Published: May 9, 2016


Since joining the Texas Automotive Writers Association and attending their annual Truck Rodeo I don’t recall a single year when Jeep’s Grand Cherokee didn’t take home a trophy. Every time I drive the Grand Cherokee, in any trim level, this SUV reminds me just how good it really is. I’ve spent quite a bit of time behind the wheel of the SRT powerhouse, I’ve driven both gas and diesel versions, and I’ve Grand Cherokee’d all over Texas on and off the road. This week I’m driving Jeep’s Overland trim Grand Cherokee, and I really like the combination of luxury, capability, and price. Let’s take a closer look and see what’s what.

The Looks: In taking a look at the exterior design of the Grand Cherokee you’ll know it hasn’t changed much in the past five years. It’s a much less controversial design than that found wrapping the smaller Jeep Cherokee. The headlights have received a more modern and upscale look with a Chrysler 300-esque vibe. The profile is much boxier and bolder than most SUVs in its class and that helps convey its Jeepness. Even though it’s getting a little old I still really like and can appreciate the design.





The Inside: Looking inside the Grand Cherokee you see one of the areas where this SUV really stands out from the crowd. The interior quality is absolutely great, especially in the upper trims. My review vehicle was equipped with the two-tone brown and light frost tan interior with wood and aluminum trim. I’m usually not a big fan of light interiors or wood but the materials Jeep chose for this vehicle just made it all work. It’s an extremely comfortable place to be and looks and feels very upscale.

The steering wheel is beefy and fitted with an array of controls for navigating the driver’s info center, nestled in the middle of the speedometer, as well as buttons for cruise control and hands-free voice commands. Behind the wheel, comfortably in reach of your fingers, volume and radio controls make it easy to interface with your music. And if that wasn’t enough, you also get paddle shifters behind that.

Moving along to the infotainment center, we had an 8.4-inch touchscreen display sporting Jeep’s Uconnect system. This is growing to be one of the better systems out there, with very clear and responsive controls. You also get access to apps such as a weather app that I took advantage of during my storm-filled week reviewing the Jeep.

Although the Grand Cherokee isn’t offered with a 3rd row, the interior is very spacious and you have a lot of room in the rear for cargo. As long as you don’t need to carry more than 5-passengers, it will be just fine. My family is bigger (four kids) but we were still able to utilize the Jeep for a bunch of family errands carrying all but one kid.






Under the Hood: The 3.6-liter V6 in our test Jeep gets up to 26-mpg highway mileage and offers up 295-horsepower, so it’s still pretty efficient for the size and has enough get-up-and-go for good highway maneuverability. This engine is matched up to an 8-speed automatic transmission, keeping the engine’s rpm low for optimal economy. The one gripe you usually hear with transmissions containing more than the normal 6-gears is that they tend to jump around, hunting for the perfect gear. The Grand Cherokee never seemed to suffer from this, as it was pretty much always smooth and responsive.

On Road: Using the Grand Cherokee as a daily driver means you’ll be cruising in smooth luxury. Connecting the wheels to the road is Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension, supplying five height adjustments, and also gives you one of the smoothest rides out there. I really think that if you’re looking for a luxurious ride there’s not an option in this segment that competes with the Grand Cherokee.

Off Road: One of the great aspects of our Truck Rodeo event is having the opportunity to really take these vehicles off the beaten path and see just how well (or not so well) they handle it. Throughout the years we’ve had some pretty difficult conditions at the Knibbe Ranch, but there’s never been a point at which I didn’t feel comfortable taking the Grand Cherokee – or any Jeep – along the gnarliest paths.

During my week of testing this Overland the most off-roading this Jeep saw was parking in the field out at our local baseball complex. I drive out here every week taking my son to his games or practices, and with all the crazy weather we’ve been getting lately in Dallas the field is pretty beaten up. The week before driving the Grand Cherokee I was in the Colorado Diesel and before that we took our Grand Caravan out there. Both vehicles, while handling the conditions just fine, gave you a pretty rough ride in the rutted backroad. The Jeep, utilizing its air suspension, handled the road exceptionally well. It did so well I made an extra pass at higher speed; the Grand Cherokee was able to keep its composure the entire time.

Wrapping up: I went into this review week already a big fan of this SUV, and for many good reasons. The biggest negative you can bring up regarding the Grand Cherokee is the ever-increasing price tag. Our Overland package occupies a good middle ground, coming in at just under $50K – but you can easily stretch that into nearly $60K, and swinging for an SRT can hit you for over $70K.

