Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jeeps Old and New

I hope you have your shades ready.

You may know that for the last six years I have been driving this 2006 Jeep Wrangler X. She's been a real gem and we have had some fun together. But time marches on, progress is made and I guess we were due for a change, so when Alan asked if I might be interested in a new Jeep... well, I was tempted. So off we went to look at some.

I am very used to this view.

Here's what the passenger got to look at. You can see we put in an aftermarket stereo with separate satellite radio and bluetooth modules.

Those new Jeeps were so tempting, that after a test drive, we put an order in... and here we are two months later. Check out this beauty!

This is a Wrangler Unlimited Sahara in Crush Orange. And she's sweet! Compare the view with the previous version. It's all got a lot shinier. The display showing 'S 62' is telling me I'm facing south and it's 62F outside. It tells me all sorts of other information, too.

Here's the rest of the panel. That is a fully equipped navigation system in the middle, with satellite radio, bluetooth etc all built in. I think it even plays DVD films, when you're not moving, of course. You can talk to it too; it has voice recognition which works very well, so you can make phone calls or tell it which radio station you want.

Underneath that is a climate control system; you can just set the temperature you want and it will Make it So.

Here's a shot of the whole front. The centre console box has got wider since my last Wrangler; Alan and I can sit in there and not bash elbows any more. There's also another inch of width between my other elbow and the door. Checking the specs of each car, the overall width has increased from 66.7" to 73.9", which would explain that. Of course the new Jeep is quite a bit longer too - from 155.4" (old 2-door) to 184.4" (new 4-door). It's not quite as easy to see where you're going when reversing, so I will have to be careful with this extra size.

Turning round a bit, imagine sitting in these nice comfy leather seats! They're heated, too. Although I don't suppose I'll be using that feature a whole lot in Texas.

Driving it is really nice. The ride is very smooth, there's none of the jiggliness of the old Wrangler. You do feel the Jeep kick going over certain kinds of bumps - it's a type of wriggle that Jeeps seem to have; I think it's due to the type of suspension in these. But it's nothing like the older car.

The gearbox is very good. Not that the old one was bad, but this seems evolved. The gearstick slicks into gear, the clutch is smooth. Of course I am still getting used to it since it's completely different to my old one. The gears seem more spaced out. Although both cars had six speed boxes, I used to get better results pulling away in second gear since first was so short, and I'd be in fourth at 40mph and in sixth at 60mph.

This new gearbox wants to pull away in first - second is a bit much, unless you were going downhill maybe. I was cruising around yesterday at 65mph in fifth gear just fine; the old car would have been unhappy about that. The tachometer has a green arc drawn on it now; apparently keeping it within the green arc is the sweet spot for the engine. I've noticed I get an 'eco' message that pops up when it's not working hard, too.

Looking at the engine, it has changed a bit! The old engine bay was a mess of pipes and braces. Now we have this clean looking plastic cover and a few yellow parts for me to top up the fluids. As for the engines themselves, the old one was an inline 6-cylinder, 4-litre affair making 190 horsepower and 235 ft-lbs of torque. The new engine is Jeep's new Pentastar engine that came out last year, which is much more modern and efficient. It is a 3.6 litre V6 making 285 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque. It's also a lot quieter than the previous engine, although it makes a very nice sound.

Here's the back end open. Lots of cargo space in the Unlimited! It has plenty of tie down hooks and a reversible cargo mat (carpet/rubber) so hopefully I won't get Christmas tree needles lodging in there forever more this year. It's taller, too - I won't have to live in fear of bashing my head on the tailgate door any more. It's also taller inside, the ride height seems so when you're driving along. Which is nice.

There's lots of nice little details, too. Spot the little Jeep on the wheel, here! There's more on the other wheels, and one on the bottom of the black edge of the windshield. These are new wheels for the 2013 model; I really like them. They still have the factory markings on... I had better clean them.

The whole driving experience in this new Jeep is much more refined. My old one had a lot of character which was great, but this one seems more civilized. There's a lot less wind and engine noise which means you can actually listen to classical music stations, or hold phone conversations properly without having to bellow into the microphone. I have yet to try using Siri but she didn't work at all in the old car; I am hoping she will be happy with the lack of background din.

Of course, there's plenty of wind noise if you take the roof off... this IS a Jeep after all! These new ones have a modular roof, so you can remove only the front panels if you like, the heavy back end can stay on. And you don't need tools to do it; it's all levers and hand screws. I can report that driving with the panels off is great, and something we will have to do plenty of :-)

I am looking forward to many adventures with this Jeep :-)