slips and engages without much reduction in power.

Let’s digress for a moment and talk about the DSG. The reason dual clutch gearboxes exist is because of the dog clutch. As I said engaging a dog clutch takes time and precision. This is part of the reason single-clutch robotic manuals like the one in the Smart ForTwo and the RAM ProMaster (and other Euro sedans) have such exaggerated shifts. Double clutch gearboxes get around this by having two gears engaged at all times. DSG style gearboxes are really two manual transmissions in the same case. 1st gear is engaged via the first transmission and 2nd is engaged but not active on the second. Changing gears simply involves swapping (via a friction clutch) from transmission A to transmission B. Once that is accomplished, the transmission A disengages and engages the dog clutches to select the next gear. Going from 2nd to 3rd involves swapping back from transmission B to the already shifted transmission A.

Let’s put it all together now. To save space and increase efficiency, the 9HP uses two multi-plate clutch elements, two friction brakes and two electronically synchronized dog clutches. (The 8HP uses two brakes and three multi-plate clutches.) The way the gearsets are arranged inside the case, shifts from 1-2, 2-3, and 3-4 involve only the traditional friction brake and clutch elements. As you would expect, aside from 1st being fairly low and somewhat distant from 2nd, these shifts feel perfectly “normal.” Under hard acceleration there is a momentary reduction in engine torque (courtesy of the computer to reduce clutch wear) and the shift occurs quickly and smoothly. The shift from 4-5 however is different. The transmission has to disengage dog clutch “A” in addition to engaging a friction clutch. This shift takes slightly longer than the 3-4 shift and the car’s computer makes a drastic reduction in torque to prevent wear of the dog teeth. Shifts 5-6 and 6-7 again happen with the only the friction elements at which point we need to disconnect the final dog clutch for gears 8 and 9 so we get the same kind of torque reduction in those shifts. The result is a transmission that has two distinct “feels” to its shifts, one that has only a slight torque reduction (1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6, 6-7, 8-9) and one that has a more “manual transmission” feel where torque is cut severely (4-5 and 7-8).

2014 Jeep Cherokee Instrument Cluster

Because of the positioning of the two dog clutches in the shift pattern, the torque reduction isn’t objectionable in upshifts. Hard acceleration from a stop didn’t involve 5th gear even in the 1/4 mile. However, once you let off the gas the transmission will shift upwards rapidly for fuel economy settling in 6th or 7th in the 60-65 MPH range and 8th in the 70-75 MPH range.

Downshifts are where the 9HP truly feels different. Because of the design, if you’re in 8th gear and want to pass, the transmission will often need to drop 4 or 5 gears to get to a suitable ratio. (Remember that 4th gear is the first ratio going back down the scale that is lower than 1:1.) To do this the transmission has to accomplish the harder task of engaging two dog clutches. To do this the transmission doesn’t use cone synchros like a manual (too bulky) it uses software. Engaging dog clutches requires a longer and yet more severe reduction in torque than the disengagement because the transmission has to align the clutch and then engage it. In most automatics when you floor the car you get an instant feeling of acceleration that improves as the transmission downshifts. Although there would be moments of power reduction (depending on the programming) during this time, the engine is always providing some force forward. The 9HP’s software on the other hand responds by cutting power initially, then diving as far down the gear-ladder as it can, engaging the dog clutches and then reinstating your throttle command. The result is a somewhat odd delay between the pedal on the floor and the car taking off like a bat out of hell. According to Volvo’s powertrain guys, this shift behavior is one of the main reasons they chose the Aisin 8-speed (shared with the Lexus RX F-Sport) over the ZF 9-speed used by Land Rover and Chrysler.

