The search is over / you were with me all the while
When our 1993 Land Cruiser couldn’t pass emissions — we would have needed to have the intake cleaned, then replace some spark plugs and a few gaskets — we decided it was time to get a new vehicle. One not only from this decade but from this century, our other car being a 1994 Jeep Wrangler Sahara.
We didn’t make the decision to move on lightly: the Land Cruiser had taken both of our sons home from the hospital after they were born, and it’s been a reliable and dependable vehicle for us, even with 198,000 miles on it. So we asked our mechanic how much longer he thought it would last, and he told us candidly — and most assuredly not in his best interests — that it was on its last legs. So putting $1000 into it seemed kind of silly.
And that sealed the deal for us.
So we began looking for a suitable replacement. We needed something to replace a Land Cruiser, which is no easy feat: one of the things I loved about that truck was that, comparatively, it was a tank, and despite its lack of modern safety features we always felt the kids were safe in it.
To spare you all the details, I’ll just say that after a few days of visiting dealerships and test driving vehicles we began to shrink the field: the Mini Cooper Countryman is fuel efficient, fun to drive, and has AWD capability, but the cargo area is quite tight (we could fit a stroller but not much else); the Toyota 4Runner is configured in such a way that I’d have to crane my neck to see traffic lights; the Audi Q5’s side mirror is enormous, creating a blind spot for my wife when she looked to her left (a shame, because she loved that truck); the Honda Pilot, while very nicely appointed, drives like a mini-van dressed up as an SUV, with a low profile that wouldn’t satisfy my paranoid bitterclinger’s need to be able to bug out off road, despite its claim to 4WD; the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon was perfect, but it didn’t have real side-curtain airbags, and while it got decent safety ratings, it was, in the final analysis, too close to the Wrangler we already have — albeit with far more room and beefiness — to justify the purchase: it is less a family vehicle than a recreational one, and what we were looking for was a better compromise between the two.
And so it came down to two finalists: the 2013 Volkwagon Toureg TDI and the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.
The Toureg is spacious and heavy, and the warranty and financing was very attractive: 10yr 100000 mile drivetrain, 3year full maintenance and 3 year bumper-to bumper, with 0% financing for 66 months. Also, the Toureg in the Diesel package gets 30 MPH (though w/ Diesel fuel coming in at 40 cents more per gallon, it was a wash, save for frequency of fueling). We really liked the ride, too. However, from an off-road perspective, it still isn’t a Jeep or a Land Rover.
Meanwhile, I had never liked Grand Cherokees in the past — they were Jeeps, I thought, but without the kinds of capability that go with being a Jeep Jeep, save for in the SRT8 package, which was beyond our reach financially — so I didn’t hold out hope I’d like the new ones. But it turns out they’ve come a long way in the 20 or so years since I first rode in one, and the Trailhawk package specifically, which started as a concept vehicle, appealed to my me, and made clear that Jeep learned from its time with Mercedes Benz.
Though offered in a V6, the available 5.7 liter V8 Hemi would give it the most power in its class at 360 HP; and not only is it trail rated, but it is built to be taken off road, which simply isn’t the case with many vehicles in its price range, regardless of their capabilities (nobody wants to ding up a new truck): the Trailhawk uses hill assist and hill descent technology, incorporates 4 separate stamped steel skid plates, includes 4WD Low and an electronic rear slip differential, is fitted with an all-steel rock bumper, an automatic air-assist suspension system (giving it best in class 11″ of clearance), removable front fascia, and rides on Goodyear Silent Armor tires, which use 10-ply Kevlar belts.
It is an off-road vehicle dressed up as a soccer mom’s SUV, with all the interior amenities you’d expect from Audi or BMW or Lexus.
And in the end, it was that capability, coupled to its high safety ratings and better resale value, that won out.
Also, it didn’t hurt that we managed to get a very very good deal. Otherwise, we would have been perfectly happy with the Toureg.
So here we are, a two Jeep family. And we couldn’t be happier.
In case you were interested.
And yes, I really did use a Survivor reference. The band, not the TV show. Because I can pull it off. Outlaw.