2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD Limited

Jeep’s Grand Cherokee was introduced as a premium mid-sized SUV in 1993, with its first introduction at the N. American International Auto Show at Cobo arena in Detroit.  It is currently in its fourth generation configuration and has always featured unibody construction.

The car is on a hot streak, being named a Consumer Digest “best buy” for the seventh consecutive year.  Since 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee annual sales have topped 200,000 on seven different occasions, including last year.  And the 2017 4×4 Grand Cherokee such as I recently tested has been awarded a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.

My Grand Cherokee test vehicle for June was a Velvet Red Pearl Limited 4×4 that carried an M.S.R.P. of $46,680.00.  I’m partial to red equipment and with the 18″ double ten-spoke gray wheels the Jeep was quite attractive.  A black leather interior was on hand including heat in front and rear seats, 506-watt XM stereo, 8.4″ touchscreen display, dual-pane panoramic sunroof, navigation system, blind spot detection, power-tilt steering column, and 9 speakers with a subwoofer.

The Grand Cherokee is a mid-sized SUV and seats five with cargo room in the rear of 36.3 cubic feet.  If the second row seating is folded flat that number increases to 68.3 cubic feet.  The Jeep wheelbase is 114.8″, length is 189.8″, and the weight is 4,677 lbs.  The ride, interior noise suppression, handling and guidance on the highway are all on target and visibility is good, as well.

When driving my test Jeep with Ruth, my wife, I often requested that she handle the gear shift when getting underway.  At first I am sure she thought I was nuts, but what I wanted her to experience was the deluxe “feel” associated with the transmission control.  It seems that the Jeep is definitely a “high touch”, and a “high utility” luxury SUV.

I mentioned the wheels, and can add that tires mounted on them were Michelin Premier LTX 265/60R18 all-season radials.  Of course the Jeep is a 4×4 with Quadra-Trac active on-demand system and electronic limited-slip differential.  Select-Track options while driving include Track, Sport, Auto, Snow and Tow modes.  Additionally, the Jeep had a trailer tow group of options with receiver hitch, wiring harness, etc.

Power for the Grand Cherokee Limited is supplied by a 3.6 liter (220 c.i.d.) Pentastar 24-valve V-6 with 295 horsepower, 260 lb. ft. or torque, and stop-start technology.  It is coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission with, as Jeep describes it, a “Classic style” shifter.  Economy ratings are 25 mpg-highway, 18 mpg-city, and 21 mpg-combined, and my observance was at 21.4 mpg during my time with the Jeep.

It’s evident to me why the venerable Grand Cherokee has had such staying power for almost a quarter-century.

2017 Nissan Armada Platinum 4WD

20170226_172717_burst29A review of the Armada was conducted at Pirate Radio 104.7 by George Gray and Matt Arguello:

Hermosa Blue metallic

Almond leather buckets – heated – 7 passenger  – Technology Package with Navigation system with 7” touchscreen plus rear entertainment system – blind spot monitor, land keep assist – Radar cruise control – Power moonroof – LED headlights, daytime running lights, fog lights – Bose 13 speaker centerpoint surround sound stereo – Backup camera and navigation – 390 horsepower 5.6 liter V-8 (394) – 7 Speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive – $61,585.00 – 5,963 lbs. – 18 MPG on the highway, 13 MPG city – 26 gallon tanksam_0866

 

2016 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro V6 SUV

20161029_160204The Toyota 4Runner, brought out 32 years ago as basically a compact pickup/topper, is now in its fifth generation configuration and has morphed into a brawny mid-sized SUV.  This last week I was assigned to a 2016 4×4 TRD Pro V6 4Runner that arrived at my place sporting Quicksand (tan) paint with a black leatherette interior.

Toyota, U.S.A. was formed in our country on October 31st, 1957, and globally the company ranks 10th in the world in revenue.  Total global sales of their vehicles has tripled to 10.15 million since the 4Runner introduction in 1984, and the vehicle maintains its body-on-frame construction and will for the foreseeable future.  Such construction results in a quieter, heavier machine – traits that were evident to me during the week-long test.

The 4Runner M.S.R.P. totaled $42,800.00, including freight, and the only option  was a sliding rear cargo deck ($350.00).  The TRD Pro V6 4Runner was equipped with power windows/mirrors/windows/locks as well as keyless entry.  SofTex-trimmed seats existed throughout the five-passenger car and the front buckets were heated.  Of course the 40/20/40 back seat folds down, availing the two remaining occupants of the car almost 90 cubic feet of cargo space (47.2 cubic feet with the second row seating erect).  The rear tailgate needs handling by human hands, but the rear glass opens by electric motor.  Hence, the rear window wiper is concealed above the glass in the deflector.  I liked the arrangements at the rear of the 4Runner.

