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2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee: One last spin in the original off-road SUV

In a short few months Chrysler is set to bring a totally new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee to market.  With the 2010 model still on the lot and on sale, we wanted to give the current iteration one last spin before it made its way into the history books this summer. In a world of crossovers the Grand Cherokee is the original SUV; and yes it’s got a HEMI.

Specifications as-tested

Model: 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4×4
Engine: 5.7L HEMI V8 with MDS , 357-horsepower , 389 lb-ft of torque
EPA Fuel Economy: 13-mpg city / 15-mpg combined / 19-mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 13.9-mpg
Total Miles Driven: 401 miles
Base MSRP: $39,420
As driven MSRP: $45,095
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Standard Equipment: Backup Camera, Rain-Sensing Wipers, Automatic High-Beams, Boston Acoustics Sound System, GPS Navigation with 30GB media center, SIRIUS, Heated front and second row seats, Bluetooth UConnect Phone System
Equipped Options: Inferno Red Crystal Pearl Coat Paint ($225), Chrome Edition Group by MOPAR ($995), Trailer Tow Group IV including wiring and sway damping ($280), 5.7L HEMI Engine with Quadra-Trac II/Hill Decent/Hill Start Assist ($2,400), 18″ Chrome Clad Wheels ($995)

The swiss army knife of automobiles

2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4X4

When you think of going off-road, one brand immediately comes to mind above all the rest. Jeep.  The SUV craze has come and gone yet Jeep is one of the few automotive marques that didn’t drop their mid-size sport utility or transform it into a new-fangled crossover.  Nope, Jeep kept producing off-road capable vehicles with on-road amenities before and after the popularity swing.  The best example of that is the Grand Cherokee.

So, as the snow began to thaw and mud-season started to emerge this week we decided to go for a spin in the current 2010 Grand Cherokee while we could. It’s apparent why Grand Cherokee owners love their vehicles and the model has kept a dedicated niche following in the market; It can do everything.  Stuck in a blizzard? No problem, you’ve got all-wheel-drive all the time. Perhaps that favorite trail you always use to go fishing is getting muddy or even washed out? Jeep’s four-wheel drive system and ground clearance will get you through. Got a 20-ft boat you need to get in the water for a weekend on the lake? With 357-horsepower that would be no problem. Going on a long trip to visit family? Luxury features such as a navigation system, 30GB hard drive to store music, heated seats front and back, and a rear-view camera make on-road cruising extremely comfortable.

There’s a reason for the 2011 rebirth

2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4X4

But for all that the 2010 model does well (which, to be fair is quite a bit), there’s also things that it does not. Off-road ability means on-road driving feel is soft, floaty, and with semi-numb steering. The interior of the Grand Cherokee is feeling aged; seemingly molded out of large chunks of hard plastic in spots. The seats are, while trimmed in leather, flat as a board and offer no shoulder support. Switch-gear feel is imprecise and some high-tech features, like Smart beam automatic headlamps, feel gimmicky.

Will the brand new 2011 Grand Cherokee fix these problems? We’re not sure. We do know, however, that if Jeep keeps the focus on off-road prowess, there will always be a market and fan base ready and waiting.

360 HD Video Walk-around

Conclusion

Although this generation of Grand Cherokee is on its final days there’s still a lot to love. For the true off-road enthusiast or someone who needs to haul a lot of cargo, the GC is the among the last true SUV options in a crossover world.  When the new 2011 model hits dealer lots, discounts on the 2010 will be steep and maybe too good to pass up.  The 2010 Grand Cherokee may not be great at everything it does, but in the areas that it does do well, off-road,  it’s the best.

Strengths

  • The most capable full-featured mid-size SUV off-road- period
  • Massively powerful 5.7L engine is perfect for towing, hauling, and/or off-road activities
  • Lots of luxury features make the GC easy to live with on a daily basis

Weaknesses

  • MDS does little to tame the 5.7L’s thirst for fuel
  • Smart beam automatic high-beams don’t work very well
  • Drives like a truck compared to the new breed of “crossover” SUVs on the market

2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee Photo Gallery

2010 Volkswagen GTI: The perfect mashup of price and performance

Every year over a dozen new car models are released in the US. Very rarely does one stimulate the the mind, body, and wallet all at the same time.  All too often it’s a choice between performance, fit/finish, and economy. Almost never do you get more than one or two of these at the same time. Absolutely never do you get all three, let alone in a base model. Well, that was until this year, when Volkswagen introduced the heavily redesigned 2010 GTI.  Prepare to be impressed.

