This week we get two vehicles designed for serious off-road use. First up is a Ford Ranger. The base price is about $25K, but this is loaded up with options, including a Tremor package. That raises the ground clearance to 9.7 inches, has skid plates, large 32-inch tires, a locking differential and expensive Fox shocks to soak up impacts. That will be $4,200 extra, please. With four-wheel drive, the total tab comes to $48K.
Under the hood is a four-cylinder turbo cranking 270 horsepower, hooked to a modern 10-speed gearbox. The higher ride height kills fuel economy, dropping from 20/24 mpg to 19/19. But acceleration is brisk enough.
Taking the Tremor on rugged dirt trails is a blast. The modified suspension sucks up nasty impacts like a sponge. There are no rattles or other weak body issues. This is a solid rig and a far better driving experience over the base Ranger. It is certainly worth the extra money charged.
Next up is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. This is the new L version, which stands for Long. The extra length allows a third-row seat to be issued, thus seven passengers with a second-row bench seat. This has buckets, so it seats six.
Under the hood is a 290-horsepower V6 with fuel economy rated at 19/26 mpg. Or for $3K more there is a V8 with 357 hp rated at 14/21 mpg. On the highway, our smaller engine got 22 mpg on the highway. The trip computer showed an average of 18.2 in 1,980 miles of driving. If you want four-wheel drive, there are three types to pick from. Ours was a full-time version with 4WD low range.
This Jeep is comfortable to drive, but one large complaint we have is with all the fake chrome trim and shiny plastic in the cabin. Not only does it look lousy, the amount of sun glare reflecting off these surfaces and into your eyes is very annoying.
The base price of a Grand Cherokee is about $32K. The L will bring that up to $42K. This loaded Overland version is $63K base. But wait, there’s more! How about a 950-watt stereo? Or air suspension that gives a plush ride and can raise the ground clearance? We have both, soaring to $69K. We were happy with the V6 engine, but with a V8 you will see a tab of around $72K.
Chad Haire, of Phoenix, test-drives vehicles for this feature.