2006 XL-7 New Car Test Drive
How long does a good idea continue to be a good idea? Depends on the idea, right? Well how about the Jeep Cherokee? It was the good idea of ’84, a vehicle that helped launch America’s love affair with sport/utilities. Truckin’ became chic almost over night, and the end of the affair nowhere in sight.
Although many compact sport/utilities have come along since, the Cherokee continues to play an important role in this ongoing drama. True, it hasn’t kept pace with the advances made by its competitors. In fact, it hasn’t changed much at all.
The Cherokee is still a good idea but for different reasons. If trendy styling and gee-whiz gadgetry aren’t important to you, it may just be the best by in its class. Throughout its history, Jeep has stood for toughness and versatility - in more ways than one.
The Jeep brand has survived numerous changes of ownership. It has created new markets when existing ones dried up. And it goes almost without saying that the vehicle itself has changed - a lot - as times have changed.
The first Jeep went into production in 1941, and Jeeps distinguished themselves throughout World War II. When the war ended, Jeep needed a new market niche and found one as a civilian utility vehicle, primarily for agriculture.
Jeep survived several ownership changes - first Willys-Overland, then Kaiser, than American Motors, which sold out in 1987 to Chrysler. But a more interesting measure of just how far Jeep has come is to contract the 1995 Grand Cherokee Limited with the World War II edition. They couldn’t be further apart. If you can imagine Jack Palance in an ornery mood, then you get the idea behind the Jeep Wrangler.
Available with a 180-hp 6-cylinder engine, the Wrangler has a gruff, distinctive look that is completely unlike anything on the road.
It would be wise to remember, however, that the Wrangler is not a sports car. Let’s repeat that now: The Wrangler is not a sports car. What it is is the nearest living relative of the World War II Jeep, one of America’s most important contributions to automotive evolution, second only to the Ford Model T.
In concept, the G.I. Jeep wasn’t really all that far removed from the Model T - simple, rugged and capable of going just about anywhere. And the same can be said for the relationship between the World War II Jeep and the current Wrangler.
It was designed for off-road driving. Push it too hard on pavement and you are likely to discover the naughty side of physics, as well as the Wrangler’s limitations.
Many drivers have made these discoveries over the years. This could easily result in either a visit to the body shop, or your removal from humanity’s gene pool. Think of it as Wrangler Darwinism. It is not the Wrangler’s fault. It is driver confusion over the Wrangler’s role in the motoring world.