First Drive: 2017 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty


First Drive: 2017 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty

A full-size truck with muscle in all the right places, without sacrificing comfort

By 2 days ago

If you want big, the 2017 Ram 2500 HD Mega Cab is without peer — it has the largest cab in all of truckdom! It is also one seriously capable rig, and this holds true regardless of whether it is towing, hauling or out for a night at the opera.

What’s new for 2017 is the addition of the 4×4 Off-road package on all 2500 derivatives. It includes Bilstein mono tube shocks, hill descent control, skid plates, tow hooks, a limited-slip rear differential and LT275/70R18 off-road tires. This brings much better off-road performance without detracting from the 2500’s workhorse thrust.

The 2500 tested featured a 6.4-litre Hemi V8 with Ram’s Fuel Saver Technology. It deactivates four of the eight cylinders at idle and when engine loads are light, which cuts fuel consumption. The Hemi also produces a ton of power — 410 horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. of torque. This lot was fired to the road through a six-speed automatic transmission and all four wheels. The part-time electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case gives the driver access to 2WD, 4WD High and 4WD Low.

This combination gave the Ram two very different personalities. During an off-road trek, the brawn and 4-Low gearing gave the Ram the wherewithal to haul through some seriously gnarly trails and a water hole without breaking a sweat. Conversely, on the on-road loop it provided rapid acceleration — the Hemi propelled the 2500 Mega Cab to 100 km/h in 8.9 seconds, which is pretty darned quick for a full-size truck! It also has HD credentials with a payload of 1,320 kilograms and a maximum towing capability of 6,913 kg with the 4.10 rear axle in place.

Where the 2500 Mega Cab truly impressed was the ride quality. In spite of its heavy-duty focus, the ride proved to be remarkably civilized — it is difficult to build comfort into a truck designed to carry large loads. Where the Ram differs from most is the five-link suspension and rear coil springs. This and the mono tube shocks kept things flat and unflustered. Even mid-corner, on a rippled section of road, the back end resisted the urge to washboard (skip) out. This certainly inspired driver confidence. Off-road it improved axle articulation, which kept the wheels in the dirt and the Mega Cab plodding through the mire. There is an optional load-leveling rear air spring option. It takes things to the next level and should be seriously considered.

The lone nitpick was the turning circle — at 14.3 metres, it takes a lot of space to wheel the Ram around.

The Ram’s cabin is rich beyond expectation when properly equipped. The highlights are the optional reconfigurable dash and 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen. The former gives the driver fast access to a ton of data including fuel economy, trip info, trailer braking and vehicle status. The latter is an all-encompassing infotainment system that controls the climate, audio, phone and navigation functions, among other things. The large, logically placed icons and quick response times set it apart from most — it’s child’s play to use, which makes pairing a phone so simple it puts the competition to shame! It should be considered a mandatory purchase. The 5-inch Uconnect screen in the tester functioned well, but paled when compared to the larger unit in the full-zoot model.

On a brighter note, the comfortable armchair-like front seating delivered surprising support during the off-road excursion and there was a much-needed rearview camera. It’s needed because there’s a lot of real estate between the driver and the tailgate — the Mega Cab’s wheelbase stretches 4,064 millimetres!

The utility and flexibility is there for all to enjoy. There’s a large central storage box along with tons of cubbies, pockets and twin gloveboxes. Then there’s the rear seat; the Mega Cab is 280 millimetres longer than the Crew Cab, which makes the rear environment limo-like.

Ram2500-6With 1,099 mm of rear leg space, I could barely touch the front seats with my feet even with the driver’s seat set all the way back. There’s also some additional storage behind the rear seats, and when folded down there’s a large flat storage area that is easily accessed through the large doors.

Behind that lot the Mega Cab arrives with a 6-foot-4 box and RamBox cargo boxes. These two storage areas, which lock through the remote fob (thank you!), occupy the space above the rear wheels. As well as holding work tools, tow straps and so on, it allows 10 cases of one’s favourite beverage — drain holes look after the melting ice. Thankfully, the design leaves enough space between the wheel well intrusions to carry a standard 4×8 sheet of plywood. It all combines to make the Mega Cab a hoarder’s dream — there’s a place for everything and then some!

The 2017 Ram 2500 HD not only delivers serious towing and hauling capabilities, it proved to remarkably refined in everyday driving – so much so, it rides and drives with more civility that the 1500.

