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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit and Wrangler Unlimited 75th Anniversary

      These two models are only $5,555 apart in as-tested price. Is either one worth their expensive price tags?

    Very few things can cause utter surprise for me when it comes to reviewing vehicles. But there are those moments where it does happen. Recently, I spent some time in a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 75th Anniversary. I had driven a Wrangler last year and knew what I getting myself into. It was when I looked at my paperwork that my jaw dropped to the floor. The Wrangler Unlimited I was driving carried a price tag of $48,530. I had to do a double-take to make sure I wasn’t misreading it. Once the shock passed me, I found myself whether I would be willing be pay this much for Wrangler or if it would be better to put the money towards a vehicle I drove the week before, a Grand Cherokee Summit.

     

    Both of these Jeeps stand at opposite ends of the exterior design spectrum. The Grand Cherokee has an understated look with a shape that can trace its roots back to the original model from 1993. There is a fair amount of chrome used on the grille slots, rear bumpers, and side window trim. The Wrangler is the bolder of the two with a squared-off body, flared wheel arches, and spare tire carrier on the back. The 75th Anniversary edition brings 17-inch bronze wheels, new bumpers, dark green paint, and 75th Anniversary badging. While these two models have differing approaches, the end result is the same; both are quite handsome.

     

    In terms of the interiors, it is clear these vehicles are aimed at different audiences. The Grand Cherokee Summit stands as the Grand Cherokee’s flagship (aside from the SRT) and it shows with high-quality materials such as real wood, soft touch plastics, and brown leather. This helps bring a sense of luxury that hasn’t appeared in a Grand Cherokee till this generation. Seats provide excellent support, and there is enough space for passengers sitting in the back. The only downside to Grand Cherokee’s interior is the center stack. Compared to the rest of the interior, it seems completely out of place. At least UConnect is still one of the easiest infotainment systems to use.

     

    The Wrangler’s interior, on the other hand, isn’t as luxurious with loads of hard plastics and a more utilitarian look. There is a benefit to this as you’ll know the interior will stand up to the harshness of mother nature. Plus, you can use a hose to wash out the interior - drain plugs are underneath the floor mats. The Unlimited does bring forth a longer wheelbase which allows for more leg and cargo room, plus two rear doors. The added space is appreciated for anyone sitting in the back. Getting into the back is another story with a narrow opening will cause some folks to contort their body to get in.

     

    Both models feature the same 3.6L Pentastar V6, albeit with different outputs. The Grand Cherokee features 295 horsepower and the Wrangler gets 285. Not much difference on paper, but the road tells a different story. The Grand Cherokee’s V6 feels slightly more flexible with power coming at a linear rate. The Wrangler’s V6 feels somewhat anemic and one where you have to work it to get up to speed at a decent clip. The difference most likely comes down to the transmission. The Grand Cherokee gets an eight-speed automatic, while the Wrangler makes due with a five-speed. This also explains the difference in the average fuel economy for both vehicles: 19 MPG for the Grand Cherokee and 16.4 MPG for the Wrangler.

     

    When it comes to the ride, the Wrangler Unlimited almost matches the Grand Cherokee. The longer wheelbase on the Unlimited helps provide a smoother ride than the standard model. However, bigger bumps will make their way inside. Contrast this with the Grand Cherokee where most bumps are nonexistent to those sitting inside. It should be noted that compared to the previous Grand Cherokees I drove back in 2014, this one had a lot more tire noise coming into the cabin. Blame the low-rolling resistance tires fitted onto our tester.

     

    But the Wrangler Unlimited begins to gain some ground back when it comes to off-road driving. With meaty off-road tires, flexible suspension, and a simple to engage four-wheel drive system, the Wrangler Unlimited can go anywhere with no issues. Going through a dirt trail with mud pits, I was amazed as to how the Wrangler shrugged it off like it was nothing. That isn’t to say the Grand Cherokee isn’t a slouch off-road. It features the Quadra-Trac II full-time four-wheel drive system with Terrain Select - a system that can alter various settings for the various terrains you find yourself on. The Grand Cherokee Summit also features an air suspension that can be raised to improve overall ground clearance when tackling an off-road trail. Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to drive the Grand Cherokee off-road during my week with it.

