Fun in the sun in Jeep ® Renegade

Phoenix Business Journal, July 19

Renegade may be made in Italy and is more cute than rugged with rounded edges and chunky panels, but it still deserves to wear the Jeep badge.

The signature seven-slot grille and round headlamps are all iconic Jeep. And it can be rigged for far tougher off-road adventures than competitors, including its cousin, Fiat 500X.

This is year two for the playful-looking Renegade with about 114,000 sold through June 2016. The numbers are on the rise, matching Jeep’s Compass and closing in on Patriot but still well behind the rugged Wrangler and larger Cherokee and Grand Cherokee.

The biggest change for the current model year is the availability of a Beats (a division of Apple) premium audio system. Rain-sensing windshield wipers also now are available.

Prices start at $18,990, same as last year. That gets you a front-wheel drive Sport model with a 1.4-liter, 160-horsepower 4-cylinder turbo engine. Add $1,280 to move into the 2.4-liter, 180-horse 4 with a 9-speed automatic.

The turbo does best on fuel economy rated at 27 miles per gallon in combined driving, but that’s using premium gas. The 2.4-liter is rated at 25 using regular.

Inside you get a nice mix of soft-touch materials, solid construction and chunky grips and such tying into Renegade’s exterior look.

Front buckets are comfortable with roomy surrounds, but the back is not very hospitable for anyone with long legs. The payload floor has a hidden compartment, or you can remove the top for a deeper storage well. Rear seats as well as the front passenger seat flip forward on all but the 2WD Sport.

You can find small crossovers that run a little less than the Renegade, but its price is fair. But there are a lot of tempting options to send that sticker soaring. Start with basic 4-wheel drive for about two grand or the Dawn of Justice (Batman v. Superman) special edition that starts just over 27K.

A cool feature on my bright yellow tester was the $1,495 My Sky roof system with two panels that either tilt up at the touch of a button or can be removed entirely.

Roadside and emergency help are available at the touch of a button, HD radio, voice texting and a large 7-inch screen are among Uconnect infotainment options.

Safety gear ranges from blind-spot monitoring to a parking aid and rear cross-traffic alert.

There are a ton of choices when it comes to small crossovers. Renegade’s ride and drive are more harsh than most and it’s not as powerful or fuel efficient as many rivals. But if you want to hit the trail, or just want a rig that’s youthful and fun in the sun – snow and mud too – then this little Jeep is a top choice.

Jeep Renegade

Compact sport utility

Base price:$18,990

MPG: 24/31 to 21/29

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: 4 of 5 stars for front impact; 5 for side; 3 for rollover resistance with 4-wheel drive, 4 with front-drive; www.safercar.gov

J.D. Power: 2 of 5 for overall quality, performance and design and predicted reliability; www.jdpower.com/cars

Web: www.jeep.com

Competitors: Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Honda Fit and HR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Wrangler and Cherokee, Kia Soul and Sportage, Mazda CX-3, Mini Cooper Countryman, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Nissan Juke, Subaru Crosstrek

Bottom line: A fun little crossover capable of off-road adventure

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Auto review: Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is convenient crossover, capable crawler

 

Robert Duffer, Tribune News Service Updated Jun 28, 2016

Auto review: Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is convenient crossover, capable crawler

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I had a friend who drove a soft-top Jeep Wrangler TJ all across the country all through our itinerant 20s. Loud, unruly, inefficient and mindlessly fun, it was a perfect symbol for the wayward post-college years.

A decade or three removed, I thought of that Wrangler while driving the Jeep Renegade, which is smarter, safer, and more secure in its direction. The grille, headlights and boxy style are all Wrangler-inspired, and the tester’s bright Omaha Orange color was a nod to the 1976 CJ5.

Renegade is a more refined Jeep, more versatile than rugged, yet it’s still a hill of fun.

Renegade was launched for model year 2015 on the crest of a wave of subcompact crossovers landing in the North American market. The Trailhawk-rated version is the only cute ute with any legitimate off-road capability.

Most importantly, this global-market vehicle feels and looks like a Jeep, even without all the kitschy brand heritage reminders, from the grille-shaped speakers to the shovel-shaped grab handle and the X-ed out taillights.

Off road

In steep, muddy, and rocky courses at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill., the trail-rated Trailhawk was able to keep pace with the Wrangler, despite smaller wheels, arches and a shorter ground clearance of 8.7 inches, same as the Cherokee midsize SUV. It’s no Wrangler; it dips its small wheels in, more than plowing through, but the 4×4 gets the job done.

