JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE
Here we are going to get an update from the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Fiat line of vehicles. Our first is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Before you had two engine choices; a V-6 with 290 horsepower & 260 lb./ft of torque rated at 25 mpg highway or the V-8 with 360 hp, 390 lbs./ft or torque rated at 22 mpg tops. Now we have the diesel option. It has more pulling ability for towing, with a torque rating of 420, and gets better gas mileage of up to 30 mpg. With a full tank, Jeep claims a range of 730 miles. The V-8 costs an extra $1,800 over the V-6, and Jeep says the diesel will run $4,500 more–but it can tow 7,400 pounds. Too bad the price of diesel is still too high, due to pointless government regulations. I like it.
JEEP CHEROKEE TRAILHAWK
The smaller Cherokee has been a good seller, but many were complaining about the limited off- road ability. No longer an issue. Order the Trailhawk pack. It has 4×4, bigger wheels, bigger tires, higher ground clearance, tow hooks, skid plates, lower gearing, and locking differentials. I took this rig off the road, and it did just as well as many jeep Wranglers I have used. This is the real thing folks. But the biggest problem is deciding what engine to get. The base 2.4 is rated at 31 mpg, and potent 3.2 V-6 27 mpg on the street Cherokee. But with all this weight and gearing on a Trailhawk, the gas mileage was 21/23 on this 2.4 four banger. I say pay more and get the V-6. It couldn’t do much worse.
CHRYSLER 200 SEDAN
I have had lots of time in this new car, and it has lots of good features. The styling is nice, and a great interior with fine materials and simple controls. But there are some pointers you need to know. First, the sporty S model has crisper handling over the base car, but the ride is just unbearable–I say stick with the base suspension. Secondly, the 184 four cylinder engine is rated at 23/36 mpg compared to the 295 hp V-6 at 18/28. In the real world, the V-6 did 17 city, 21 mixed, and 27 highway. The smaller four did only slightly better at 18, 23, and 29. The base four is okay for going to church or delivering pizza, but otherwise get the V-6!
The Dart carries over this year. It has plenty of good features too. If you are tired of the thin sheet metal and cheap interior materials of Oriental cars, you will be happy here. The body is built like a tank, and the cabin materials are solid too. All controls are easy to use. The ride is very comfortable. But this is a heavy car, over 3,200 pounds, so you need to make your choice of the three engine choices with care. I had the base 2.0 liter. Not much power here, but I did see 26 mpg in the city and 30 highway. A smaller turbo with same 160 horsepower, but with more torque is offered. So is a 187 hp/2.4 liter four as found in the Jeep Cherokee, which moves this mass along better, using more gas of course.
This is my favorite car. Actually I like the base car with the 305 horsepower V-6. It is smooth, quiet, powerful enough, and can get up to 27 mpg at steady highway cruising. And a well equipped version can be had for about $28-K. Pick that nice 373 hp Hemi V-8, and you can still keep it under $35K, if you don’t get crazy with the options. But the SRT models with 485 horsepower seem to jump to the $47-$51K bracket! WOW! Then, there is the new HELLCAT with 707 horsepower . . . if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it!
The only complaint I have with this car is the trunk design. It is power-operated only, so if the battery goes dead, you can only get inside by getting a battery jump, or taking the rear seat down–not easy if the trunk is full. Worse, the trunk button on the dash opens the trunk when pushed EVEN IF THE IGNITION IS OFF! So all a thief has to do is break the window, hit the button, then loot all the stuff out of the trunk. Bad design! If you keep expensive things in your trunk, you are going to need some aftermarket locks put on here! Otherwise, a swell car.
Our last test car is the Fiat 500-L. It is based on the little 500 coupe, but as we can see, it has been stretched with a longer wheelbase. In order to move all this mass, the potent 160 turbo engine found in the performance Abarth car is used. In that tiny coupe, the Abarth is plenty quick, but in this longer and heavier car, just enough power gets to the wheels. It is enough, unless the car is loaded up with gear and people. But most people are going to buy for styling, and this car is certainly original. There is lots of glass around the sides and roof for a good view, but if you live in a hot climate, there is a lot of heat from the sun getting in. Good thing the air conditioner works! At about $26K, this isn’t the best in its class, but at least you won’t look boring while going down the street.