The Truth About Cars » Jeep http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:00:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Jeep http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Capsule Review: Jeep Cherokee Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-jeep-cherokee-part-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-jeep-cherokee-part-two/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 15:12:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=782265 photo (13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Geneva 2014: Jeep Renegade Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-jeep-renegade-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-jeep-renegade-live-shots/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 15:29:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=763121 Jeep-Renegade-23

 

Our photographers bring you live shots of the Jeep Renegade on the floor at Geneva. They even took snapshots of a Diesel Trailhawk, the best combination that we won’t get in North America. Gallery after the jump.

 

 

Jeep-Renegade-01 Jeep-Renegade-02 Jeep-Renegade-03 Jeep-Renegade-04 Jeep-Renegade-05 Jeep-Renegade-06 Jeep-Renegade-07 Jeep-Renegade-11 Jeep-Renegade-12 Jeep-Renegade-13 Jeep-Renegade-14 Jeep-Renegade-15 Jeep-Renegade-16 Jeep-Renegade-17 Jeep-Renegade-18 Jeep-Renegade-19 Jeep-Renegade-20 Jeep-Renegade-21 Jeep-Renegade-22 Jeep-Renegade-23 Jeep-Renegade-24 ]]>
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Editorial: The Jeep Renegade Is Geneva’s Most Important Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/editorial-the-jeep-renegade-is-genevas-most-important-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/editorial-the-jeep-renegade-is-genevas-most-important-debut/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 05:23:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=761281 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

What you’re looking at is a four-wheeled ATM for Fiat Chrysler. The Jeep Renegade is a unibody crossover based on a Fiat car platform. To satisfy the Jeep faithful, it has an available all-wheel drive system with a 20:1 crawl ratio, 8.7 inches of ground clearance and a rock crawling mode as well as a 2,000 lb towing capability with the 2.4L 4-cylinder (Euro-spec diesels get as much as 3,300 lbs). None of that matters as much as the fact that it’s an entrant for Jeep in one of the automotive world’s fastest growing segments.

The Renegade will be they key to FCA’s plan to turn Jeep into a “global brand”. The Geneva unveiling is just the tip of the iceberg, with the car expressly designed for the needs of world markets – two diesel powertrains, a 1.6L making 118 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, and a 2.0L making 140 or 170 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque will be offered outside North America. Both the diesels, the 1.4L Multiair engines and the naturally aspirated 1.6L gasoline I4 get start-stop, with a 6-Speed DCT offered on certain 1.4 models.

The wide range of powertrains will help the Renegade stay competitive in Europe, Asia and other markets where high fuel costs and taxes on displacement and CO2 emissions. Other features like blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and lane departure warning, as well as UConnect, offer advanced active safety features in what is typically a value segment.

Vehicles like the Dacia Duster and Ford Ecosport have been more no-frills, valued priced affairs. The Opel Mokka and Renault Captur offer more content, but both feature the “amorphous blob” aesthetic so typical of most entrants in this segment. The Renegade, on the other hand, looks like nothing else. Practicality aside, buyers in the small crossover segment are looking to make a statement, rather than opting for the same old B and C-segment hatchbacks – especially in emerging markets.

In many ways, Jeep can thank Fiat for what is essentially a Panda 4×4 dressed up in Carhartt jeans and Red Wing boots. Fiat has provided the platform, the powertrains, the assembly plant and the understanding of what it takes to compete in world markets. But only Jeep could make the Renegade so desirable, with its just-right proportions, Wrangler-esque design cues, and the halo effect of the Jeep brand.

The Renegade looks to be a rare synthesis of the best parts of the Fiat-Chrysler partnership. It is the right product, delivered at a time when the automotive market cannot get enough small crossovers. FCA’s biggest problem will be finding enough capacity to build them.

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Jeep Renegade High-Res Photos http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/jeep-renegade-high-res-photos/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/jeep-renegade-high-res-photos/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 18:52:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=760785 Jeep-Renegade-2015-14

 

Carscoops is the latest to blow the lid off the embargo. 34 photo high-res gallery after the jump.