Pricing for the 2017 2500 HD models has yet to be announced.


A first look at the new Chrysler Pacifica minivan

THINKING INSIDE THE BOX: Chrysler’s Pacifica is another step forward in the evolution of the minivan.

Chrysler created the minivan segment, but the automotive industry is a “What have you done for me lately?” business.

In Chrysler’s case—actually FCA nowadays—they’ve redesigned the minivan from the ground up and revived the Pacifica name for a brand-new 2017 minivan.

Somewhere along the line, the terms “soccer mom” and “minivan”—two positives—got turned into a single negative.

The truth is that minivans are unmatched for versatility, seating comfort, and being a “family room” on wheels for trips.

If I had a young family, there’s no question that a minivan would be my vehicle of choice.

FCA North America Eastern PR guru Lisa Barrow, Pacifica PR manager Angela Bianchi, and Pacifica marketing head Matt McAlear visited the New England Motor Press Assn. on June 14 with a mini-fleet of the new minivans.

NEMPA members had the opportunity to crawl through the vehicles, drive them on local roads and interstates, and hear a presentation from McAlear.

Why the Pacifica name?

“We wanted a fresh start,” says McAlear. “Our research showed the Pacifica name had positive recognition. Reviving that was a lot less expensive than starting out fresh and establishing a new brand name.”

Still, Chrysler has expended some marketing energy, creating a series of ads with comedian Jim Gaffigan as a “dufus” dad demonstrating the Pacifica’s features via inane antics. Another ad features Brooklyn Decker being taught the Pacifica’s ropes by equally irritating know-it-all kids.

It was about the time that McAlear was demonstrating the fold-flat, Stow ‘n Go second- and third-row seats that Jamie Paige Deaton, Auto Editor at US News, pulled out her own child seat to test the second row.

MARKETING MINIVANS: Chrysler’s Matt McAlear sees the minivan segment as continuing to be attractive and profitable.
MARKETING MINIVANS: Chrysler’s Matt McAlear sees the minivan segment as continuing to be attractive and profitable.

Bill Griffith

FCA says a second-row seat can tilt forward, even with a child’s seat attached, to allow easy access to the third row.

There is a “don’t try this with a child strapped into the seat” caveat involved.

Deaton demonstrated that the system works.

Fortunately for demonstration purposes, said car seat was filled with crumbs and some candy smudges that were transferred to the Pacifica’s second-row leather seat.

That was an opportunity to test the onboard vacuum with its 12-foot stretch hose (and additional 12-foot attachment in case you want to clean another of the family vehicles in the process) to suck up the detritus.

McAlear had noted that all Pacifica trim levels have the same power train—an upgraded 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that produces best-in-class horsepower (287) and torque (262 lb.-ft.), 28 mpg highway fuel economy, and is mated to a smooth 9-speed automatic transmission.

That means you pay for added features, with base models starting in the mid-20’s and top ones going into the low $40s. Top safety systems like autonomous braking and forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and rear park assist (with bump prevention) are available.

We liked the triple panoramic sunroof on the high-end version. But the Stow ‘n Go seating that allows both second- and third-row seats to fold flat is handy, too.

“You can carry 64 sheets of 4×8 plywood (1/4 inch) or 32 sheets of ½ inch,” says McAlear. “and unlike in a pickup truck, you can keep the wood dry on a rainy day.”

Driving a Pacifica for several additional days, we achieved the 28 mph highway claim—at least the onboard computer credited us with 28.4 mpg.

As for the notion that the minivan segment is fading away, McAlear thinks otherwise.

“Ten years ago, 17 models were selling about 1 million minivans a year,” he says. “Today a half-dozen of us are selling 500,000. That’s still a very viable market.”

The Pacifica’s infotainment screen arguably is the most user-friendly on the market.

And the available second-row DVR screens offer young ‘uns a variety of apps (games) and viewing options.

My grandson discovered one the next morning: The “Are we there yet?” feature.

We were driving from Connecticut to Newburyport, MA, and plugged the route into the Nav system.

From the rear seat, he could monitor our progress.

“Awesome,” he said.

That seems to be the early verdict on the Pacifica, too.

It’s Show Time

There are shows all over the area today. Here are some of the bigger ones:

Amesbury. This downtown show (9 a.m.-2 p.m.) also displays cars in the Millyard restoration area. Proceeds go to the coming Carriagetown Museum celebrating Amesbury’s history in carriage building and early automaking.

