OK, now that I've had my SFU for 7 weeks, have done a reasonable amount of commuting, took a family trip to the mountains and did some snow and offroading, I'm going to do my full review. Some of it will reiterate my preliminary review comments, but I wanted it all in one place. I apologize for the length, but I'm hoping it may help someone in their decisions and/or help any Chrysler/Jeep folks to know how their product is perceived by customers (or at least this customer ...). I'm not going to put a numerical rating, as I'm typically a very harsh grader and don't want to scare anyone off from what I think is an excellent vehicle.
Why the JGC?
Honestly, there weren't many alternatives given what I was looking for. In general, I was looking for an SUV that was more on the Utility side of the scale, which narrowed things considerably since it seems most manufacturers in the mid-size SUV category have gone pretty far into the crossover category, making essentially station wagons. It seems you have to go to full-size to get more on the utility side of things, but parking an SUV is tough enough around San Francisco and some other cities - it's a nightmare with a full-size SUV. Not to mention the added fuel consumption of the full-sized SUVs.
I often carry heavy loads, so typically look for a more truck-like suspension, which eliminates a lot of the SUVs that have more car-like suspensions now. I need good mud, snow and offroad capabilities for a variety of reasons, including the stuff I do with disaster and emergency services. Add to that the occasional need to tow, and the field of competition dropped dramatically.
And finally, I tend to keep my vehicles a loooooong time - so I look for ones that are on the "leading edge". This was a little bit of a mixed-bag with the Jeep because while it does seem to be on the leading edge of most features/technologies/etc the reliability ratings are lower than normal which doesn't bode well for keeping a vehicle a very long time. But I decided that since it fit all my other criteria so much better than the alternatives, I'd take a chance.
- since the big difference in this thread is the fact that we're talking about diesels, I think it makes sense to start here. Because of the things I do with my SUVs, the V6 didn't seem like it was going to be sufficient. But largely for environmental reasons and to a slightly lesser extent fuel costs I really wasn't very excited about the V8. So when I heard that Jeep was doing a diesel I was sold - the power I need/want, more environmentally friendly, good mileage (for an SUV) and I was expecting/hoping that the big torque down low would be a kick to drive.
Well, so far the EcoDiesel plus the 8-speed shifter has exceeded all of my expectations.
The diesel is quiet - at first I was completely blown away how quiet it was, even standing right next to it. Later I discovered that it gets louder in colder temperatures, so *slightly* less blown away, but still remarkably quiet for a diesel. My friends and passengers generally don't even know it's a diesel until I tell them, at which point they're usually quite shocked. But it does still have some of the diesel sound to it, so anybody that knows what to listen for will know it's a diesel, which personally I like, and I like the "rugged" feel of the sound.
The fact that it's quiet and also runs at lower RPMs than its petrol counterparts, also has the nice side-effect that my Significant Other doesn't realize how fast we're going.
I was actually amazed that even climbing the Sierras at 75 it typically stayed in 8th and sometimes 7th gear, just cruisin' on up the mountains barely breaking 2K RPMs. That was with 4 people and a lot of gear too!
Initially I was a bit thrown off by what I assumed was primarily turbo-lag. The worst seemed to be starting from a dead stop. I'd hit the accelerator, not move as much as I'd expect, so give it more throttle and then next thing I know my neck is snapping and the tires are chirping. Later I tried turning off eco mode and also tried sport mode, both of which significantly improved things - there seemed to be very little lag. So I don't think it's all turbo-lag - I think it's a combination of the eco mode mappings and the turbo. Now that I've gotten used to it, it feels fine to me even in eco mode. But there was definitely a little adjustment there in the beginning.
To really try out whether the turbo-lag was going to be an issue for me, I decided to take it out for a run up the twisty mountain road that I frequent on my motorcycle. With a vehicle that high and heavy, there's only so much corner speed you can carry into a turn, which, coupled with being an uphill climb, means you're doing a lot of on/off throttle in somewhat critical-timing situations. I popped it into sport mode and took off. I was quite impressed with how well such a big vehicle was able to hustle through the twisties. The turbo-lag was minimal, the diesel pulled hard and the suspension kept it fairly well planted. After 2+ hours scootin' that big girl's butt around, I practically had to be dragged home.
I'd never mistake it for my motorcycle or my TransAm, but for what it is, it sure moved well and was fun to drive.
Just for the fun of it, I tried doing some 0-60 runs with my ScanGauge plugged in to get (relatively) accurate timing. I got a pretty consistent 7.4 seconds. Again, not bad for a big vehicle that can get up to 30MPG.
The 8-speed transmission has been fantastic and flawless. Shifts are very smooth and it seems to make the best use of the area under the power curve. I'm also impressed that it downshifts quite a bit when heading down somewhat steep hills. Most other auto transmissions would just stay in the highest gear if you were coasting down a hill. Nice to get some engine braking in there.