 

Jeep-Renegade-2015-1 Jeep-Renegade-2015-2 Jeep-Renegade-2015-3 Jeep-Renegade-2015-4 Jeep-Renegade-2015-5 Jeep-Renegade-2015-6 Jeep-Renegade-2015-7 Jeep-Renegade-2015-8 Jeep-Renegade-2015-9 Jeep-Renegade-2015-10 Jeep-Renegade-2015-11 Jeep-Renegade-2015-12 Jeep-Renegade-2015-13 Jeep-Renegade-2015-14 Jeep-Renegade-2015-15 Jeep-Renegade-2015-16 Jeep-Renegade-2015-17 Jeep-Renegade-2015-18 Jeep-Renegade-2015-19 Jeep-Renegade-2015-20 Jeep-Renegade-2015-21 Jeep-Renegade-2015-22 Jeep-Renegade-2015-23 Jeep-Renegade-2015-24 Jeep-Renegade-2015-25 Jeep-Renegade-2015-26 Jeep-Renegade-2015-27 Jeep-Renegade-2015-28 Jeep-Renegade-2015-29 Jeep-Renegade-2015-30 Jeep-Renegade-2015-31 2015 Jeep Renegade Latitude Jeep-Renegade-2015-33 Jeep-Renegade-2015-34 ]]>
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Here’s What Most Jeep Renegades Will Look Like http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/heres-what-most-jeep-renegades-will-look-like/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/heres-what-most-jeep-renegades-will-look-like/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 14:44:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=760273 2015-jeep-renegade-2

 

Courtesy of Jalopnik and Autoguide, we have an exterior shot of the Jeep Renegade in non-Trailhawk trim, as well as an interior shot. Gallery below.

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 2015-jeep-renegade-2 ]]>
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2015 Jeep Renegade: 9-Speeds And A Manual-Only Powertrain http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2015-jeep-renegade-9-speeds-and-a-manual-only-powertrain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2015-jeep-renegade-9-speeds-and-a-manual-only-powertrain/#comments Sun, 02 Mar 2014 19:30:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=759417 2015-jeep-renegade

 

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

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

2015-jeep-renegade-1-1 2015-jeep-renegade-trailhawk-01-1 2015-jeep-renegade ku-xlarge ku-xlarge (1) ]]>
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Japanese Brands Dominate Consumer Reports Rankings, Detroit Three Struggling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/japanese-brands-dominate-consumer-reports-rankings-detroit-three-struggling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/japanese-brands-dominate-consumer-reports-rankings-detroit-three-struggling/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 15:30:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754369 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-004

Though quality and performance have improved as of late for products made by the Detroit Three, they still have a ways to go to beat the Japanese brands dominating Consumer Reports‘ current rankings.

Automotive News reports seven of the top 10 brands rated for overall reliability and road-test performance as conducted by the magazine are Japanese, while the two top Detroit brands — Buick and GMC — tied for 12th; Ford and Jeep tied for last place.

The top-rated brand for the second consecutive year was Lexus, scoring 79 out of 100 for their lineup deemed “quiet, plush, and very reliable” by Consumer Reports. Following the luxury brand were Acura, Audi, Subaru and Toyota (tied for fourth place), Mazda, Honda, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW and Volvo (tied for 10th).

As for where the remaining Detroit Three brands landed, Chrysler took up the 14th position while Chevrolet, Cadillac, Dodge and the aforementioned Ford and Jeep rounding out the bottom of the rankings behind Nissan, the lowest ranked Japanese brand in a tie with Volkswagen for 19th.

Ford and Jeep’s dead-last ranking is the result of technology woes for the former’s MyFord Touch infotainment system, and a “crude and outdated” lineup — including a Grand Cherokee suffering from weakened reliability, and a Cherokee that the magazine says “isn’t that competitive” — for the latter. Ford, in particular, is a “sad story” according to CR director of auto testing Jake Fisher:

The Ford Fusion, not only does it look, but it drives like a good European sports car. It really does. The problem is the reliability, and that’s what’s dragging down that brand.

Meanwhile, Fisher notes that if General Motors had “a whole lineup of Impalas,” considered the best large sedan based on road tests conducted by the magazine, the automaker would be at the top of the rankings. Overall, Fisher believes the Detroit Three as a whole are “going the right way” in terms of reliability and performance.

Regarding individual models, the Ram 1500 was rated the Best Pickup over the Silverado/Sierra twins in part due to the lack of reliability information for the latter two, while Hyundai captured the trophy Best Mid-Size SUV for their Santa Fe, Subaru holding off the Honda CR-V with their Forester for Best Small SUV, and Tesla, whose Model S holds the highest overall score ever given by the magazine: 99 out of 100, takes home the Overall trophy.