There are five drive settings, including mud, snow, sand and rock in a dynamic four-wheel drive system Jeep calls Selec-Terrain. It can be used in normal road surfaces with snow or wet conditions to minimize spinouts and to start in second gear so the wheels won’t make a rut when taking off.

The Active Drive 4×4 Low system specific to the Trailhawk models lets the Renegade crawl over rocks and other uneven terrain due to all sorts of engineering wizardry. The brake-lock differential, for example, stops one wheel from spinning and delivers all the torque in that axle to the wheel that is planted. So long, log blocking the road.

Hill descent is another magical function that, once activated, will overtake the gas and brake pedals. It’s a leap of faith, especially teetering over a rocky descent, but so is any complex mechanics. The driver can brake if he feels the need to do something other than steer.

The little buddy with the 2.4-liter Tigershark engine churns out 177 pound-feet of torque, and can tow up to 2,000 pounds, good enough to lug the ATV or Harley. It’ll also turn those two red tow hooks on the front, or the one on the rear, into a rescue device instead of just a cool visual component.

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On road

The wizardry doesn’t stop once the Trailhawk is back on the road. Because it’s wiser than the Wrangler, the rear axle disconnects from the powertrain when it’s not needed. Sounds ominous but it’s a fuel saving device reverting the Renegade to a front-wheel drive vehicle that is more efficient, smoother and quieter. Paired to a nine-speed transmission that initially gave FCA all kinds of trouble in the Jeep Cherokee, the four-cylinder engine is good enough to deliver 24 mpg combined, which is one of the worst for a subcompact crossover but the best for a Jeep. Trade-offs are so adult.

All this sophisticated mechanical capability means owners should be on good terms with a Jeep service center, who must be among the few who can fix problems should they arise.

Sky high

Keeping with Jeep’s manual, hands-on heritage, the tester came with twin removable roof panels known as My Sky. The two panels over both rows of seats are like lengthwise T-tops, except the safety engineers made sure it was a two-handed operation so fun-seekers ditching work wouldn’t be removing the panels while on their way to the beach. A key (best stowed in the glove box) unlocks the panel, then a latch pops it free. You could theoretically remove it from a seated position, but it’s best to stand on the door sill and remove it from the top. A padded storage bag in the back keeps the panels secure, though it does limit how much you can stuff in the small cargo area.

Versatility

The 60/40 rear seats provide plenty of space, and for solo adventurers the front passenger seat folds forward for stowing long boards and other gear. The easy-to-clean black cloth seats with red stitching also have a contour map of Moab, the off-road Mecca that Jeep celebrates annually with its Easter Safari.

One last cute ute feature on the interior is the dual vents positioned like eyes above the backup camera. Many have called it WALL-E, the titular robot compactor that only Pixar could make cute, and you just may find yourself giving its `head’ a pet or two before leaving the vehicle.

The Renegade Trailhawk is great for people who don’t need the regular ruggedness of a Wrangler, but who are still tempted to detour off the road well-traveled into the unknown.

 

Surprisingly good – the 2016 Chrysler 200S AWD

Jun 23, 2016 

Surprisingly good – the 2016 Chrysler 200S AWD

I drive a lot of vehicles. In fact, I receive products on a weekly basis to road-test and evaluate. Most are quite enjoyable, there’s really no such thing as a bad driving car today. However, every now and then one pops up and surprises you, which is precisely what happened to me with the 2016 Chrysler 200S AWD.

In truth, I was never a great lover of its forerunner, the Sebring as, although it looked rather smart (especially the convertible), it fell down somewhat in the performance/handling department; as did the previous generation of the 200 (prior to 2015 MY), although it was marginally better than the Sebring. Therefore, I didn’t exactly leap into the new 200 when it first came along.

On hindsight, this was possibly a mistake, as the week I’ve just spent in the 200S has me wishing I had.

It’s a sharp looking car and enjoys that typical Chrysler design, wherein the personality of the vehicle alters with colour choice. Pick a red one and it appears sporty, while in white or gunmetal grey (like my test vehicle), it suddenly takes on an air of luxury. It’s very much like the Chrysler 300, one of my favourite designs ever.

My test vehicle came powered by the faithful 3.6L Pentastar V6 (295 hp and 262 lb/ft of torque) and when coupled to its 9-speed (yes, 9-speed) transmission, this vehicle moves. Yet it does so with utter smoothness due to the number of available gears. It also handles like a Pro with braking capabilities well matched to its performance and it sounds good. Add in the sleek AWD system which automatically disconnects the rear axle to improve fuel economy, and it’s a great vehicle for Canada.