All of a sudden the “odd” shift feel made perfect sense. In the march toward ever-improving fuel economy the automotive public will continually be introduced to cars that feel different from the “good old days.” Electric power steering numbs the wheel-feel but steer-by-wire promises to artificiality resurrect it. Dual clutch robotized manuals have a particular feel that was accepted by performance enthusiasts but has been a source of complaint for Focus and Fiesta shoppers. For me, understanding why the transmission is doing what it is doing is key to my like or dislike of a car’s road manners. Once I understood what the Cherokee’s automatic was up to, I was able to focus on the rest of the car. What about you? Are you willing to “sacrifice” shift quality at the altar of fuel economy? Be sure to let me know.

Have an automotive technology question? Want to see a deep-dive on another powertrain component?

Let us know by using the contact form at the top of the page!

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Chart Of The Day: Here’s What The Jeep Cherokee Is Up Against In 2014 Tue, 21 Jan 2014 14:00:14 +0000 2014_Jeep_Cherokee_North_4x2_Edition_Canada_Front


With the first month of 2014 sales nearly wrapped up, we’ll soon get our first look at how the Jeep Cherokee has fared, following the initial shipment of delayed units. Much has been made of the Cherokee selling 10,000 units in November and 15,000 units in December: it was a great storyline for Chrysler to promote in the run-up to NAIAS, and one for the hometown media (in both Detroit and Toledo) to rally around. Left out of the cheerleading was the fact that these figures accounted for the 25,000 units reportedly sent to dealers in one fell swoop. Can you say “pent up demand”?

But even if the Cherokee continued to sell at that pace – say, 15,000 units per month as an optimistic projection, where would that place it in the larger picture of the small crossover segment?


Small crossovers may not be popular with enthusiasts, but it’s impossible to deny how important this is to the industry at large. In 2013, five of the top 10 best selling SUVs in America were small crossovers, while the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape (the top selling small crossovers) were the 8th and 10th best selling vehicles in America. Together, those two made up just under 1/3rd of the segment’s volume. Add in the third place Chevolet Equinox and fourth place Toyota RAV4 and you have 57 percent of the segment represented in just four nameplates.

The graph above represents the uneven distribution of the segment’s sales, with the top four nameplates sitting comfortable, while a number of small players compete for scraps at the bottom of the graph. This isn’t unique in the market either – Juan Barnett’s analysis of the midsize market shows a somewhat similar distribution of nameplates clustered at the top and bottom. Like the midsize segment, the small crossover category is a crowded one, and the addition of the Cherokee just adds to the competition.

Assuming the 15,000 unit pace holds through 2014, that would give the Cherokee 180,000 units at year end, placing it above the Nissan Rogue (which sells roughly 160,000 units) but below the RAV4. In that context, the 15,000 unit per month figure being bandied about is far less impressive, but it’s important to note a couple things.

The Toldeo, Ohio factory that builds the Cherokee is capacity limited to about 250,000 Cherokees per year. Even running flat out, Jeep wouldn’t be able to catch the CR-V or Escape. Considering that some of the 250,000 units will go to Canada and other global markets, 180,000 is a respectable number. Even more significant is what the Cherokee will do for the Jeep brand compared to the Liberty (as demonstrated in the chart below).




The comparison with the Rogue will be an interesting one. In the same way that the 200 should sell at the level of the Optima, Malibu or Sonata, the Cherokee and Rogue will likely inhabit the same stratosphere in the segment. The new Rogue has also undergone Nissan’s patented process of making cars suitably bland for American tastes, through their expanded dealer network. Similar to the Altima’s gradual climb through the midsize ranks, the combined capacity for 180,000 units of the Rogue (100,000 in Smyrna, Tennessee and 80,000 at the Renault-Nissan facility in Korea), combined with additional units of the Rogue Select (which Nissan will likely not break out from Rogue sales) should enable to Rogue to post higher sales figures by the end of 2014. On the other hand, don’t expect things to change at the top.

