Tag Archives: jeep

Surely for the Grand occasion

When I first heard that Jeep Grand Cherokee was picked as the “Premium SUV of the Year” at last year’s illustrious New Straits Times-Maybank Car of the Year Awards, I knew I had to get my hands on it. But that alone was no easy feat as the rest of the nation’s “car boys” were equally eager to see for themselves what the fuss was about.

After all, in the rapidly popular SUV arena occupied by more accustomed European brands as well as the fast growing Asian marques, to hear that this lesser known American car maker had topped its counterparts was indeed an eye-opener.

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Let’s start off stating what would undeniably be on almost everyone’s mind when they first hear of its price tag: “At RM439,000 (on-the-road price including insurance for the Grand Cherokee Overland), it’s rather steep.”

I admit that my first impression of its unpretentious exterior and under-fitted interior did not help to ease the apprehension of this premium-class sports utility vehicle. Like many, I had hinged my expectations on its price tag and was guilty of focusing on what I did not see rather than what it could deliver. Yet indeed, deliver this baby did, and in truly grand fashion!

Pumped by an energetic 3.6 litre V6 heart, which delivers 284hp at 6,350 rpm and 347Nm at 4,300rpm, the Grand Cherokee Overland comes out as a genuine American thoroughbred. But it is the effortless 8-speed automatic transmission that allows the driver to truly appreciate the near perfect synergy of performance and handling.

Unlike some of its more prevalent peers that seems to struggle in adjusting their paddle-shift transmission’s ratio to seamlessly fit Malaysian driving conditions, Jeep seemed to have got this right with the Grand Cherokee as it serves up smooth manual shifting usability when quick acceleration is required.

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Running surprisingly quiet on two pairs of 20-inch polished wheels, the car emerged sleeker than its stable mates with a smoothed-edged silhouette, aerodynamic spoiler and modern front grille, although the front Bi-xenon headlamps and projector fog lamps could do with a tad more bulk.

However, as said, this is one ride that has all its secret weapons beneath the shell. As I zipped across the North-South Expressway from Kuala Lumpur to Penang in the dark and in the torrential rain, the car’s intense fog lamps and adaptive automatic concentrated headlamps, which self-adjust up to 15 degrees to illuminate the road around corners, were a delight.

It is the informative and meticulous full-colour leather-trimmed instrument panel that kept my fingers busy for extended periods throughout my time behind the wheels. The customisable 7-inch multiview TFT display allows you to view the car’s GPS navigation system, access the entertainment channels, monitor vehicle performance, check your tire pressure, choose the five available traction control system and more importantly, receive visual notifications of safety applications.

Housed within the user-friendly 8.4-inch touchscreen multimedia unit is a comprehensive navigation system tagged with one-step voice destination entry and high-definition nine-speaker audio system and USB/SD slots. Passengers will have no problems with connectivity via the standard iPod mobile device integration and hands-free Bluetooth connectivity and voice command.

For a family trip with the kid’s plethora of provisions and toys, my overflowing golf set, our luggage and not forgetting the missus’ heaps of snacks and dietary needs, the rear cargo area, which provides up to 1,943 litres of storage, was a joy to have. It is no slouch either when it comes to towing as it has a capacity to tow up to 3,267kg of practically anything you want.

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The designer’s attention to details is what sets the Grand Cherokee apart. Exceptionally spacious for up to five passengers, its premium-quality soft Nappa leather trimmed seats stays comfortable in both hot and cold weather conditions. If that’s not lux enough for you, then the combo of heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel – yes you read it right – will surely do the trick.

For a touch of “awesomeness”, the car is fitted with an automatic air suspension system that features five vehicle height settings that enables a clearance up to a maximum of 24.7cm higher, as well as automatically lowers the car when speed exceeds 88 km/h, thus increasing vehicle stability.

Oh, amid all these impressive gizmos and features, did I forget to mention that the Jeep Grand Cherokee comes standard with push start button, keyless entry and my personal favourite, a stretched out dual-pane panoramic sunroof?

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Keeping you safe

There are over 70 available safety and security features with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, including:

  • Advanced, multistage driver and front-passenger airbags
  • Supplemental side-curtain airbags
  • Side guard door beams
  • Front park assist
  • Rear back up camera and rear park assist
  • Hill start assist
  • Electronic stability control
  • Electronic roll mitigation
  • Anti-lock brake system
  • Brake assist
  • All-speed traction control

 

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On the Longitude of adventure

My first reaction when I first laid eyes on the Jeep Cherokee Longitude was, “This does not look like a Jeep!” For 75 years, Jeep has always been famed for its military-grade toughness, terrain versatility and reliability; styling and luxury were never its chief concerns; that is until the latest Cherokee variants came along.

