Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Your World of Tomorrow fascinates me!

So, I've been driving the same car for thirteen years, a roadster whose dashboard amenities were deliberately retro even when it was introduced. And the "new" car I bought for emergency winter transportation dates from the last year of the previous millennium and isn't overly laden with options, either.

For the past couple weeks I had the use of a 2014 Jeep Cherokee, and it was Future Shock on wheels. Bear in mind, this is not some kind of ultra luxo mobile; it's intended to compete with little crossover utes of the RAV4 and Forester class, and base models start only a few Gs over the twenty long mark.

Not boxy at all.
This one, though, was well-optioned, and by "well", I mean that it had the 271 horse 3.2L V6. Sure, it's nearly double the weight of the Z3, but it's got almost another hundred ponies to haul the avoirdupois around. When you booted it, the nine speed slushbox (NINE speed) would drop down a gear or three and it would make splendid motorboat noises as the digits on the speedo scrolled upwards. It was not long ago that a sub-7.5 second 0-60 time was respectable for a sports car, now it's the province of moderately potent family buses.

It may say "Cherokee" on the nameplate, but this reboot of the iconic label isn't a ladder-framed, leaf-sprung rock crawler made civilized for pavement, but rather a transverse-engined FWD floorpan with optional 4WD. Handling had some inevitable wallow from putting over two and a half tons up on stilts (it's surprisingly heavy for its size) but like most crossovers, it's more sedan than pickup truck when it comes to steering responsiveness and ability to change directions or velocities abruptly without winding up backwards or upside down. The winter-tortured asphalt of rural New Hamphire was absorbed with aplomb by the suspension, as were the washboards and bumps of the dirt roads.

In the future, one does not bother with anything so plebeian as a key, apparently. You just wander up to the car with the RFID fob in your pocket, it lets you in, you punch the start button and drive off. Meanwhile, the Bluetooth-enhanced entertainment system starts playing the music on your iPad, all without you having to do a thing.

Clouseau could run a slalom in reverse with this baby.
The backup camera, with your path illustrated by colored lines that bend appropriately as you turn the wheel, is the neatest geegaw I have ever seen in an automobile. I don't think I've had as much fun with anything on a car dashboard since I drove a Sprint Turbo that had a little green light that said "BOOST" come on when the turbo was spooled up.


Darrell said...

The squinty eyed Cherokee? It's a rebadged Fiat, isn't it?

Tam said...

A rebadged Fiat what? There is no other SUV that uses the CUSW (Compact U.S. Wide) platform, althout it's shared with the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart/Fiat Viaggio sedans.

SJ said...

My job involves stuffing more fun software widgets into touchscreen-display-infotainment-devices.

I can't call the thing "radio" anymore, now that I know how complex the circuitry and software is.

That backup camera is one of those things that the US-DOT has been hemming-and-hawing about adding to the FMVSS.

It's a cool feature. Not sure it should be required...

Kind of like anti-lock brakes and traction control, I figure it will eventually show up everywhere in the auto world.

For extra fun and giggles, you could try using the backup camera to line up a tow vehicle's hitch with a trailer.

Kendal Black said...

Ha! I lately rented a 2014 Impala and had to perk for a while to figure out how the dashboard works.

Flat panel touch screen, multi-mode selections on it, and I never did figure out what Pandora is. I don't think I want to open it, though.

Tam said...


"It's a cool feature. Not sure it should be required..."

Do you find it ironic that the same people who propose that cars should have mandatory backup cameras and blind spot warning systems also lament that new cars have become so expensive that they're out of reach of many Americans? ;)

Ancient Woodsman said...

Compact SUVs these days remind of the times when every car out there looked like a Ford Taurus.

It's hard for me to tell the Cherokee, RAV4, CRV, Escape, and so forth from a distance at this point.

Our son gets the best of both worlds: the stripped old F250 4x4 with hand-crank windows, manual locks, manual transfer case, do-at-home oil changes & brake jobs, compared to the new CRV which has a dash with goodies not even dreamed for the then-new CVN-65. Hard to comprehend that the family SUV has more computer power than first went to the moon, yet when Little Man is going grey that 'old' CRV will seem perhaps quaint.

Brad said...

I drive a Cherokee, I've torn apart a Cherokee and that is no Cherokee. It looks like result of a one-night stand between a Hyundai and a CRV.

That being said the gadgetry is cool and I'm glad you enjoyed it but I'm gonna go cry in the corner over the redesign.

Kendal Black said...

I like the cool electronic gadgets, and a backup camera is really cool. But I wonder about the long term reliability of all that stuff. I like to keep a car for a long time. (Recently traded in my 1986 on a 2002.) Are the electronics going to pack it in while the car is still sound? I wouldn't like that.

As to required backup cameras, I've managed so far not to back up over anyone, and the camera is more $$$ and complexity. How big a safety problem does this invention actually solve?

Anonymous said...

Cool features but I don't consider that a proper Jeep. It's a 'soft-roader' designed to be sold to urbanites who won't even hop a curb with it.

If you want to see cool gadgets, the E-class Mercs have optional night-vision displays. I want that so I don't bump into Bambi some cold morning.


Chas Clifton said...

I had a rental last year with the back-up camera, and I regard that feature with curmudgeonly suspicion.

Right away, you find yourself staring at the screen with (in this case) its skewed, wide-angle perspective and distortion, instead of simply Looking Out the Window and seeing things as they are (or, as some might argue, as your brain is used to interpreting them in normal homo sapiens binocular vision).

Sport Pilot said...

Really good post from Our Lady Of Tamara who continually astounds me with her automotive knowledge.
As an aside I truly don't know why you don't have advanced engineering, political science or literature degrees Tam. Yes sly though you try to be you are that gifted.

Rick C said...