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Ur-Turn: Saturation Dive Into The ZF 9-Speed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ur-turn-saturation-dive-into-the-zf-9-speed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ur-turn-saturation-dive-into-the-zf-9-speed/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 18:03:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754105 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.


fig2


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.


fig3


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

fig6


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

1st=
S3+R3
S3
S2+R2
R2
S1+R1
R1
=
224
91
152
110
152
110
=4.700
(1)

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

2ndgear=
S4+R4
R4
S2+R2
R2
S1+R1
R1
=
128
86
152
110
152
110
=2.8419
(2)

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

3rdgear=
S2+R2
R2
S1+R1
R1
=
152
110
152
110
=1.9094
(3)

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

3rd=
S1+R1
R1
=
152
110
=1.3818
(4)

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

5th=1.000
(5)

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

6th=
1
1+
S4
S4+R4
R2
S2
S1
R1+S1
=0.8081
(6)

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

7th=
1
1+
R3
S3+R3
R2
S2
S1
R1+S1
=0.6995
(7)

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

8th=
1
1+
R3
S3+R3
R2
S2
S1
R1+S1
=0.5802
(8)

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

9th=
1
1+
R4R3
R4R3S4S3
R2
S2
S1
R1+S1
=0.4792
(9)

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

Rev=
S4S3R4R3
S4S3
S2+R2
R2
S1+R1
R1
=3.8049
(10)

Downshifts

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.

Conclusions

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..


1
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) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-jeep-cherokee-limited-v6-4x4-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-jeep-cherokee-limited-v6-4x4-with-video/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 14:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739825 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-002

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

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

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

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

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

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-004

Interior

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

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

IMG_1374

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

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

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior uConnect 8.4

Infotainment

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

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

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

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited 3.2L V6 Engine-002

Drivetrain

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

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

IMG_1376

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

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

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-004Modifications

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

Pricing

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

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

Drive

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

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

IMG_1373

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 ]]>
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The Wobble Comes To An End As Consumer Reports Echoes TTACs Criticisms Of The Jeep Cherokee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/the-wobble-comes-to-an-end-as-consumer-reports-echoes-ttacs-criticisms-of-the-jeep-cherokee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/the-wobble-comes-to-an-end-as-consumer-reports-echoes-ttacs-criticisms-of-the-jeep-cherokee/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 21:22:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739769 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/zfs-9-speed-9hp-transmission-puts-dog-clutches-on-the-leash/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/zfs-9-speed-9hp-transmission-puts-dog-clutches-on-the-leash/#comments Sun, 09 Feb 2014 03:34:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=727738 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.

928TE

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.

21erqc3

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

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

IMG_0821

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

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

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

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Junkyard Find: 1974 AM General FJ-8A Ice Cream Truck http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/junkyard-find-1974-am-general-fj-8a-ice-cream-truck/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/junkyard-find-1974-am-general-fj-8a-ice-cream-truck/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=706234 21 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinWe see quite a few AM General DJ-5 mail Jeeps in this series, but what about all the big FJ-series mail trucks built by AMC with help from its Overland-Willys-Kaiser ancestry? For that, I had to venture to Southern California. Most of those 1970s FJ-8s seem to have become more or less sketchy ice cream trucks, and it’s hard to find a creepier Junkyard Find than a dead ice cream truck.
BoogieManIceCream-1280px-4The ice cream trucks that aren’t in the junkyard yet can also be pretty scary. Here’s the “Boogie Man Ice Cream” truck, which I spotted on San Leandro Street in East Oakland a few years back. For the full effect, you’ll need to download some authentic ice cream truck music files.
18 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s hard to beat this seat for simplicity.
05 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinJust a big steel box with an engine, a seat… and ptomaine.
14 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m sure this truck distributed many a stale Choco Taco in its day.
11 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe newest Long Beach food-vendor license seems to be 2005.
02 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinAm I looking at this wrong, or is this AMC six installed backwards?

01 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1974 AM General FJ-81 Ice Cream Truck Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Chart Of The Day: Here’s What The Jeep Cherokee Is Up Against In 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/chart-of-the-day-heres-what-the-jeep-cherokee-is-up-against-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/chart-of-the-day-heres-what-the-jeep-cherokee-is-up-against-in-2014/#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2014 14:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=704050 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?

crossovergraph2

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).

 

cherokeelibertygraph

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: 2014 Dodge Durango Limited V8 (with Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 15:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=695921 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002

Car shopping used to be so simple: you could buy a truck or a car. Then came the wagon, minivan, sport utility and the latest craze: the crossover. There’s just one problem with the crossover for me however: it’s not a crossover. With a name like that you’d assume that a modern crossover blended the lines between a truck/SUV with a car/minivan. The reality of course is that the modern three-row crossover is just a front-driving minivan that doesn’t handle as well or haul as much stuff. In this sea of transverse minivans in SUV clothing lies just one mass-market vehicle that I can honestly call a three-row crossover: the Dodge Durango. Instead of a car that’s been turned into an AWD minivan with a longer hood, the Dodge uses drivetrains out of the RAM 1500 combined with a car-like unibody. While rumors swirled that the Durango would be canceled in favor of a 7-seat Jeep, Dodge was working a substantial makeover for 2014.