Specifications as-tested

Model: 2010 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L 16-valve producing 200-horsepower @ 5,7000rpm & 207 lbs-ft @ 1,800rpm
EPA Fuel Economy: 21-mpg city / 25-mpg combined / 31-mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 27.44-mpg
Total Miles Driven: 655 miles
Base MSRP: $24,414
As driven MSRP: $24,414
Transmission: 6-speed manual

Driving Dynamics & Performance

2010 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door

The new GTI takes advantage of Volkswagen’s turbocharged and intercooled 2.0T engine.  It delivers an amazingly refined 200-horsepower with very little noticeable turbo lag.  Volkswagen claims a 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds in their press material but after a week of pounding the back-roads of New England we’d say it felt a smidgen faster.  You have the choice of 6 gears in either manual or an optional DSG configuration for $1,100. We’ve always been partial to rowing our own gears but if you have to go the automatic route you can’t get much better than DSG (which is basically an automated manual anyways).

Despite looking like a Golf, the GTI handles more akin to Mazda MX5 on steroids. Volkswagen’s electro-mechanical steering is divine, offering just enough feedback to promote confidence without tiring the driver.  The entire chassis is well sorted out no matter the situation.  You can lay back and cruise the highway or have a little fun on a back-road and the car feels at home and confident in both situations.   Even with the hot 2.0T engine the GTI is EPA rated at 31 MPG on the highway.  During our week behind the wheel we averaged 27.44 MPG;  impressive considering we didn’t spend much time cruising down the highway.

Some argue that the GTI can’t compete with the new Mazdaspeed 3, which brings 60+ more horsepower to the table. Sure, we’d all like more power, but the GTI isn’t plagued by the same issues that the Mazdaspeed 3 is; torque steer and a cheap interior.

Design Execution, Appearance, Fit & Finish

2010 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door

So we’ve covered that the GTI has a great price, drives like a dream, and gets great fuel economy. Completing the picture is world class fit and finish. The GTI defies common sub $30,000 car logic.  We were most impressed by the steering wheel. Covered in soft textured leather, red stitching, and metallic bits, it’s a feast for the eyes and hands.  The flat bottom wheel is also functional, providing a gripping point for tight maneuvers and more leg-room.

The rest of the interior also impresses.  It’s obvious the quality of materials used best anything else in the segment and by miles. Volkswagen (and counterpart Audi) have always been known for their interiors and the GTI is another fine example.  Metallic trim, soft touch plastics, and multitudes of different textures and colors add depth and class.

Exterior styling is understated considering the sports hatch you’re buying and that’s a good thing. Only two horizontal red stripes on the grille and red brake calipers give a hint of the sleeper within.  Volkswagen has taken great care updating the body work from the previous generation GTI. While exactly the same in dimension, some visual tweaks (more angles, dual exhaust pipes) trick the eye into thinking this GTI is wider.  We’re usually ones to like a little flair in our sports car but in this situation it’s highly appropriate and well done.  There’s no reason to draw too much attention to the fact that you’re having a great time driving to work.

Audio, Electronics, & Technology

2010 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door

Hop into a sub $25k 2-door hatch and the last thing you’d expect to see is a high-resolution LCD screen, but there it is in the GTI as standard equipment. Also included is an SD card reader, USB/iPod interface cable (either/or not both), WMA/MP3 CD capability, and satellite radio. Optional upgrades include a touchscreen navigation system with integrated 30GB hard drive and a 300 watt Dynaudio sound system.  Our base tester didn’t come with either the navigation system or the upgraded audio package, yet still impressed us.  Audio quality was crisp, clean, and well beyond what we expected.  If you’re a true audio enthusiast, the Dynaudio upgrade at $476 is a must have option.

Integrated with the audio system is a slick black and white, high contrast, driver information center within the gauge cluster.  It allows you to quickly access song/artist information, a digital speedometer, average fuel economy, and other features/settings related to the vehicle.  Not many vehicles, even at a higher cost, have a driver information center that looks this good, is as readable, and provides as much information.