     

    If you were to ask me which of the two Jeeps I would buy, I would have to say it would be the Grand Cherokee. That isn’t to say the Wrangler Unlimited 75th Anniversary is bad. I just feel for the price that is being asked is too much for what you get. You would be better off getting a hold of either a Sport, Willys Wheeler, or Rubicon as the value argument works for them. The Grand Cherokee Summit, on the other hand, can more than justify its price tag as most of the equipment such as navigation, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, and more are standard. The only option on our tester was the brown leather.

     

    Both of these vehicles are aimed at different audiences and do a very good job of satisfying them. But when it comes down to prices being asked for either vehicle, the Wrangler Unlimited comes up short.

     

    Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

     


     

    Year: 2016
    Make: Jeep
    Model: Grand Cherokee
    Trim: Summit
    Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
    Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Full-Time 4WD
    Horsepower @ RPM:
    Torque @ RPM:
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21
    Curb Weight: lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Detroit, MI
    Base Price: $52,595
    As Tested Price: $54,085 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

     

    Options:
    DarkSienna Brown/Black Interior - $495.00

     

    Year: 2016
    Make: Jeep
    Model: Wrangler Unlimited
    Trim: 75th Anniversary
    Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
    Driveline: Five-Speed Automatic, Part-Time 4WD
    Horsepower @ RPM:
    Torque @ RPM:
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/20/18
    Curb Weight: lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Toledo, OH
    Base Price: $33,695
    As Tested Price: $48,530 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

     

    Options:
    Jeep 75th Anniversary Package 24H - $4,680.00
    Dual Top Group - $1,785.00
    Tru-Lok Differential - $1,500.00
    Five-Speed Automatic - $1,350.00
    Freedom Top Body Color Three-Piece Hardtop - $1,100.00
    Alpine Premium Nine-Speaker Audio System w/All-Weather Subwoofer - $945.00
    Radio 430N - $600.00
    Hard Top Headliner - $495.00
    Supplemental Front-Seat Mounted Side Airbags - $495.00
    Remote Start System - $495.00

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    Love the write up and the comparisons, ending wise, the Grand Jeep Cherokee is a great auto, but is too refined for those of us that like to play in the outdoors.

     

    Wrangler it is! :P

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    Love the write up and the comparisons, ending wise, the Grand Jeep Cherokee is a great auto, but is too refined for those of us that like to play in the outdoors.

     

    Wrangler it is! :P

     

    This was cut during editing as I couldn't find a spot to for this to fit in, but I think it describes my feelings on both vehicles.

     

    "To put it you this way: If I was going to do the Moab trail, I would pick the Wrangler because I know it will get me there and back. As for getting to Moab, that would be handled by the Grand Cherokee."

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    Love the write up and the comparisons, ending wise, the Grand Jeep Cherokee is a great auto, but is too refined for those of us that like to play in the outdoors.

     

    Wrangler it is! :P

     

    This was cut during editing as I couldn't find a spot to for this to fit in, but I think it describes my feelings on both vehicles.

     

    "To put it you this way: If I was going to do the Moab trail, I would pick the Wrangler because I know it will get me there and back. As for getting to Moab, that would be handled by the Grand Cherokee."

     

     

    That is a perfect ending IMHO! :D I would totally agree with you. Have the Grand Cherokee pulling a trailer with the Rubicon Wrangler on the back. Leave the Grand Cherokee at the trailhead with Trailer and go play for the weekend in the wrangler.

     

    Nice job Bill! :metal:

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    50k for a Wrangler?!?! When did this happen??

    The price for a conservatively equipped Wrangler Sport (2-door) is around $35k.  Loaded the Wrangler Unlimited can top $50k.  I personally can't see the appeal, but they sold 202,702 Wranglers (they don't separate the Unlimited from the regular) in 2015...an increase from 175,328 in 2014!  So there are obviously a lot of people who think it's worth the price. 

     

    I'm pretty confident that the profit margin on the Wrangler is much higher than the Grand Cherokee, so these things are a real money-maker for FCA.  They also depreciate at a much slower rate than the average vehicle, so they have great resale value.  Again, it's not for me but there's obviously a lot of buyers out there willing to pay the price for one.