Click here to view the embedded video.

So what is the Durango? Is it an SUV? Is it a crossover? In my mind, both. If a Grand Cherokee can be a unibody SUV and not a crossover, the Durango must be an SUV. But if a crossover is a hybrid between a car and a truck, then the Durango is one as well. While the first and second generation Durangos were body-on-frame SUVs based on the Dakota pickup, this Durango is a three-row Grand Cherokee, which is a two-row Jeep version of the three-row Mercedes ML which is quasi related to the Mercedes E-Class, which is quasi related to the Chrysler 300. Lost yet?

Exterior

2014 brings few changes to the outside of the Durango. The design first released in 2011 still looks fresh to my eye but that could be because I don’t see many on the road. Up front we get a tweaked corporate grille and new lamps while out back we get “race track” inspired light pipes circling the rump. Aside from a lowered right height on certain models and new wheels, little has changed for the Durango’s slab-sided profile, which I think is one of the Dodge’s best features. No, I’m not talking about the plain-Jane acres of sheet metal, I’m talking about RWD proportions. Bucking the trend, this three-row sports a long (and tall) hood, blunt nose, short front overhang and high belt-line.

To create the Durango from the Grand Cherokee, Chrysler stretched the Jeep’s wheelbase by 5-inches to 119.8 inches and added three inches to the body. The result is four-inches longer than an Explorer but two inches shorter than the Traverse, Acadia and Enclave triplets. Thanks to the Durango’s short front overhand, the Dodge has the longest wheelbase by a long way, beating even the full-size Chevy Tahoe. Speaking of the body-on-frame competition, the Durango may have been a size too small in the past, but this generation is just 8/10ths of an inch shorter than that Tahoe.

DG014_043DU

Interior

Body-on-frame SUVs have a practicality problem when it comes to space efficiency. Because the frame sits between the body and the road, they tend to be taller than unibody crossovers despite having less interior volume. Like the rest of the crossover crowd, this allows the Durango to have a spacious interior with a comparatively low entry height. 2014 brings a raft of much-needed interior updates to the cabin including a new soft touch dashboard, Chrysler’s latest corporate steering wheel with shift paddles, revised climate controls, Chrysler’s latest uConnect 2 infotainment system and a standard 7-inch LCD instrument cluster. Like the other Chrysler products with this LCD, the screen is flanked by a traditional tachometer, fuel and temperature gauge. Oddly enough, the standard infotainment screen is a smallish (in comparison) 5-inches.

Front seat comfort proves excellent in the Durango which was something of a relief, as the last few Chrysler products I have driven had form and oddly shaped seat bottom cushions that make me feel as if I was “sitting on and not in the seat.” As with all three-row vehicles, the accommodations get less comfortable as you move toward the back. By default all Durango trims are 7-passenger vehicles with a three-across second row. For $895 Dodge will delete the middle seat and insert a pair of more comfortable captain’s chairs and a center console with cup holders and a storage compartment. The third row is a strictly two-person affair and, like most crossovers, is best left to children and your mother in law. Those who do find themselves in “the way back” will be comforted by above average headroom and soft touch plastic arm rests. With large exterior proportions you’d expect a big cargo hold like in the cavernous Traverse, alas the RWD layout that makes the Durango so unique renders the interior less practical. With more of the body used up for “hood,” we get just 17 cubes of space behind the third row. That’s three less than an Explorer, seven less than GM’s Lambda triplets and about the same as a Honda Pilot. On the bright side this is more than you will find in a Highlander or Sorento and shockingly enough, more than in the Tahoe as well.

DG014_030DU

Infotainment

uConnect 2 is the first major update to Chrysler’s 8.4-inch touchscreen system that launched in 2011 and the first version of this system the Durango has ever had. Based on a QNX UNIX operating system, the system features well polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. For the second edition of uConnect, Chrysler smoothed out the few rough edges in the first generation of this system and added a boat-load of trendy tech features you may or may not care about. In addition to improved voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem onboard, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well. Keep in mind speeds are 3G, not Sprint’s WiMAX or LTE network.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. Garmin’s navigation software is still available as a $500 add-on (standard on Summit) and it still looks like someone cut a hole in the screen and stuck a hand-held Garmin unit in the dash. The interface is easy to use but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. If the bevy of USB ports has you confused, you can rock your Cat Stevens CD by paying $190 for a single-slot disc player jammed into the center armrest.

