The Jeep Geek

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Test Drive

The New Hummer Recovery Vehicle

Well, The Jeep Geek is ecstatic now that the new Hummer Recovery Vehicle is in. This is a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon to replace the 2008 which is now sold. (It sold within 24 hours.) The new Rubicon is everything that The Jeep Geek had hoped.

Changes for 2012 include the new Pentastar 3.6L V6 engine developing 285 Hp and 260Ft/lbs of torque. This is exactly what the Wrangler has needed all along. In addition, the 5 speed automatic transmission makes the hill climbs much more enjoyable. Now on I-70 The Jeep Geek can maintain highway speed without being stuck between gears...lugging in a high gear or listening to the engine race in a lower gear. Very nice!!

Some impressions after one week of driving this Jeep.

First, The Jeep Geek is surprised at how much smoother and quieter the drive line is. The old 3.8L push rod engine did generate more noise (not throaty exhaust notes) than the new overhead cam engine, but also seemed to vibrate more. The new Jeep is just dead quiet...hard to believe in a Wrangler.

Engine power is significantly improved. There is now almost enough power to get into trouble on the road...The Jeep Geek has had to back off the throttle a bit in a few circumstances. This is not Hemi levels of power, but The Jeep Geek is sure that this engine will reduce the size of the Hemi Conversion market. The incremental power (that the Hemi provides )may not be worth the $20K (over the new Pentastar powered Wrangler) and warranty issues any more.

Compared to the 2008 the new Wrangler interior is much nicer. Arm rests on the door and higher center console enable The Jeep Geek to rest his elbows when driving on the road. The seats seem to be a bit more comfortable, and the all black interior is visually nicer contrasting with the Bright White exterior of the new Hummer Recovery Vehicle. The addition of a tray above the radio on the dash also provides a place to put stuff...like a handheld radio for the trail, pens, paper, coins, various bits of stuff that all seem to collect in their travels.

Finally, The Jeep Geek is loving the new electronics. While the 2008 had the Media Center 730N radio, the new one has the same 730N, but it is not the same. The addition of Bluetooth and a USB port for the iPhone makes this a significant upgrade. Not only can The Jeep Geek answer phone calls in the Wrangler, but he can stream music from his iPhone wirelessly...right from his pocket. Now his entire collection of old cowboy songs is available for enjoyment by all who ride with him. An update to the radio now supports the iPhone 4. Some may have read on the forums that Chrysler doesn’t support the iPhone’s Bluetooth...not true, it works great and the iPhone 4 is on the official list of supported devices at www.jeep.com

The Jeep Geek has not had a chance to get this new Beast off-road yet. Probably won’t happen here in Colorado until the spring, but might just be worth a road trip to Arizona to check this out.
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6.4L Hemi Powered Wrangler

The Jeep Geek just test drove a 2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Call of Duty Rubicon that we modified with a 6.4L Hemi engine. The Jeep store here tweaked the output to produce 500 horsepower, added some AEV accessories such as 4 1/2” lift, 35” tires, AEV wheels, AEV off-road bumpers and a Warn winch.

What a rush, The Jeep Geek was very impressed. The Jeep started with a wonderful throaty rumble giving a very satisfying feeling. At last a Jeep Wrangler with so much power that there was nothing on the road that he couldn’t pass. What a feeling. Acceleration was smooth, and accompanied by real head snap...don’t remove the head rests or you will experience whip-lash. The roar of this SRT8 engine was loud. So loud that it was almost distracting at around 50 miles per hour.

The Jeep Geek took one of his friends (who used to race Jeeps off-road) and his friend was duly impressed with the performance. This is likely the most powerful Wrangler in the US today. The Rubicon gearing delivered a tremendous amount of torque to the wheels even though they were very heavy Goodyear M/TR Kevlar 35” tires installed on black AEV wheels.

As can be seen in the photo at the top of this article, this unit looks as tough as it performs. Very muscular appearance with the AEV modifications adds to the excitement of this one-of-a-kind Jeep. Everything on this package says “get out of my way” including the exhaust roar.