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Powertrain Chief In Charge Of Cherokee Launch Leaves Chrysler Tue, 21 Jan 2014 11:00:21 +0000 11347_14657

Mircea Gradu, who had headed Chrysler’s transmission, powertrain and driveline engineering since 2011, left the company to pursue other interests, according to a company statement released last week. Part of Gradu’s responsibilities were the development and launch of the new Jeep Cherokee’s innovative all wheel drive system that can allow the rear axle to freewheel to save fuel. That launch was delayed when 25,000 assembled Cherokees were held back from dealers while engineers recalibrated the software that controls the powertrain and then tested the vehicles. The same basic drivetrain components are planned to be used in a number of other Chrysler group vehicles, starting with the all new 2015 Chrysler 200 introduced last week at the Detroit auto show.

Last spring Gradu had told the Automotive News that the short time allotted to develop the complicated powertrain for the ’14 Cherokee was a challenge. Engineers needed to calibrate the disconnecting rear end and all new nine speed automatic transmission with two new engines. “Two years development time for this level of novelty is a very interesting task for the engineering community,” Gradu told the AN.

The launch of the Cherokee was ultimately delayed almost two months as every vehicle was recalibrated and road tested, with dealers getting the SUVs in late October instead of August. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told analysts in the company’s third quarter conference call that the delay was a costly one for Chrysler.

The company has since stopped road testing every Cherokee and sales have been brisk, without any noticeable reports of consumer dissatisfaction.

Bob Lee, Chrysler’s head of engineering for engine, powertrain and electrified propulsion systems and a member of Chrysler’s Group Executive Council, will temporarily take on Gradu’s former role.

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2015 Chrysler 200 Revealed Fri, 13 Dec 2013 16:15:00 +0000 200-night


The folks at Allpar have discovered an undisguised Chrysler 200 driving around sans camo. Looking like a cross between a Dart and a Chevrolet Impala, the 200 will use the same CUSW architecture as the Dart and Jeep Cherokee, along with the 2.4L 4-cylinder and Pentastar V6 engines.

KGP-side-view KGP-pfile KGP-taillights KGP-headlights 200-night KGP-rear-profile KGP-detroit ]]> 114
Fiat Hoping To Boost Sagging Chinese Sales With Jeep Production Tue, 29 Oct 2013 17:47:14 +0000 2012-Beijing-Auto-Show-Fiat-Viaggio-450x300

Remember the Fiat Viaggio, the Dodge Dart clone that was supposed to be the brand’s breakthrough product in China? The compact sedan has missed its sales targets by as much as 60 percent, and now Fiat is hoping that local production of the Jeep Cherokee can help fill some of their plant’s capacity and capitalize on China’s insatiable demand for crossovers.

The Viaggio is currently built at a factory in China, but the vehicle isn’t selling. With only 40,000 units sold this year and 54,000 units projected for 2014, the Viaggio is far off its targets of 100,000 units and 200,000 units for each respective year.

The hope is that production of the Cherokee, which is built on the same architecture as the Viaggio, can be added to help the factory run at capacity. Fiat has traditionally lagged behind bigger players like GM and Volkswagen in China, with the two brands aiming to deliver roughly 3 million cars in China this year, outselling Fiat by a ratio of 15 to 1. Asia accounted for just 4 percent of Fiat’s 3.34 million deliveries through September.

Prevailing wisdom suggests that Fiat is a non-starter in China, with prospects for a mainstream volume brand looking rather grim in an already saturated market. But Jeep is considered to be an aspirational brand with desirable products like the Wrangler, as well as the Cherokee and a forthcoming B-segment crossover that should play well with Chinese consumers.

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Nine Speeds Of Grey: What’s Really Going On With Cherokee Transmissions? Thu, 17 Oct 2013 20:00:03 +0000

As the plot thickens in Toledo and un-shipped Cherokees start to pile up in the storage lots, there’s a new conspiracy theory being passed around to explain Chrysler’s problems.

We received this email earlier today, and while we can’t vouch for the writer or the contents, what if he’s right?

I was going to send to TTAC Staff… but I heard [from] a few Chrysler engineers that part of the 9 speed launch issue at Toledo was being drawn out to lower the VEBA price if the shares got into court proceedings by end of the year.

