Tag Archives: suv

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

 


Sporting touch to city driving

By Christopher Tan.

With all kinds of hands-free contraptions on board this latest sports utility vehicle, it is hardly surprising that the driver will have time to comb through the mini refrigerator on board.  

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0001When the enthusiastic Sime Darby Auto Connexion’s representative pointed out the car’s hands-free phone call facility and hands-free music player, I merely responded with a polite nod while quietly countering: “Ok, nothing new here.”

Next, he mentioned that the system also comes with the ability to read out your mobile phone’s incoming text messages; I found myself paying a tad closer attention to his ongoing demonstration of car’s key features. But it was the “cool” air-conditioned glove box that finally captured my full interest to the car’s content.

Ford’s latest EcoSport is all about delivering convenience to the driver and passengers on board. What else can get more useful than having a few cans of chilled drinks readily available to four sun-drenched treasure hunters on a 400 kilometre drive?

I figure that this compact SUV’s interior designer would likely have been an outdoor person based on the inclusion of 20 storage compartments located throughout the car, which proved handy for our team’s storage of endless titbits, chocolate bars and caffeine-filled beverages.

The EcoSport aims to boost the American carmaker’s presence in the fast-growing B-segment crossover market, particularly in this part of the region. Designed on the same platform as its hugely popular Fiesta and rolled off from its production facility in Thailand, it is available in two variants – Trend and Titanium.

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0014Driven by a 1.5 litre Ti-VCT engine offering 142 Nm at 4,400 rpm, the Titanium proved to be an indispensable team member during a weekend treasure hunt adventure for this writer’s team of media personnel. As an automobile treasure hunt often requires plenty of stopping and restarting, the vehicle’s Powershift 6-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission was easily equal to the task, although I did find the gear ratio spread out slightly too far apart resulting in evident drag in between gear shifts.

Running on 16″ alloy wheels and a 52-litre fuel tank, it comes with the now common features in the likes of smart keyless entry, push-start ignition, rear parking sensors and hill launch assist, although it stands out somewhat from many of its peers with seven airbags (driver, passenger, sides, curtain and driver’s knee).

As the journey took us onto both fast four-lane expressway, curvaceous coastal roads and through congested small towns, the car’s traction control and an electronic stability program kept us firmly on the road, particularly when we were running late reaching our event’s final checkpoint.

Going through a downpour on the expressway and speeding gingerly right on the edge of the speed limit in order to meet our deadline, the car’s anti-lock braking system and electronic brake force distribution kept the ride stable and in constant control by reducing wheel spin and over or under-steering especially on the slippery stretches.

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0003This variant also gets the leather seat treatment, automatic climate control system, auto lights, rain sensor wipers and a power sunroof. Packaged in five exterior colours – candy red, mars red, winning blue, midnight sky and frozen white – the Ford EcoSport Trend is priced (on-the-road with insurance) at RM92,888 while the EcoSport Titanium goes for RM103,888.

While offering a nice overall buffet spread, there are some trifling concerns and notable ingredients missing from this scrumptious ride. Boasting a helpful 200mm ground clearance between passengers and the flood-prone Malaysian roads is a definite plus point, but with the surprisingly missing hand rail above the door frame for all doors, older folks and shorter passengers may find it an adventure by itself getting into the vehicle.

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0018Another aesthetic annoyance I had with this SUV was the old-styled spare wheel dreadfully placed at its tailgate door. In this age of smaller parking spots at shopping malls and narrow car porches in our homes, a bulky wheel protruding from the back of your car is the last thing you want to deal with.

Finally, where is the daytime running light? Possibly the most imperative feature of any automobile on today’s road, no car should be allowed to roll out of the factory without this gadget conceitedly beaming onto the rear mirror of the car in front.


Finding Forester

By Christopher Tan

We are often cautioned to not judge a book by its cover. After going through three states and one mountain range, it evidently rings true for cars too.

It will not be the most attractive ride you will see on the potholes-filled Malaysian roads this year nor will it be the most fashionable. Although she would likely not win any beauty contest, three days with her on a mountain retreat and I found it surprisingly difficult to let her go.