The only downside so far has been getting used to the electronic shifter. In the beginning I had a really hard time hitting the gear I wanted quickly. Over time I've gotten much more proficient and the muscle-memory is starting to build. But I do still miss gears more than I'd like and I do miss the feel of a mechanical shifter. While I was thrilled to see that the engineers consciously made allowances for shifting from Drive-to-Reverse quickly, allowing one to "rock" the vehicle, it's a lot harder (at least for me) to do it with the electronic shifter than a mechanical.
Between the diesel and the 8-speed, I've been getting the mileage I was hoping for. On my 100 mile (round-trip) commute, I used to average roughly 13MPG in my V6 Explorer. I've been averaging 24MPG with the winter blend in the Jeep, which I expect will go higher with summer blends and maybe even a little higher after more breakin. On my trip to Tahoe I averaged 26MPG, which included quite a bit of elevation change, offroading, stop-and-go traffic, idling and cold weather. And again that's on winter blend. The good mileage ended up giving me a "double bonus" on the Tahoe trip. Not only did I get significantly better mileage than my V6 Explorer, but with the huge range I was able to go from SF->Tahoe, drive around a lot and make it back to SF on a single tank which saved me from the large increase in fuel price (usually at least $0.30/gal) that stations around Tahoe charge. I expect that big range will also be quite beneficial in my disaster work.
The one minor blemish on the diesel experience was the dealer. Even armed with information posted here that the dealers were supposed to fill the DEF tank, and even with information showing that Chrysler would reimburse up to 2.5gal of DEF to the dealer, the dealer refused to top up the DEF. I didn't feel like making a big deal over something so small, so I finally let it drop and I went to the auto store, bought some and filled it myself. It seems most other dealers, once made aware of the necessity to fill the DEF, have happily done so. So I think my experience is probably more limited - though the number of dealers that don't seem to know that they're supposed to top it up seems exceedingly high.
Oh, one more blemish is the occasional smell (sometimes referred to as "cat piss"). I'm close to 2K miles now and I still get that occasionally. It seems to happen most often when going from freeway speeds down to stop-and-go. As discussed in another thread, Willx says they think it might be coolant-related and not related to the DEF/diesel-exhaust/etc and that they're looking into it. But I haven't heard anything since then. Hopefully they figure that one out.
- Some of this was already covered earlier, but briefly I often carry very heavy loads so I tend toward truck-like suspensions. My SO and her kids are not quite so fond of the truck-like suspensions and much prefer the ride of her Lexus SUV. So we don't typically agree in this area. But amazingly, we both agreed on the air suspension. It has a nice, almost car-like feel to it, yet can carry heavy loads and manage challenging offroad conditions with aplomb. This is a total win-win.
And with her being on the short side, and the kids also being quite short, they really appreciate the "lower on exit" option. It makes it easier for them to get in/out and I also find it easier to load gear into the back. Taking it offroad and in the snow, it was nice being able to easily raise it up. And the improved aerodynamics when it lowers at speed is nice too.
And as mentioned earlier, even hustling it through the hills, it felt pretty good.
I have no idea how well the air suspension will last, and I'm a little nervous about potential repair costs on the system (which is part of the reason I got the 8yr/120K service contract) but so far I'm quite pleased.
- I was looking forward to the ACC, especially after the "with Stop" was added. But I had no idea how much I was going to love, love LOVE it. It works sooooo well. It makes my trips much less fatiguing. I just set the speed to the max I want to go and let it do the rest. I find it allows me to monitor traffic and other conditions more closely without having to worry about my speed or whether traffic ahead is going to suddenly do something while I'm looking into my mirrors. And the little touches, like accelerating when you put your left turn signal on are nice.
I was also quite pleased with the ACC's ability to detect motorcycles, even in somewhat challenging conditions such as a motorcycle following a larger vehicle fairly closely. It clearly was able to distinguish the motorcycle and paced according to it instead of the larger vehicle ahead. That's tough with radar systems.
The only improvement I might suggest is allowing an adjustment to the "aggressiveness" of the system. It's really quite aggressive in accelerating, which most of the time I appreciate, but sometimes it would be nice to tone it down a little.
The blind-spot detection seems to work quite well, and like the ACC seems to do a good job picking up motorcycles too. Being a rider myself, and living in an area where we have a lot of motos nearly year-round, this is an important point for me.
The rear-path detection and backup camera work quite well, and are very useful in crowded parking lots, especially when the back is loaded with a lot of gear.
The automatic headlights work fairly well, though seem to get a little "jumpy" on heavy-cloud days, especially going under overpasses.
