Dear Mr. Manley, Please Build an Off-Road Grand Cherokee

Don’t do it for us. Do it for yourself.

Jeep is not a purveyor of transportation appliances. It creates and markets lifestyle products built on its off-road reputation. And the brand is not well positioned to compete in the increasingly crowded SUV/CUV space based purely on quality and everyday performance. But that’s okay, because Jeep can drive growth by playing to the strengths that brought it 865,000 customers last year, the essence of which is extreme off-road capability.

Jeep sales grew a dizzying 25 percent in the United States last year. Through the first third of 2016, the brand is tracking for two-percent growth. Blowing past the elusive one million sales mark in the U.S., and staying there, will not be easy. The Wrangler will continue to anchor the emotional identity of the brand, but Jeep would benefit from diversification as the top. To continue its impressive seven consecutive years of growth, Jeep should offer two distinct, yet equally capable products that speak to enthusiasts and mainstream consumers alike.

Jeep needs to build a hardcore, off-road version of the Grand Cherokee.

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The $100,000 Pickup Truck is Real, and You Have Dealers and the Aftermarket to Thank For It

The time is ticking ever closer to the day an OEM slaps a $100,000 MSRP on a truck. It will happen, and it won’t be long before it does.

In 1997, $27,000 bought a lavishly equipped F-150 Lariat SuperCab with a 5.4-liter V8. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $40,000 in today’s money. Adjusted for reality, that truck now carries a $45,000 MSRP. The $100,000 barrier will be crossed in perhaps a decade based on inflation alone, but inflation will not deliver the first $100,000 truck. Trim escalation and new equipment will cross the finish line first.

Regardless, OEMs won’t be the first to push MSRPs into the stratosphere. That distinction goes to the aftermarket, in conjunction with dealers. And, unsurprisingly, together they’ve already made a $100,000 pickup a reality.

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F-150 Raptor Runs Off Road, Ford Offers Pictures to Prove It

Ford released photos and video Friday of its newest Raptor off-road testing in Northern Michigan.

The truck, which will go on sale next fall, has better ground clearance than the outgoing Raptor, although Ford isn’t giving us official specs yet. We know the last generation’s fording depth was officially 30 inches up to 4 mph and that capability likely won’t decrease — but we don’t know if it’ll go up.

“The all-new Ford Raptor will be more capable than the previous Raptor, including improved wheel travel and ground clearance,” Ford spokesman Mike Levine told us.

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2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Review - Identity Crisis

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4

5.7-liter, variable valve timing, multi-displacement system Hemi V-8 (395 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 410 pounds-feet @ 3,950 rpm)

8-speed 8HP70 automatic

15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

15.1 mpg, 60 percent highway/30 percent off-road/10 percent at a lousy, never-ending stoplight (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Rebel Package; Dual rear exhaust with bright tips; Luxury group, $560 (Heated mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors); Protection group, $150 (Transfer case and front suspension skid plating); Monotone paint; Rear Camera and Park Assist, $595 (Backup camera, ParkSense rear park assistant); ZF 8-speed automatic, $500; Anti-spin differential rear axle, $325; 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, $1,150; Rebel instrument cluster, $175; Four corner air suspension; Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen w/nav, $1,005; RamBox cargo management system, $1,295; Trailer brake control, $230; Spray-in bedliner, $475.

Base Price (Ram 1500 Rebel 4×4):
$45,195*
As Tested Price:
$52,375*

* All prices include $1,195 destination fee.

Any debate about Jeep inevitably ends on a common, agreeable topic for all parties involved:

“Jeep really needs to make a pickup already.”

The idea that stuffed shirts at Auburn Hills, who make more in a day than we do in a year, have somehow missed the point is entirely possible (remember the center-mounted exhausts in the Grand Cherokee SRT8, effectively prohibiting any sort of towing?) but highly unlikely.

In fact: Jeep now has a pickup. It’s called the Ram Rebel.

Obligatory disclosure: I have no skin in the pickup game. None. My father owned exactly one of the following: A white Ford F-150, a black Chevrolet Silverado and a green Dodge Ram (when they were called as such). They were all new when he bought them, of 1990s-era vintage and equally pampered. No, we were not a wealthy family, and no, I still couldn’t back up a trailer with a gun pointed to my head.

To be even clearer: The only pickup I fondly remember is a dingy 1996 Toyota Pickup (pre-Tacoma years) that my brother took to college. It was five in speeds and six in cylinders; gutless and indestructible. It couldn’t run up a hill and run the A/C at the same time, but it felt like it could run over anything.

Put simply, in the domestic pickup war for dominance, I am Switzerland.

Now that you know where my allegiances fall, let’s get on to the important stuff.

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2015 Ford Edge Ecoboost Review With Video

The large two-row crossover is a rare breed. With compact crossovers getting less compact and folks defecting to supersized three rows, Toyota and Honda chose to kill the Venza and Accord Crosstour while Ford pressed on with a redesign of the Edge. You can think of the Edge as a “tweener” crossover slotting between the Escape and the Explorer while at the same time being the spiritual successor (in modern form) to the Bronco and two-row Explorers of yesteryear. Although Ford says the Edge is a complete redesign, you could be forgiven for thinking this is more of a refresh, and that’s not a bad thing since the Edge was already one the most appealing options in this phone-booth-sized segment.

