Kent Sundling: Mr. Truck 5-27-13
Back in the 70s when I first saw Billy Jack on the big screen, I wanted a CJ5 Jeep too. I used a CJ2 from the 1940s at a feedlot to check feed bunks in the morning. At 40-years-old it still didn’t use oil. Jeeps have always been fun. There are lots of Jeep clubs around the country, I have several nephews that are in Jeep clubs in Oklahoma and come to Colorado to climb hills.
Today’s Jeeps are quiet inside and ride smooth, dramatically different from just 10 years ago. Chrysler sent me four Jeeps, half were equipped for trailers. The four door Wrangler and Grand Cherokee do well at their trailer maximum towing capacity. Two door Wranglers only have the wheelbase for a smaller single axle trailer. You can go anywhere with a two door Wrangler, but at highway speed, you need to hang on to the steering wheel, it will move fast with quicker short wheelbase steering.
Competing well against the European SUV’s, the 2014 Grand Cherokee offers a V-6 diesel and 8-speed automatic transmission. This fall, the diesel will be an option on the RAM 1500. Finally a half ton will have a diesel again.
A rock star, the Rubicon two door with Pentastar V-6 engine, 5-speed automatic, made for climbing rocks, couldn’t have more options and features. The highlights are Electronic Roll Mitigation, locking front and rear differentials, heated front seats, rock rails, speakers in the roll bar, Hill Decent, unlocking front sway bar and on and on. One nice thing about the second row seat is that it’s higher so kids can see out the windows even in a child seat. The bottom rear door opens independently of the top door.
Like a T-top, the front roof is easy to take off by hand, remove one or both sides. The rest of the fiberglass top unbolts. The windshield is forward and flat so you need to stop before the traffic light to see the color.
Power window switches are in the middle between the seats not on the doors. GPS is in the middle of the dash, easy to follow and see the dash gauges. Quiet with little road noise, or wind noise, from the thick rubber gasket around the doors which takes some slamming to close. There’s room for two 5 gallon gas jugs behind the rear seat. The Pentastar 3.6L V-6 engine gets 19 mpg just about everywhere. An improvement over the previous 3.7L. All this for $36,640.
Grand Jeep Cherokee Overland Summit, the cat’s meow in luxury SUV category. Very agile and capable off roader if you dare. Feature highlights: panoramic dual pane moon roof, adaptive cruise control locks on the car in front of you, Quadra-Lift air suspension, trailer sway dampening, rain activates the wipers, hill decent, auto terrain adjustment for snow, sand, mud, sport, rock, heated seats and steering wheel, cooled front seats, automatic high beam lights, and skid plates that just about cover the whole under carriage.
The lane departure warning, saved me a couple times with a flashing light to warn of oncoming traffic. Pentastar, same 3.6L V-6, great mpg in city. The Pentastar was fast with the Wranglers but the heavier Grand Cherokee was doggy on launch getting to highway speed. I was used to the Hemi power in the last Grand Cherokee I reviewed.
I towed a trailer with a 900 pound round bale and the air ride self levels well and quick. With cooled seats, at 80 degrees outside I’m cool in the $48,195 Grand Cherokee priced well below the high end SUV’s.
Liberty is the value story, the old 3.7L V-6 with 4-speed automatic, plain, but cheaper for a four door SUV. Stiff steering, not much for power steering, more wind noise, than Wrangler or Grand Cherokee but it’s the entry level at $27,110. It’s not fair to the Liberty to drive it after the Grand Cherokee, but I’d take it as my first SUV.
Wrangler Sahara is less equipment than the Rubicon was Dozer in color, a bright yellow you can find at a mall parking lot. Still a Pentastar with 3.6L, V-6, 5-speed automatic transmission, powerful combination for zipping around the city. I fit a couple of bags of feed behind the rear seat. The Sahara towed my two wheel 3,000 pound dump trailer fine. You can almost parallel park just by driving in the slot, felt a little like Billy Jack, it’s all fun. Trailer tow dampening is a good option along with, heated seat, traction control, remote start and more for $35,295.
Kent Sundling (alias “Mr. Truck”) spent 20 years wearing out pickup trucks as only a farmer could. With over 1 million miles pulling trailers, Mr. Truck has a unique collection of truck and farm stories that will educate and entertain. Mr.Truck gave up his bib overalls and John Deeres in his quest to save the farm and moved to the big city to sell trucks. After selling trucks for 10 years, this farmer now writes for eight magazines and owns over two dozen Web sites, helping folks find the “Right Truck.” If you have a question for Mr. Truck, you may contact him at his Web site, http://www.MrTruck.net. ❖