The GTI comes with an impressive list of standard safety features to mitigate any fear you may have about driving a small and lightweight vehicle. Inside you’ll find six airbags; dual front, dual thorax, and dual curtain. Stability control, three-channel anti-lock brakes, an electronic locking differential, and a tire pressure monitoring system are all standard.

Comfort & Ergonomics

2010 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door

Surprisingly, despite it’s compact size, the 2-door GTI is snug in a comfortable sort-of-way. It’s no people hauler, however.  Yes, it does have two rear seats but any friends daring enough to ride along with you will have to squeeze past the folded front seats to get there and that’s not always an easy task. VW does offer a 4-door version of the GTI but we only drove the 2-door.

Should you be using the GTI for what it’s great at, as a fun daily commuter you’re in for a treat. The front seats, styled in controversial plaid decor, feel great and are heated.  They give just enough lateral support to keep you in place during hard cornering but don’t go so far as to numb your rump on long stints behind the wheel.  Should you opt for even more grip, Volkswagen has leather clad sports seats avaliable in the optional $2,815 autobahn package which also includes a sunroof.

360 HD Video Walk-around

Conclusion

Volkswagen is up against a tough crowd of competitors in this segment, some of which best the GTI in horsepower.  It’s clear however, that none of them can match the refinement Volkswagen as baked into this two door barnstormer.

Looking for a hot hatch to satisfy the inner-enthusiast but can’t sacrifice on fuel economy and price? Let me introduce you to your next car.

Strengths

  • The best steering wheel we’ve ever seen or felt
  • It’s hard to get a better price to refinement ratio than this
  • A class above the competitors in this segment

Weaknesses

  • The cloth plaid seats get a good 50/50 reaction of love/hate
  • A great starting price can quickly rocket up with just a few options
  • 200-horsepower won’t quite keep up with a Mazdaspeed 3/Cobalt SS

Check out our 2010 Volkswagen GTI photo gallery

Photo Gallery: A detailed look at the 2010 Volkswagen GTI

Every year over a dozen new car models are released in the US. Very rarely does one stimulate the the mind, body, and wallet all at the same time.  All too often it’s a choice between performance, fit/finish, and economy. Almost never do you get more than one of these at the same time. Absolutely never do you get all three, let alone in a base model. Well, that was until this year, when Volkswagen introduced the heavily redesigned 2010 GTI.  Prepare to be impressed.

Continue reading our full review of the 2010 GTI >>

Specifications as-tested

Model: 2010 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L 16-valve producing 200-horsepower @ 5,7000rpm & 207 lbs-ft @ 1,800rpm
EPA Fuel Economy: 21-mpg city / 25-mpg combined / 31-mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 27.44-mpg
Total Miles Driven: 655 miles
Base MSRP: $24,414
As driven MSRP: $24,414
Transmission: 6-speed manual

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Photography: Zane & Joshua Merva / Copyright 2010 AutoInsane.com

Volkswagen’s Black Beauty: The 2010 GTI

VW has spiced up their line-up in recent years, from the introduction of the EOS a few years ago to the sexy and sleek looking CC last year. For 2010 the GTI gets a face lift and some interior refinement. That would make any critic happy. The front fascias’ devilish grin gives you a hint of what’s to come. While this black beauty is not the most powerful of the hot hatches on the market, it is definitely the most refined.

The responsive 200hp, 2.0 liter turbo is more than adequate, especially mated to the smooth shifting six speed manual gear box. I have not driven the DSG automatic gear box. According to VW specs, the auto is capable of launching the car from 0 to 60MPH in 6.7 seconds, a tenth of a second faster than with the six-speed manual, though I prefer shifting my own gears.

2010-GTI_interior

For a coupe, I found the GTI very roomy and comfortable, even on a long ride. My wife and I made a trip from our home in Maine to Hyannis Port, Ma. We found the funky but cool plaid seats quite comfortable. The handling was great around town and tight corners, while still giving us a relatively comfortable ride. I felt like it was one with the road. We made lane changes and passed other vehicles with ease and grace. At highway speeds the GTI was surprisingly quiet for a 2.0 liter engine.