Elm Bank. The show outgrew its Wellesley estate site and is moving to a larger venue at 45 Hospital Road in Medfield. This 14th annual show will be judged in more than 30 classes and annually draws 800 vehicles.

Cape Cod. The Falmouth Classic Car Club has the first of its three annual events today (10-2) at Marine Park on Scranton Avenue.

Brookline. It’s British Car Day from 10-2 at Larz Anderson Auto Museum.

Epping, N.H. The Orientals Hot Rod Club (est. 1957) is having the New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame event and show today at New England Dragway.

Next week: Thursday, the Heritage Museums and Gardens and Museums in Sandwich goes “Under the Hood” from 6-7:30 p.m. with collector Jack Rosen talking about the collecting lifestyle and building his 2002 Can-Am race car. Contact Julie Raynor at 508-888-3300 x175.

Finally, next weekend (July 2-4) is the traditional Cars of Summer show at Green Hill Park in Worcester. Details at

A first look at the new Chrysler Pacifica minivan

Chrysler’s Pacifica is a game-changer for families on the go

, Detroit Free Press Auto Critic 11:36 p.m. EDT June 22, 2016

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Chrysler Pacifica wins with interior fun and features

Early talk about the ★★★★ 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan focused on risk. Chrysler gambled when it revived the Pacifica name and dropped Town & Country. It rolled the dice by breaking from the looks of previous minivans and announcing it will eventually discontinue the Dodge Grand Caravan.

Valid concerns, but they ignore the one sure thing in the minivan business: Chrysler knows its customers like parents know their kids’ names.

A minivan succeeds or fails based on safety, interior comfort, convenience and features. That makes the new Pacifica king of the road.

• 360-degree video:A look at the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

So admire the Pacifica’s exterior while you can. Compliment its tidy dimensions and clean lines. Admire the rakish profile and character lines running stem to stern. Give the LED and taillights an appreciative glance. Because once you open Chrysler’s latest present to traveling families, you’ll forget about the gift wrapping and fixate on what’s inside the package.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

The 2017 Pacifica uses a brand-new architecture Fiat Chrysler developed to underpin it — and probably one or more big crossovers that will debut later. A 287-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and nine-speed automatic transmission are standard. All Pacificas have front-wheel drive. The new van is 0.8 inch longer and 0.9 inch wider than the 2016 Town & Country it replaced.

Prices start at $28,595. I tested a well-equipped Pacifica L Plus. Features included automatic parallel and perpendicular parking, adaptive cruise control, dual second-row video and touch screens with kid-friendly games, Stow ‘n Go seats that fold flat into the floor, seating for eight, under-floor storage bins in the second row, power tailgate, DVR and USB compatibility, voice recognition, dual power sliding doors, navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio compatibility and more.

It stickered at $41,975. All prices exclude destination charges.

 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

The Pacifica competes with minivans like the Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna. Secondary competitors are family-oriented SUVs like the Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota Highlander.

The vehicles exist primarily to carry six to eight passengers and their gear. Other than styling, the biggest differences between minivans and family-carrying SUVs are sliding side doors and seating that allows parents and kids to move from one row to another. Those features make minivans outstanding for families with young kids.

• Related:Parents will love Chrysler Pacifica’s kid-friendly apps

The Pacifica’s interior is spacious, roomy and comfortable. The materials look and feel good, including simple dials and buttons for audio and climate, excellent voice recognition and an easy-to-use touch screen.

My test van had bench seats in the second and third rows, and a big console between the front seats. That layout maximizes people-carrying capacity and provides loads of storage, but eliminates the center aisle many minivans offer for easy access to all seats. The middle seats flip up easily for access to the rear. Folding both rows of seats into the floor for max cargo capacity is also easy.

Twin screens mounted in the back of the front seats can be used to play video — with wireless headphones — or to play travel games on long trips. The games include versions of Hangman, the license plate game, ticktacktoe and more. You can play against the computer running the game or versus the occupant of the other seat.

My niece, nephew and sister-in-law — who remains a kid at heart — found the games captivating. Parents are likely to find kids eager to stay in the Pacifica after they reach their destination.

The 3.6-liter V6 features fuel-saving idle stop and delivers plenty of power. The nine-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. The interior is quiet at highway speed.