The automatic high-beams work better than I expected and really reduce fatigue. I really like the added visibility of the high-beams, but it often gets tiring turning them on/off. The automatic highs let you enjoy the added visibility without the annoyance of manually turning on/off. They seem to work well detecting oncoming as well as following traffic.
The automatic wipers seem a little gratuitous, though do seem to work reasonably well, at least the few times I've used them. We've had unusually dry weather here so I haven't had much opportunity to test them out much.
The advanced tech options are sooooooo worth it in my opinion. I feel they make significant improvements to the pleasure and safety of my drive.
Radio and related tech
- The overall system seems well ahead of any other car manufacturer's system that I've tried. Beautiful screen, relatively intuitive and easy to use.
I was initially a bit underwhelmed by the audio quality. I wasn't expecting a top-end system, but the range was very squashed, with muted highs, loose/muffled lows and somewhat compressed mid-range. And then I realized that's just SiriusXM. After playing my own content and also listening to HD radio stations, my opinion changed quite a bit. While it certainly won't be confused for a top-end system, it's a step or so above adequate. I really wish they'd give us more than 3 bands on the equalizer. I could do a whole lot to improve the sound with some more bands. Seems like a cheap/easy way to give those that know what they're doing a better experience. But, I guess I can also concede that the vast majority of people wouldn't have a clue what to do with more bands.
The Nav system, while it won't win any speed awards, feels faster and more responsive than most of the car nav systems I've tried. The points of interests seem a bit lacking and trying to do POI searches with the voice recognition will drive you to drink. At first I thought the problem was mostly with the lack of POIs in the Nav system, because in many cases it seemed to understand what I was saying but gave me very few, and sometimes no options in the area. But if I typed the exact same thing in with the keyboard, it found them no problem. So you're fighting with two different things - 1) getting it to recognize what you're saying and 2) even when it recognizes what you're saying, it seems to give fewer options than if you type the exact same thing in.
One thing I sooooo wish I could do is to send a location to the Nav system. After I've looked something up on my phone/tablet/PC - I'd love to have a "send to Jeep" option. As it stands now, I often locate what I want with my phone and then manually type in the address to the Nav system. Bah. Seems like something you could add to the Uconnect mobile app which might help make the Uconnect service more valuable ...
Oh, and I hate how it won't let you search for things while you're in motion. There's no reason my passenger shouldn't be able to pull something up on the nav while I'm driving. At the very least they could use the sensor that seems to detect if there's a passenger in the seat, and if there is, allow you to do those things in motion.
I'd also like a way to easily turn on/off the voice prompts. Sometimes I want them, sometimes I don't and I don't like having to go down into the settings menus to enable/disable.
On the flip-side, I *love* that it shows next-turn info on the EVIC. That's just brilliant.
And the EVIC in general is quite nice. I love the configurability of the displays, and all of the information you can see. I can't believe they didn't include the EGT on the EVIC though. That seems to be a real oversight for a turbo diesel that is rated to tow 7K. Fortunately it seems the information is available on the OBD-II - I just wish the ScanGauge folks would figure out the codes to get it to display since I don't want to be running and/or looking at my phone to get that info.
I had no issues pairing my iPhone, and the integration seems to be quite good. The phone calls and contacts all work well, as does the voice controlled dialing. And controlling playback of the music on my iPhone is quite good, including the voice recognition. It's nice to be able to say "Play song Bohemian Rhapsody" instead of scrolling through songs/artists/etc.
It would be even nicer if I had all of that control over just bluetooth so that I wouldn't have to plug in my iPhone every time, but at least I *can* play over bluetooth, so I just need to pick the playlist on the phone before I start and everything is good from there.
I've had some minor issues here-and-there with the uconnect software. With the previous release (38.52? or something like that) I was regularly getting the "Phone Needs Service" screen, though so far I haven't seen it with the latest update. The mobile apps are kind of nice, though recently it seems to have stopped recognizing that I have the uconnect app running on my phone. I've tried exiting and starting the app, but it still tells me I need to start the app. I won't bother detailing the various little uconnect things because it seems they're still working out the kinks, so I'll give them some time to sort things out. Certainly I haven't hit anything that I consider even close to serious, just mildly annoying and/or something that makes you go hmmmm......
Fit and Finish
- It seems they must have worked out most of the issues that I've read about and/or I got lucky. Mine was nearly perfect. No gaps, no rattles, everything looked good. The only minor thing was the rubber seals around the window were a bit wonky. Two different service guys fiddled with them, and got them much better than they were, and they offered to have them replaced if I wanted, but said they'd probably not recommend doing anything.