When you think about it, this is the SUV that can deliver you everything from off-road capability to luxury on-road driving for one still-attainable price. In my book the Grand Cherokee remains an all-around win.



2016 Jeep Renegade Review

2016 jeep renegade review - DOC666590

The Renegade makes perfect sense for Jeep at this juncture. Not only are compact SUVs  and crossovers  the current hot market, but the Wrangler has gotten huge in its iconic old age, and a large percentage of the Jeep  true believers don’t take the compact Compass  and Patriot  seriously. With a powerful need to reinforce the Jeep badge, the company needs a vehicle that embodies its strengths.

In that mission, the Renegade is not subtle. In addition to resurrecting a nameplate from a 2008 concept truck  and the Jeep CJ-7 before that, the smallest Jeep is a cheeky, boxy little thing that’s practically overflowing with classic Jeep styling hallmarks and designer Easter eggs. Though it’s a humble unibodied crossover, the Renegade sports off-road friendly dimensions and a Trailhawk model that, like its Cherokee Trailhawk  counterpart, is capable of following its big brothers on the toughest Jeep Jamboree courses. The Renegade arrives with a healthy dose of attitude and real capability that set it apart from the rest of the rapidly growing compact-crossover herd.

Jeep Renegade Review

n spite of its square-rigged styling, the Renegade is one of the best-looking Jeep products to date. The tiny box has been trimmed and smoothed at the corners, and the round headlights and seven-slot grille seem to emerge naturally from the shape. The hood is contoured to resemble the classic tapered Jeep hood, and the large, square taillights are patterned like the fuel-toting jerry cans that were strapped to the back of many a military Jeep back in the day.

In spite of its square-rigged styling, the Renegade is one of the best-looking Jeep products to date.

A range of bright colors (including Omaha Orange and Solar Yellow) announces the Renegade’s presence cheerfully—but on the Trailhawk, shallower front and rear fascias, unique 17-inch wheels and bright red tow hooks are reminders that there’s some seriousness beneath the happy-commuter sheet metal. The wheels can be had in bright chrome or imposing black to further personalize the Renegade. Removable “MySky” roof panels are available to open up the Renegade to the sky.
Jeep Renegade Review

The Renegade’s interior quickly inspires games of Spot the Jeep Face: it’s embossed on the seats, displayed on the door speakers and rear-view mirror surround, and even inside the tailgate. Just in case you hadn’t forgotten, “SINCE 1941” is emblazoned on top of the center stack. The materials and design take inspiration from the Wrangler, with sports-equipment style fittings. Jeep calls the look “Tek-tonic,” and it adds to the rugged atmosphere that the tiniest Jeep exudes.

Style and attitude aside, the Renegade’s cozy interior is very comfortable, with seats just the right height and plenty of headroom. The thick A-pillars may take some getting used to, but don’t block as much visibility as they seem to at first. The controls are easy to use and feel pickup truck-durable. As nice as the Renegade is, it resolutely feels like the sort of vehicle one wouldn’t be too upset about getting dirty, which is of course the point. A choice of five or six and a half-inch touchscreens provides information in the center stack as well as video from the reverse-assist camera. Options include heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. For 2016, Jeep has added rain-sensing wipers and the Beats Audio system upgrade to the options list. The nine-speaker Beats sound system adds a subwoofer and a 506-watt amp to the compact vehicle.


Two engine and drivetrain choices are offered. The 1.4 liter MultiAir turbocharged four-cylinder is standard, and produces 160 horsepower. Higher-spec Renegades get the 2.4 liter “Tiger Tiger shark” 16-valve four-cylinder with variable valve lift timing. The bigger engine bumps horsepower to 180 and adds a standard nine-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is available with the smaller MultiAir engine, and can’t be had with the towing package.

The Renegade Trailhawk upgrades the powertrain with added suspension articulation and Jeep’s Active Drive Low four-wheel drive system

The nine-speed gearbox comes off as a gimmick at first, but the wide selection of gear ratios does good things for fuel economy, and both Renegade powertrains can get over 30mpg. This requires a careful foot on the throttle: over the course of my week with the Renegade, my fuel economy rarely went much over 22mpg. The complicated transmission is not the greatest for performance; when pressed for quick downshifts, it responds with the rubbery feeling more reminiscent of a CVT. For steady-state freeway travel and most driving situations, the Renegade is delightfully civilized and it seems to combine many of the classic Wrangler’s abilities with day-to-day livability. It’ll even tow up to 2000 pounds, which is enough for a small utility or camping trailer.

