The Jeep brand hangs its reputation on its off-road prowess. With a history that dates back to WW2, Jeep arguably originated the modern SUV. The popular Wrangler has a hard-core fan base that adores its rugged simplicity. Jeep's other SUVs include the compacts like the Compass and Patriot, the Cherokee, and the Grand Cherokee.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a premium five-passenger SUV with sound off-road credentials. Development of the current Grand Cherokee occurred when Chrysler was owned by Daimler-Benz, so it should come as no surprise that it is the most refined and luxurious model to date. With widespread availability of three-row seating in this segment, the Grand Cherokee makes due with two rows of seats and an ample cargo area. Buyers looking for three row seating should investigate the Dodge Durango which is mechanically related to the Grand Cherokee. The base engine is Chrysler's 3.6l V6 engine rated at 290-bhp. An optional 350-bhp, 5.7l Hemi V8 is available on all trim levels. The ultimate Grand Cherokee SRT utilizes Chrysler's 6.4l V8 rated at 470-bhp.
Jeep's robust lineup of SUVs includes overlapping entry-level vehicles. The Patriot and its fraternal twin, the Compass, aim at slightly different customers. While the Compass is primarily an on-road vehicle, the Patriot has the traditional Jeep styling cues and off-road capabilities to appeal to Jeep's traditional clientele. The most common engine is a 172-bhp 2.4L I-4, coupled to either a 5-speed manual or Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT). Although the base Patriot is FWD, Jeep has two 4WD drivetrain configurations for customers who want to go off-road. The base Sport model features an attractive low price, but excludes common features like air conditioning, power windows, power door locks and remote keyless entry. The more reasonably equipped Latitude model is priced from $20,000.
The iconic Wrangler looks little different at first glance, but the latest generation features a number of important improvements. Jeep has increased the wheelbase and length for some badly needed extra interior room. A 3.6L V-6 is the standard engine. The model lineup includes the Wrangler Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon. Serious rock hoppers should get the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, which has locking differentials, Active Sway Bar System, and dedicated off-road tires. One often overlooked fact about the Wrangler is that it is one of the least expensive convertibles on the market. Most models include the manual soft top, but the 3-piece hardtop is available for less than $1000.
Jeep faithful will be pleased that the Wrangler Unlimited embodies all the traditional Jeep attributes, adding much-needed cargo room and two more doors. The Wrangler Unlimited has a stiffer frame, longer 116-inch wheelbase, and retuned suspension, which should help tame the infamously jittery on-road ride. A 3.6L V-6 couples to a standard 6-speed manual or optional 5-speed automatic. Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is standard. Serious rock hoppers should get the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, which has locking differentials, Active Sway Bar System, and dedicated off-road tires. One often overlooked fact about the Wrangler is that it is one of the least expensive convertibles on the market.