The instrument cluster of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Pacifica at 18 m.p.g. in the city, 28 on the highway and 22 combined. The key combined figure beats those of most competing minivans. The Nissan Quest achieved 23 m.p.g.

The Pacifica offers a rich range of safety features, including 360-degree parking cameras; blind-spot, cross-traffic and lane-departure alerts, and front- and rear-parking assist with automatic braking.

It’s the state of the art in family transportation.

Contact Mark Phelan: 313-222-6731, or  on Twitter @mark_phelan

Behind the Wheel

2017 Chrysler Pacifica L Plus

Front-wheel-drive, eight-passenger minivan

Price as tested: $41,975 (excluding destination charge)

Rating: ★★★★  (Out of four stars)

Reasons to buy: Passenger space, comfort and features

Shortcomings: Handling, no memory for driver settings and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto not available

Competitive EPA fuel-economy ratings

(Automatic transmission models)

Chrysler Pacifica L Plus: 18 m.p.g. city/28 highway/22 combined. Regular gasoline.

Honda Odyssey EX-L w/nav: 19/28/22. Regular.

Kia Sedona SX Limited: 17/22/19. Regular.

Nissan Quest SL: 20/27/23. Regular.

Toyota Sienna SE Premium: 18/25/21. Regular.


Comparative base prices (excluding destination charges)

(Automatic transmission models)

Chrysler Pacifica L Plus: $37,895

Honda Odyssey EX-L w/nav: $38,050

Kia Sedona SX Limited: $39,900

Nissan Quest SL: $34,110

Toyota Sienna SE Premium: $39,930

Source: Autotrader

Specifications as tested

Engine: 3.6L, 24-valve V6 engine

Power: 287 hp @ 6,400 r.p.m.; 262 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 r.p.m.

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 121.6 inches

Length: 203.6 inches

Width: 79.6 inches 

Height: 69.9 inches

Curb Weight: 4,330 lbs.

Where assembled: Windsor, Ontario

Key features on vehicle tested

Standard equipment: Antilock brakes, stability control, curtain air bags, front seat knee air bags, front seat side air bags, blind-spot and cross-traffic alert, backup camera, rear parking assist with stop, push-button start, remote start and locks, hill start assist, capless fuel filler, active grille shutters, tire inflator kit, noise cancellation, second- and third-row Stow ‘n Go  seats, heated front- and middle-row seats, heated steering wheel, voice recognition, Bluetooth phone and audio compatible, seat-back video screens, wireless headphones, Blu-Ray/DVD player, USB ports, video remote control, 13 Alpine speakers, 506-watt amplifier, one-year subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio, 115-volt power outlet, second- and third-row window shades, fog lights, LED taillights, power heated foldaway mirrors and memory for driver’s settings

Options: 18-inch painted aluminum wheels, front and rear park assist with stop, 360-degree surround-view camera system, parallel and perpendicular park assist with stop, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic high beams, brake assist, navigation, HD radio and a five-year Sirius traffic and travel subscription

Brand-by-Brand Guide to Car Infotainment Systems

Our subscribers get real about their infotainment systems, which can be technological marvels that make driving a dream, or so difficult to use that they’re downright infuriating

The Standout

Fiat-Chrysler Uconnect 8.4: 70 percent very satisfied
Its straightforward touch-screen design, combined with a few traditional knobs and buttons, helps make Chrysler’s Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system a favorite with consumers. Satisfaction with Bluetooth and voice commands—often sore spots with drivers—ranked highly. Don’t confuse the 8.4 with Chrysler’s lesser Uconnect systems, which have smaller screens, less capability, and a much lower satisfaction rating of 49 percent. With an infotainment system this good, it’s too bad very few Chrysler models are recommended by Consumer Reports.

Very Good Systems

Hyundai Blue Link: 63 percent very satisfied
Hyundai specializes in making intuitive systems. A 2015 Hyundai Sonata owner says he’s “amazed at how easy it works.” Other owners appreciated that the Genesis incorporates both a touch screen and controller knob. Hyundai’s quick-to-learn voice command and Bluetooth systems rank highest for owner satisfaction.


BMW iDrive: 60 percent very satisfied
BMW’s iDrive employs a console-mounted controller knob, although the latest version adds a touch screen and is easier to use than earlier iterations. Still, mastering iDrive takes some time. It’s super-reliable, with good Bluetooth connectivity. Owner satisfaction with Bluetooth and call quality is very high, as is the system’s thoroughness: “It is very comprehensive and tells me everything about my vehicle,” an owner says. An X3 owner added, “The learning curve is fairly steep, but the system is not bad once you get the hang of it.”