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    • By William Maley
      I rarely get the opportunity to drive two different flavors of the same vehicle within a short timeframe. But that's what happened in the fall when I had the chance to drive the new Hyundai Sonata in its standard and hybrid forms. The Sonata has always been a favorite of mine as it offered a lot for a midsize sedan, with a surprising price tag. It has also come very close to being at the top of the class, but falling somewhat short due to one thing or another. This new version has the chance of changing that.
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      If there is an issue I have with the Sonata's design, it is the grille. I find it to be slightly cartoonish due to the large size and shape.
      Simple, Yet Elegant Interior
      If you're worried that the polarizing ideas from the exterior make their way inside, don't. The interior is surprisingly sedate with clean lines and a simple design. Hyundai should be commended for using a lot of soft-touch plastics and leather on various surfaces. It makes the Sonata look and feel more premium than its price tag may suggest.

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      Next up is another 10.25-inch screen housing Hyundai's latest infotainment system. I like the three-window layout on the home screen that you can customize to your needs. Navigating around the system is a breeze with a response touchscreen and capacitive touch buttons sitting on either side. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
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      At least using the phone as the vehicle's key does work a bit better. It only takes a few seconds for the phone to make the connection to the vehicle and you can start it up. Although, I found myself wondering wouldn't it be easier and faster to have the key. The only feature that makes any sense to me is the ability to share the key with other people, but lock down certain aspects.
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      Calm and Collected
      Hyundai has done some work on the Sonata's chassis and suspension to make it more rewarding to drive. It shows on a winding road as both versions show little body roll and feel more agile than the outgoing model. Steering feels direct and has a decent amount of weight. I will say the Mazda6 is still the one to beat if driving pleasure is your key goal.
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      Rising To The Top