Frequency-damping Koni struts are used front and rear and result in surprising road holding. The Renegade has none of the tippy feeling that many small crossovers exhibit during cornering.

The Renegade Trailhawk upgrades the powertrain with added suspension articulation and Jeep’s Active Drive Low four-wheel drive system, which offers the Jeep Selec-Terrain system that adapts the four-wheel drive to multiple surfaces, including sand, snow, rocks and mud. The Renegade’s four-wheel drive system is adapted from the Cherokee. It’s able to put nearly all of the engine’s power through one wheel, if needed to crawl out of a tight situation. To improve fuel economy, the rear axle can disengage completely when it’s not needed.
Jeep Renegade Review

The Renegade lives up to Jeep’s reputation for toughness, and the tiny sport-ute was awarded a four-star overall rating by NHTSA, with only a three-star rating in rollover crashes bringing the average down. The IIHS rates it “Average” to “Good” in all categories. Available safety equipment includes a rear park assist, a backup camera and the UConnect 9-1-1 Call assistance button. A lane departure warning system, forward collision warning and blind spot monitor are available. Jeep Jeep ’s also got the UConnect Access infotainment system, which offers emergency services at the touch of a button.

The Renegade lineup starts with the Sport, moves up through Latitude and Limited models, and tops out with the Trailhawk. The Renegade Sport starts at $17,995 for two-wheel drive and $19,995 for four-wheel drive and includes the 1.4 liter engine. The $21,395 Latitude adds 4wd for $23,395. The Limited and Trailhawk are equipped with the 2.4 liter engine and nine-speed automatic. Pricing for the Limited is $25,120 for 2wd and $26,745 for 4wd, and the 4×4-only Trailhawk starts at $27,120.

Effectively a Chevy Sonic on stilts, the Trax is a suburban-bred, pavement-friendly compact do-all. A multi-configurable interior’s combined with available all-wheel drive and a frugal 1.4 liter turbocharged engine to create an affordable jack-of-all-trades.
MINI Countryman: The stylish Countryman looks like another of MINI’s fashion-first products, but if the brand’s recent desert rallying adventures are any indicator, there’s some real ability hiding beneath the skin. Though it’s a bit expensive, the Countryman features MINI’s signature styling, high safety ratings and even the nimble handling that the brand is known for.

The HR-V will never be able to follow the Jeep Renegade off-road, but acquits itself on pavement quite well, thanks to extremely attractive pricing and a chassis shared with the Honda Honda Fit. All-wheel drive, a five-star crash rating and up to 35mpg on the freeway are pretty attractive qualities as well.

Jeep Renegade Review

The Renegade fulfils the promises made by the disappointing Compass and Patriot. This diminutive off-roader is a true Jeep in spite of its shared platform, showing off considerably more off-road ability than any of the compact SUVs it competes with while exuding giggle-inducing levels of Jeep attitude. Attractive pricing and pleasing road manners don’t hurt, either. Call this one a win.

2016 Dodge Durango Shines With New Appearance Packages

Published: 02/12/2016  – by , Correspondent

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan — The 2016 Dodge Durango SUV gets a bit of extra metallic bling with two new appearance packages on display this week at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show.

Called Brass Monkey and Anodized Platinum, the packages, priced at an additional $995 and $1,095, respectively, can be ordered now and will begin arriving at Dodge dealers in the second quarter of this year.

The Brass Monkey package, available on the Durango Limited model, features 20-inch Burnished Bronze aluminum wheels, similar to those offered on 2015 Charger and Challenger SRT models.

Other unique Brass Monkey touches include a Gloss Black grille and exterior badge, as well as a monochromatic exterior treatment.

The Anodized Platinum appearance package, which can be ordered on the higher-level Durango Citadel, takes the heavy-metal theme up a notch with 20-inch Satin Carbon aluminum wheels and Platinum grille, exterior mirror caps, fog lamp bezels, exterior badge, door handles and lower sills.

FCA seems to be on a metallic binge. As previously reported by Edmunds, special Alloy Editions of the 2016 Chrysler 200S and Chrysler 300S are also making an appearance at this year’s Chicago auto show.

Competitors to the 2016 Dodge Durango in the large SUV segment include the Buick Enclave, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Highlander.

Edmunds says: Shoppers looking to spice up a new 2016 Durango will want to contact their Dodge dealer about the Brass Monkey and Anodized Platinum packages.