Of course, I am speaking of the “S” sports model here with the larger motor and AWD which, with a number of bells and whistles, topped out at just over $40k. In my opinion, not overpriced for what’s on offer. However, there are other, perhaps more wallet-friendly models available in the lineup with the 2.4L LX FWD starting at just $23,095.

My 200S came with rather distinctive Grey/blue leather-faced seating, complemented by the blue ambient LED interior lighting including that of the dash display. It’s a pleasing look. It also featured heated seats/heated steering wheel and just about every luxury appointment one could ever wish for in a vehicle of its price. However, the rotary dial gear selector (just like those in Jaguar/Land Rover models) and the large 8.4 inch touchscreen notch the game up a tad. It also boasts one of the smartest features I’ve ever seen, a simple easy-to-locate button which simply turns the centre display off. I wish other manufacturers would include this as it’s nice to occasionally remove this distraction whilst driving, particularly at night.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by the new Chrysler 200S. So if you happen to be in the market for a mid-size sedan, it’s well worth adding to your list.

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.

2016 Chrysler 200 is an improved performer

Ken Chester Jr., Motor News Media Corporation 4:25 p.m. CDT June 10, 2016

Original Source

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Inspired by iconic American design, the all-new Chrysler 200 sedan was introduced into the American marketplace last year. Delivering beautiful craftsmanship and using high-quality materials, the 200 sedan offers understated elegance, and is loaded with state-of-the-art technology and safety features.

The 200 sedan, with its muscular yet soulful presence, embodies a strong, sculptured exterior that drivers will want to touch and feel. The restrained design is not ornamental or full of line work; instead it showcases sensual lines and fluid surfaces which highlight the coupe-like appearance.

The athletic Chrysler 200S model delivers an exclusive style – darker, more sinister – not found on other models in the lineup, or in the mid-size sedan segment. The 200S features gloss black trim and accent pieces rather than the standard bright trim. The exclusive design of the daylight opening trim, the area surrounding the side windows, is gloss black. Integrated dual exhausts are standard and the available 19-inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels complete the look. The more sinister appearance of the 200S complements the sportier driving experience the S model delivers.

Offered in LX, Limited, 200S and 200C trim levels for the 2016 model year, Chrysler has fine-tuned the lineup in response to customer feedback. Changes include: standard rear backup camera on Limited and S models; standard heated steering wheel on 200C; improved front driver and passenger seat firmness; and Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection now a standalone option on Limited.

Additionally, there are three new exterior paint color choices for the 2016 model year: Black Forest Green Clear Coat, Maximum Steel Clear Coat, and Redline Tri-coat Pearl Coat.

Base power is generated by a 2.4L MultiAir2 Tigershark four-cylinder engine. A 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine is standard when coupled with the available all-wheel drive system and optional for front-wheel drive Limited model. Torque is communicated to the street for all models through a 948TE/9HP48 nine-speed automatic transmission.

The optional state-of-the-art all-wheel-drive system includes a “sport” driving mode and delivers excellent performance in all driving conditions. The all-wheel-drive system also features a segment-first fully disconnecting rear axle that improves fuel economy by operating in front-wheel drive when all-wheel drive is not needed. The system features a one-speed power transfer unit (PTU) and uniquely disconnects and reconnects the rear axle – automatically and seamlessly – as needed and at any speed. The disconnecting rear axle disconnects at both the PTU and rear drive module, which improves fuel economy by reducing parasitic loss when all-wheel drive is not needed.

The Chrysler 200 is the first mid-size sedan to utilize Chrysler Group’s Compact U.S.-wide (CUS-wide) platform, the basis for smooth on-road performance. The new body structure, including laser-brazed roof welds, delivers increased torsional stiffness, resulting in a more connected driving experience. The Chrysler sedan’s chassis was engineered to deliver sporty European handling dynamics and steering precision with ride and comfort characteristics tuned for North American roads, resulting in excellent handling for the driver with maximum comfort for both the driver and passengers. The sedan’s exceptional balance is accomplished through the suspension bushing tuning and the exceptional body structure, including the front aluminum cradle, rear upper/under body structure reinforcement and superior suspension attachment stiffness.

The interior of the Chrysler 200 sedan is exquisitely crafted with high-quality materials and attention to detail. The passenger cabin is inviting and comfortable and rewards drivers and passengers on commutes as well as longer journeys.

A clever design for the center console, made possible by the state-of-the-art full electronic gear shifting with rotary shift knob, is beautiful as well as functional. A unique pass-through storage feature that the driver and front-seat passenger can both access is enabled by the rotary-dial electronic shifting, a segment first. A clever opening at the rear of the pass-through area allows wires and cables from items stored in the pass-through area to route directly to the hidden power supply located in the covered center console. The center console features innovative sliding cup holders with smooth, furniture-like movement, allowing drivers and passengers to use the space in a way that best fits their needs.