Now, this really sounds less likely than the reality that Chrysler and their supplier just FUBARed it by running simulations instead of real world testing until it was too late, which I have also heard. But, this rumor is more fun and don’t forget Machiavelli was Italian and wore a sweater vest!

Well, that may be a rumor too.

But, with the price being a couple BILLION dollars different that’s still less than a few months hit on a late launch.

BTW, these guys… were sure the issue was going to be fixed before their UF Chrysler 200 launch in March/April… even though they use the same engines and FWD part of the 9 speed. Classic, just classic.

So. Crazy conspiracy theory or on the level? To me it fails part of the test for this sort of thing, which is that it requires the connivance of too many people. I want to believe that there is a secret Star Chamber making long-term tactical decisions to ensure the future success of Chrysler, but if such a group exists, surely they were formed extremely recently. At least after the 2.7-liter V-6. Unless that was part of the conspiracy too.

In fact, you can easily argue that anybody powerful enough to create the scenario above would also be powerful enough to keep me from writing an arti

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19,000 Jeep Cherokee Units Built, None Delivered Wed, 16 Oct 2013 10:30:09 +0000 IMG_4625-450x337

Jeep Cherokee units keep piling up at the Toledo, Ohio factory, as Chrysler attempts to iron out production issues, but according to Yahoo Autos, none have been delivered yet.

Yahoo’s Justin Hyde reports nine units are in transit, with Chrysler’s own data showing 18,849 units built so far. The Cherokee’s issues seem to center around the long awaited 9-speed automatic transmission and its accompanying software. The 9-speed gearbox was one of the main issues that TTAC found in its test drive of the Cherokee, though we also praised Chrysler’s decision to hold off on the launch of the car until everything has been ironed out.

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Editorial: Cherokee Delays Deserve Praise Mon, 23 Sep 2013 21:37:56 +0000 IMG_4674-450x337

We live in an era of instant gratification. We want everything, right nowdone perfectly, right away. A consequences of that is that delays, even when legitimate, are seen as a sign of incompetence, slow movement and an inability to get things done. In many cases, it’s true. But that doesn’t mean we should pillory Chrysler for delaying production of the Cherokee again.

Speaking to the Detroit Free Press, Chrysler spokesperson Jodi Tinson outlined Chrysler’s plans for the new Jeep, the brand’s most important product in years

“We are taking this very slowly, and I think it has already been communicated that we are doing some recalibration on transmissions. We continue to do some quality verification. We will release the Cherokees at a time we are satisfied with their quality and not a day before.”

On the one hand, this is hardly the first time the Cherokee has been delayed. It’s an extraordinarily important product for Chrysler, a symbol of the tie-up with Fiat and the Jeep brand’s global expansion into a booming segment. The constant delays speak to troubling problems related to assembly and supplier quality issues.

On the other hand, it’s refreshing to see Chrysler resist the temptation to release the car early and simply take the short term payoff (launch on time, avoiding press coverage of delays) in favor of the long term payoff of releasing a well made car, free of defects or major issues. Chrysler deserves to be applauded. Other OEMs would not take such a route.

Chrysler is sacrificing momentum, reputation, consumer consideration and huge sums of money in the name of getting things right. Meanwhile, workers at Toledo will be idle as engineers seek to fix the problem. One can only imagine the internal struggles that preceded this decision.  TTAC’s criticisms of the Cherokee’s quality issues were made with their best interests at heart, not in the name of yellow journalism or shock blogging in the name of “clicks”. It would be rather narcissistic to suggest that TTAC alone helped spur this action, but by the same token, I hope that Chrysler was listening, and that the Cherokee will emerge as a better vehicle, and a successful one at that.

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Jeep Cherokee Production Delayed Due To “Extended Quality Validation Testing”, Workers Temporarily Laid Off At Toledo Mon, 23 Sep 2013 21:00:51 +0000 IMG_4638-450x337

Chrysler has decided to delay production of the Jeep Cherokee again as the company seeks to iron out further quality issues with their crucial new product.