2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001Drivetrain

Dodge shoppers will find two of the Grand Cherokee’s four engines under the hood. First up we have a 290HP/260lb-ft 3.6L V6 (295HP in certain trims) standard in all trims except the R/T. R/T models get a standard 360HP/390lb-ft 5.7L HEMI V8 which can be added to the other trims for $2,795. 2014 brings a beefed up cooling system and a number of minor tweaks in the name of fuel economy. Sadly Chrysler has decided to keep the V6 EcoDiesel engine and 6.4L SRT V8 Grand Cherokee only options, so if you hoped to sip diesel or burn rubber in your three row crossover, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Both engines are mated to a ZF-designed 8-speed automatic. V6 models use the low torque variety made by Chrysler while V8 models use a heavy-duty 8HP70 made in a ZF factory. If you’re up to date on Euro inbreeding, you know this is the same transmission used by BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover and Rolls Royce. To say this is a step up from the vilified Mercedes 5-speed or the Chrysler 6 speed (the 65RFE featured some of the strangest ratio spacing ever) is putting it mildly. Fuel economy jumps 9% in the V6, 10% in the V8. No small feat in a 4,835lb SUV (as tested). All Durangos start out as rear wheel drive vehicles but you can add a two-speed four-wheel-drive system for $2,400. Although Dodge bills this as AWD, it is the same transfer case that Jeep calls 4×4 in Selec-Trac II equipped Grand Cherokees. Thanks to the heavy-duty drivetrain towing rings in at 6,200lbs for the V6 and 7,400lbs for the V8. Like the Jeeps the Durango has moved to more car-like 5-lug wheels which should widen after-market selection.

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior

Drive

The engineers took the refresh opportunity to tweak the Durango toward the sportier side of the segment with stiffer springs and beefier sway bars. While far from a night-and-day transformation, the difference is noticeable and appreciated out on the roads. While never harsh, it is obvious the Durango is tuned towards the firm side of this segment. Thanks to the long wheelbase the Durango feels well composed on the highway or on broken pavement.

With a nearly 50/50 weight balance, wide 265-width tires, and a lower center of gravity than a “traditional SUV”, the Durango is easily the handling and road feeling champion. That’s not to say the Durango is some sort of sports car in disguise, but when you compare a well balanced 360 horsepower rear wheel drive elephant to a slightly lighter but much less balanced front driving elephant on skinny rubber, it’s easy to see which is more exciting. Thanks to the Mercedes roots there’s even a whiff of feedback in the steering, more than you can say for the average crossover. Despite the long wheelbase and wide tires, the Durango still cuts a fairly respectable 37-foot turning circle.

Those statement may have you scratching your head if you recall what I said about Jeep on which the Durango is based, I must admit I scratched my head as well. Although the Dodge and the Jeep share suspension design elements and a limited number of components, the tuning is quite different. The Grand Cherokee Summit rides 3.1-inchs higher and was equipped with the off-road oriented air suspension.

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005

When it comes to performance, the new 8-speed automatic makes a night and day difference shaving a whopping 1.4 seconds off the 0-60 time versus the last V8 Durango we tested. The reason is all in the gear ratios. While the 545RFE and 65RFE transmissions suffered from some truly odd ratios, the ZF unit’s ratios are more evenly spread and dig deeper in the low gears. The result is a 6.0 second sprint to highway speeds which finally nips on the tails of the Explorer Sport which we’re told will do the same in 5.9-6.0 (TTAC hasn’t tested one yet). This proves what extra gears can do for you because the Explorer is 200lbs lighter and has a far more advantageous torque curve thanks to the twin turbos.

You can also thank the ZF transmission for the Durango’s robust towing numbers. V6 models are now rated for 6,200lbs while the V8 can haul up to 7,400lbs when properly equipped. That’s nearly 50% more than you can tow in any of the crossover competition and just 1,000 lbs shy of the average full-size body-on-frame hauler.

The transmission is also responsible for a whopping 20% increase in fuel economy. The last V8 Durango I tested eked out a combined 14.8 MPG over a week while the 2014 managed 18.0 MPG. While 18 MPG isn’t impressive in wider terms, it is 1/2 an MPG better than GM’s Lambda crossovers or the Ford Explorer on my commute cycle. The V6 yields improved fuel economy at the expense of thrust, but you should know that although the acceleration provided by the V6 is competitive with the V6 three-row competition, the 20 MPG average falls short of the new Highlander, Pathfinder and the rest of the FWD eco-minded competition.

After a week with the Durango I was no closer to answering the biggest question car buffs have: is this Dodge a crossover or an SUV? One thing is sure however, the Durango is likely the most fun you can have with 6 of your friends for under $50,000.