GM (Chevrolet, Buick, GMC) MyLink/IntelliLink: 57 percent very satisfied
These high-ranked systems from Chevrolet, Buick, and GMC closely mirror Chrysler’s design. Screens are intuitive, most fonts are large, and there are multiple traditional knobs and buttons. Steering-wheel remote controls are comprehensive. Owners generally like using the OnStar system, which can call a live GM concierge for roadside assistance or to download directions straight to the navigation system.


Kia Uvo: 57 percent very satisfied
Like sister company Hyundai, Kia has infotainment systems that use knobs and buttons along with a touch screen. We suggest splurging for the optional navigation system’s larger screen; a 2016 Sorento owner complains that the basic screen “is way too small, and the messages on it are even smaller.”


Audi MMI: 57 percent very satisfied
MMI uses a controller knob, buttons, and a screen. The system is complex, but many agreed with the 2013 Q5 owner who said it “takes getting used to. Once mastered is intuitive.” The latest Audis feature the optional Virtual Cockpit—which replaces normal instrument gauges with a big digital screen that can display Google Maps and phone calls straight ahead of the driver.


Lexus Remote Touch: 56 percent very satisfied
This system uses a trackpad or mouselike joystick, and a high-mounted display screen. A Lexus RX owner reports that “using the mouse-based system is cumbersome but manageable.” Owners like that the touchpad is easier to reach than a faraway touch screen. Lexus also won praise for easy-to-use Bluetooth audio streaming.


Average Systems

Nissan NissanConnect: 54 percent very satisfied
Pairing a bright screen with knobs and buttons, Nissan’s info­tainment systems are intuitive to use, with Bluetooth audio streaming that works well.


Infiniti Infiniti Connection: 54 percent very satisfied

Most Infiniti models are relatively long into their market cycle, which explains the dated-looking graphics of their info­tainment systems. But Connection, which combines a touch screen with a controller knob, works better than the newer, slow, and glitch-laden Infiniti InTouch system that rolled out first with the 2014 Q50 sedan. A worrisome note: The InTouch system, when separated from the overall Infiniti brand, finished dead last in our rankings—with only 38 percent very satisfied—because of its frequent software crashes and slow startup.


Volvo Sensus Connect: 52 percent very satisfied
Most current Volvo models use familiar-looking radio knobs and buttons to control a center screen. Winding your way through the menus isn’t intuitive or easy. The new generation of Volvo infotainment, launched with the 2016 XC90 SUV, uses a large iPad-like touch screen that requires a lot of fingertip swiping to navigate.


Mercedes-Benz Comand: 51 percent very satisfied
Comand pairs a center knob controller with a display screen. Earlier iterations were relatively easy to use, especially for a German luxury brand known for having complicated engineering. But though many rivals are simplifying, the latest versions of Comand have grown more complex, losing familiar knobs and buttons, and gaining a protuberant touchpad and more involved menus.


Subaru Starlink: 50 percent very satisfied

For years, Subaru’s infotainment systems were antiquated. Recent models finally have a modern touch-screen system combined with knobs and buttons. Although clearly improved, the new system remains decidedly average. Voice commands and Bluetooth satisfaction are average as well. Owners complained that the glossy screen “reflects bright sunlight, making it hard to see.” Many owners complained that the navigation system cannot be programmed when the car is moving.


Ford MyFord/MyLincoln Touch: 49 percent very satisfied
Ford was an early innovator in infotainment. But owners of MyFord Touch report reliability problems, with the system “constantly rebooting” and sometimes requiring replacement. Subsequent years have had fewer problems, but the screen design remains cluttered and unintuitive. Certain models replaced buttons and knobs with touch-sensitive flush buttons that were “overly touchy.” A 2013 Fusion owner writes, “MyFord Touch is a wonderful idea that was mostly implemented but was never really finished.” Ford is rolling out the new Sync 3 system, which responds quicker and is easier to use.


Mazda Mazda Connect: 49 percent very satisfied

One owner sums it up well: “Mazda still has some work left to do.” Mazda’s latest system uses a large central controller knob to select from a display screen. Another owner says, “I’m not impressed. It’s difficult to get through all of the steps to get what I want.” Owners were frustrated that the touch screen works only when the vehicle is stopped and that the voice-­recognition system often misunderstands commands. One owner complained that the Bluetooth was “incredibly flaky and crash-prone.”