According to the Toledo Blade, the Jeep plant will have its second shift temporarily idled, with roughly 500 workers laid off for two weeks as Chrysler conducts “extended quality validation testing”. But union officials expected the layoffs to last one week, with workers doing quality checks on the vehicles.

Production of the Cherokee began in late June, with a second shift brought on in August. Production has been delayed one more than one occassion, with issues related to fit and finish as well as the all-new 9-speed transmission blamed for the holdup. The vehicle’s media introduction was also delayed.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Thu, 12 Sep 2013 13:00:19 +0000 IMG_4625

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


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


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.


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..


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.


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.


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.


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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Editorial: Chrysler Dodges Poison Pen Darts By Delaying Jeep Cherokee Launch Wed, 31 Jul 2013 16:03:21 +0000 F5B1A05901-450x298

Monday night at 5:43 PM, TTAC received this note from Chrysler PR

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Durango short-lead media drive program – originally scheduled for August 4-14 in Seattle – is being postponed.  We deeply regret this late notice and apologize for disrupting your busy summer schedule.  We will get back to you as soon as possible regarding information for the media drives of the Cherokee and Durango, which we expect will take place in the first half of September.
For those of you that have already booked your flights to the program, your reservation will automatically be canceled by our travel company, BCD Travel. Should you have questions related to this, please feel free to contact me and/or the individuals noted below:

This is the first time in recent memory that a press launch has been cancelled outright, and the delay apparently stems from calibrating the much-hyped 9-speed automatic transmission that has so far been vaporware in the Dart. This follows announcements by Chrysler that Cherokee production would be delayed and units wouldn’t arrive at dealers until September, while other reports cited fit-and-finish issues as well as transmission problems as the reason for the delay.

Delaying the launch leaves Chrysler in an unfortunate position in terms of public perception (and certainly among the media), but frankly, they have good reason to do it. The Cherokee is a very important product for them; Jeep’s future in world markets, as well as North America, is riding in part on this car.

Chrysler is definitely cognizant of the fact that this car is controversial among certain members of the media. It is the revival of a storied nameplate but is seen to lack any continuity with the original XJ Cherokee. Despite the fact that the vast majority of consumers want a crossover and their needs are best served by them, the automotive press continues to regard crossovers with barely disguised disdain.

Between that and the highly polarizing styling and you have a recipe for a PR disaster should the Cherokee not be up to snuff in terms of QC or driving dynamics. There are certainly members of the press ready and willing to rip it a new one for failing to live up to their expectations, whether realistic or outlandish. Personally, I am very interested in this car. As the first major Jeep launch built of CUSW, and the first application of the 9-speed automatic, it will set the tone for Jeep’s performance as a future star (and profit center) of Chrysler and Fiat. The consequences of it flopping will be severe for Chrysler, and I was looking forward to getting some seat time in the Cherokee. Evidently, that will have to wait.

By delaying the launch (even at great expense) they are increasing their chances of getting good press for such an important car.The recent recall of the Grand Cherokee and the Liberty is also looming in the background at Auburn Hills, even if it doesn’t have a direct bearing on the Cherokee’s launch.   What I’m curious about is whether this apparent commitment to quality will extend past the launch of the Cherokee and into regular production and future launches. Any future delays or holdups with future product launches won’t exactly inspire confidence in Chrysler’s ability to launch high-quality vehicles in a timely manner. This is “Strike Two” after all.


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The New York Times Consults A Cherokee About The Cherokee Mon, 24 Jun 2013 15:33:58 +0000 Picture courtesy MyFolderz

When Jeep introduced the new-for-2014 Cherokee, the cute-ute’s polarizing styling, Eurotrash underpinnings, and front-wheel-drive base configuration immediately sent the autoblogosphere into a violent tizzy. Much of the criticism seemed to be engendered by the use of the name “Cherokee”, which is associated in the name of the average Jeep fan with the time-tested, AMC-era XJ Cherokee. (It should be noted, however, that Jalopnik has already decided the new Cherokee is superior to the old one.) Had Chrysler used the name “Liberty”, which is primarily associated with dorky-looking uranium-dense crapwagons leaking oil in traffic, or “Patriot”, which is primarily associated with the Dodge Caliber, much of the initial agitation might not have happened.