The vehicle really looks beautiful to me and just about everyone I've shown it to. Both interior and exterior. Very classy. Actually, a bit more classy than I'd like. Since I use it more as a Utility vehicle, I'm going to be a bit less happy as it gets beat up than I would be with something that wasn't quite so nice. But I guess for now I'll just enjoy having "something pretty".
- As mentioned earlier, it's a bit nicer than I'd like, but other than that no real complaints. The seats are a bit firm, especially the rear seats, but both the SO and I found them to be plenty comfortable on our recent trip to the mountains. And I *love* that you can move the lumbar support up-and-down. Most just let you adjust the inflation. One thing I miss is that the explorer had the option of pulling the end of the seat out further (I think they called it "thigh support adjustment" or somesuch) which I really liked, especially on longer trips - supports the legs much better. But I haven't really seen that in other vehicles. I wonder why that doesn't seem to have caught on ...
The SO absolutely loves the heated seats, and the kids love that even the rear seats heat. I love the vented seats (she runs cold, I run hot
). I really like the feel of the steering wheel. It's a nice "beefy" steering wheel. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out the heated wheel heats the wood portion too. I was expecting only the leather-wrapped area to be heated. It heats quickly, and it was nice when we went to Tahoe. I really like the telescoping steering wheel. It lets me get the wheel in just the position I want. And the "fat man assist" (i.e., moving the seat back and steering wheel out of the way), while possibly a little gratuitous is still kind of nice.
The only two minor negatives on the steering wheel: 1) The buttons for controlling the radio are awfully loud. 2) Whenever I'm doing one-handed spinning turns (e.g., parking lot, reversing, etc.) I regularly hit the voice control buttons by accident. It gets really annoying. My muscle memory is getting a little bit better so I'm not doing it as much now, but it still occasionally happens.
And one minor gripe similar to the steering wheel ... it would be nice if the ledge at the bottom of the touch screen was a little larger. I usually rest some fingers on there while punching things in on the screen and my resting fingers often seem to bump the screen causing it to do things I don't want.
I was really on the fence about a "loaded Limited" vs an Overland. One of the things that helped push me to the Overland was the power folding mirrors. As small as that seems, it's been a godsend for me. Parking in my garage is very tight, as is parking in some of the garages in San Francisco. The Jeep is a little wider than my old Explorer, and I've found folding the mirrors is necessary when parking in my garage, as well as other tight areas. The puddle lamps and the added "ambient lighting" are also nice. I'm glad the SO talked me into moving up to the Overland. Though I would've liked to be able to get the black carpet with my frost interior - I'm expecting that frost carpet is going to be a bi!@$ to keep clean - but of course I put in some Husky X-act liners front and rear, and the Jeep cargo mat in the back to help mitigate the problem.
And I'll reiterate what so many have before - I really wish they kept the flipper glass.
I used that all the time on my Explorer and I'm really missing it. And I also really miss being able to lay the front passenger seat forward. That was so key in my previous SUV for getting long things in there. Between the seat not laying forward and no flipper glass, it's a lot harder to transport oversized items. I suppose the only positive that I can think of is that it makes me more likely to strap things to the roof that I normally would've just put in the back, which might mean less wear-and-tear on the purdy interior. But I'm really stretching there ....
EDIT: As if it wasn't long enough already, I just realized I should probably at least mention the offroad capabilities
- I didn't have this section originally because, well, it's a Jeep - what else do you need to know?
I can't talk extensively on this, I partly need to go on reputation and what's installed, as well as information from others that have done some serious offroading - but I'd say you'd probably be hard-pressed to find many SUVs with the luxury features of the JGC that have better or even equal offroad capabilities.
I haven't done any rock crawling yet, but I did some moderately aggressive mud/snow/ice/rock and even crossing a moderate stream recently. I know these conditions *very* well, and I know that even my old Explorer, which I felt was quite good in these conditions, would not have handled these conditions so easily. It made what normally would've taken a bit of work on my part to negotiate into something that was virtually as easy as driving down the road. The air suspension was really nice here. And having the peace of mind of skid plates protecting the underside was reassuring.
As a side-note, this was not with the stock tires. I don't know how well/poorly they would've done. I quickly switched out the stocks for 265/65R18 Wrangler All-terrain Adventures. So I don't know how much was due to the tires. I do know that the Jeep with these tires seems to be a good combination, at least for the type of stuff I run into. If I was doing a lot more deep mud or rock crawling I'd probably want something different. But for the ratio of freeway/offroad/snow that I do, these seem like the right choice/compromise.
I am thrilled with this vehicle and I'm so happy I waited out all of the delays on the diesel. Even though it meant I was without a vehicle for a fair bit of time after the Explorer died, I really got the vehicle that I hoped I would be getting. And barring something coming up later, I expect/hope that I'll keep this as long as my previous SUV (18 years).