These vehicles are rugged, yes, but they’re now accounting for a modern world.
By Simon Murray
Modern-day Jeeps are experiencing a full-blown identity crisis. Back when four-door Wranglers were considered a novelty—or when yours truly was flashing the Jeep wave around town—the average luddite could still find comfort in a pared-down Wrangler, and would only wince a little at the comparatively high standards of a Grand Cherokee.
That’s mostly changed, for good or ill. Part of it has to do with how these cars are being used now. The next time you’re driving down the Taconic, count how many Jeeps are covered in splotches of dry dirt. The off-road ethos that suffuses the company’s range of four-wheel-drive go-anywhere vehicles is still there, but it’s jockeying with our burgeoning desire for having more creature comforts while simply taking the kids to soccer practice.
2024 Jeep Wrangler
Sitting passenger in my friend’s ruby red 2018 Wrangler on our way to Greenwood Lake, I was taken aback at his multimedia center, or lack thereof. He opted for a four-inch screen, which seems comparatively closer in spirit to the first-generation Wrangler than this new model, even if his car is built on the same frame and chassis.
From there, the two basically diverge. New for this year is the addition of a 12.3-inch touchscreen, which feels a little incongruous next to the manual crank windows, but maybe that’s just me. A Uconnect 5 NAV system connects with your phone, bringing in features including Trail Maps and Adventure Guides for a direct route to exhilarating off-road action if that’s what you’re into.
Jeep has also made a heavy-duty rear axle available on Wranglers for the first time in their long history (you’d previously have to buy them aftermarket), enabling a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 lbs. That feature alone might have my lake-loving buddy looking to upgrade.
2024 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe
The all-new Grand Cherokee debuted in Spain earlier this year and is going to follow the Wrangler into the realm of plug-in hybrid availability, or “4xe” for short, doubling the Cherokee’s fuel efficiency at 56mpg. With 4xe, three different driving modes (Hybrid, Electric, eSave) can be tailored to each trip, whether that’s off-roading in near silence or daily commuting in pure-electric mode.
Add in an exterior that features a tapered roof with a slimmer profile (without sacrificing an inch of its interior volume), and you’re looking at an old dog that’s just learned a slew of new cool tricks.