That’s all car-geek inside baseball, however. In the real world, meaning Manhattan, what really matters isn’t crawl ratio or wind noise or durability — it’s identity-based politics. It’s a surprise, then, that the New York Times has taken this long to uncover the critical feature of the new small Jeep: it’s all racist and whatnot.

Those of us who have been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to attend university in the past twenty or so years know that some large part of the modern post-secondary educational apparatus is devoted to old white men earnestly bleating on about black people and womyn and transgenders and whatnot. Without the intervention of these wise old Caucasians (are we allowed to say enlightened, or is that a skin-color value-judgement trigger event?) the average black person or womon or transgender individual would probably be too busy watching “Mad Men” or playing Candy Crush Saga to realize when his/her/their rights, identities, feelings, or heritage is being disrespected. It’s therefore critical that the SWPL spiritual leaders of the minority communities stay vigilant at all times. Without their intervention, Paula Deen would still be on television. The fact that you can turn on the Food Network and see more of Giada De Laurentitis or that sexy little Cat Cora and not have to look at some ugly old expired bag means that a true blow has been struck for diversity and against ageism. I think. I’m still a little fuzzy on that part.

Where was I? Oh yes, the Jeep Cherokee. Someone apparently told white guy Glenn Collins that Jeep’s been naming an SUV of some sort after a Native American tribe for the last forty years. Presumably there are no Jeep Cherokees in Manhattan. I know I’ve never seen one. Mr. Collins immediately leapt into SWPL action, contacting the Cherokee tribe to see what they think about this racist act.

The company says it respects changed attitudes toward stereotyping. “We want to be politically correct, and we don’t want to offend anybody,” Mr. Morrison said. Regarding the Cherokee name, he added: “We just haven’t gotten any feedback that was disparaging.”

Well, here’s some: “We are really opposed to stereotypes,” said Amanda Clinton, a spokeswoman for the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. “It would have been nice for them to have consulted us in the very least.”

But, she added, the Cherokee name is not copyrighted, and the tribe has been offered no royalties for the use of the name. “We have encouraged and applauded schools and universities for dropping offensive mascots,” she said, but stopped short of condemning the revived Jeep Cherokee because, “institutionally, the tribe does not have a stance on this.”

In other words: We don’t care about it, you old white man, and we think your time would be better spent agonizing about truffles or font choice. The Cherokee Nation itself is busy participating in disaster relief and improving tribal access to healthcare.

Mr. Collins must have been absolutely shocked that the people he calls “American Indians” are unwilling to drop everything and march on Toledo (a name that, I must add, was stolen from the Spaniards) to protest Jeep’s newest trucklet. I wonder if he saw himself as a potential leader of the movement, standing hand-in-hand with the American Indian girl from “Banshee” (who is really a Cuban-American) and the Crying Indian (who was just a regular white guy in real life). I’ve written a brief script for this scenario.

The scene is the TOLEDO PLANT. A mass of Native Americans a hundred people wide and ten thousand people long marches towards the ancient Jeep plant. Blocking their way is a ZOMBIE BULL CONNOR, a ZOMBIE ADOLF HITLER, and JEWISH COMEDIAN MICHAEL RICHARDS. The people come to a halt. NOLA LONGSHADOW turns to GLENN COLLINS.

NOLA: It’s up to you, Great White Father.

GLENN COLLINS: I shall return honor to your ancestors with my actions. (Shouting) UNTIL YOU REMOVE THE SCOURGE UPON MY ADOPTED PEOPLE, THE EARTH SHALL WEEP!

ZOMBIE BULL CONNOR: Turn the hoses on that race traitor!

ZOMBIE ADOLF HITLER: Who was supposed to bring the hoses?