 

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.4

0-60: 6.0

1/4 Mile: 14.6 Seconds @ 96 MPH

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69dB @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 18 MPG over 811 miles

 

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-014 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-013 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-009 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-004 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-002 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-003 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-001 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-006 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-007 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-008 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-012 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-011 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-010 DG014_058DU DG014_057DU DG014_051DU DG014_043DU DG014_030DU ]]>
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“Perfect Result”: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Passes Moose Test http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/perfect-result-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-passes-moose-test/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/perfect-result-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-passes-moose-test/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 20:52:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=691338 gl_algtest-jeep-grand-cherokee001

You may recall that a couple of years ago there was a mild brouhaha when Sweden’s Teknikens Värld said that the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee failed the publication’s “moose test” in a dangerous manner, almost rolling over when performing the accident avoidance maneuver. At speeds as low as 37.9 mph (61 kmh) the ’12 Grand Cherokee lifted its inside wheels without any intervention by the vehicle’s electronic stability and anti-rollover systems. Since then, the Grand Cherokee has been completely redesigned and as part of a comparison test of the Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0 CRD, the BMW X5 and the Range Rover Sport for their February 2014 issue, Teknikens Värld put the 2014 JGC through their moose test. They were “delighted” to report that the new Grand Cherokee, loaded according to its Swedish certificate of registration (6,501 lbs), passed the test with flying colors, “a perfect result for a big car” is how they described the test. The video won’t embed here so you’ll have to visit the Teknikens Värld website to check out how the 2014 edition of the SUV’s nannies keep all four wheels on the ground.

The magazine reports that the traction control system on the ’14 JGC is activated early and reacts aggressively, slowing the car dramatically even at a low corner entry speed of 61 kmh. At higher speeds the system works even more proactively. The highest speed at which the ’14 JGC passed the moose test was 71 kmh (44.1 mph), which Teknikens Värld calls “a good result for a SUV”. Actually, in the video they say that it was a “perfect result” for a large vehicle.

The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee failing moose test.

The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee failing Teknikens Värld’s moose test.

When the 2012 Grand Cherokee failed the moose test, the video went viral with millions of views. In part that was due to the dramatic failure mode, we don’t often see cars on two wheels outside of daredevil shows. No doubt, also, the cervine moniker had something to do with it as well. Moose are inherently funny and attention getting. Jay Ward certainly knew that. Teknikens Värld did the right thing and issued a press release specifically about the new Grand Cherokee’s passing the moose test with flying colors, but I doubt the new video will get as much attention as the old one.

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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2015 Chrysler 200 Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/2015-chrysler-200-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/2015-chrysler-200-revealed/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 16:15:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=679154 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 ]]>
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Cain’s Segments: Affordable Off-Roaders http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/cains-segments-affordable-off-roaders/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/cains-segments-affordable-off-roaders/#comments Mon, 09 Dec 2013 18:01:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=676098 TTAC_Wrangler-chart

The general belief that no genuine Jeep Wrangler alternative sells in anything like the kinds of numbers achieved by the Wrangler is a belief that is completely, wholeheartedly supported by the facts.

Let’s be honest. The Wrangler’s popularity, in particular the Wrangler Unlimited’s fruitful endeavor into the mainstream auto buying consciousness, couldn’t happen without one of two occurrences: either offroading is exploding in popularity as a leisure activity, or some buyers who would otherwise choose a Ford Escape (and its kind) are buying a Jeep Wrangler.

Regardless of the circumstances which are leading buyers to the Wrangler, there are more such buyers than ever before, and it’s not as though there are a wide array of Wrangler-like alternatives in the U.S. market. Pickup trucks aside, the Toyota FJ Cruiser and Nissan Xterra stand out as the other two affordable offroaders, the ones which could reasonably be modified to become ultra-capable offroaders.

Does that status matter to the majority of buyers? Not only does it matter to those who wish to travel far off the beaten path, it also matters to buyers who will never even contemplate leaving the pavement. The fact that they’ll be driving something that could do so if need be – rather than just looking like it might be able to – is a huge part of the Wrangler’s appeal; the FJ’s and Xterra’s, too.

But the FJ Cruiser is on its last legs. Meanwhile, plans to spend a vast amount of money on redesigning and relaunching the Xterra are sketchy as, after all, the Xterra sells barely more often than the Titan.

Don’t be confused by the year-over-year change. Yes, Xterra sales are rising in 2013, but an increase of 2% for such a low-volume vehicle translates to just 335 extra sales through eleven months. Moreover, the overall new vehicle market, especially the SUV/crossover market, is growing at a much faster clip than the aging Xterra. Of greater relevance is the fact that this current YOY growth comes after one of the Xterra’s worst ever years in terms of U.S. volume. 17,222 were sold in all of 2012, a 5% drop compared with 2011, and a 78% drop compared with the 79,779 Xterras which were sold in 2002.