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“The design looks rather dated and boxy,” commented my wife candidly on her first sight of the new Subaru Forester 2.0XT. That was before she looked up and saw the glass sunroof that comes standard with the vehicle. “Ah, that’s quite cool,” she said trying her best to reverse her initial reaction.

While my wife spent the next three days admiring the birds and counting the stars through the panoramic opening above her head, the rest of the car’s occupants discovered the many positives and near-negligible negatives of Subaru’s latest sport utility vehicle.

When mum, who suffers from motion sickness, found out that we were headed for a car journey to the winding roads of Cameron Highlands, she was understandably not overly enthusiastic. While we will come back to mum’s appraisal later, Dad on the other hand could not stop grinning from the moment his hands touched the leather wrapped steering wheel and his legs stepped on the responsive metal pedals.

Under the hood sits an impressive 2.0-litre direct injection turbo-charged engine that seems to top many of the other SUVs in its range, particularly in terms of handling. Dad found himself exceeding the speed limit on many occasions throughout the 4-hour drive up the highlands and has the pinch marks by mum to show for it.

Having learned the easy-to-use Subaru Intelligent Drive feature, he was like a kid in the candy store adjusting the drivetrain, throttle response and automatic-transmission shifting behaviour to support various driving style and road conditions, even though I am quite sure he did not entirely understood most of what he was doing with the feature.

subaru-2As for me, having yet to fully recuperate from the elevated admiration from my recent experience with a certain Swedish marque SUV, I found myself unfortunately comparing the Forester with its rival. After about an hour before I finally decided to stop comparing it with a much superior and more costly opponent, I still found myself a tad unease at the car’s much lighter feel especially at high speeds and when taking sharp bends.

The most fun I had was the Forester’s X-Mode feature. Once I got over the initial struggle to understand its capabilities, I found myself fiddling with it relentlessly over various road conditions throughout the trip; bumpy roads from previous landslides, slippery surfaces in the rain and even the death-defying narrow slopes leading up the famed Boh Tea plantations.

I was pleasantly surprised when I learnt that the X-Mode also incorporates hill descent control, which automatically maintains the car at a constant speed when the car was moving downhill, without having me to depress the accelerator or brakes. This set-up allows the driver to steer safely through any slopes or downhill whilst leaving the braking to the car itself.

Another safety feature is its Vehicle Dynamics Control that assists to monitor and analyse if the vehicle is following the driver’s intended course via an array of sensors. If the vehicle approaches the limits of stability whilst cornering or avoiding an obstacle, the AWD torque distribution, engine output and brakes at each 18-inch wheel are adjusted to assist in keeping the vehicle on course; comes in handy when you are playing peek-a-boo with the kid seated behind.

“It’s definitely a lot more comfortable and gives me less headache than our previous trips,” said mum. Granted that her last trip was in a much smaller car from almost two decades ago, still it was reassuring to hear that she came out of the 3-day trip in good health and full of praise for the RM206,481 (with insurance) vehicle.

A large part of mum’s wellbeing was down to the Forester’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system, which in a nutshell kept the car’s gravity low resulting in reduced body roll and greater stability, as well as reduced engine vibrations and quieter interior experience. Kudos to the designers at Subaru on getting this spot on.

A feature of the Forester that I found convenient particularly when driving in the city is its increased visibility, beating even the Swedish make that I have been goggling over. By redesigning the A-pillar and integrating the partition windows into the front doors, Subaru has made it easier to see both the front and rear directions and greatly reducing the size of blind spots.

When it came to storage and luggage space, the SUV came up commendable as it comfortably tucked away four adults and a toddler’s essentials for a road trip. With a large cargo capacity and very vital wide door openings to put in and take out things without bumping our heads, it allowed passengers to sit back and enjoy the view without having to battle our luggage for seating space.

As the family drove away from Cameron Highlands with our cabin full of strawberries reflecting on all the wonderful memories and most of all, kept safe and contented with our journey, the folks at Subaru would be glad to know that they have indeed successfully converted one more family towards their brand.