JEWISH COMEDIAN MICHAEL RICHARDS: Why am I even here? I said one stupid thing. ONE STUPID THING! And I was trying to make a point about race relations!

ZOMBIE BULL CONNOR: It’s too late for that. You’re part of our team now, although it personally offends me to make common cause with an Israelite.

JEWISH COMEDIAN MICHAEL RICHARDS: Okay, then, I’ll get the hoses.

SERGIO MARCHIONNE: (Appearing out of nowhere) Native people of America, I have heard your plea and I have been persuaded by the eloquence of the white man you have chosen to lead you. Never again shall we call this cute-ute the Jeep Cherokee. Instead, we will use a name that reflects this Jeep’s ability to endure all sorts of conditions.

ZOMBIE ADOLF HITLER: Mein Gott, the Italians always fold.

NOLA LONGSHADOW: Great White Father, you did it!

GLENN COLLINS: Without me, you would not have known you were being disrespected, because you were too busy off-roading in Jeep Grand Cherokees.

SERGIO MARCHIONNE: Ladies and Gentlemen, and Zombies, I give you: THE RENAMED JEEP… FIREWATER!

(A monstrous banner flutters down from the side of the Jeep plant, showing a new Jeep Firewater with tribal beads painted on the doors.)

CRYING INDIAN GUY: That’s awesome.

GLENN COLLINS: (sputtering) Noooooo! You’ve made it worse!

SERGIO MARCHIONNE: Say “How” to the Brave-st little Jeep to ever dance in the rain!


GLENN COLLINS: You’re not supposed to like it! Don’t you people know…

ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: What do you mean, “you people”?


Mr. Collins does make a valid point in the second page of his click-friendly article, however: it’s likely that the proliferation of alphabet soup nomenclature is due at least in part to the fact that a name like “MKZ” or “MKS” or “MDX” or “ML350″ is completely identity-politics compatible, and therefore completely inoffensive to white university professors, and therefore totally cool to use.

Until, of course, the day comes that we meet the aliens, and it turns out that they’re all named “S63 AMG”.

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Jeep Eyeing Chinese Cherokee Production Tue, 23 Apr 2013 14:53:35 +0000

The 2014 Cherokee could be the first Jeep produced in China in nearly 6 years. Jeep CEO Mike Manley said that the Cherokee was an “obvious choice” for local production, as Jeep looks to expand its customer base in China.

Manley noted that the Cherokee could double Jeep’s current 46,000 unit sales. Local production would allow Jeep to avoid import tariffs on the new model, which according to Jeep, has proved overwhelmingly popular in consumer clinics. Currently, the Compass accounts for just over 70 percent of Jeep sales in the country.

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Jeep Cherokee Live Photos Fri, 29 Mar 2013 15:46:13 +0000

Arguably the most important debut of the show – certainly the most polarizing – the Jeep Cherokee has split the opinions of the B&B in a bitter feud not seen since Jack declared the Mazda MX-5 superior to the Scion FR-S. I’m not sure I’d describe the Cherokee as attractive, but I do think its reception in the marketplace will be much warmer than anyone anticipated. After all, the Nissan Juke was criticized endlessly, and it’s gone on to become a sales success throughout the world.

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2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Revealed Wed, 27 Mar 2013 15:11:32 +0000  

Jeep finally released the rest of the Cherokee lineup, including the more rugged Trailhawk version (above). The new Cherokee will have a choice of the Dart’s 2.4L Tigershark 4-cylinder, or a 3.2L version of the Pentastar V6, making 271 horsepower. Power will come through a 9-speed automatic transmission.

A selection of different all-wheel drive systems will be available. Jeep Active Drive I will be a basic all-wheel drive system, whle Jeep Active Drive II will include a low-range mode. Jeep Active Drive will have low-range and a rear locking differential. None of these modes will employ a transfer case – instead, there will be a planetary gearset at the differentials.