The stereo in the Toyota was a 8-speaker system, USB and Ipod connections were on hand, and a backup camera was installed.  The only gadgets that were missing were lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot monitor.  Ruth and I found the buckets to be supportive on our trip to Denver and the ride (coil springs at every corner) and guidance were suitable.

Horsepower of the 4Runner is rated at 270, and is supplied by a 4 liter V-6 with 278 lb.-ft. of torque.  The four-wheel drive vehicle has a five speed automatic transmission and performance was pleasing.  My fuel mileage ended up just over 21 miles-per-gallon, and EPA ratings were 17 city and 21 highway – 18 overall.  The fuel tank holds 23 gallons.SAM_4011

My family thought the 4Runner looked large, and as mentioned earlier the size has been increased over time.  Styling involves a bold design, and it grew on me as the week went by, presenting somewhat of a military look.  I also liked the way the lighting bulged from the corners.  Wheels were black alloys fitted with P265/70R17 all-season radials.

Personally, the week with the 4Runner resulted in a pleasant surprise, and I see no reason why an SUV shopper would avoid the Toyota dealer and the 4Runners located on their lot.

2016 Toyota Land Cruiser 4WD

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George Gray, DJ at Pirate Radio 104.7, recently was able to join me in an analysis of the Toyota Land Cruiser outside the studios at KELS FM:

LAND CRUISER SPECIFICATIONS

Blue Onyx Pearl paint – 8 passenger – Power heated and a/c bucket seats – 9” touchscreen – Full time 4WD – LED running lights – XM radio and  premium 14 speaker stereo plus rear DVD player with dual 11” screens – Keyless entry – power windows and locks – pushbutton start – 5.7 liter V-8 with 381 horsepower – 8 Speed automatic transmission – Backup camera and navigation – $84,820.00  list price –  18 MPG Highway – 5,815 lb. curb weight – 16.1 cubic foot cargo space behind third row seats

2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury SUV

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An elegant 2016 Lexus GX-460 Luxury edition was dropped off at my house last week, and I quickly jumped in to take it to the airport to pick up my family.  Lexus is the luxury division of Toyota, and has been producing the GX series of SUV’s since 2002.  This one was painted Silver Lining metallic, a gorgeous finish.  Inside, it featured gray leather deluxe upholstery with comfortable buckets and seating for seven.  The family, consisting of the three girls just back from Disney World, oohed and ahhhd at the Lexus interior.

This GX is a big SUV, weighing 5,179 lbs. and extending out to 189.2 inches in overall length.  It’s 73.8” tall and 74.2” in width.  I mentioned the seven passenger capability, which requires a small double leather seat that folds down into the floor in the far back.  When these seats are up, there is a modest amount of luggage space, but when collapsed along with the middle row of seating, you can obtain 64.7 cubic feet of cargo space.  The back door swings out towards the curb and a hinged rear glass is incorporated into it.  All packaged up and out on the road, this vehicle rides great, and wind noise, guidance, and handling are all commensurate with a Lexus of this caliber.20160518_183452

My GX test car had a base M.S.R.P. of $61,515.00.  The entertainment system added $1,970.00, driver support package added $4,340.00, and the freight added $940.00, bringing total list price to $68,765.00.  Stereo equipment was Mark Levinson (including navigation system) with 7.1 Dolby surround sound and 17 speakers.  The GX had the blind spot monitor that I’ve grown so fond of, allowing Ruth and I to get on Highway 85 at Brighton and sale into Greeley from the south.

The 4.6 liter V-8 provided 301 horsepower (329 lb. ft. of torque) and was mated to a six speed automatic transmission with sport shift mode.  Acceleration is on target, with a zero to sixty timing that is reportedly a respectable 7.8 seconds.  Fuel economy ratings are 15/20 city-highway (17 combined), and I observed a little over 18 for the week spent with the GX.  It has full-time four-wheel drive with crawl control for four wheeling.  This car is a body-on-frame SUV with 8.1” of ground clearance, so can do more than just drive through snow.

Styling of the GX-460 has been changed since the second generation model was introduced in 2009, and personally I think they kept the styling pretty much in line with the prior series, with perhaps a little more aggressive attitude.  My GX had the roof rails, nice lighted steps on the side, ample chrome, and 18”, six-spoke Liquid Graphite alloy wheels.  The tires were Bridgestone Dueler H/T 840’s, P265/60R18 in size, with mud and snow capabilities.