One might also ask why the FJ needs to be cancelled if the its year-over-year decline is so slight, but that question, too, would only be asked by one who hasn’t studied the FJ’s U.S. history. Sales peaked at 56,225 in the model’s first year, fell as low as 11,941 units in 2009, and then averaged just 14,000 sales per year since 2010. It’s been allowed to languish without significant updates even as consumers who may once have been enamoured by its style became more aware of its poor visibility and excessive base price.

Granted, the compromises a buyer must accept to tolerate life with the Jeep are numerous, yet they don’t seem to be significant enough to keep away a record number of buyers. The Wrangler’s success leads us to believe that others could also succeed, that there is some untapped potential. On the other hand, the decreasing number of FJ and Xterra sales causes us to wonder if Jeep, with all the Wrangler’s history and its cheap toplessness and its steady improvement, should simply be the sole purveyor of affordable offroaders.

So unique is the Wrangler and so wide is its product range that even the Xterra and FJ Cruiser hardly seem like Wrangler rivals. They’re certainly not sales volume rivals. Being the one and only hasn’t always turned out well for automakers. Consider the Renault Avantime, Subaru Baja, and Lincoln Blackwood. In the Wrangler’s case, its climb to its current status as one of America’s 30 best-selling vehicles is proof that the Wrangler is, well, it’s not a Renault Avantime.

Auto
Nov. 2013
Nov. 2012
%
Change
11 mos. 2013
11 mos. 2012
%
Change
Jeep Wrangler
11,753 10,337 + 13.7% 143,474 130,124 + 10.3%
Nissan Xterra
1445 1343 + 7.6% 16,178 15,843 + 2.1%
Toyota FJ Cruiser
1150 1164 - 1.2% 11,826 12,145 - 2.6%
Total
14,348
12,844 + 11.7% 171,478 158,112 + 8.5%
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Review: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-with-video/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2013 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=666978 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-004

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

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

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

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

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

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-002

Interior

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

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

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

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-005Infotainment

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

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

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine-001

Drivetrain

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

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

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-016Drive

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

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

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

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-008

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

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

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-015

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

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

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

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 1.37 Seconds

0-60: 4.1 Seconds

0-100: 11.33 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.7 Seconds @ 107 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 15.5 over 989 miles

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine-001 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine-002 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine-003 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-001 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-002 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-003 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-004 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-005 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-006 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-007 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-008 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-009 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-010 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-011 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-012 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-013 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-014 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-015 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-016 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-017 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-001 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-002 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-003 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-004 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-005 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-006 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-007 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-008 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-009 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-010 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-011 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-012 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-013 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee LCD Instrument Cluster ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1976 Jeep Wagoneer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1976-jeep-wagoneer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1976-jeep-wagoneer/#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2013 14:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=648490 01 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince Willys/Kaiser/Jeep/AMC/Chrysler built the Wagoneer from Biblical times until ten minutes ago (actually 1963 through 1991), and I live in Jeep-centric Colorado, I see these things just about every time I visit a wrecking yard. Mostly, I don’t photograph them (unless I see an unusually late example, such as this ’89, or one resplendent in purple paint and tape stripes, like this ’81), but today’s Junkyard Find— spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-serve yard a few weeks ago— was just so incredibly Malaise-y that I felt compelled to document it in its final parking space.
13 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinImagine having the guts to buy something this thirsty just a few years after the 1973 energy crisis, and the sinking feeling that the owner must have experienced when the 1979 energy crisis hit!
07 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill, if you need a work truck you have to be willing to pay the fuel bills.
04 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFake woodgrain, refreshingly uncomplicated HVAC controls. Some things about the middle 1970s were pretty good.
15 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe AMC 360-cubic-inch V8 stayed in production all the way through 1991, thanks to Chrysler’s absorption of AMC in 1987.
06 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill some good parts left on this one.

Toughest four-letter word on wheels!

01 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Jeep Grand Comanche Episode 2: We Jack ‘Em Up In The Yard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/jeep-grand-comanche-episiode-2-we-jack-em-up-in-the-yard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/jeep-grand-comanche-episiode-2-we-jack-em-up-in-the-yard/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 23:24:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=644274 2000 Jeep Grand Comance Project Car

If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a new project car in TTAC’s “garage,” a 2000 Grand Cherokee Limited. I of course use the term garage simply because “gravel driveway” fails to have the same ring. Why a car guy doesn’t have a garage is a story for a different time. All I will say on the matter is that I was promised a garage with a 2-post lift and I am still waiting…  Back to the car. Before we chop the lid off the WJ Grand Cherokee to convert it into a two door, two seat Grand Comanche we needed to tackle a few projects. We need a lift kit, off-road rubber, then we need to ditch the interior and take care of some general housekeeping items.

