Jeeping in Moab isn’t only a neologism — it’s also a tradition. Like most traditions (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.) it’s hard to pin when the rites began, why they started, or – most importantly – why they continue. For people who live in and around Moab, Jeeping is a mostly tolerable exercise that pours money into the small, southern Utah town that welcomes more its hikers, bikers and frequent hitchhikers to its two spectacular national parks than any rolling convoy of rock-crawling muscle.
I’m guessing very few people in the town can remember why the first person took a motorized vehicle up a beautiful geological formation and into the sand behind it.
Jeeping is also mildly entertaining for locals, up until the moment someone rolls up the hill in a car that looks like it has very little business being there. Then it becomes wonderfully fascinating for everyone.
Chrysler has been on a steady upswing since the dark days of bankruptcy. Throughout its merger with Fiat, each model has been updated or completely replaced. Jeep has been the shining star of the core brands, selling every Grand Cherokee and Wrangler they can make. Even the controversially styled Cherokee has been fairly well receieved. The next vehicle in the Jeep lineup will be the small Renegade, designed to attract “a new wave of youthful and adventurous customers around the world to the brand.” We concur.
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?