If we had to hand out an all-star award for best brand to come out of the Chrysler bankruptcy, it would more than likely go to Jeep. The venerable off-road brand went from having a portfolio of lackluster vehicles (SRT8 being a notable exception), with shoddy interiors a few years back to being the darling of the Chrysler universe. First, it was the debut of the all-new and drastically improved Grand Cherokee. Then the Liberty and Wrangler received new, upscale interiors. Most recently, Jeep debuted the second-generation Compass, which is a dramatically better vehicle than the one it replaces.
The Range Rover is a brilliant car that makes no sense. Since the world would be a more threadbare place without cars (and art and architecture and really anything “inefficient” but humanely attractive), let’s dispense with the reasons you could get the raw functionality of this vehicle for vastly less money and concentrate on what it does that is special.
The Liberty looks good, in a utilitarian, purposeful way. It doesn’t overdo it, like a Hummer would have—it isn’t gargantuan, hulking or a cartoon of itself. But it looks chiseled and solid. The interior has some nice touches like a very vertical A-pillar and a dash that is only a few inches deep. That gives a retro feel that fits the oeuvre on offer here.
Ford’s sprawling Dearborn campus is home to many walled-off buildings with blackened windows that work to keep prying eyes out. Every time we drive by, we can’t help but try to catch a glimpse of what’s inside. This time however, we got to see the other side. We were invited in to see an extremely important new Ford, the 2011 Explorer. We spent half-a-day at Ford’s Product Development Center being briefed on all that is new with the Explorer.
Pickup trucks are a lot different than they were ten years ago. Vehicles that used to be used exclusively on construction sites and for towing have now morphed into a strange fusion of work truck and luxury car. Our Tundra Limited was a prime example of this. Navigation, heated leather seats, a JBL stereo, satellite radio, an iPod/USB hookup, and a floor-mounted shifter were all standard.