Honda HondaLink/AcuraLink: 49 percent very satisfied
Honda and Acura info­tainment systems come in several designs, none of which make owners happy. Many were dissatisfied with voice-command quality­—the lowest-ranked among all brands. One owner found it “very difficult to use the commands because they must be said in ‘Acura-speak,’ not commonly used English words.” Our tests found the onscreen buttons and menus to be unintuitive.


Back to the Drawing Board

Toyota Entune: 44 percent very satisfied
Toyota’s system combines a touch screen and regular knobs and buttons, but the “whole thing is hit and miss,” one owner says. Complaints include small screens and slow system response. Voice commands often proved to be frustrating to use. The Entune app capability seems “clunky compared to phone apps.” Many respondents voiced frustration that the navigation system cannot be programmed while the car is in motion, preventing even passengers from entering a destination.


Cadillac Cue: 40 percent very satisfied
Owners criticize Cue for being “sluggish” and trouble-­prone, findings backed up by Consumer Reports’ reliability data. Some owners report having difficulty using Cue for months, even years, after purchase. A typical complaint: “This car REALLY needs a co-pilot with an IT degree.” Many criticisms focus on capacitive-touch buttons that are overly sensitive; one consumer noted that you “barely wave your hand in front of the Cue system and you change radio stations.”


2017 Chrysler Pacifica Ads Continue To Target Dads

Published: 06/21/2016  – by , Correspondent

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan — Moms are taking a backseat in a new round of commercials for the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

The ads ask the question: “What kind of man drives the Pacifica?”

The answer can be found in comedian Jim Gaffigan, a father of five and the “every man” in the campaign.

While driving his kids to soccer practice, making fast-food runs and dreaming about napping, Gaffigan extols the virtues of the Pacifica, which is on sale now at Chrysler dealerships. The campaign makes it clear the Pacifica is for dads who care about the safety and comfort of their family — even if they tend to complain a lot.

The automaker said the ads are “tongue-in-cheek,” while highlighting the various features of the Pacifica, including a long list of safety items.

The Pacifica replaces the Chrysler Town & Country minivan and targets the Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna.

Edmunds says: This campaign makes it clear the Pacifica is not just for soccer moms.

On the Road Review: Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit EcoDiesel

In January 1992, Jeep and Chrysler executives drove the all-new Grand Cherokee right through the glass doors of the arena for its debut at the North American Auto Show in Detroit. A unibody, midsize SUV built to compete with Ford’s Explorer, the Jeep’s fully independent chassis design was shared with the then new Mercedes ML wagon.

In some corners, pundits could say that the Grand Cherokee helped to save Chrysler — back then, and in 2009 when the economic collapse almost consumed Chrysler. Yet the promise of the next generation Grand Cherokee loomed on the horizon and in late 2010, the fourth generation GC debuted to raves. Sales managers have not looked back as the latest Grand Cherokee has been the brand’s top selling product until the Wrangler and the new compact Cherokee overtook its larger sibling in 2015.

Grand Cherokee sales continue to expand, part of Jeep’s worldwide growth. Last year, Jeep sold over 1.2 million vehicles worldwide, 70 percent of them in the USA. Not too shabby for a “niche” automaker that started in World War II, 75 years ago.

We have been fortunate to sample multiple Grand Cherokees through the years, including several diesel-engined versions. This latest Summit-trimmed (one of nine trim levels currently available) Grand Cherokee with the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 engine remains one of my favorite SUVs. Testament to the inherent virtues in this design, this six-year-old wagon still impresses despite the onslaught of newer, more expensive rivals.

One, the engine.

The Jeep’s Fiat-designed V-6 turbodiesel spins out 410 pound/feet of peak torque, power that is available very low on the tachometer right up to the artificially low speed-limiter. Acceleration is earnest, smooth yet robust at highway speeds. It is all too easy to be traveling at 20 mph over the posted limit and have no sense of your velocity — that kind of smooth. There is no clatter heard, never any obnoxious smells, and fuel stops would average out to barely one-two per month for the average daily driver who travels 12,000 miles a year or less — given the GC’s range of over 650-miles per tank. Of course, that driver may not be too inclined to pay the extra cost of the EcoDiesel ($5,000, with additional hardware and creature features) whereas a high-mileage traveler like myself (40-45,000-miles a year) would be.