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      Where most people will stumble on the Sonata is the exterior. It is very much a love or hate it affair. Plus, some of the tech features feel more like a party trick to show to friends than something you'll use. 
      Nevertheless, I think Sonata moves up to the top of the midsize sedan pecking order. 
      But there is one more question to answer. Between the regular and hybrid versions, which one I would drive away with. The answer which surprised me is the hybrid. I found it to be a little bit more well-rounded and deliver some excellent fuel economy figures during my time.
      Alternative:
      Kia K5: Like the idea of the Hyundai Sonata, but not to sure on the design? Then the Kia K5 may be the answer. Based on the same bones as the Sonata, the K5 takes a more evolutionary approach to the design. The basic shape may remind you of the previous-generation Optima, but its the little details such as a new grille and revised rear deck lid that help it stand out. From reviews, the K5 proves to be a bit sportier. We hope to get our hands on this challenger in the near future. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonatas, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited 1.6T
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/36/31
      Curb Weight: 3,336 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $33,300
      As Tested Price: $34,365 (Includes $930.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.0L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 6,000 (gas); 51 @ 1,800 - 2,300 (electric motor); 192 (total output)
      Torque @ RPM: 139 @ 5,000 (gas); 151 @ 0 - 1,800 (electric motor)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 45/51/47
      Curb Weight: 3,530 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Asan, South Korea
      Base Price: $35,300
      As Tested Price: $36,430 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: 
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00
    • By William Maley
      Despite being one of the best sellers in the luxury crossover class, the Lexus RX lacked something many competitors offered; a third-row option. Lexus rectified this a couple of years ago by stretching the RX's body and adding a third-row to create the RX L. I spent some time in the RX 350L Luxury back in the fall to find out if Lexus has another winner or if this a half-baked attempt.
      You can tell the difference between the standard RX to the longer L by looking for a floating roofline treatment. This is due to Lexus blacking part of the c-pillar to help disguise the added bulk. It doesn't fully work as looks somewhat half-baked. At least Lexus was more successful upfront where non F-Sport models get a new mesh insert to replace the horizontal slats, along with a revised bumper. When equipped with the Luxury Package, the RX is a plush and pleasant place to spend time. The leather upholstery feels nice to the touch and the use of contrasting colors (cream and brown in my tester) help make it feel special. Lexus has finally added a touchscreen for the RX's infotainment and it makes a huge difference. Gone are the litany of issues I have noted in previous models such as, Being precise with your finger movements when selecting an item Becoming very distracting to use when on the move Not the most intuitive controller Now using Lexus Enform or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is not an exercise in frustration, but one of ease. My only complaint is that I wished Lexus moved the screen slightly more forwards. It is quite a reach to use the touchscreen. Those sitting in the second row will not have much to complain about as head and legroom are plentiful for most passengers. The same cannot be said for the third-row. Getting back here is difficult as there is not enough a gap when the second-row seat is moved forward. Once back here, space is non-existent with your head touching the headliner and legroom from nothing to something bearable depending on where the second-row is set. The one upside to the longer RX is cargo space. With the third-row seat folded, you get about seven extra cubic feet of space compared to standard RX. Power comes from a 3.5L V6 used in several Lexus and Toyota vehicles.  For the RX 350L, it produces 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. My tester came with all-wheel drive, but front-wheel drive is standard. Performance is adequate as you'll be able to keep up with traffic or make a pass with no issue. Those wanting a bit more performance should look at something like the upcoming Acura MDX or Volvo XC90. Comfort is still a key hallmark to the RX. Bumps and potholes become mere ripples when driven over. There is also a noticeable lack of road and wind coming inside. The RX 350L feels like a stop-gap solution until Lexus finishes up their upcoming three-row crossover due out within the next couple of years. The third-row isn't all useful for carrying passengers and is best to fold down to expand cargo space. If you need a third-row, there are much better options such as the Volvo XC90. But if you really want an RX, stick with the standard two-row version and pocket the cash you saved for something nice. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the RX 350L, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Lexus
      Model: RX
      Trim: 350L Luxury
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve with VVT-iW V6
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 263 @ 4,700
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21
      Curb Weight: 4,597 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan
      Base Price: $54,700
      As Tested Price: $63,540 (Includes $1,025.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      12.3" Navigation System/Mark Levinson 15-Speaker Premium Audio System - $3,365.00
      Blind Spot Monitor with Intuitive Parking Assist, Panoramic View Monitor, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert Braking - $1,865.00
      Running Boards - $640.00
      Color Head-Up Display - $600.00
      Second-Row Captain's Chairs - $405.00
      All-Weather Floor Liners with Cargo Mat - $330.00
      Cold Weather Package - $315.00
      Mudguards - $155.00
      Door Edge Guards - $140.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Despite being one of the best sellers in the luxury crossover class, the Lexus RX lacked something many competitors offered; a third-row option. Lexus rectified this a couple of years ago by stretching the RX's body and adding a third-row to create the RX L. I spent some time in the RX 350L Luxury back in the fall to find out if Lexus has another winner or if this a half-baked attempt.
