2017 Jeep Compass
New compact crossover is a serious off-road machine
By Nina Russin
The 2017 Jeep Compass replaces the former Compass and Jeep Patriot no longer in production: positioned between the smaller Jeep Renegade and larger Cherokee.
The newest member of the Jeep family is built on the automaker’s small wide 4X4 architecture, providing the unibody vehicle with a rigid platform for good steering response on-road and a minimal flex for off-road trails.
There are four grades- Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited, with pricing starting at $20,995 for the two-wheel drive Sport. The off-road capable Trailhawk starts at $28,595, just below the upscale Limited priced from $28,995.
The Compass shares a 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with the Jeep Renegade, and comes with three available transmissions: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic and nine-speed automatic. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Chicago Auto Show
Nation’s largest consumer show expands family-friendly activities
By Nina Russin
Those of us inside the car industry tend to forget the role consumers play in an auto show. In addition to new product introductions, these events are a rare opportunity for those outside the bubble to get up close and personal with cars they are thinking of buying. The driving public is the meat and potatoes of the Chicago Show, held each February at the McCormick Place convention center. In terms of attendance, it is the largest auto show in the United States.
This year’s show features fun for all members of the family, including those too young to drive: a Lego Batmobile at the Chevrolet booth plus scale replicas of the Y-Wing Starfighter, X-Wing Starfighter, TIE Striker and AT-ACT, all displayed under the Death Star in Nissan’s special Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition Display appeal to the kid in all of us.
Those of driving age can get behind the wheel and have some fun at the show’s five indoor test tracks.
Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz include test tracks as part of their displays: an appeal to millennials who value experience over the written word. Mercedes-Benz’s Iron Schockl is a 45-degree grade, demonstrating the outstanding climbing ability of the G-Class, while Camp Jeep brings off-roading indoors with rock crawls, steep inclines and sandy surfaces. A Ram proving ground includes six stations that demonstrate the trucks’ work capabilities while Toyota enthusiasts can test drive the new RAV4 and Highlander midsize crossover. Read the rest of this entry »
2016 Jeep Renegade Sport
Compact crossover with Italian roots
By Nina Russin
These days it’s not unusual for automakers to share platforms, for example, the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X. Economy of numbers means automakers can offer car buyers more value. In the case of Jeep and Fiat, the marriage also combines the Italian automaker’s talent for sporty performance with Jeep’s all-terrain capability.
Of two available powertrains, the 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged engine and six-speed manual gearbox is the one to buy. Unfortunately, it’s not available in the off-road specific Trailhawk model, but provides value-conscious buyers with a great option.
Base price is $19,995 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include a Uconnect package with rear backup camera, power and air conditioning group, roof rails and removable My Sky roof panels. Final MSRP is $24,470. Read the rest of this entry »
2015 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4X4
Affordable off-road fun for growing families
By Nina Russin
The Jeep Patriot is for growing families what the Renegade is for urbanites: an affordable path to the road less traveled. Seating up to five passengers with a versatile cargo area that holds soup-to-nuts, the trail-rated Patriot Latitude 4X4 starts at $24,795 excluding the $995 destination charge.
The Patriot is available with two four-wheel drive systems, of which one, the Freedom Drive II has a low gear range and carries the Jeep trail rating. New for 2015 is a High Altitude appearance package that adds leather seating, 17-inch alloy rims, power sunroof and manual lumbar adjustment.
Other options on the test car include a digital information display in the gauge cluster, roof rail crossbars, tonneau cover, premium audio system with satellite radio, Uconnect infotainment center with voice command and Bluetooth interface and remote start. Final MSRP is $29,510. Read the rest of this entry »
2015 Jeep Renegade Sport
Compact SUV goes off the grid
By Nina Russin
I’m sitting behind the wheel of the new Jeep Renegade Trailhawk on top of an impossibly steep hill at the off-road driving park in Hollister, California. Our Renegade is number three in the caravan of vehicles on the longer of two trails Jeep has mapped out to show us the car’s off-road capability.
The driver in front of me is waffling, not sure if he should trust the car to get him down the hill. The grade is so steep that anyone trying to walk down would end up butt surfing.
I can see his brake lights flicker on and off as he inches his way along. The spotter is losing patience, as am I. As a Jeep owner, I’m confident that the Renegade will do exactly what the engineers have promised, if this guy would simply lock the differential, engage the rock crawl mode and slip the car into first gear.
After what seems like an eternity, it’s my turn. I engage the downhill descent control and steer into the trail. I can hear the antilock system chugging away beneath my feet, doing the work of a very skilled stunt driver. My job is easy. With my feet off the brakes, I enjoy the scenery on the way down.
Its off-road prowess makes the newest Jeep seem like a baby Wrangler, but the small SUV is more than that. Engineers developed an all-new small wide 4×4 platform, incorporating two Fiat engines and two transmissions: a six-speed manual and nine-speed automatic.
Unlike the Wrangler, the Renegade is unit body constructed and features a four-wheel independent suspension. Its smaller size and improved aerodynamic profile give the Renegade better fuel economy than its larger sibling: 31 miles-per-gallon on the highway. The independent suspension yields a smoother ride over uneven terrain such as the pothole-filled streets Midwestern drivers experience on a daily basis. Read the rest of this entry »
2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4
The freedom to go anywhere
By Nina Russin
Jeep Wrangler or Jeep Cherokee: that is the question. Both have serious off-road capability, but they target different audiences. The Wrangler is the purist’s car: no messing around for a Wrangler owner. With its live axles and worm gear steering, it’s not for the faint of heart. But as a rock crawler in Moab, the Wrangler can’t be beat.