Dimensions & specifications

Wheelbase: 108.0; overall length: 192.3; width: 73.6; height: 58.7

All vehicle measurements are in inches.

Engine: 2.4L four-cylinder – 184 hp at 6,250 rpm and 173 lbs-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm; 3.6L V6 – 295 hp at 6,350 rpm and 262 lbs-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm.

Transmission: nine-speed automatic

EPA Fuel Economy: 2.4L four-cylinder – 23 city/36 hwy.; 3.6L V6 – 19 city/32 hwy. (FWD), 18 city/29 hwy. (AWD).

Cargo capacity: 16.0 cubic feet

Safety features

Dual front airbags, dual front seat mounted side-impact airbags, dual head curtain side-impact airbags, front seat knee bolster airbag, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, brake assist, traction control, electronic stability control, automatic headlamps, automatic power door locks, Keyless Enter ‘n Go, security alarm, engine immobilizer, and tire pressure monitoring system. Limited adds Bluetooth hands free phone system. S adds fog lamps. C adds universal garage door opener, ParkView rear backup camera, and remote start system.

Optional safety features include: navigation system, blind spot monitoring system, rear cross path detection, high-intensity discharge headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, LED fog lamps, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, advanced brake assist, full-speed forward collision warning plus, lane departure warning plus, parallel and perpendicular park assist with stop, rain sensitive windshield wipers and SmartBeam headlamps.

Warranty

Basic: 3-year/36,000 mile, Bumper-to-bumper

Powertrain: 5-year/100,000 mile

Corrosion: 5-year/100,000 mile

Pricing

The base Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2016 Chrysler 200 sedan starts from $21,995 for the LX up to $31,785 for the 200C AWD. Destination charges add $995.

 

Jeep® Cherokee dives into muddy waters with zeal

Jeep® Cherokee dives into muddy waters with zeal, DriveChicago.com, June 8 By Dave Boe.

Elkhart Lake Wisconsin- While five-door crossovers of all sizes have emerged as a trendy, popular segment among pavement dwellers, those seeking less-traveled, slightly spirited terrain still have a go-to option; Jeep.

This iconic, go-anywhere brand celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2016. Now a cog of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Jeep sales now inhabit a growing number of markets worldwide.

The five-door Cherokee crossover was re-introduced to Jeep’s lineup in the 2014 model year, dissing body-on-frame truck underpinnings in favor of an ultra-sturdy, uni-body, car-like design. First introduced in 1984 with three or five door body styles, Cherokee’s first retirement came about in 2001 before roaring back three years ago.

Those yearning for off-road adventures via a mid-size crossover deserve quality, behind-the-wheel time with Cherokee’s 2016 Trailhawk trim, our tester this week with standard four-wheel drive teamed with an off-road kit adding an additional inch of ground clearance, skid plates and locking rear differential. Expect a pair of red tow hooks under the front fender and one rear bound under the driver’s side rear fender.

Cherokee provided plenty of on and off-line chatter with its 2014 return sporting a more fluid, less sculpted exterior most noticeable up front. The iconic, bold seven-slat grille underwent a Jenny Craig type of transformation, boasting sleek contours rather than a flat-faced approach. In effect, Cherokee underwent a stylish nose job.

Headlights flanking the nuanced seven-slat grille also shed familiar, circular, eyes-wide-open status, opting for a relaxed, casual, almost-closed appearance reminiscent of a contented house cat. Tail lights adopt a narrow horizontal tune, snuggling under narrow hatchback glass featuring a standard wiper and spoiler-like top trim home to the brake light.

While some Jeep purists may balk at this heritage tinkering, take rates point to a different reality. Cherokee sales increased a healthy 23 percent in 2015 compared with the 2014 calendar year. At 184 inches of overall length, Cherokee measures in at the shorter end of the mid-size spectrum.
Cherokee offers a segment best three (3) four-wheel-drive systems depending upon a customer’s off-road intentions (Active Drive I, Active Drive II and Active Drive Lock). Trailhawk is the sole trim with Active Drive Lock featuring a low range selection and locking rear differentials.

All Cherokee 4 x 4s include an electronic ‘Selec-Terrain’ featuring five customizable settings (auto, rock, snow sand/mud and sport). A twist dial left of the floor-mounted transmission shifter allows selection. The dial’s four-quadrant top includes operation of hill decent control, low-gear selection and rear locking. Downstream of the shifter, side-by-side beverage holders reside in front of a large, multi-level storage bin. Upstream, plug-in-ports nested inside a cove await portable electronic devices.