The AEV lift performed just as The Jeep Geek expected with a smooth ride...just like the factory ride. Mrs. Geek had a little bit of trouble climbing up into this Wrangler, but once in, she was blown away by the power. She has consented to letting The Jeep Geek add some of the mods to his incoming Wrangler...lift, wheels, tires, bumpers tire carrier and such. The Jeep Geek doubts that he will be able to sneak the expense of a Hemi conversion to The Hummer Recovery Vehicle II. At least not in the near term. However with the new Pentastar engine, he doubts he will need such a boost.

So what would The Jeep Geek do differently to the 6.4L Hemi powered Wrangler? Well, he did notice a slight throttle lag from a dead stop, this is easily corrected by boosting the throttle voltage a bit to improve the throttle response. This won’t add any power, it will just deliver the power a little bit sooner when the accelerator is depressed...other than that, it was a perfect experience.

By the way, this Jeep is for sale. If you are interested in purchasing this one-of-a-kind Wrangler, drop The Jeep Geek a short message and he will get you pricing and details regarding the modifications.

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AEV is In the House

The Jeep Geek has always been impressed with Mopar upgrades for Wranglers for the simple reason that they are well thought through and just work well. He has not changed his mind despite this article. The Jeep Geek likes to have options, choices, you know...like most jeepers, he likes to break the rules sometimes and do something totally different.

A week ago, The Jeep Geek tested a wrangler that had been outfitted with a 3 1/2” lift, Hemi engine, off-road bumpers, heat reduction hood, side armor, 35 inch tires, off-road wheels. It was quite eye-opening.

Of course the Hemi engine provided a good deal of head snap as expected, The Jeep Geek still feels that this is a bit of overkill. What really impressed him was the suspension kit. The AEV 3 1/2” SC lift performed beautifully on the road. Most do not. Even the Mopar lifts show a bit more stiffness on the highway...not really uncomfortable, but noticeable. The engineering on the AEV lift allowed for a very smooth ride on the highway. The way the arm brackets are dropped, allow for the feel of a very long arm suspension, which puts the energy absorption of bumps into the springs and shocks, rather than the trailing arm link. Very clever. This combined with the progressive rate springs yields a ride that is as close to unmodified as The Jeep Geek has experienced. On the trail these lifts have proven themselves to be as capable as any on the market.

What The Jeep Geek appreciates is that this lift has the best ride on highway of any lift he is familiar with, and is as capable as the best off-road. It is able to use all the Electronic Stability Program functionality...just like the factory suspension. Another virtue of this lift is the price. While this lift is priced in the premium portion of the market, it is about the same price as the Mopar 2” lift, and the 4 1/2” version is much less than the 4 1/2” Mopar lift. It would not surprise The Jeep Geek if Mopar assigns a part number to this lift soon, as they have done to many of the other AEV products.

So, AEV is in the house. For all of you in the Boulder Colorado area, we are having a big event on Saturday June 18th. AEV, the JK krawlers group, and Pollard Jeep are putting on a Jeep show, swap meet, and various informational presentations. Come out and join in the fun. Meet other off-roaders so you can connect to some of their outings and get the most out of your rig.

If you are new to jeeping, this is a great opportunity to see what is going on, test drive some rigs, and get the information you need to make this hobby safe and fun. The Jeep Geek will see you there.

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Thinking Outside the Box

The Jeep Geek is a traditionalist. He enjoys the simple esthetic of function over form. The boxy shapes of the Jeeps occur in this vein. Having established this, The Jeep Geek does appreciate fine lines in a vehicle when he sees them.

Recently Jeep refreshed the 2011 Jeep Compass. The designers gave it the front and hood look of the new Grand Cherokee. What a sweet little Jeep this unit is. Beefy 2.4L VVT engine generates 172HP (more than the 4L inline 6 of previous generations of the Wrangler). Yet the aero dynamics of this unit, combined with this engine allow for close to 30 MPG. This mileage is almost unheard of in a true 4 wheel drive package.

The Compass is front wheel drive in 2wd mode. It has all the electronic stability control, electronic roll-over mitigation, and other safety features of bigger Jeep models. The roll cage is a little something that we got to keep in the divorce settlement from Mercedes...a high strength, low weight metal that is only used in the highest end sports sedans. The Jeep Geek wouldn’t think twice about putting one of his daughters in this safe little unit.

