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Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT & Ford C-MAX


By Kelly Foss, MyCarData.com

Starting price: $28,700

The Grand Cherokee from Jeep is the flagship of the brand. The current generation is easily the most successful in its history, garnering many comparison wins from automotive magazines. It’s an excellent blend of serious off-road capabilities in a civilized, satisfying package.

The Grand Cherokee is offered in a very broad array of models. Entry level pricing starts at $28,000, yet my test Grand Cherokee SRT tipped the price scales at nearly $70,000! It came equipped with everything but the kitchen sink, the point being that this SUV is highly configurable.

For comparison, it would compete with a Ford Explorer a Chevrolet Traverse or a BMW X5 in size. The Grand Cherokee is offered in the base Laredo, the Limited, the Overland, and the top of the line Summit. For the speed enthusiasts, the STR version is also available. It has the larger 6.4 liter Hemi and goes way faster than you’d think a 5,000- pound SUV could, but it is fun!

Engines offerings include the 3.6 liter V6, the 5.7 liter “regular” Hemi, the above mentioned 6.4 big Hemi, and new for 2014, a 3 liter V6 turbo diesel. Though the diesel has the smallest displacement it produces a whopping 420 ft lbs of torque. That means that it has plenty of power to push the hefty Grand Cherokee with no problem. In a recent comparison test of the new Grand Cherokee turbo diesel with Mercedes and Porsche diesel models, the Jeep won handily.

The appeal of the diesel will be the pleasure of the high-torque driving experience, a range of over 700 miles on a tank of fuel and the fuel economy estimated at over 30 mpg on the highway. For comparison, my SRT gets about 17. If it’s priced correctly, the turbo diesel should be quite popular.

All engines are connected to an excellent 8 speed automatic transmission which offers a smooth and spirited driving experience.

Being a Jeep, there are three Quadra Trac 4-wheel drive systems offered. There is also a Select-Terrain system which allows the driver to dial-in the type of condition she’s currently driving in, such as snow, sand, mud, etc. and the vehicle automatically delivers the correct traction solution to keep the vehicle going. For the hard core types, a 2-speed transfer case is available plus different rear axle gear ratios. Jeep also offers a Quadra-Lift air suspension when more ground clearance is needed. You can also get a Grand Cherokee in a 2-wheel drive model for those planning to stay on the road.

The Grand Cherokee excels in safety with a rugged body structure and a cabin full of airbags, including knee bags in the front seat. Speaking of the interior, it’s well designed and ranges from a very nice place on the base Laredo to a very luxurious space with fine woods and leather on the Summit.

The Grand Cherokee is a very nice large SUV and Jeep wisely continues to evolve and improve the model over time.


Starting price: $25,200

F ord has been a global car builder for a long time and is now leveraging its globalness by designing world cars instead of different models for each market. The new Ford C-Max is a perfect example of this strategy. Though sold as a C-Max here, in other markets it’s known as the Kuga. The European roots of this model are clearly evident but it fits the U.S. market very well.

Think of the C-Max as a compact car that has been stretched taller in order to maximize its interior volume. The lines between it and vehicles like the Ford Escape become blurred but one clear differentiator is that the C-Max is a hybrid only model.

There are two C-Maxes offered in the U.S.: the Hybrid and the Energi, which is their plug-in hybrid. The base price on my upscale test C-Max SEL was $28,200. The total price with options was $31,605. That’s a hefty price for a compact hybrid but Ford also offers an SE version of the hybrid starting at $25,200.

The Energi plug-in model uses lithium ion batteries. The Energi can operate in pure electric battery mode only for short distances. Normally, if a person’s driving pattern entails short drives and limited miles per day, then the near-total-battery operation afforded by the plug-in will provide very low operating costs as electricity as a fuel is cheaper than gasoline, at least for now. If a person drives greater distances daily where the vehicle operates with both the electric motor and the gas engine, then the plug-in loses much of its advantage over the traditional hybrid and the increased cost of the plug-in may not be justifiable.

The C-Max is a fun car to drive. The cabin is sufficiently roomy. The seating is comfortable and it dispels the notion that hybrids have to be doodling, boring cars. The second row of seats will fold flat with a single action delivering a large and useful cargo area. Entry and exit is convenient and visibility is excellent, especially with the rear view camera.

Ford now offers a complete technology suite even on its smaller vehicles. My test vehicle had the premium audio and navigation package plus hands-free technology. It also had keyless entry, pushbutton engine start, a power liftgate and leather seating. Even just a few short years ago you would not have seen these types of amenities on a small vehicle like the C-Max.

The C-Max was also very quiet and had nice road manners. Acceleration was very good and my overall real-world fuel economy for a week of driving was 38.9 mpg which is about the same as the automotive magazines report.

The C-Max does a good job of demonstrating that a family today doesn’t necessarily need a hulking, trucky SUV to get around. The C-Max is an efficient and appealing compact vehicle.

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