Sleek, unibody “crossover” SUVs are currently the rage, and the GX460 is somewhat of a throwback.  But if the shopper wants to luxuriate with off-road and towing capabilities, the GX-460 Lexus provides an excellent option to consider.

 

 

 

2015 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium SUV

20151031_172117On a cool November morning, I dropped by Pirate Radio (104.7 FM – Greeley) to show the DJ’s a Cadillac Escalade painted Dark Granite metallic and featuring a Kona brown/black leather interior.  I take a vehicle to “The Pirate” every Friday morning, and this week I was fortunate enough to arrive in a beauty.

Both Matt “The Big Kahuna” Arguello and George “Elvis” Gray seemed to like the Caddy, and George found favor with the driving environment and dashboard appointments.  Matt fell in love with the power retractable assist steps ($1,695.00), and is currently in the market for some to put on his GMC pickup.  The Escalade had a lot of other optional equipment on it, which I will go over later, and the base price was $84,070.00.20151101_075008

Cadillac sells around 30,000 of these Escalades each year, and have offered the full-size SUV since 1999.  The one I tested came from Automotive Media Solutions in Denver, and total sticker price was $89,360.00.  Equipment on hand other than the steps included the Kona brown interior setup ($2,000.00), and ultra-bright 22″ alloy wheels ($600.00).  Freight to deliver the Escalade to Denver (from the plant in Arlington, TX) is $995.00.

As a Premium edition of the Escalade, the loaner had pretty much every imaginable option, including rear seat entertainment, 16-speaker Bose stereo, power everything, and 6.2 liter V-8 power plant.  An eight-speed automatic is installed, and of course the vehicle is a four-wheel drive design.  It was very enjoyable to test, got rave reviews at Pirate radio, and would be certain to please the luxury SUV buyer.

2015 Jeep Cherokee Latitude 4×4

20150921_183023Recently I was chosen to examine the 2015 Cherokee Latitude 4 x 4 by Rocky Mountain Redline of Dacono, CO.  They graciously brought the Jeep by my house and had a copy of the window sticker along – it was $33,825.00, including freight and several options.  I’ll get into that list later, but at first glance I was surprised to see all of the black chrome trim work on the Jeep, and as the test unfolded a lot of my friends made favorable comments about the look.  A gloss black appearance was featured on the grill, the window trim, roof rails, wheels, and the fascia application.  Along with the Granite Crystal metallic clear coat paint, the vehicle therefore presented an aggressive, business-like look.

The Ohio-built Jeep Cherokee is not to be confused with the Grand Cherokee – this is a mid-size crossover that was introduced for the 2014 model year and was co-developed by Chrysler and Fiat.  It is 182″ long, 73.2″ wide, 65.7″ high, is mounted on a 106.3″ wheelbase, and has ground clearance of 8″.  Weight of the model I drove was 4,044 lbs.  As of this writing, it should not be driven on the streets of South Carolina, because it can only wade through 19″ of water.  That’s actually pretty good, but the weather in SC is pretty bad.20150921_183352

I enjoyed testing the Jeep in Colorado, and was pleased about the extra punch provided by the 3.2 liter (197.7 c.i.d.) Pentastar V-6 with 271 horsepower at 6,500 rpm.  The torque rating is 239 lb. ft. at 4,400 rpm.  Smooth acceleration was effected through the single-speed Activ Drive I four-wheel drive system and the new 9-speed, Chrysler-built transmission that adds economy to the Jeep’s EPA ratings – they are 28-highway, 20-city, and 23-combined miles per gallon.  My reading came in as expected and just a little above the combined figure.  For the four-wheel drive system, a floor dial is on hand with up to five traction control settings.  They are auto, snow, sport, sand/mud, and rock, and the management system is referred to as Selec-Terrain.

The loaded Jeep Cherokee Latitude has as options the following items: customer preferred package ($600.00) – 18″ x 7″ gloss black five-spoke wheels, black trim work and P225/60R18 Continental ProContact steel radials; safety tech group ($1,045.00) – blind spot monitor, rear park assist and multi-function power mirrors; comfort/convenience group ($1,745.00) – remote starter, power lift gate, remote entry and go, power cloth buckets and XM satellite radio; V-6 engine ($1,745.00) –  includes start/stop feature for economy plus dual exhausts ; UConnect ($600.00) – 8.4 infotainment screen with navigation capability.  All the items were in addition to a base price of $27,095.00 and a freight charge of $995.00.