While zipping down the highway, the 2010 GTI turned some heads. As I mentioned, the front end has the most noticeable changes. The rear end also gets a sleeker look with a wider looking rear end and dual exhaust tips coming to either side of the bumper. This pocket rocket may have a much more subdued look than it’s brethren but to me that makes it more appealing.

Raw power is a little lacking but the overall refined, head turning looks make up for the slightly less powerful engine. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a more powerful engine shoe-horned under the hood, like the 2008 R32. The upside to the smaller engine is the mileage. It’s rated at 21MPG in town and 31 on the highway. During my time with the GTI I averaged about 27MPG.

At about $24,000, the GTI is at a similar price to other sport compacts. There is an Autobahn package available for $2795 that adds a sunroof, partially leather seats, and front sport seats with lumbar support.

2010-GTI_interiorfull

Navigation adds $1750, bringing the possible MSRP to over $28,000 which may make you cringe for a coupe, but go with the four-door GTI, it seems a little better.

The four door model of the GTI also makes for easier access to the back seat. The added doors don’t detract from the bodies beautiful lines.

Overall, the 2010 GTI is a beautiful, more refined version of it’s former self. It will not disappoint GTI lovers in the market for a stylish, well rounded sport compact.

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid – the best executed hybrid yet?

Hybrids have seemingly been on the cusp of mainstream fame for years now as the US consumer searches for ways to reduce fuel consumption. But, could it be that the car of the future is actually already on sale today?

Specifications as-tested

Model: 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Engine: Duratec 2.5L I-4 Gas Engine [156-horsepower] & Permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor [106-horsepower/275V]
EPA Fuel Economy: 41mpg City, 39mpg combined, 36mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 38.44mpg [SmartGauge reported as 40.7mpg]
Total Miles Driven: 542 miles
Base MSRP: $27,270
As driven MSRP: $31,940 (includes $1,270 in “rapid spec” savings)
Available Government Tax Credit: $850 until April 1st, 2010
Transmission: Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (eCVT)
Equipped Options & Features: Rear View Backup Camera, BLIS (Blind Spot System), Moonroof, Sony Premium Sound System, Leather/Heated Seats, Navigation System, SYNC

Driving Dynamics & Performance

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Generally, hybrids are not the most exciting vehicles to drive.  Not true with the Ford Fusion. It’s the first hybrid we’ve tested that doesn’t feel somewhat lifeless and numb at all the control points.  Typically, over-boosted steering and a mushy brake are just par for the hybrid course. Not so for the Fusion, which drives much more like its non-hybrid counterpart than one might expect. On the road, if not for the CVT transmission and EV mode, it would be difficult to tell you were not driving a fully gas dependent Fusion.

Acceleration is also non-hybrid like. Lay into the throttle and you’re met with a decent push of grunt from the internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric motor combination.  Although it’s hard on the conscious to mash the accelerator in a car meant to save fuel, you won’t be disappointed if you have to.

But we digress, the reason you would buy a hybrid is for fuel economy and the Fusion Hybrid does a pretty damn good job at that.  On the backwoods roads of New Hampshire we traverse daily, our Fusion averaged a cool 38.4mpg. That’s almost exactly on par with the EPA’s combined driving average of 39mpg and 2mpg lower than what the SmartGauge system indicated.  More impressively, during our stint we could only muster through a half tank of gas, despite traveling 378 miles during fuel economy testing (we traveled 542 miles in the Fusion Hybrid total).

Like most other hybrid vehicles, the Fusion can run under either full electric power or a combination of electric and gasoline engine power. The real difference is how the Fusion acts under electric only power versus the competition. The Toyota Camry Hybrid, just for example, is tuned for low end torque, making moving off from a start under electric power a snap. The caveat is that EV mode cuts out at 40mph and it’s hard to maintain speed.  The Fusion Hybrid is a little different as it’s almost impossible to get underway without starting the internal combustion engine. Once at speed however, the Fusion enters and stays planted in EV mode with ease all the way up to 48mph.  That small 8mph difference may not seem like much until you consider how many roads in the US are posted at 45mph- a speed at which the Camry Hybrid’s gas engine would be running and the Fusion Hybrid’s engine would not.

Design Execution, Appearance, Fit & Finish

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Similar to how the Fusion Hybrid drives, it’s styling doesn’t exactly scream “hybrid vehicle” either. That’s a good thing, the Fusion is already a stylish automobile. On the outside the only hint of being a hybrid is the specialized hybrid badges and unique wheels.