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Two months after my stint with the rugged Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the well-appointed Longitude. Offered in two variants – the other being the more adventurous Trailhawk – the latest Cherokee is Jeep’s mid-size SUV that has cleverly combined user sophistication with leading off-road competencies.

Starting from its customary intimidating seven-slot chrome grille at the front, the car’s exterior boasts of a modern and sleek silhouette that stands proudly alongside other luxury-orientated brands, before flowing through to an aerodynamic-designed rear tailgate.

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A supporting cast of 18-inch polished aluminium wheels, stern-looking headlamps, LED daytime running lights, Bi-Xenon projector fog lamps and LED tail lamps gives the car the type of sleekness and elegance previously missing from its stable.

Yet, it is under the hood of the RM358,278 priced Longitude that truly earn its keep. Powered by a 2.4 litre 16-valve engine and piloted by a speed-sensitive electronic power steering system, it performed sturdily and effortlessly within the city roads. On the longer stretches while the ride stays smooth and quiet, the power somewhat trails off a notch.

With the engine impeccably mated to a distinctive 9-speed automatic transmission, it can get up to 13.2km per litre on petrol consumption. Due to its extended gear range, city folks going through the traffic crawl will unlikely be able to truly experience driving in the highest gear available.

CHR_4035Beneath the chassis, the powertrain features a class-leading disconnecting rear axle – the axle seamlessly switches between two- and four-wheel drive without driver input – for maximum fuel efficiency with minimal emission production while providing superior 4WD performance. Together with two pairs of finely tuned front and rear independent suspensions, the vehicle is a master at handling speed breakers and poorly maintained roads.

Cherokee’s Selec-Terrain traction control system with five customisable modes – auto, snow, sport, sand/mud and rock – keep the ride stable and ensure competent traction control on any roads or weather conditions.

Once inside, the Longitude’s stretched dual-pane sunroof was easily my favourite feature. It offers wide-open views, a rather exceptional experience for car owners and passengers who are familiar with the standard sunroofs in the market.

Although it does not possess the full complement of features one would expect from its price point, this model comes with many handy widgets that is guaranteed to keep a new owner busy for several days, including high-resolution 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation, USB and SD-card slots, Bluetooth connectivity with hands-free phone, streaming audio, voice command and text message, Alpine sound system with nine amplified speakers and subwoofer, ambient led interior lighting, 8-way control driver seat, remote start system and keyless entry with push start ignition.

P1020099In front of the driver is a customisable high-definition instrument cluster that can be controlled on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. At the back, it is sensibly fitted with a central air vents for the back row, which has to be a standard feature for cars in this increasingly hot and humid country.

Leg space and storage capacity is visibly one of its key selling points, highlighted by its exceptional Cargo Management System that includes a 60/40 split folding back row and a fold-flat front passenger seat.

For me it was the in-seat storage compartment on – yes, on and not under – the front passenger seat that did the trick, as it came in handy for me when keeping my personal belongings away from prying eyes when I am on the football field or zipping into the grocery shop.

The Longitude may well have raised the bar for its peers when it comes to safety, as the vehicle offers more than 70 safety and security features including seven airbags encompassing rear seat side airbags, all-row side-curtain airbags, driver knee bag and front seat-mounted side airbags. It also comes with rear park assist, electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation and anti-theft engine immobilizer.

At the end of my weekend date with the Jeep Cherokee Longitude, I returned home much like a loves-struck teenager; enthralled by her looks, highly infatuated with her performance and eager for the next date.


Unlimited adventure by an iconic 4WD

Having driven through a World War and after several decades of legendary supporting roles in countless Hollywood blockbusters, this four-wheel-drive continues to be on most men’s “must-drive” bucket list.    

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Growing up with black-and-white combat movie flicks and later being madly consumed by the heroics of MacGyver, I cannot be faulted for my never-ending grin when I received confirmation of a weekend fling with a Jeep four-wheel drive ride.

Over the last two decades, mostly during my journalism career, I had driven sport cars to the limit, enjoyed the finest luxury vehicles, and got myself lost – twice – in the jungles of Borneo with only a mud-covered four-wheel drive and packets of instant noodles for company. But none of these experiences involved a Jeep Wrangler; the palm-sized diecast plastic army-green military vehicle I slept with throughout my early years, which I vowed I will one day get my hands on the real thing.