The Jeep’s efficiency is inescapably brilliant; tow up to 7,400 pounds, carry tons of gear inside, and achieve higher mpg than the EPA estimates. It’s true; my first road trip from Auburn, Maine, to Springfield, Vt., and back — fast highway travel, long two-lane stints, urban grinding for 585-miles — resulted in 29.1 mpg, one mile per gallon better than the Fed’s highway economy guess. Second tank, 330 miles locally and up and down the Maine coast — 30.7 mpg. I believe this is RAV4 Hybrid territory — with full-time four-wheel drive, 5,000 pounds and that high tow capacity.

Two, the chassis

Since day one, the Grand Cherokee has been a uni-body design (like a car) that uses a fully independent suspension front and rear, again, like a car. Yes, the GC is taller, and heavier, but its handling and ride dynamics are predictable smoothly comfortable, and without the head-toss and rocking motions that several rivals render on less than perfect road surfaces. Add the new Quadra-lift air suspension, with settings for Park, Aero, Normal, Off-road I and Off-road II, and the Jeep handles as well as any other midsize wagon that stretches out to 190 inches. Key, besides the long-travel suspension — the elongated wheelbase of 115 inches.

Three, the interior

Jeep Grand Cherokee pricing starts at under $30,000 for rear drive Laredo models and escalates to over $70,000 with the new SRT Night 4X4 Edition. That is a big consumer range.

Summit trim pulls it off handsomely. Materials are soft-touch and complement the added components that make this a semi-premium environment. Semi-premium because the price (almost $60,000) is steep, however the value is apparent when compared to premium vehicles that offer less for much more money.

Big points makers here; the feel of the cabin and how everything works, well. The heated and cooled seats; very nice. The thick-rimmed leather steering wheel, heated of course, has fingertip audio controls that are simply the easiest, most efficient and safest way to make volume and preset selections. The U-Connect entertainment and information panel — still huge, still simple and intuitive, still among the very best. While others fumble with make-believe mouses and misconstrued hand motion sensors, the Jeep’s controls are elegant in their simplicity and help the driver remain in control — instead of vice-versa.

Add a dual-panel panoramic sunroof. Include heated rear seats. Add parking assist systems and forward braking assist. Keep one of the most driver-friendly dynamic cruise systems, augmented by blind-spot and cross-traffic assist programs. The GC’s dynamic cruise is a marvel; it never rushes to make hasty changes in speed, but never allows you to lose momentum as the gaps in traffic shift, with vehicles moving in and out of the detection zone of the forward radar beam. You can, very literally, follow cars through tollbooths without touching a single pedal, the Jeep slowing and accelerating with other traffic as well as seemingly detecting the actual tollbooth structures. Who doesn’t like a smart car that helps you drive better, without taking over control?

Four, the Jeep Factor

Without a doubt, Jeep has been the savior for Chrysler and is now the cash-cow for FCA as it weathers the storm of bad small car decisions and poor overseas sales results from the other Italian-based operations. The Jeep mojo is in high gear; Wrangler sales are still hot, the compact Cherokee is overtaking previously established rivals, while the sub-compact Renegade is saving FCA’s assets in some low-performing markets. Throw in the growing sales of the Grand Cherokee, with 10 percent take rates on this efficient diesel powertrain, and it is good to be a Jeep brand dealer.

Coming: the Wrangler redesign is slated for 2018 on-sale dates. Jeep also promises a Wrangler pickup, finally, as production moves to a remodeled Toledo factory. AER currently makes a Wrangler Brute pickup, for just $41,000 — plus the cost of your Wrangler Unlimited. That is a very steep Wrangler, no matter how beautiful the sample truck looked at the Jeep dealer in Keene, N.H., during my Grand Cherokee drive-through.

Shortly after you read this, you will (perhaps) be able to order the newest Grand Cherokee model: the Hellcat-engined Trackhawk. A 707-hp supercharged Grand Cherokee 4X4 is just what every lobsterman’s wife in Stonington is going to want to shoot over the Deer Isle causeway when the surf is up. Sure sounds appealing to me.

And finally, Jeep suggests that the three-row Grand Wagoneer will debut in two years as well. This long overdue Dodge Durango derivative should also have an EcoDiesel option, because the newest Wrangler will too.

As I said, it has to be good to be a Jeep dealer today.