The total Jeep package was impressive, with V-6 power in an advanced power train, deluxe interior with room for five people plus 25 cubic feet of cargo, acceptable fuel economy and list price, and all the amenities except leather and moon roof.  In other words, everything that you expect in a Jeep, and have since 1941.

 

2015 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Hard Rock 4 X 4

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Jeep has been building off-road and sport utility vehicles since 1941 (civilian vehicles since 1945), making it the country’s oldest SUV brand.  They were originally provided for the U. S. military during World War II, specifically light 4-wheel drives for the Army.  Willys-Overland, the manufacturer of Jeeps, provided about 640,000 units for the war effort, and the initial contract price was $648.00 each.

Thousands of Jeeps were left behind in the Philippines after the Allied victory over the Japanese, and most were converted to taxis and became the primary mode of public transportation there.  Called Jeepneys (Jeep/jitney), they were also my primary mode of transportation beyond the gate at Clark AFB while I served there in 1970.  Up front, each Jeepney had a driver and a conductor, who managed passengers and collected fares.  Air Force GI’s rode in them to their favorite bar for about 20 cents.  Jeepneys in the PhilippinesSAM_4031

Jeep, now owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, LLC, has sold the Wrangler since 1987, and the compact SUV is now in its 4th generation configuration.  Since 2007 it has been available in a 4-door “Unlimited” model with an additional 20.6” of wheelbase, but my latest test vehicle was the Wrangler Rubicon 4×4 Hard Rock two-door  Although much evolved, the Wrangler remains a knockoff of the original Army Jeep of the 1940’s.

My test Wrangler was good-looking Firecracker red clear coat paint outside with black leather seating and front buckets that were heated.  M.S.R.P. for the Jeep was $39,255.00 and included the base price, freight, connectivity group ($1,570.00), 3-piece hard top/soft top ($595.00), and Hard Rock convenience package ($4,500.00).  The Hard Rock package included power locks/windows, cruise, tilt, XM radio, fold-down 3 passenger rear seat, and Bluetooth connectivity.    Cargo capacity is 55 cubic feet with the back seat folded and 12.8 cubic feet with it erect.  SAM_4032

A nice feature of this year’s Wrangler is the new 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6 with 285 (@6,350 rpm) horsepower and 260 (@ 4,200 rpm) ft. lb. of torque.  Along with the 6-speed manual transmission, it provided me with enough power and can go zero to 60 in 8.5 seconds.  Gas mileage ratings are 17/21, city and highway, 18 combined and my observation was 18.8 mpg for the week.  Ride and guidance on the road with the Jeep is better than can be expected and wind noise is acceptable.  Off-road capability is exemplary, of course, with 2-speed transfer case, ample ground clearance, and the limited-slip differential.

I mentioned the paint – also, the Jeep had 17” polished semi-gloss black 5-hole alloy wheels, BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain T/A, LT255/75R17 black-letter tires, fog lights, iconic seven-slot grill, and front tow hooks on the bumper.

When the Rubicon arrived, I was extremely excited to run around with it.  Not being a hunter or fisherman, however, I suppose ownership of such a car would be inadvisable for me.  For those that want it for those activities, I strongly suggest they take a look at buying one of these Jeeps.

2015 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4WD

SAM_0614Jeep has produced its Patriot since the introduction of the compact crossover SUV nine years ago this spring at the New York Auto Show.  It, along with the Jeep Compass, is manufactured on what is called the MK platform.  The Compass is designed to appeal to female motorists with the Patriot as a designated favorite of males.  The Patriot, in its Latitude model offering, is the subject of this week’s review, one which was loaned to me by Rocky Mountain Redline in Dacono, CO.

My Patriot test car (crossover?) was painted Granite Crystal metallic with Light Pebble beige leather interior.  The Latitude is stationed at the middle of the Patriot lineup, with a Limited model available for additional cost.  The Latitude carries a base price of $24,395.00, and freight adds $995.00 to that figure.  My Patriot had as options a preferred package (moon roof, power leather seating, etc.) for $1,095.00, a security package (security system, tonneau cover, etc.) for 695.00, a navigation package for $1,385.00, and a U-Connect/XM radio/Bluetooth technology package for $495.00.  Total M.S.R.P., therefore, was $29,060.00.SAM_3891

Styling of the Latitude has been around for nearly a decade, but has aged well and looks good.  “Patriot” and “High Altitude” badging on the car as well as the functional luggage rack gave it a “Jeep” look, as did the giant round headlamps.  Firestone P215/60R 17 Touring mud and snow tires were mounted on five-spoke gunmetal gray alloy wheels.

