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Rental Car Comparison

I’ve been on a series of business trips lately. Because we are in snow country and in the Rockies, the project agreed to let us rent 4WD/AWD SUVs to ensure we can get to and from the airport. Hot Doggies! I had a Ford Escape a couple of weeks ago, and this week I have a Jeep Cherokee. I like the Jeep better; much better. The informatics system is easy to use. I just sat down and started using it without any problems. The system is super intuitive and I can go from screen to screen by pressing a virtual button. The Ford system is much harder to use, and this is a big issue for a rental where there is little time to learn a new infomatics system before the vehicle has to be returned. The Jeep does have an unfair advantage because it has a higher trim level, with heated seats, mirror, and steering wheel. It also has remote start. This is a great option here, where temperatures routinely go below zero and it snows often. I can start the Jeep from inside the building, wait for 10 minutes, and have a fully warmed cabin and cleared windshield. I haven’t use 4WD yet, but I might get to driving back to the hotel after work tomorrow morning. It is supposed to snow heavily overnight. One downside to the Jeep is that the 4 cylinder engine is anemic. This really is only an issue when mergin into traffic so far. My daughter has a competing CX-5, and the 4-cyl has adequate power in that SUV. Anyway, I think FCA has a real winner in the Cherokee, especially in the Premium configuration. BTW, I don’t care about no stinkin’ reliability, it’s a rental!

Good feedback, jt…
That certainly sounds a lot different than the Jeeps we had at the college some years back, but Jeep truly is no longer the same company.

I like the Jeep styling too. But the problem is that when buying, reliability has a higher value for us than the other stuff. We drive a lot and keep the cars forever. If I was leasing, then I would go with something more fun.

At one of my former jobs we had Grand Cherokees in the fleet. Unreliable as anything. Even the cigarette lighter died (which was bad, because we needed it to run scanners). But when the snow hit, that car just didn’t care. I never worried about going anywhere in that thing. We also had Escapes, and the guys who had to drive them were very jealous that I could just bounce across farm fields or up snowy hills without a second thought while they had to park on the road and walk.

One time my boss and I were on our way to somewhere. He was driving, missed a turn, and slid into a steep ditch. I was just about to call for a tow truck when he put it into 4-low and shot out of there like a canon. It was like it had tank treads. Loved that car even though I’d never buy one because I want my personal cars to be a lot more reliable mechanically.

I’ve always thought that Chrysler Jeep was a very innovative company. Features were plentiful…and ride was pretty good. What I’ve never been impressed with was their reliability. Far far behind the rest of the market. I also thought some of the ergonomics was questionable…The first generation Durango’s - The lever to shift into 4WD was so far forward when I grabbed the shifter my head was BELOW the dash. That is very very unsafe.

I’m pretty sure both the Escape and Cherokee have AWD and not “real” 4WD systems.

The Escape’s system is garbage. The Cherokee is available with a real 4wd setup even today.

? It’s a FWD-based car (Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 are based on the same chassis), so it’s different than what some folks consider ‘real 4WD’. But it might just work great.

Regardless of reliability, folks must love how the new Jeeps drive, they’re selling a bunch of 'em.

By real 4wd, I mean the 4wd system works like a real 4wd, not an AWD system where the rears are only engaged (automatically) when the front wheels slip. I made no comment on the chassis design, but if i were to make such a comment I’d say something like “It’s probably possible to make a vehicle based on the Dart a competent offroader that won’t bend like tissue paper the first time you try to crawl a small boulder, but I wouldn’t bet on it.”

There are 3 systems available on the current Cherokee. Active Drive 1, 2, and Lock. Active Drive 1 is an always-on AWD system which sends 100% of power to the front wheels until they start to spin, at which point it starts transferring power to the rears. Active Drive 2 adds the ability to lock the front and rear axles together and power is sent to all 4 wheels via a 2.92:1 gear reduction in the PTU.

Active Drive Lock is Active Drive 2 with the addition of a locking rear diff.

So Active Drive 1 isn’t ‘real 4wd’. Is Active Drive 2?

According to what I read, Active Drive 1 is a 4WD system Wheel slip is actively monitored, and power is normally 100% on the fron wheels. When wheel slip is sensed, power is applied to the rear wheels. There is no lock-up feature or 56:1 low gear unless the Jeep is equipped with Acive Drive II, standard on the Trailhawk model. There are 4 settings activated with a rotating switch that change 4WD programming. The automotive press calls Active Drive I a 4WD system.

I guess there’s many types of ‘real 4WD’, lots of makers apply 4WD to systems we might call AWD. What matters is how well a specific system works, not the label.

I rented a Jeep last winter. I’m not familiar with the models so don’t know which one it was but assume it was the cheaper model. It was OK but pretty plain Jane. Never had a need for 4WD so don’t know how that was. The display did go blank a couple times for some reason and of course it had the stupid warning message you were supposed to agree to and pledge you would obey all traffic laws. I don’t know if that would be considered a verbal contract or not but I just ignored it. If it was a little smaller, had better reliability, could pull a trailer, and not made by Fiat, I might be interested in one as a second car.

Activedrive “Lock” is stanard on the trailhead model, which is Activedrive II with the addition of a locking rear differential.

It’s all sort of confusing, really, but then Cherokees/GC’s have had a large array of different 4wd options for a long time.

As to whether they’re “real” 4wd’s… Well, it’s a matter of debate. They don’t mechanically function precisely like the 4wd in a 1981 Bronco did, but they give the same results with the exception of being much easier to operate.