Iron Rock Off Road 3-inch lift kit

The whole point of this project car is for the Jeep to act as a farm utility vehicle. Since this 2000 Limited model was equipped with the “Up Country” suspension package it had a factory lift of one inch to 10.3 inches of ground clearance. If that sounds better than a John Deere Gator’s 8.5 inches, remember that the farm utility vehicle has a really short wheelbase. Translating that up to the project car meant adding three inches. (Keep in mind that since our Jeep had the factory one inch lift, the three-inch lift kits increase the height by only two inches since their base number uses the stock 4×4 ground clearance. )

After a an intense Googling session, I settled on the $499 Iron Rock Off Road lift kit. My logic was simple: it was the cheapest three-inch lift kit I could find. Why not four? According to the Jeep experts I asked, a four-inch lift would have required more complicated modifications including lowering the transfer case. I fell for the suggestion to toss in a $70 shock upgrade and my out-the-door was $633.98 after shipping.

Lift Kit In Progress

The kit arrived on time and in two large and heavy boxes. Everything was well packaged but the instructions could have been a bit better. While I pride myself as an above average DIY-wrencher, I would have liked some more detailed instructions simply as a safety margin. If you’re not comfortable disassembling your suspension, you’ll be paying hundred for the installation.

Because I’m a moron with a desire to live, when one of my spring compressors gave up on me, I decided instead of compressing the spring on side (and making it look like a big banana) I would just unbolt the suspension from the body so it would be low enough to install the springs without the compressor. This meant jacking the Jeep up one side at a time (two jacks would cost money and I’m cheap), placing a large concrete paver on the gravel to support a jack stand and then raising the other side in the same way. Right about the time I was breaking suspension bolts loose with a 24-inch breaker bar and making the Jeep sway on my dollar-store jack stands I realized this was stupid. Yet I continued.

With the lift kit installed after about 6 hours total I was able to bolt on the next item.

ProCom 16 inch steel wheels

Pro Comp 16-inch steel wheels

No project Jeep would ever be complete without steel rims. Black steel rims. Since I didn’t want to go crazy big and I wanted a large aspect ratio tire, I stick with a 16-inch wheel diameter and jumped up to an 8-inch wide wheel. Cost: $377.88 delivered. Yeehaw.

Pro Comp Xtreme MT2

Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 265/75R16

When it came to the tires my choice was limited. Because I opted for just a three inch body lift, I knew I couldn’t go too crazy on the rubber. I trolled all the Jeep forums I could find and my 30 second research indicated that a 265/75R16 would be the biggest thing I could stuff in there without pushing the wheel outside the body or sawzalling the body to pieces. After 30 seconds of online comparison I found a deal on Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 tires in just the right size for a grant total of $1,007 at my door. In hind sight a 4-inch lift kit would have helped me out here and something around 6 inches would have allowed me to get more serious 33-inch tires, but I was committed at this point.

Because I have a few connections in the fleet world, I was able to snag some time in the mechanic’s bay of a local company with a service vehicle fleet. Being the cheap bastard I am, I mounted and balanced the tires myself for free. This is also why one wheel has about 7 wheel weights on it, although I seem to have balanced them fairly well as there isn’t even a faint vibration on the highway. Score one for the cheap dudes.

Although there are more aggressive tires out there, I decided that it would be handy to be able to drive the Grand Comanche to the feed store directly. The alternative would be to drive something else to the feed store, pick up hay, straw, feed, etc, then swap it into the cut-up-hoopty for delivery. Even so the on-road toll is obvious with the tires being significantly louder than all terrains.

Jeep on alignment rack

Oops

This brings our total to $2,018.86 in parts followed by a $79 four-wheel alignment which is required after you disassemble this much of any car.  Since the car was gifted to the project, I considered this good value thus far. Then I decided to cross the creek and drive through the woods. More on that later.

 

This project is obviously for entertainment value only. My entertainment value primarily, but if you find it interesting to watch then we’re on to something. This means that comments like “why don’t you sell it and buy a X instead?” are pointless. Also obvious is the fact that I’ve never done anything like this before so it is incredibly likely that I’ll be doing stupid things, getting things wrong and generally making an ass of myself. That’s just par for this course. While I may mention specific products, I’m not endorsing anything and no person or company has given this project any free stuff. (This makes me very sad.) Lastly, if you have any suggestions, know of any sources for parts, or are in the area and want to check the disaster out, let us know.

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