Inside, comfortable leather buckets and a bench back seat provide five passenger seating, and a tonneau cover can conceal guns or golf clubs in the 23 cubic foot luggage compartment (which expands to 53.5 when the second-row seating is folded flat).  Features included Bluetooth, air conditioning, power windows, liftgate speakers, keyless entry, remote start, a touch-screen audio system, the navigation, Uconnect Web with a Wi-Fi hot spot, satellite radio and a USB port.  A lever-type hand brake is on hand, and the shift tower is mounted neither on the console, nor on the dashboard; kind of in-between, like a Prius.  It worked fine with its duties to shift the six-speed automatic transmission, and an additional benefit of the interior is the space for odds and ends above the glove box in front of the passenger seat.  I liked it for my stuff while making rounds in the Patriot for a week.  A Jeep is the one brand of vehicle that I can name when entering blindfolded – that being a result of the husky, bold steering wheel grip.

The Latitude engine was a 2.4 liter, four cylinder with 172 horsepower (@ 6,000 rpm) and 165 lb. ft. of torque (@ 4,400 rpm).  EPA fuel economy is rated at 21 city-mpg, 27 highway-mpg, and 23 combined-mpg.  My observance was of 23.8 mpg for the week of driving the Latitude.  The fuel tank holds 13.5 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline.

Ruth, my wife, made mention of the visibility of the Patriot, which was good.  Driving the Jeep is pleasurable, with ride, guidance, and interior noise within tolerances.  It’s not a hot rod, but with 9.1″ of ground clearance and four-wheel drive, highway driving is not its forte.  All around utility is, and in that department I think the Jeep gets the job done, and for under $30,000.00, no less.

2015 Lexus LX570 Luxury 4WD SUV

SAM_0263Lexus’ big SUV with a truck frame underneath has been around since early in 1996 and the current offering was introduced as a 2008 model in eleven countries, including all of North America.  The LX is a deluxe version of Toyota’s Land Cruiser, Lexus being  the luxury division of Toyota Motor Company.

I was asked to test a 2015 Lexus LX570 recently, and it was the first time I entered or drove the big SUV.  When I say big, I mean dimensions such as these; weight – 6,000 lbs., length – 197 “, height – 75.6″ wheelbase – 112.2″, towing capacity – 7,000 lbs. and passengers – eight.  A Cadillac Escalade, for example, weighs 5,840 lbs. and is 116” long, seating seven passengers.  They have similar M.S.R.P.s, that of the Lexus being $90,720.00.  My test LX had a base price of $82,930.00 and added onto that was a luxury package ($1,510.00), Mark Levinson surround sound/DVD system ($2,350.00), intuitive park assist ($1,000.00), rear seat entertainment ($2,005.00), and a freight charge of $925.00.

Power for the LX comes in the form of a 5.7 liter V-8 with 383 horsepower (5,600 rpm), and 403 lb. ft. of torque (3,600 rpm).  Fuel economy ratings are 12 mpg for the city, 17 mpg for highway, and 14 mpg combined.  The tank holds 24.8 gallons of premium unleaded fuel.  Zero to 60 acceleration is reportedly 7.5 seconds and top track speed is 137 mph.  A six-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission is on hand in the full-time four-wheel drive Lexus LX.

SAM_3672Inside the Lexus with its long equipment list are items such as semi-aniline leather upholstery, four heated and two air conditioned seats, heated steering wheel, a console cooler, and a Mark Levinson 19-speaker stereo system.  Cameras are installed in the front, rear, and right-hand side of the Lexus for viewing on the dashboard infotainment screen.  The interior is indeed sumptuous and quiet with tasteful woodgrain appointments seemingly everywhere near the driver.

Styling of the LX is traditional Lexus with the big grill and windows, lighted side steps and concealed trailer hitch under the rear bumper.  The paint was Nebula Gray Pearl metallic, giving the car an understated, formal attitude for driving around Greeley and parking at all the Black Friday shopping venues.  Ten-spoke alloy wheels were on hand with 285/50R20 Dunlop PT2A GranTrek mud & snow radials wrapped around them.  The power tailgate is a two-piece affair, and a spoiler and alloy luggage rack are installed.SAM_3667

I went to Denver twice in big Lexus and it was a pleasure, including great visibility, handling, guidance, ride, and a lack of road noise.  Shoppers in the luxury SUV segment need to consider the LX570 before making a purchase or lease decision.