      You can tell the difference between the standard RX to the longer L by looking for a floating roofline treatment. This is due to Lexus blacking part of the c-pillar to help disguise the added bulk. It doesn't fully work as looks somewhat half-baked. At least Lexus was more successful upfront where non F-Sport models get a new mesh insert to replace the horizontal slats, along with a revised bumper. When equipped with the Luxury Package, the RX is a plush and pleasant place to spend time. The leather upholstery feels nice to the touch and the use of contrasting colors (cream and brown in my tester) help make it feel special. Lexus has finally added a touchscreen for the RX's infotainment and it makes a huge difference. Gone are the litany of issues I have noted in previous models such as, Being precise with your finger movements when selecting an item Becoming very distracting to use when on the move Not the most intuitive controller Now using Lexus Enform or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is not an exercise in frustration, but one of ease. My only complaint is that I wished Lexus moved the screen slightly more forwards. It is quite a reach to use the touchscreen. Those sitting in the second row will not have much to complain about as head and legroom are plentiful for most passengers. The same cannot be said for the third-row. Getting back here is difficult as there is not enough a gap when the second-row seat is moved forward. Once back here, space is non-existent with your head touching the headliner and legroom from nothing to something bearable depending on where the second-row is set. The one upside to the longer RX is cargo space. With the third-row seat folded, you get about seven extra cubic feet of space compared to standard RX. Power comes from a 3.5L V6 used in several Lexus and Toyota vehicles.  For the RX 350L, it produces 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. My tester came with all-wheel drive, but front-wheel drive is standard. Performance is adequate as you'll be able to keep up with traffic or make a pass with no issue. Those wanting a bit more performance should look at something like the upcoming Acura MDX or Volvo XC90. Comfort is still a key hallmark to the RX. Bumps and potholes become mere ripples when driven over. There is also a noticeable lack of road and wind coming inside. The RX 350L feels like a stop-gap solution until Lexus finishes up their upcoming three-row crossover due out within the next couple of years. The third-row isn't all useful for carrying passengers and is best to fold down to expand cargo space. If you need a third-row, there are much better options such as the Volvo XC90. But if you really want an RX, stick with the standard two-row version and pocket the cash you saved for something nice. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the RX 350L, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Lexus
      Model: RX
      Trim: 350L Luxury
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve with VVT-iW V6
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 263 @ 4,700
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21
      Curb Weight: 4,597 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan
      Base Price: $54,700
      As Tested Price: $63,540 (Includes $1,025.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      12.3" Navigation System/Mark Levinson 15-Speaker Premium Audio System - $3,365.00
      Blind Spot Monitor with Intuitive Parking Assist, Panoramic View Monitor, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert Braking - $1,865.00
      Running Boards - $640.00
      Color Head-Up Display - $600.00
      Second-Row Captain's Chairs - $405.00
      All-Weather Floor Liners with Cargo Mat - $330.00
      Cold Weather Package - $315.00
      Mudguards - $155.00
      Door Edge Guards - $140.00
    • By William Maley
      Do you need a V8 engine in your flagship luxury sedan? That's a question I posed myself when a Genesis G90 equipped with a 5.0L V8 engine was dropped off for a week. The standard G90 with the twin-turbo V6 offers an impressive amount of performance and refinement. But the V8 offers much more power, along with some extra goodies you cannot get with the V6. 
      Since our last visit with the G90, Genesis has given a bit of a facelift. The front end prominently features a new diamond-shape. I found myself growing to like it, even if I thought it was a tad too large. But I can see this becoming a point of contention. Other changes include new wheels and a restyled rear end that makes the G90 look a bit cleaner. No changes of note for the interior. It still is very luxurious to sit in and the controls are logically laid out. The only item I'm sad not to see is the new 12.3-inch digital cluster that is found in the all-new G80 and GV80. Opting for the Ultimate means back seat passengers get their own screens mounted behind the front seats. This allows you to tap into the G90's infotainment system to play audio, check various information, and look at the navigation system. Ultimate models come with the larger 5.0L V8 producing 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available as an option. The V8 is a bit of a tough sell when compared to the twin-turbo 3.3L V6 as it slower off the line and not as flexible whenever you need to accelerate quickly. Both engines also are similar in terms of refinement, offer a muted engine note. The only place I found the V8 to be slightly better than the V6 was in my average fuel economy. The V8 returned 24.7 mpg, while the V6 only got 20.3 mpg. A combination of the V8 G90 being rear-wheel and not all-wheel, along with more miles being done on the highway likely contributed to the better fuel economy figures. Ride quality is still on the hallmarks of the G90. With the adaptive suspension in either SMART or Comfort, the G90 glides along any road surface with nary a bump or pothole coming inside.  Around bends, the G90 doesn't feel at home with a fair amount of body roll. There is a Sport model to help reduce this, along with adding more weight to the steering. For the as-tested price of $76,695, you are getting quite a lot of equipment. There are LED headlights, Nappa leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, power sunshades, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, memory settings for seats, and much more. The only way I could recommend the G90 Ultimate is either if you're operating a livery service or just want a V8 engine no matter what. Otherwise, you'll be happy with the G90 Premium and its twin-turbo V6. That said, the current G90 is starting to show its age, especially when compared to some of the new Genesis models such as the G80 and GV80. A new model is coming down the pipeline and if the recent models are any indication, the G90 has a real shot of becoming one of the best luxury sedans. Disclaimer: Genesis Provided the G90, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Genesis
      Model: G90
      Trim: 5.0 Ultimate
      Engine: 5.0L GDI V8
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 383 @ 5,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/19
      Curb Weight: 4,817 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, Korea
      Base Price: $75,700
      As Tested Price: $76,695 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: N/A
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