CVT Transmissions…

After a recent encounter with a deer in West Virginia left our beloved Ford Escape a write-off, it was time to go SUV shopping.

My wife and I looked at different models including the Honda Pilot, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder and decided on a low mileage 2014 Pathfinder SL model.  It had all the features we wanted, the price was right and a good friend of mine also had one that he was very happy with.  Now of course in parallel, I had spent countless hours researching the Pathfinder (anyone that knows me understands this is not a chore for me) and was aware of a class action lawsuit in the US focused on the CVT transmission.  However, that did not dissuade me – I thought it was still small numbers that were affected, we liked the way the car drove, the price was right and Nissan has always made great products.

Well, everything was great for the first seven weeks of owning the Pathfinder until this happened…

The rescue begins.

The rescue begins.

That’s right…our new ride was being towed away by Nissan Roadside Assistance only seven weeks after we bought it.

We had it taken to Maple Nissan where we purchased the car. The team there was great and stepped up to fix the issue right away. One week later we were back on our way with a new transmission installed.

Back in action.

The CVT (continuously variable transmission) has been a bit of a negative word over the years with the world of mechanics, but the technology has seen significant improvements recently. Today, many manufacturers are using this type of technology in a broad range of vehicle models.

Designed primarily to enhance fuel efficiency, the CVT is an automatic transmission that can seamlessly change through a continuous range of gears.  As a car guy, I had always been slightly weary of them because there has been negative press citing an increase in cabin noise, unnatural driving feel and originally they were not designed for towing.

Our whole experience does make you a bit nervous about the long-term ownership costs, especially after reading numerous horror stories about multiple CVT failure. Nevertheless, I’m continuing to stay positive. I suppose it is not a bad thing to get a new transmission at 53,000 KMs if you plan to keep your vehicle for the long-haul.

 

Review of 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Edition

It feels like just yesterday; I was in university with friends driving around Mom and Dad’s hand-me-down Grand Cherokees. Although those years are a bit hazy from all the 90s grunge rock, I have one fond memory of a ride home from a very cute blonde who drove a classic, green Jeep Grand Cherokee.  As a young car guy at the time, that combo was equal to a royal flush in poker…..So it comes as no surprise that I have had a soft spot for the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee

1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee – Then

Jeep had incredible success with its 1990 Grand Cherokee models which went on to set the standard for the medium-sized SUV.  More recently, sales of the Grand Cherokee model have provided significant help to Chrysler’s bottom line through a very critical time in its history. To this day, the Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to build on its success as the benchmark in luxury and performance capabilities within the SUV marketplace.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit – Now

To say the new 2014 Grand Cherokee is not your average soccer Mom’s ride is a complete understatement. This new model is an exceptional piece of craftsmanship and precision built on an outstanding legacy which Chrysler has carefully refined for the past twenty years.  Today’s end product is something very special and as a result, we were excited about taking a closer look.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Driver’s view

The new 2014 model has amazingly clean, sleek lines along with an aggressive 4×4 stance that’s ready to take on any type of road or weather condition.  Unfortunately, we never had the opportunity to use the selec-Terrain 4 wheel drive system but we can easily imagine how much fun it is for owners to select and go.

Throughout the week, friends, neighbours and car folks we ran into on our travels were all eager to chat about the new ride and many complimented its stellar good looks.  Having driven in both city and highway environments we can say the Grand Cherokee was a real treat to drive in both situations.  It has the power and rawness when you need it while also providing the creature comforts of a luxury car with its character and function.

Our tester came with the 3.6L V6 which has a posted fuel consumption rating of 12.4L/100 km city and 8.3L/100 km highway. The Grand Cherokee is able to get these stingy fuel numbers as a result of Chrysler’s newly developed eight speed automatic transmission and its Econ fuel saving model.  This new improved fuel efficiency does not come at the cost of performance though as the V6 has a 0 to 60 time in the seven second range which is very respectable for a vehicle of approx 4900 pounds.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Side rear view

Our test vehicle came in the top of the line Summit trim which includes a range of extras which brought the sticker price to $62,085 CAD.  This prices includes some out of this world features not even imagined yet back in the 90s.

Some of these new technology features include:

  • 8 speed automatic transmission with E-Shift
  • Steering wheel mounted shift controls (paddle shifters)
  • 3.6L Pentastar™ VVT V6 – 290 hp – 260 lb-ft torque
  • Power 12-way driver’s seat with lumbar adjust
  • Memory settings function for driver’s seat and mirrors
  • 7-inch reconfigurable in-cluster display centre
  • Exotic open-pore wood accents
  • Dual-pane panoramic sunroof
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Tilt/telescopic steering wheel
  • Adaptive Bi-Xenon HID headlamps with headlamp washers
  • LED tail lamps
  • Remote start system
  • Quadra-Trac I™ 4×4 system
  • Quadra-Trac II™ 4×4 system with Hill Descent Control
  • Quadra-Lift™ Air Suspension System
  • Select-Terrain™ with Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock settings
  • harman/kardon® 19-speaker audio system with 825-watt amplifier
  • SiriusXM Satelitte Radio
  • UconnectTM 8.4AN multimedia centre with 8.4-inch touch screen
  • 8-way power passenger seat
  • Power liftgate
  • P265/50R-20 All Season Tires
  • Advanced multistage front air bags
  • Seven air bags including driver’s knee blocker
  • ParkView® Rear Backup Camera with dynamic grid lines
  • Park-Sense® Rear Park Assist System
  • Park-Sense® Front Park Assist System
  • Hill Start Assist
  • Brake Assist
Jeep Grand Cherokee

Backseats

The interior is beautifully appointed with all seats covered in a high quality leather with the Summit trim branding (pictured above). A real attention to detail is noticeable as Chrysler continues to up their game in this area throughout their 2014 line-up.  The combination of special interior features such as; heated steering wheel, dual-pane panoramic sunroof and wood trim sets the Summit model apart from its competition.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Rear cargo area

The storage capability is huge as you can see from the (above image) which illustrates how small one standard airline carry-on bag, a computer bag and two pairs of shoes appear in its cavernous rear storage area. With a very generous 36.3 feet of cargo space behind the rear seats it has space for all your gear and with the rear seats folded down you have access to a monstrous 68.3 feet of cargo room. Honestly, if you need more room than that just buy yourself a min-van.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Side view

As for its competition, many options are available for North American buyers in this market segment.  However, the main competitors include; the Ford Explorer, Ford Edge, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Lexus RX 350, Acura MDX, Range Rover Sport (significantly more money), and Hyundai Santa Fe XL. However, although some of these competitors can actually seat seven (Grand Cherokee only seats five persons) there is a range of varying levels in exterior and interior refinement, towing capacity and off- road capability of which the Grand Cherokee Summit all brings its “A” game.

After spending a week with our Grand Cherokee, I can seriously say if I was in the market for a mid-sized SUV this would be at the top of my list.  And most importantly, my wife really liked the look of it since it’s always a good thing when your partner appreciates another vehicle parked in the driveway.