The Cherokee can’t match the Wrangler’s capability on extreme terrain, but it will do more than most people who purchase four-wheel drive vehicles expect. I have driven the Trailhawk model on some pretty gnarly terrain and it went through like a champ.
On paved roads, there is no question that the Cherokee offers more creature comforts, including an independent suspension, quieter interior, electric power steering, and a very sophisticated terrain control system that automatically adjusts the suspension, throttle and brakes to the type of surface the car is traveling over.
The 2.4-liter Tigershark engine and nine-speed automatic transmission on the Cherokee Trailhawk average up to 27 miles-per-gallon on the highway as opposed to 21 for the four-door Wrangler Unlimited with the Pentastar V-6 engine.
Bottom line: the Cherokee may better fill the squares for buyers who have active lifestyles, but also commute through heavy traffic on a daily basis and need a more spacious interior for their growing families. The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk combines the car-like ride and handling of a crossover with Jeep’s legendary off-road finesse. Read the rest of this entry »
2014 Jeep Cherokee
Midsized SUV excites on and off-road
By Nina Russin
Although the Jeep Cherokee dates back to the mid-1970s, it’s the downsized 1984 model that established a market for midsized sport-utility vehicles. The Cherokee has, throughout its history, set the bar for off-road capability as well, having been one of the first vehicles to offer buyers a choice between part and full-time systems.
Jeep discontinued the nameplate in 2001, replacing it with the midsized Liberty. After two generations, Jeep discontinued that model, introducing an all-new Cherokee for the 2014 model year.
The newest Cherokee varies from the original model, in that it’s a unibody structure. But like its body-on-frame predecessors, the 2014 model has true off-road capability, as well as a choice of three four-wheel drive systems.
A Trailhawk version carries the Jeep trail rating designation, implying that the car is capable of navigating the Rubicon trail in California. The Trailhawk sits higher than the other three trim levels, has special wheels and off-road tires and a two-speed transfer case with locking rear axles. A Selec-Terrain system enables the driver to adapt the throttle, front/rear torque, four-wheel drive, brakes and suspension for five types of terrain: auto, snow, sport, sand/mud and rock. Read the rest of this entry »
2013 Jeep Wrangler Moab 4X4
Special edition celebrates the Mecca of off-road adventure
By Nina Russin
I suppose there’s a resident of Moab, Utah who doesn’t own a Jeep Wrangler, but I’ve never seen or heard of him. Nor can I imagine why anyone living among the red rocks would want to drive anything else. The synesthesia that occurs when a person drives the ultimate off-road vehicle on the ultimate off-road trails is pretty awesome.
For 2013, Jeep celebrates Moab’s off-road heritage with a special edition of the Wrangler. On the base Sahara 4X4 test car, the Moab edition adds a heavy-duty front bumper and winch cable, heavy-duty rear bumper, a special hood and badging, 17-inch black wheels with Goodyear Silent Armor off-road tires and an available locking rear differential.
Base price on the test car is $27,795 excluding the $995 destination charge. The Moab package adds $5200. Other options include a five-speed automatic transmission, the locking rear axle, and Uconnect infotainment with navigation, bringing the final MSRP to $37,650. Read the rest of this entry »
Heels and Wheels 2013
Annual conference puts women in the driver’s seat
By Nina Russin
I feel like the Queen: not the one with the Queen wave and frumpy clothes, but rather a Pussy Galore queen with Sean Connery by my side, oozing sex appeal and confidence. I don’t typically have Pussy Galore hallucinations, but I don’t usually get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB9 either. The experience was the highlight of my trip to the third annual Heels and Wheels women’s automotive conference in Bend, Oregon
Of course, there was a more serious aspect to the event, its primary focus being the buying power of women, which currently accounts for at least 50 percent of all new car purchases and up to 80 percent of car buying decisions.
According to Kelley Blue Book research Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Mazda and Volkswagen are the most popular brands among female buyers. Women tend to favor crossover vehicles and SUVs over sports cars and pickup trucks, with models such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 topping the popularity charts.
The internet has become the most popular source of information among women shopping for a new car, due partly to the unease with which many women approach dealerships. KBB visitors typically research a vehicle for two months, take about three more months for the purchasing process and keep their cars between 8 and 10 years.
Connectivity features are playing a larger role in purchase decisions, with Bluetooth and GPS both included among must-haves. Read the rest of this entry »
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X2
SUV gets updated powertrain and refreshed styling
By Nina Russin
This year, Jeep updates the Grand Cherokee introduced in 2010 with an eight-speed automatic transmission, enhanced off-road capability, a new Summit grade, diesel engine and refreshed styling. The eight-speed automatic that first rolled out on the Ram 1500 increases fuel economy to 25 mpg on the highway for the six-cylinder engine.
Four-wheel drive models have a new speed control system that gives drivers better directional control on steep grades, while the new EcoDiesel V-6 tows up to 7300 pounds.
Product planners also kept buyers’ budgets in mind, realizing that we are still living in shaky economic times. The base Laredo model tested starts at $28,795, excluding the $995 destination charge.
Despite being the entry grade, the Laredo is by no means a stripped down car. A five-inch Uconnect touchscreen gives drivers access to satellite radio and HVAC settings, while a new TFT gauge cluster can be configured to provide vehicle information such as fuel economy, driving range and trip meter readings.
Eighteen-inch aluminum painted wheels are standard equipment. Styling changes to the exterior include a redesigned grille and headlamps, larger LED tail lamps, redesigned tailgate and different rear fascias. Read the rest of this entry »