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2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Meets Moab: A Desert Duel

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.

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2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4×4 Review (With Video)

Nissan’s path to the modern Pathfinder has been long and wandering. In 1985 the 2-door truck based Pathfinder was the answer to Chevy’s Blazer and Ford’s Bronco. In 1995 Nissan changed absolutely everything and made the Pathfinder a 5-door unibody SUV to compete head-on with Jeep’s successful Grand Cherokee. Nine years later, Nissan started over, yet again, with a body-on-frame design to do battle with the myriad of General Motors midsize SUVs choking up suburban expressways. Then, in 2013, Nissan went back to the drawing board for a fourth time with a new mission: build a spacious and well-priced soft-roader to battle the new Explorer and the GM Lambda platform triplets (Acadia, Traverse, Enclave).

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Please Visit Your Local Public Off-Road Park

Whenever you buy a performance car, there’s generally an intent to test its limits. There’s a winding country road by your house, but you likely will have to avoid cyclists, motorcyclists, residents mad about the broken speed limits and loud engine noise, as well as police officers ready to write a ticket. Highways are much rougher than they used to be (at least in California), so verifying the top speed of your Porsche down a freeway late at night might be a hairy proposition with the uneven road surfaces and random potholes. Consequently, your new performance car will be sitting in the garage most of the time, only taken out on days when the sun is shining and traffic is at a minimum. Eventually, a performance car owner will resolve to take his or her car to a track day and see what the car can do.

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Review: 2015 Nisssan Murano Platinum (With Video)

If you look at the numbers, sales of the Murano are on fire with a 72% sales jump in January of 2015 vs 2014 thanks to the new model. Looking more closely however, you’ll see that there was practically nowhere to go but up as the Murano barely outsold the now-dead Venza. Putting that in perspective, Nissan’s compact Rogue is the 6th best-selling SUV in America and the Murano is 26 rungs lower on the sales ladder. Nissan sells more Rogues in 6 days than Muranos in an entire month. Rather than killing the model as Toyota did with the Venza, Nissan decided to re-invent the formerly bland soft-roader into a flagship crossover. This actually makes sense, because it helps keep the mid-sized 5-seat CUV from being the awkward “middle child” between the 7-seat Rogue and the 7-seat Pathfinder. Does the all-new and all-curvy Murano have what it takes to compete with the Edge, Grand Cherokee or even the RX 350?

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Dispatches Do Brasil: Ford Trollers Bronco Fans With New BOF SUV

The accepted hagiography of the Ford empire involves the firesale of all of Ford’s various brands in the aftermath of the financial crisis, with only the Blue Oval and the Lincoln Motor Company sticking around for the ride. But that’s not quite accurate.

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Mercedes-Benz Lets You Enjoy The Outdoors, One Steppe At A Time

Photo courtesy of www.abtir.com

Mongolia. The name evokes images of vast, sweeping plains, burning deserts, high mountains and deep, crystal clear lakes. Born to the horse and with restlessness is in their blood, the wanderlust of the Mongolian people fits the greatness of their land. History tells us that under the Khans, they once swept across the entirety of Asia conquering every kingdom that dared to stand in their way and stopping only when Kublai-Khan died and his empire fractured into four separate, competing kingdoms. Today, hemmed in by Russia and China, the country has become a cultural backwater, but the spirit of the people and their connection to the land remains as intense as ever. Given all that, what you are about to see makes perfect sense.

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Review: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 4×4 (With Video)

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?

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Chicago 2014: Toyota TRD Pro Ups The Off-Road Ante
Pre-Production Review: 2014 Toyota 4Runner (With Video)

I would normally start a car review with an item of trivia or history about the vehicle under review, or about the segment in general. This time I’m going to start by talking about the elephant in the room: the 2014 4Runner SR5/Trail front end. Yikes! I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but when the attractive new 2014 Tundra pulled away revealing the 2014 4Runner, I was reminded of a woman I worked with in 1998. Drawn in by the promise of eternal good looks, she had her eyebrows surgically removed and lines tattooed on her face. The only problem was the tattoo artist (accidentally?) gave her a permanently surprised “eyebrows”. Oops. Perhaps the 4Runner also regrets going under the knife and that’s why the fog lamp slits make it look like it’s crying. What say the best and brightest? Click through the jump and sound off in the comment section.

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Review: 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque (Video)

Land Rover and Jeep are the original go-anywhere brands and the brands most resistant to losing sight of their hard-core mission. Unfortunately this focus can’t shelter them from the need to meet evermore stringent emissions and fuel economy standards. What’s an iconic sub-brand like Range Rover to do? Dress up a small cross over in high-fashion bling for the urban set. This presents today’s question: does the Evoque dilute the off-road brand or is it an extension into uncharted waters?

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  • SCE to AUX Few things are as boring as watching electric cars race.
  • Bru65688995 I owned a 1965 Monza convertible. Had a blast until I could afford a 1967 SS396 Chevelle.
  • ToolGuy While you wait (if this isn't interesting to you, I don't know why): https://youtu.be/sNLTE75B0OsRelated: https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/ARN30978-ATP_4-31-000-WEB-1.pdf [Quote: "If it's Ugly, it's Wrong"]
  • FreedMike Can the final last call edition be the Secretary Special, with a V6 and a vinyl roof?
  • FreedMike I’ve never heard of this so I’ll have no problem not attending.