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WSJ Sheds Light On The Cherokee’s Italian Roots Fri, 22 Mar 2013 17:54:53 +0000

Back in December, TTAC was invited to a very secret presentation somewhere in Michigan, where an assembled crowd of journalists was shown the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. At the time, the car didn’t even have a name. It was called the “KL”. TTAC was shown the base car (shown in the photos) and an upcoming variant that you’ll see next week. When the sheet was pulled back, the murmuring and and hushed chatter that permeated the room immediately ceased. Nobody knew what to make of this new crossover.

It turns out that the odd design, not to mention the proliferation of engineering mules wearing Alfa Romeo body work, has a reason behind it. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Cherokee was originally an Alfa Romeo CUV before it became a Jeep.

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee, which makes its debut Wednesday at the New York Auto Show, is based on a design first developed for Fiat’s Alfa Romeo—a sharing intended to spare Chrysler hundreds of millions of dollars in engineering costs and shorten the time it takes to get new vehicles to market.

Aside from the cost savings, the move makes sense from a marketing standpoint. The Jeep brand is strong all over the world, and a compact crossover like the Cherokee is a great way to expand the brand in markets where a traditional SUV would be a poor fit. In addition, Alfa’s move to sportier and more luxurious cars (not to mention its precarious future on the whole) meant that the KL project would have more success over at Jeep, not to mention help further focus Alfa’s product message.

Even though reaction has been mixed, I’m optimistic about the Cherokee. The Alfa DNA in the CUSW platform is evident in the Dodge Dart, and the compact crossover segment is so damn competitive than fielding anything less than an excellent product would be a fatal mistake for Chrysler. Based on the Dart, the Ram 1500 and the Grand Cherokee, it appears that Chrysler is cognizant of this.

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Jeep Says Capacity, New Cherokee, Keys To Sales Growth Thu, 21 Mar 2013 15:20:41 +0000

Jeep is counting on the new Cherokee to help continue its streak of year-over-year sales growth, but the brand is facing production related challenges that could torpedo their quest for three consecutive years of sales growth.

Despite adding jobs at their Toledo plant (including 200 new positions for Wrangler production and a third shift to build the Grand Cherokee), Jeep is facing capacity constraints.

Jeep’s Mike Manley told Automotive News that expansion was inevitable if the current sales pace kept up

“At some stage you get to a point where you have to make significant investment to [add] capacity,” Manley said, “and when we get to that point, we’ll be able to make that announcement.”

Meanwhile, the upcoming 2014 Cherokee is expected to play a big role in Jeep’s growth this year (Chrysler is targeting 800,000 units globally, up from 700,000 last year), but AN is reporting that the May 23 production start date will be delayed by two weeks. That, plus refreshes to the Compass, Patriot and Grand Cherokee (which feature, among other things, new transmissions) and the cessation of Liberty production, have led to a sales decline over the past five months.

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Jeep® Cherokee Embargo! Cripes! Alright, TTAC Busts It Sat, 23 Feb 2013 04:43:49 +0000

Chrysler sure knows how to get the attention of the autoblogosphere. It’s not just that they send out pictures of a new car, along with a titillating come-on embargo. Oh, no: They do it not one, but several better. TTAC is in receipt of a Chrysler-internal email, along with userid and password to a site where secret pictures of the Jeep Cherokee are stored, along with the admonition that “anything you have heard or seen is still embargoed, until the day of the reveal, Wed., March 27 (at 12:01 am EST).” What do we do now?

Of course, we do our journalistic duty. In the name of the first amendment, we assert our constitutional right and publish the darned pictures, especially now that everybody else did. We also would like to take the opportunity to  state that the name Jeep® Cherokee is instantly recognizable as the most capable and versatile mid-size SUV in the world. For 2014, Jeep brings the Cherokee name back to North America with the debut of its all-new mid-size sport-utility vehicle.

 If you think that this sounds like lifted from a press release, then you are darn right. It was part of the confidential email.

You want the userid and password, you say? Bah! We are professionals, and we do not reveal our sources.

F5B1A0085 F5B1A0590 F5B1A1015 F5B1A1685 ]]> 72