We’re in West Virginia today to sample the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Chrysler rep Lisa has promised a group of east coast journalists that a group of Cherokee Trailhawks won’t be getting stuck today on a course of mud bogs and steep slopes they have devised for us to drive on. Being a more civilized Virginia resident myself, where we prefer our roads paved, I am quite sure I’m going to get this diminutive crossover stuck. Right over there on that 20 foot muddy cliff that they’re going to make me drive up.
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.
Photos by Zerin Dube/Emily Price, Video by Matt Hardigree/Adrian Melendez
Here at Speed:Sport:Life, we have a nasty habit of coming up with answers to questions nobody had bothered to ask. Whether we’re autocrossing an Accord Crosstour or comparing a Ferrari to a Mustang, we inevitably find a way to alienate anyone with a lick of common sense.
This time however, we performed a comparison test that on the surface seems completely ludicrous. But a deeper look at this comparison reveals that this is the question that everyone buying these vehicles should be asking: How do $100k+ luxury hot-rod off-roaders actually perform, well, off-road?
Faithful Ford truckers often fall into a dichotomy. Lightning enthusiasts crave quick rigs to gain cred at the track. Bronco fans miss muddy rockcrawlers meant for trails. Ford’s Special Vehicle Team could’ve easily built a truck for either purpose, but as guardians of automotive culture, it’s not their duty to take a safe route. SVT rethought “speed truck” ethic entirely. Instead of engineering a tire-shredder, SVT focused on sustaining high speed off-road in a way that no stock vehicle has before. The 2010 Ford SVT F-150 Raptor tackles both asphalt and desert sands so masterfully that it is instantly deserving of supercar status. The Raptor’s victories in design, safety, navitainment and ergonomics mean that it isn’t just a great truck — it’s a great vehicle. Children will mount posters of this desert bandit on their walls. In an era of lowest-common-denominator commodity cars, that’s indicative praise indeed.
If you weren’t able to follow my Tweets from the introduction, this video preview of the 5.4-liter V8-equipped model should tide you over until this winter, when Ford will begin shipping faster Raptors equipped with a new 6.2-liter V8. You can expect a full review from Speed:Sport:Life then.