Off-road prowess got put to the test in late May at the annual Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Spring Rally at historic Road America. The Wisconsin track may be well known for high-speed hair-pin turns and elevation changes, but nested on property is a professionally-groomed off-road encounter where Jeeps and other rugged toys come to play within a slower-speed environment. The Chicago-based Midwest Automobile Media Association also celebrates a milestone birthday in 2016, reaching a young adult 25.

Morning showers provided a fresh coat of muddy top soil for Trail hawk and pickup trucks from General Motors, Toyota and Ford along with assorted, pricier Land Rover family members. The uni-body Trail hawk performed admirably through rocky terrain, deep mud, wayward ditches and sloppy hair-pin corners, never dissuaded from reaching the finish line. When done frolicking in the mud, an electronic parking brake tab resides directly aft of the transmission shifter.

Of all the dozen or so muddy buddies traversing the off-road course during AM hours, Cherokee Trail hawk came to play with one of the lowest price tags accompanied by on-road handling comforts lacking in most pickups. Also assisting the cause; Trail hawk’s extra ground clearance and an approach angle of 29.8 degrees.

Two available engines in all Cherokee trims include a standard 2.4-liter four cylinder cranking out 184 horses. Opt for the 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 and enjoy 271 horses. Both engines utilize regular, 87-octane fuel and team with a very modern, segment exclusive nine-speed automatic transmission. The gas tank holds 15.9 gallons of regular, 87-octane fuel.

Updates in 2016 remain minimal. When opting for the larger (and recommended) “Uconnect’ 8.4-inch multi-function in-dash screen, expect more hands-free and voice-activated opportunities. In addition, a new, luxury-appointed ‘Overland’ trim is now available joining Sport, Latitude, Limited and our off-road intended Trailhawk tester.

In 2015, Cherokee introduced Engine Stop-Start technology enabling better fuel economy. Standard on our V-6 test model, the engine shuts down upon coming to a complete stop, restarting automatically when summoning the accelerator pedal.

Starting price for our Trailhawk 4 x 4: $30,995. Option packaging included $1,745 for the upgraded V-6 with start/stop technology, $1,045 for safety tech group (rear park assist, cross path detection), $945 for in-screen navigation package with five years of Sirius XM traffic subscription and $1,695 for the comfort group (power lift gate, dual zone climate control). The bottom line ended at $37,420 including a $995 destination charge. A 2016 front-drive (4 x 2) Sport trim checks in at $23,495.

Jeep continues as versatile inside as out with a shotgun front bucket seat back able to fold flat onto the comfy cushion, creating numerous cargo-carrying options. When prone, the seat cushion flips forward, revealing a hidden storage cove.

Second row 60/40 split seats move fore and aft increasing comfort and cargo area storage flexibility. The optional power hatchback closes via left-panel push button, a convenient location when compared to the door’s underside frame, a locale popular with many SUVs.

Electronic push-button start comes standard. The center dashboard’s top region includes a wide, shallow, covered storage region ideal for I Pass transponders or other small items. Trail hawk features a black interior with contrasting red stitching with leather and cloth seating materials.

As with most FCA products, the user friendly ‘Uconnect’ audio system incorporates large screen icons teamed with ‘words,’ easing confusion and mis-identification. Large and welcome tactile dials handle primary ventilation fan speed duties, audio volume and station selections.

Uconnect’s center piece 8.4-inch in-dash multi-function touch screen welcomes cell phone connections and ‘app’ downloads. Creative tactile engineering allows finger tips to adjust audio and station presets from long, toggle-like switches located on the backside of the steering wheel, a natural resting position for fingers. The three-spoke steering wheel’s front includes large cruise control options at 3 o’clock and instrument panel window display selections at 9 o’clock.

Compared with other mid-sized crossovers, Cherokee welcomes rough terrain, especially the off-road intended Trail hawk capable of towing an impressive 4,500 pounds with the optional V-6 engine. When on-road, handling characteristics rate superior to most truck-like sport utility vehicles.

2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
Price as tested: $37,420
Wheelbase:   106.3 inches
Length: 182 inches
Width: 73.2 inches
Engine:   3.2-liter V-6
Horsepower: 271
Curb weight: 4,108 pounds
Power train warranty: Five years or 60,000 miles
City/Highway economy:   19 mpg city 26 mpg highway
Assembly: Toledo, Ohio

2016 Jeep Cherokee Trail hawk – Cherokee dives into muddy waters with zeal By: Dave Boe