We have to note the great sounding doors. I know, you’re asking yourself why we’d mention the doors. It’s just that they shut with a mechanically precise sound that you rarely hear, even on more upscale vehicles.

On the inside, you’ll find a plush environment. Gaps are kept to a minimum, although we’re still not satisfied with the quality of the plastics on the lower and upper consoles, door trim, and surrounding the emergency brake. With that said, for this price and the amount of technology included, you’re going to have to give a little.

Worthy of noting, Ford decided not to include LED rear tail-lamps on the Fusion Hybrid. We find it odd considering the reduced energy use that LEDs provide over typical incandescent bulbs. Hopefully this will be an upgrade in model years to come.

Audio, Electronics, & Technology

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid: SmartGauge

This is perhaps the ringer category for the Fusion Hybrid. With the SmartGauge system and SYNC, Ford has a decisive edge on any competitor in this segment. When you factor in the extra large 8-inch navigation system screen, Sirius Travel Link, a Sony Sound System, rear backup camera, stability and traction control, and automatic climate control- the Fusion Hybrid stands supreme.

The highlight of the Fusion Hybrid is Ford’s SmartGauge system, an extremely innovative dual LCD paneled gauge cluster (as seen above).  Configurable to display information in one of four formats, this car wouldn’t be the same without it. It shows you exactly how much juice you can give the throttle before kicking on the gas engine or conversely, how much you need to let off the throttle before EV mode takes over.  SmartGauge makes driving a hybrid for maximum fuel economy less of a game of skill and more a walk in the park. Our only concern is how much the system will cost to fix years down the road when something goes bad.

Read more about the Smart Gauge system

Comfort & Ergonomics

The interior of the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Another huge surprise was how comfortable we were in the Fusion. The 8-way power driver seat gave firm support without feeling hard and supported my sensitive back after hours behind the wheel.

We also appreciated Ford trusting us to adjust the SmartGauge system while in motion. Sometimes automakers lock out the settings and configuration menus on navigation systems and driver information systems at speed. It’s an annoying trend. Ford, showing respect for the driver, has opted to allow access to the SmartGauge configuration menu while on the road. Ford, thank you.

Other creature comforts to note include excellent heated seats (they get nice and hot!), Sirius Travel Link, Sirius radio, and an excellent functioning navigation system.

The rear trunk is slightly smaller than in a “regular” Fusion, as Ford packs the batteries between the trunk space and the rear seat-backs, but you still have plenty of room for larger luggage.

Final thoughts

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

It’s not often we are sad to see a hybrid leaving our office. While we love saving gas, the driving experience that comes along with most of these eco-machines left much to be desired – until now. The 2010 Fusion Hybrid thoroughly impressed and left us with the refreshing feeling that the bar for these types of machines had been raised and raised far. This is the new flagship of FoMoCo.

Conclusion

Perhaps the most refined and best executed hybrid to date.

Strengths

  • The only hybrid that can operate in EV mode over 45mph
  • SmartGauge is a  revolutionary step in presenting information to the driver
  • All the benefits of a hybrid in a “regular” car package

Weaknesses

  • Dash and door coverings are too hard and plastic-like in spots
  • SYNC voice commands are tedious to use, navigation system adds obnoxious layers to otherwise simple actions
  • Priced higher than a Toyota Prius

Check out our 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid photo gallery

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid Road Test Photo Gallery

Road Test Gallery: 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Hybrids have seemingly been on the cusp of mainstream fame for years now as the US consumer searches for ways to reduce fuel consumption. But, could it be that the car of the future is actually already on sale today? Check out our full road test later today.

Specifications as-tested

Model: 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Engine: Duratec 2.5L I-4 Gas Engine [156-horsepower] & Permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor [106-horsepower/275V]
Base MSRP: $27,270
As driven MSRP: $31,940 (includes $1,270 in “rapid spec” savings)
Available Government Tax Credit: $850 until April 1st, 2010
Transmission: Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (eCVT)
Equipped Options & Features: Rear View Backup Camera, BLIS (Blind Spot System), Moonroof, Sony Premium Sound System, Leather/Heated Seats, Navigation System, SYNC