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.
A week ago, I asked the Best and Brightest for help in understanding my wife’s desire for a 7-seat vehicle. Uninhibited by the premise of the question, recommendations on what to buy poured in:
- Honda CR-V
- Mazda CX-5
- Planned Parenthood gift certificate
- Cadillac XTS in Pearl White Tricoat
- Dodge Caravan
- Anything except a Dodge Caravan
Several readers submitted well-formulated responses, but the volume of possibilities was dizzying. Mitsubishi may have had a similar problem when redesigning the 2014 Outlander.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time driving and writing about crossovers. It’s not exactly the way I wanted things to work out, but we can’t all be Chris Harris. Having spent the last few months behind the wheel of the segment’s big players, I’ve come to a conclusion that seems to be a frequent theme of my automotive recommendations: what I’d pick for myself is not what I’d recommend to anyone else.
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.
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?
Ssangyong has had a colorful history, to put it lightly. In 1999, the Korean brand entered bankruptcy as its Chinese majority owner, SAIC Motor Company cut Ssangyong loose. Ssangyong made a frenzied attempt to cut its workforce down, and faced one of the worst labor strikes in the Korean auto industry’s history. In retaliation for the cuts, the workers of Ssangyong’s Pyongtaek production plant set fire to the plant, and later occupied it for two months. Riot police, including helicopter support, was called in eventually to clear the plant.
With Ssangyong in shambles, Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra bought a 70% stake in the company in 2011 and immediately went to work on labor issues. Since the acquisition, Ssangyong has not suffered any labor downtime and the once rioting workforce now appears to be diligently rebuilding the auto maker, one car at a time.
In 2013, Ssangyong returned and racked up its highest sales, with 145,649 cars sold last year. 81,679 of those sales were made in overseas markets; and a spokesman for Ssangyong confirmed to WardsAuto that the Korean Automaker is looking to expand its product to the U.S. market.
Everyone is eager to read Acura its Last Rites, but in the United States, it managed to outsell Audi last year. Despite having little to offer enthusiasts and traditional fans of the brand, the RDX and MDX are unqualified successes: the RDX outsells all of the small crossovers from Germany’s luxury bands (Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK etc.) with the larger MDX outsold only by the Lexus RX and Cadillac SRX respectively. As much as Acura touts the NSX as the future of the brand, what they could really stand to use is another crossover, one that slots below the RDX.
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?
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.
Unveiled as Honda’s entrant into the booming small crossover segment, the Fit-based Vezel will compete with products like the Ford EcoSport, Nissan Juke and Dacia Duster in both Europe and North America, but not in emerging markets. According to a report by Autocar India, Honda will develop an all-new small crossover based on the Brio, a low-cost, locally built A-segment car, for India and other makets.
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