Now, if you are thinking that this is a cheap Jeep...like your father’s, it just isn’t true. While the price is pretty low for a true 4 wheel drive vehicle, there is nothing cheap about this vehicle. For a price in the low $20Ks you get the beefy 2.4L engine, a continously variable transmission(CVT) (a word on this in a minute), power windows and door locks, nice sound system, iPod connection, 115VAC outlet, and great comfort. Lease payments on this unit are in the mid to upper $200 per month, making this a great choice for those who need to keep the budget under control.

Now the transmission is what The Jeep Geek really likes about this Jeep. The CVT utilizes two pulleys and a steel belt between them to change the drive ratio. A typical transmission has between 3 and 6 speeds (read gear ratios). This unit has an infinite number of ratios...so when you are up in the mountains, you are never “between gears”...that awful place where the engine is either racing in too low a gear, or lugging in too high a gear. Even Goldilocks would say the drive ratio is just right.

When driving down the road, the transmission controller biases for fuel economy, when the driver stomps on the accelerator the controller changes to performance within 30 milliseconds...changing the drive ratio to give you acceleration that will surprise you for a Jeep.

Additionally, there is no jerking of the vehicle when moving from a stop like almost every other vehicle on the planet. With a traditional automatic transmission, the vehicle jerks a bit as it shifts gears, not this one...smooth acceleration regardless of the speed.

If luxury is your thing, the Compass Limited is available with leather, Nav radio, extra chrome and all those power goodies.

Now the million dollar question...Can you take this thing Off-road? New for this year is the off-road package that makes the Compass “Trail Rated”. This includes some skid plating, tow hooks, an extra inch of ground clearance and a two speed transfer case. Might not conquer the Rubicon Trail, but will perform well enough to get you to some nice old mining camps around here, and will handle our winter snows just fine.

This little Jeep is The Jeep Geek’s best choice for College Students or young marrieds that want something to drive daily and get up to ski country in the winter.

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Hemi Powered Wrangler

The Jeep Geek has written articles on improving the horsepower of the Wrangler engine...this one involves discarding the engine altogether and replacing it with a 5.7Liter Hemi...probably the most extreme modification in this area.

The Jeep store where The Jeep Geek works has such a modified 2011 Wrangler Unlimited with a Hemi engine and The Jeep Geek took it out for a short test drive (short for The Jeep Geek...also known as “The King of the Long Test Drives”).

First impressions were that this unit develops enough torque to give you a wonderful head snap when the accelerator is stomped on. The acceleration was smooth (as one would expect from the Hemi). There was the slightest torque steer to the right when The Jeep Geek stomped on the pedal while traveling at 45 miles per hour...nothing that can’t be dealt with, just a bit of a surprise.

It is expected that this unit produces 400 Hp because a cold air intake and cat-back exhaust was also added. The Jeep Geek has not dyno-tested this one.

The modifications were made in town here (Boulder Colorado) and Pollard Jeep provided the new Hemi engine, as well as the Wrangler.

So what is involved in this modification...well quite alot. The engine is replaced (obviously). The new engine is significantly more powerful than the previous engine, so the transmission must also be upgraded. Pollard Jeep used a Dodge Truck Heavy Duty Transmission (an automatic...see The Jeep Geek’s last post). The radiator must also be upgraded since this engine occupies more space in this smaller engine compartment. Pollard Jeep used a Griffin Radiator as well as some custom fabrication. Finally, the conversion requires a kit of stuff like Wiring harness, Pollution control module (PCM), mounting hardware, fuel lines, steering shaft relocation bracket, power steering high pressure hose, exhaust kit, A/C lines, basically bits-and-bobs as it were to make it all work. The Kit used here was the Burnsville Off-road (BOR) Conversion Kit. Simple right? Well, not really, but it is a wonderful result.

This conversion will set you back about $20,000...and Pollard Jeep keeps your old 3.8Liter engine and transmission. However the cost doesn’t end here...it will also cost you your warranty. Chrysler will not stand behind any of this. So once these modifications are performed, the warranty on the power-train is voided. Warranty should still cover basic stuff like power windows, radios and the like. But for those who don’t care about warranty, and have the need for speed...this may be the answer you have been looking for in the Wrangler.

So if you desire a large aggressive lift, 37” tires, and don’t want to pay the performance hit that you will take by making these mods, then consider the advantages of a Hemi conversion.
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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.
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2011 Grand Cherokee Test Drive



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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 windshield...it 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 plenty...in 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.
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