The Jeep Geek

The Jeep Geek's Blog
Oct 2010

A First Look at the 2011 Jeep Wrangler

OK, they have been trickling in over the last couple of weeks, but The Jeep Geek is no corporate shill, so He’s held off reviewing the 2011 Wrangler. Since its inception in 1941 the Jeep (and current wrangler) have been pretty austere. In this last (JK) generation, some of that has changed a bit. They are quieter, more stable on the highway, and more pleasant to drive overall. Some even have fancy electronic goodies (such as can be found in the Hummer Recovery Vehicle). Despite all this, the JK remained pretty austere.

Enter the team that designed the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. They were given free hand to redesign the interior of the Wrangler. When The Jeep Geek heard this was happening he panicked...they will ruin it and make it look more like a toyota...

But they didn’t...whew...The refresh was subtle, but well conceived. First, the steering wheel has been changed to what is becoming a Jeep Signature steering wheel. (The Jeep Geek has seen this same steering wheel on the new Grands, Patriots, Liberties and now Wranglers.) Audio and bluetooth controls are found on the wheel where they belong.

The surfaces on the interior have been smoothed and given a soft-touch feel. Some custom badging has been added such as the 1941 Jeep inset on the grab handle on the passenger side...after all the Jeep is 70 years old this year. There are two graphics built into the Wrangler’s windshield that represent the Jeep’s image...The Jeep Geek won’t ruin the surprise, take a look at one and see if you can find them.

The windows have been enlarged, improving visibility...always a good thing. In fact, visibility is the chief advantage that the Wrangler has had over its closest competitor (the Toyota FJ). If one is going to spend money and effort to get out into the wilderness, wouldn’t one want to actually see it? This is the reason so many jeepers remove their tops and doors to go off-road...even from in the Jeep, you can be part of nature.

Finally, the storage areas have been refined a bit. It is clear from these changes that the designers actually considered the needs of the Jeep owner when they included things like special places to store the bolts for door hinges and hard tops...things that The Jeep Geek’s friends keep losing.

All-in-all the changes are a welcome refresh...but not a game changer. The Wrangler is still an off-road beast, still refined enough to be a daily commuter, still fun to drive. The changes aren’t enough to get The Jeep Geek to trade in his Hummer Recovery Vehicle yet...but they are a nice improvement in this great vehicle.

The Soul of a Jeep

Last night The Jeep Geek was sitting in his favorite Cigar lounge having a stogie with a few of his friends when one said something that sparked this article. First, his friend is an Economics Professor at University of Colorado, so the topics we discussed were wide ranging from economic theory (The Jeep Geek is a neophyte here), moral implications of car theft (also no experience), tax laws and their impact on business, boating in Wisconsin, and finally a description of test driving a Toyota sedan. The Jeep Geek’s friend said something like “I thought the Toyota drove fine, no problems, did everything I asked it to do, it just had no you know what I mean?”

The Jeep Geek thinks he does. The soul of a vehicle is part of the personality of the vehicle. The soul of a corvette is sleek, sexy and very fast. The soul of a mini-van is mom protecting and conveying her most precious cargo. The soul of a pickup truck (such as a Dodge Ram...sorry for the shameless promotion) is working tough.

When The Jeep Geek was a young lad in college, he had a MGB convertible that was colored British Racing Green. It had the habit of backfiring every time he took his foot off the accelerator (such as to shift gears). The Jeep Geek’s mom named the MG “The Green Grouch”. It had personality...and was quite the temperamental little beast, stranding The Jeep Geek on numerous occasions.

The Jeep Geek believes that the soul of a vehicle attracts certain personality types that purchase the subject vehicle. In the case of the subject Toyota (with no soul), it attracts purchasers who have no personality. Subaru is very similar...bland, no personality.

So, what is the soul of a Jeep? It is embodied in the american dream...self-reliance and the ability to get to a preferable future. If you can’t get there in a Jeep, you can’t get there. The Jeep’s soul also contains a bit of a confident, almost cocky edge. This is part and parcel of the spirit of adventure. “You wouldn’t understand, its a Jeep thing.”

