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Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4X4 Diesel – ‘Murican luxury done right

 

If you are shopping for the most luxurious 5-passenger sport-utility vehicle you can find that can also tow the SS Minnow to the shore without breaking a sweat, look no further. The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4×4 comes with an interior as refined as the best Lexus can offer while having the off-road ability of a Range Rover and towing capability of a pickup.  Driving this vehicle will make you very quickly forget everything you thought you knew about who the leaders in sport utility luxury are.

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Driven: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4X4

We never turn down the opportunity to drive a Jeep Wrangler.  Despite being a poor choice for a daily commuter, it’s one of our all-time-favorite rides. Why do we love it so much? It’s awesome at going off-road. We took one for a spin to see what’s new for 2013 and also drove down one of New Hampshire’s many non-maintained Class 6 roads. Let’s go for a ride.

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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

Road Test: 2009 Jeep Patriot Sport

First introduced in 2007, the Jeep Patriot came on the scene as a sensible crossover for enthusiasts who loved driving a Jeep.  With new refinements for 2009 we take a fresh look at the Patriot and see just what it’s made of. A true trail rated Jeep or another me too crossover?

Specifications as-tested

MSRP: $24,015
Engine: 2.4L DOHC I4 – 172hp/165ft-lb
Transmission: CVT with Freedom Drive II 4×4
EPA fuel economy: 20-city, 21-combined, 22-highway
Observed fuel economy: 17.43 (mostly snow covered roads with 4×4 lock active)
Tested for: 7 days / 298 miles

Conclusion

Deep down a great vehicle but stuck ambiguously between crossover comfortable and off-road capable.

Strengths

  • Excellent balance in slick road conditions
  • Unlike many crossovers, this one is actually built to go off-road
  • Classic Jeep design inside and out

Weaknesses

  • Penny pinched interior
  • CVT accentuates loud/thrashy engine
  • Low fuel economy for the size

Driving Dynamics & Performance

Road Test: 2009 Jeep Patriot

Jeep’s Freedom Drive II 4×4 system gave our tester a distinct advantage when the weather or roads became challenging.  Wearing the Trail Rated badge, we drove the Patriot through the worst road conditions we could find.  Even uncleared roads with over 6-inches of snow were no problem.  Essentially it’s a heavy duty all-wheel-drive system with center differential locking capacity. With the FDII locked, the Patriot is extremely stable, predictable, and balanced.

With an additional 1-inch of ground clearance over non trail rated models, 17-inch wheels/tires and a locking center differential, the Patriot has to be one of the most predicable and balanced vehicles we’ve driven in snow.  If you live somewhere nicer than New England  you can opt for 2-wheel drive or Freedom Drive I.  You’ll give up some of the capability but will gain fuel economy in return.

The Patriot’s optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) provides for smooth acceleration but also brings out the worst in the 2.4L engine. Under hard acceleration the engine is loudly pegged near redline, a trait of CVT’s as a whole but badly managed in this application.

On the road we found the Patriot never liked to settle down. The suspension dampening, surely tuned for off-road performance, lacked the ability to provide a firmly planted feeling ride.

Design Execution, Appearance, Fit & Finish

Road Test: 2009 Jeep Patriot

You can’t mistake the Patriot for anything but a Jeep. Inside and out, little styling hints of the larger Wrangler catch your eye.  We particularly liked the bold front grille and classic round headlamps but disliked the bloated appearance of the rear.

Coming back to bite Chrysler in the butt these days, sub-par interior finishing looks great but has no warmth.  Plastic like this is great on a Wrangler because you don’t feel bad getting it dirty or scraping it up.  A more refined vehicle such as the Patriot deserves better.

Interestingly, the interior is all new for 2009, but nearly every single interior surface feels penny-pinched one step too far. Every switch and control operates with some level of ambiguity and lacks precision.

Audio, Electronics, & Technology

Road Test: 2009 Jeep Patriot

Perhaps one of the Patriot’s saving graces is the technology it offers.  Our test model came with a base audio system, however a more advanced UConnect tunes system is a must have option.  The standard audio unit has the ability to play MP3 CDs and comes with an auxiliary input.

The advanced UConnect system offers a 30-gig hard drive, USB port,  Bluetooth hands-free phone, and optionally a navigation system. We’ve tested the UConnect system in other Chrysler models and came away thoroughly impressed.

We also thought Jeep did an excellent job tuning the Patriot’s electronic stability program (ESP).  In times when we pushed the 4×4 system to it’s limits, ESP kicked in and quickly brought us back in control.

Comfort & Ergonomics

Road Test: 2009 Jeep Patriot

Jeep offers a 115-volt standard outlet located under and forward of the center arm-rest. The ability to charge a laptop or cell phone without special adapters is a lifesaver.  There’s also the handy LED flashlight in the rear tailgate.

The climate control dials are oddly ambiguous and do not offer a positive feel.  A lack of a defined “click” meant we often turned the air off when we just wanted to turn it down.  Having to look away from the road to adjust the fan was a small frustration.

Rear seat space is cozy but comfortable. Second row seat backs offer rear-passengers the option to recline.  They also fold flat to offer a sizable amount of storage. Even with the second row folded up, the rear cargo area is larger than what you’d find in most crossovers of this size.

Are you a Jeep Patriot Fan?

Head on over to JeepPatriot.com to hang out with other Patriot owners/enthusiasts. They even have a thread talking about this review!

Road test photo gallery

Road Test: 2009 Jeep Patriot

Take a look at the huge set of photos we shot during our time in the 2009 Jeep Patriot Sport 4×4.