Theoretically, backup cameras are there because new safety regs (things like side-curtain airbags and I don't know what all else) decrease rear visibility, making it harder to see what's right behind you when you back up. It's probably more helpful on some vehicles than others. It's kind of nice when you're backing a large pickup truck into a spot in a fairly cramped underground parking garage, too.)

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

We just got back from renting a Kia Sorento, which at least according to Enterprise is a similar vehicle, and my two biggest beefs about it were:

1) I don't fit in it. I am apparently too tall in the torso to clear the doorframe when the seat is positioned in a comfortable place for me (fairly close to the wheel, because I have short legs and arms). I never in a million years would have thought I would have to say I was too tall for something, but apparently in this case, I am.

2) I hate the backup camera. Yeah, yeah, I love technology, but the screen is in the WRONG PLACE. I don't want to look mid-dashboard when I'm backing up, I want to be looking up at the mirror so I can use my peripheral vision to see things that the camera can't. I'll give the RAV4 (at least through 2013) solid marks for doing this correctly, by putting the backup camera screen in the rearview mirror, where it's more or less at eye level. But the Kia flunks in this department. I think from what I'm seeing here, the Cherokee would, too, at least for me.

Bruce Edwards said...

Neat tech but as long as i'm dreaming, I want more. An AI that drives the vehicle itself, a HUD with nightvision and thermal imaging for all sides, and a main gun...

JimB said...

Most new cars have more "stuff" in them than I will ever use. Maybe all of the new drivers need all of these warning devices to keep them on the road as they text. Personally I think relying on these thing instead of concentrating on driving is a big mistake. Then again I can't wait for the inevitable law suits when the active cruise control fails to stop a vehicle in time.

staghounds said...

I'm not a very good driver and I love safety stuff.

Even if I were the world's best driver, lots of others aren't so I REALLY love safety stuff.

(Half an hour ago I had to swerve into the next lane because another car came across the center line more than half way.)

And as for cars that see the future-


Anonymous said...

So how many of the features have any real benefits?

Red, yellow and green lines = feature.

Gyro-stabilized main gun = benefit.


DaveFla said...

I just checked Car & Driver's site for a review of the top-line Trailhawk package and some hints as to whether it off-roads at a level that would justify the extra cost over base. They claim that they've never gotten the transmission into the top two gears... and of course, they suggest that the platform would make a great basis for a hot hatch. Talk about tunnel vision!

Scott J said...

"Do you find it ironic that the same people who propose that cars should have mandatory backup cameras and blind spot warning systems also lament that new cars have become so expensive that they're out of reach of many Americans? ;)"

Not as ironic as their demand for ever higher CAFE standards at the same time. Every new gadget adds a little weight.

The backup cameras do interest me though. They could prove quite handy when hitching up to a trailer.

Whenever I decide the Dodge's ultimate fate (rebuild or trade?) I might add an aftermarket rear view camera if I keep it.

SJ said...


the Auto Biz is full of such ironies.

The biggest is the combination of vehicle-fuel-usage and safety-restrictions.

That balancing act is very expensive.

Atom Smasher said...

I traded in my 2000 Grand Cherokee for a 2012 GC this January. Same reaction.

Me: "How do I make it do X?"
salesdude: "That's automatic now, sir."
Me: "Heh heh, don't call me Sir, my *father* was -- OH MY HIP!"

But yeah, push button everything, tough as hell, and paws the air when you dig your heels in.

ScottH said...

Almost tempted to replace my Patriot...almost.

cavemike said...

I just replaced my 1997 full-size dodge ram with a 2912 Tacoma TRD. The best part of back up cameras is messing with the wife when I park in the driveway. "I know you have that camera, but do you have to use it at home?" Stopping 6 inche4s from her bumper.

My lack of techno-brain asks is Bluetooth a dental condition?


Lergnom said...

Those remote fob things can connect if the car's at the curb and the fob is in the house, a friend told me. She just keeps the fob out of range now. I hope that's adjustable.

Dan said...

Spot on, Tam. I bought one of these in Trailhawk trim in December to replace my 2000 Passat V6 5spd wagon. The tech stuff is really something, and it goes beyond touch screens. Off road or in the snow, thing is amazing. It just won't get stuck.

What sealed the deal for me was my conclusion that I didn't have enough risk in my life, so buying 1st year Chrysler production (for the second time) corrected that deficiency. So far, so good.

Overload in Colorado said...

My favorite future feature is the next generation of Backup Camera: the 360 Degree Camera. It stitches together cameras around the vehicle to create what looks like the output of a drone hovering above you.
Not sure if it's more useful than the backup camera.

Will said...

My question is: who gets the blame, when the number of children that parents back over in their driveway every year doesn't diminish?

libertyman said...

Got a new (to me) 2012 Grand Cherokee. and the backup camera is fabulous for hitching my trailer. I haven't tried the Cherokee, and I feel the Grand Cherokee is huge compared to my old one (a 2004).

But the Cherokee is only available with the 6 and I got the Hemi, because, well, America!

I really like my Jeep.

Weer'd Beard said...

Somebody who has kids at the same daycare as little LaWeer'da has one of them.

They sure are ugly as sin! It's those headlights! Yuck.

Gewehr98 said...

Are they even Trail Rated?

NotClauswitz said...

I think it's funny that people who worry about a Grocery-store chain that tracks their purchases at the register are blithely happy with an RFID chip in their pocket that opens the car door.
I wanted to disable the big-screen TV on the font dashboard and all the poorly UI'd and non-functional gadgets of the last rental car we had. If I was forced to buy one with a host of irritating built-in gee-gaws I'd have to disable it with a hammer, I guess.

NotClauswitz said...

With all the texting-crashing goign on they don't need a backup camera, they need a forward camera.