Photos by Zerin Dube, Video by Tim Goldmann, Stunt Driving by Mike Frismanis
It should come as no surprise to long time S:S:L readers that the Jeep Wrangler has quickly become one of our favorite vehicles of any type to drive around in. Whether we’re hitting the trails of Texas, or off-roading the middle of the Pacific, there is simple no other vehicle on the road that delivers the feeling of freedom the way the Jeep Wrangler does. With its iconic styling and rugged off-road capabilities, there just isn’t a better feeling cruising with the windows down and top off in a Wrangler.
For 2011, Jeep has taken the Wrangler upscale by making several small but significant changes to make the driving experience even better than before. Of course, here at S:S:L we are skeptical of any changes a manufacturer makes to “improve the driving experience” because many times this translates to the edge being taken off for the sake of comfort and luxury.
To make sure that Jeep didn’t lose their way by adding all these niceties to the Wrangler, we got our hands on a 2011 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited and headed out to our favorite off-road proving grounds at Creekside Edge Off-Road Park.
SSL and TTAC will be at Summit Point Motorsports Park this weekend with a Lexus IS-F and an Ford Mustang V6 Allstate Edition. Look for some track test results in the coming weeks, along with a road test of the slightly warmed over 2011 Nissan 370Z, a look at Chrysler’s refreshed Jeep Wrangler, and some comparison tests featuring the latest cross-overs from Ford and Chrysler.
Happy spring, everybody.
Ray Wert, the Jalop of Jalops over at www.jalopnik.com, recently wrote a piece about the HEMI brand and the upcoming 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. For those who aren’t scrutinizing the JGC’s launch on the same level as us know-it-alls, let me catch you up. Essentially, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee will no longer have a 5.7L HEMI engine. Instead, it will have a 5.7L OHV MDS V8 with Variable-valve Timing… and an engine cover emblazoned with enormous, embossed “HEMI” branding.
It’s okay if you’re confused, but it boils down to this: Jeep will no longer feature the HEMI branding within its vehicle lineup. The same engine will be branded as a HEMI in other Chrysler Group LLC products (as Jeep Brand Marketing Head Honcho Jim Morrison put it, they’ll be leaving it to “the Dodge and truck guys”), but not in a Jeep.
But why? Mr. Wert proposes that this is green-washing–an effort by Chrysler to minimize the enthusiast value of their vehicles in front of an ever-more-environmentally-focused media. It’s not a poor argument. Just look around at the rest of the industry. Ford’s twin-turbo, 350+ horsepower V6 monster is dubbed “EcoBoost,” for crying out loud. If that’s not green marketing, I don’t know what is. But in the context of Chrysler, I think Wert’s assessment, while not unreasonable, isn’t quite on the mark.
Photos and video by Zerin Dube.
Special thanks to Tim Goldmann, Adam Barrera of Highmileage.org and Matt Hardigree of Jalopnik.com for assisting with the video and driving duties. Extra special thanks to Jonathon Edwards for being our guide and spotter.
Speed:Sport:Life recently managed to acquire the keys to both a Ford F-150 SVT Raptor and a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Our sole mission: to go out and have fun with them. Unfortunately, Houston doesn’t have the awesome rock trails and canyons of the Moab to drive the Wrangler or the deserts of Southern California to run the Raptor in at wide open throttle. Around here the canyons are made of concrete. Our trails are narrow, lined with pine trees, and full of thick mud. We knew the Wrangler would cope, but how would the wide, heavy Raptor run?
We’re going to try something new here at S:S:L, and provide a feed of all the outlets covering the Chrysler Business Plan Media Event on twitter. Should be a good mix of perspective from Autoblog, Jalopnik, Detroit News, Edmunds, Automotive News and several others. Follow along and see what Chrysler has in store for the next 5 years.