For all those dreamers out there, let’s first get any false hopes out of the way. The Jeep Wrangler is not designed to be modish nor built for a relaxed city drive. Seated on top of old-school solid axles at both ends together with heavy-duty monotube shock absorbers, the retro-styled vehicle comes out rather bumpy with a steering seemingly detached from the road with its share of body roll during sharp turns. And particularly during this year-end monsoon season, the cabin inside can be rather noisy during a downpour.

Its features and fittings, particularly the four-door Wrangler Unlimited Sahara variant which I had, is seemingly unadorned when compared to the current generation of 4WDs that are mostly created to allow city dwellers to theatrically project their adventurous side. There is no fin-shaped antenna, keyless entry and push-button start, rearview camera or 10-way seat adjustments to show off to your friends.

Yet for those like me, it is exactly these types of throwback sensations that make this trail-ready ride great. The real fun starts when you bring this rugged off-roader into nature for a wet and wild weekend. Supported by an extended wheelbase of four 18-inch polished satin carbon wheels accompanied by antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, the Wrangler Unlimited is driven by an imposing 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that serves up 284 hp and delivers up to 347 Nm of torque.

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Jeep’s Command Trac 4WD system splits torque 50/50 to the front and rear axles for off-roading or conditions where more traction is required, while the main case joint is clamped by 18 bolts for added structural stiffness. Combined with its electronic roll mitigation and electronic stability control, the 4WD allows the driver to be in complete control during the most demanding conditions.

The Wrangler Unlimited’s raised chassis has the capability to safely manage in up to 508 mm of water, offers up to 25 cm of ground clearance, has a 42.2-degree approach angle and a 32.1-degree departure angle, along with a 25.8-degree breakover angle.

Managed by a five-speed automatic transmission which takes it from zero to 100 km/h in approximately 8.8 seconds – commendable considering its bulk and box like shape – this variant is capable of towing up 2,000 kg when properly equipped.

First introduced back in 1941 during World War II, the early Jeep featured a gearshift on the steering column, two circular instrument clusters on the dashboard and a hand brake on the left side. Today, these artless pieces have been replaced with automatic headlamps, steering wheel controls, height-adjustable driver seat, heated power mirrors, cruise control, power windows, auto-dimming rearview mirror and under-hood insulation. But gladly, the iconic seven-slot grille remains.

There are numerous features that will please the sheltered city folks’ palate. While the Alpine premium audio systems with nine speakers – four 6.5-inch speakers, two weather-resistant tweeters and an all-weather subwoofer – is easily the main attraction, there are also the CD/DVD /MP3 player, leather upholstery, heated front seats leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, hard disk drive, a USB port, voice controls, front airbags and hill start assist to tinker with. The Wrangler Unlimited Sahara also comes in 10 options of colours for discerning owners to choose from.

I particularly found the centre console’s lockable dual-stage storage facility very handy, especially when we had to keep our phones, wallets and keys secured when the family’s out for a quick dip at the waterfall. Out from the wet and straight onto a pair of heated front seats, what more can one ask for?

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The most fun I had, to my sun fearing wife’s detriment, was undoubtedly the easily removable three-piece hard top. As I cannot recall any other vehicle that allows the driver to effortlessly remove not only the roof but the doors too, driving around looking cool like in MacGyver with no anxiety over the sudden rainfall makes it all worthwhile as the simple snaps made locking and unlocking the roof pieces fast and simple.

Much to my surprise, the fully-imported Wrangler Unlimited was clearly not found lacking in cabin space. Even with two long-legged adults in front, the back row comfortably seats three, including a child safety seat, while offering over 70.6 cubic feet of ample storage with the 60/40 split rear bench seat folded in.

At the end of the brief but truly enjoyable weekend affair with the RM328,899 (on-the-road without insurance) Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, I am glad to have fulfilled a boyhood dream of getting behind the wheels of a Jeep Wrangler and marking off another item from my bucket list.

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Roll on, not roll over

Electronic stability control senses when you begin to over- or under-steer and applies individual brakes and controls your throttle as needed to help put you back on track. Electronic roll mitigation determines when a rollover may occur and applies braking force to help reduce the likelihood of such an accident.

Additionally, Wrangler Unlimited offers all-speed traction control with special calibrations for driving in 4LO, a brake assist system and a four-wheel disc antilock brake system for improving vehicle control and decreasing stopping distances on both dry and slippery surfaces.