So it is no surprise that Jeep owners share certain psycho-graphic characteristics. They are an adventurous group that love the outdoors. Jeep owners tend to be much more active, more independent thinkers, and also are risk-takers. (After all, only a risk-taker is willing to go around the next bend in a trail just to see what is there.)

Finally, no vehicle, Jeep or otherwise, can fully satisfy a large segment of the population. In fact no Jeep can satisfy the demands of just Jeep owners. That is why so few Jeeps are left unmodified. The Jeep Geek refers to the Wrangler as a platform for the owner’s individual expression. Some modifications are just for getting there across difficult conditions...some modifications are for looking good. Chrome won’t help you conqueror metal-masher, but it looks good on the road. A set of ARBs can’t be seen on the road, but will help you get over a gully full of boulders.

So consider what you want your Jeep to be, and tune it to meet your needs. While you can tune the soul of a Jeep, you can’t fundamentally change it. It is what it is.


2011 Grand Cherokee Test Drive


Click on the image above to see a video of the Grand Cherokee in action

Like many in the Jeep Community The Jeep Geek has been waiting for the new 2011 Grand Cherokee with great expectation. No not the novel. The previous generation of Grand Cherokees were fine in 2005, but have grown a bit long-in-the-tooth. In addition, there were several design changes with that generation which represented a step backwards in The Jeep Geek’s opinion. He is glad to say that the new 2011 fixes these concerns.

The Jeep Geek did not fit in the 2005 - 2010 generation of Grand Cherokees. He is long in the waist, therefore he sits higher than his stature would normally suggest. With this added height, he could not see out of the was too low, requiring The Jeep Geek to tilt his head to the right while driving. Fine for short drives, but this position would rule out long trips.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee always had the most comfortable seats in the industry...until 2005. The Mercedes designed seats are as soft and posh as a London park bench.

Another European feature crept into the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee, back seats for small children only. No leg room. A great vehicle ruined? No, not really, but some annoying design choices.

What the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee did well was off-road. Jeep continued creating mechanical traction that was un-matched in the industry, while the rest of the world was going to brake controlled traction systems, Jeep kept true to traction systems that didn’t slow momentum. Of course, ABS based traction control systems were added to improve the on-road safety of these Grand Cherokees, but the heart of the off-road beast was unfettered.

Now back to the present day. The Jeep Geek has logged many hours in the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and he is impressed with what Chrysler has built.

When The Jeep Geek first saw the 2011 Grand Cherokee, he was concerned. Looked like an awfully pretty girl that won’t work on the trails. Boy was he wrong. While this vehicle is gorgeous it is also an off road beast. The Jeep Geek took an opportunity to take one on some mild off-road trails near Nederland Colorado. The Quadra-lift suspension was able to increase the ground clearance by 4 inches, giving plenty of room to avoid dragging the chassis on obstacles. Also, the tight turning radius enabled us to actually turn around at one point on the trail...admittedly this took a few complex turning maneuvers as this unit was a demo, we didn’t want to scratch it (or dent it). The power of the Hemi engine was fact a bit too much in a couple of circumstances as we broke traction on some soft surfaces a bit more than The Jeep Geeks likes.

At highway speed the 2011 Grand Cherokee is extremely quiet and comfortable. Also, The Jeep Geek can see out the windshield without cocking his neck. He was just a bit too tall for the previous models...these fit just fine. The cornering ability is more similar to a sports car rather than an SUV. at high speed it holds the line very well and the body roll is limited. The maneuverability is so good that in-city driving is easy...more car like than SUV like. Yet the visibility is great due to large windows, smaller posts, and a high “Command View” seating position.

So to all the bloggers who have been posting comments that Chrysler ruined the Grand Cherokee The Jeep Geeks says: “Enhance your calm...the Grand Cherokee is better than ever in every way.”

The Jeep Geek is a fan of the new 2011 Grand Cherokee.