Chevrolet Trax Makes Five Chevy Utility Vehicles

Chevrolet Trax

A familiar silhouette receives Chevy garnishment.

And then there were five. With the introduction of the Chevrolet Trax at the New York International Auto Show last week, the bow-tie brand will soon have five utility vehicles for customer perusal.

The Chevy Trax is a subcompact model that has been sold in Canada since 2012 and is a sibling to the Buick Encore. Yes, badge engineering hasn’t died and Chevrolet is getting a new model to slot below the Equinox. The three other Chevrolet utility vehicles are the Traverse, Tahoe and Suburban.

Competing Models Force Chevrolet’s Hand?

Bringing the Trax stateside makes sense as the crossover utility vehicle market continues to grow. Honda plans to introduce the HR-V next winter, Jeep is readying the Renegade, while Nissan already has the Juke.

Ford sells the EcoSport in India and reportedly is studying whether to offer a subcompact model for the US market too. Ford sells six utility vehicles in the US and won’t allow Chevrolet to get the upper hand.

“Trax offers customers another option in the Chevrolet family and will be a strong competitor in the emerging small-SUV market, which is expected to grow more than 80 percent by 2016,” said Alan Batey, General Motors senior vice president, Global Chevrolet. “Trax also leverages our global resources and builds on Chevrolet’s strong SUV heritage.”

Chevrolet Trax

2015 Chevrolet Trax

Expected to arrive in early 2015, the Chevrolet Trax will be powered by the same 1.4-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that powers the Buick Encore. it will be paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. That engine makes 138 horsepower and 148 foot-pounds of torque and can also be found underneath the hood of select Chevrolet Sonic and Cruze models.

Auto Trends reviewed a pair of Buick Encores within the past year. You can find those reviews here and here.

Standard and Available Equipment

With room for up to five, the 2015 Chevrolet Trax will offer standard front-wheel drive and optional all-wheel drive. This model will also feature electric power steering, the latest OnStar and Chevrolet MyLink technologies, 10 airbags, numerous storage compartments, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, and available keyless entry with remote start.

Pricing will be announced closer to its release, but a base model could come in just below $20,000. With the Equinox currently priced from $24,440 it will be interesting to see how GM determines pricing. With the Jeep Renegade arriving just ahead of the Trax you’ll likely see that pricing set accordingly.

Small Vehicles Added

Besides the Trax, Chevrolet has been building out its smaller vehicle inventory with a variety of products. Its car line now includes the Spark (mini), Sonic (subcompact) and Cruze (compact) and it will soon add the City Express van to its line up courtesy of Nissan.

Although the returning Colorado pickup truck is not a compact model, it comes in considerably lighter than the Silverado, representing one of only three small pickup truck lines sold in America (Toyota and Nissan represent the other two).

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Chevrolet Trax photos courtesy of GM.

Amazing! Monster Jam 2014

If spiffed up trucks are your thing, then the traveling Monster Jam event is certainly not to be missed. Monster Jam is a two-hour competitive and theatrical performance of jacked up pickup trucks outfitted with 1500-horsepower engines and all the glitz, noise and hoopla to go with it. Our family took in Monster Jam 2014 when it appeared at the PNC Center in Raleigh, NC, this April, a show that isn’t like any other.

Monster Jam

Traveling Motorsport Event

Monster Jam is a motorsport event and tour that travels the country, indeed the world. Feld Entertainment is behind Monster Jam, the same company that operates the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus — you know, The Greatest Show on Earth. If you’ve ever been to a Disney On Ice or Disney Live performance, Feld runs those as well.

Although big on theatrics, Monster Jam is also a competition with dozens of drivers and their bedecked trucks competing. For the Raleigh event, six trucks participated: Madusa, Monster Mutt, Stone Crusher, Grave Digger, Hooked and the Lucas Oil Crusader.

And “bedecked” fails to adequately describe what you will see as each truck is of massive proportions, customized to accentuate an aggressive persona. Monster Mutt, for instance, is a kid favorite with his enormous floppy ears; stiff, upright tail; and cute-as-a-button face. Yet, a toothy snarl painted on the mutt’s side contradicts the playfulness, revealing that this dog has an intense bite.

The Stars and Their Trucks

The drivers or stars have their following with fans rooting for the trucks they want to come out on top. Drivers participate in racing and freestyle competitions with points awarded by three judges. The judges’ scores are based on the various stunts and tricks the drivers perform.

The trucks are noted for climbing on, over and circling around objects, usually junked cars that have been spray painted for accentuation. A crowd favorite are those times (and there were many) when a truck flies through the air to clear the junkers — how long was the hang time for Cracked? Did he beat Lucas Oil and Monster Mutt?

Also of interest are those times when a truck climbs on top of a junker and the roof and pillars collapse. Madusa, Hooked and Grave Digger excelled in that department — at least for one night.

Monster Jam World Finals

Besides the events which lead to an annual championship every March in Las Vegas with freestyle and racing champions named, each stop on the tour features a pit party where fans go to meet the stars and get their autographs. The pit party is a separate event, usually held late on a Saturday morning. Our show was on a Friday evening with two more shows scheduled the next day at 2 p.m. and again that evening.

Related to the event but sold separately are 1:64 scale Hot Wheels Monster Jam trucks. Each truck is of die-cast construction and has mega monster tires and four-wheel turning capabilities. A figure (driver) is included too. At the show, one set was given away; free tee shirts were shot into the crowd as well.

Monster Jam is loud, bright and it can even get you dirty especially if you sit up front and a truck suddenly begins doing donuts. Dirt flies nearly everywhere including into the lower seats — small chunks, but offering fans a big surprise at that.

Special thanks to announcer Larry Jewett for securing a complimentary set of tickets for my family.

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2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4: Beyond the Nose

Trailhawk edition advances the Cherokee’s off-road credibility.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

The all-new Jeep Cherokee reminds me of my junior high school vice-principal, Mr. Bott. Like the Cherokee, Bott had a pronounced proboscis (not unlike Pinocchio), one that had us kids talking more about his beak than the man himself.

Until we got into trouble.

Bott was a holy terror to all who dared violate school policy at good ‘ole BFJHS. Unfortunately, I did just that and spent enough times in his office to become all too acquainted with “the nose.” Bott scared the heck out of me, although it wasn’t his face that frightened me.

Instead, it was the phone calls home, detention after detention, and threats of suspension that finally got my attention and set me back on the right path.

Still, some four decades later the only thing I recall about the school veep was his face. Had I looked past his nose, I might have learned a lot more about this man.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee may also have a case of Bott syndrome with its polarizing front end, particularly the slit-shaped daytime running lights that are so very unJeep-like. Unlike my treatment of Bott, I decided not to judge the Jeep based on its cover, but to go deeper with this small sport utility vehicle. That SUV was the Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4, the most rugged edition for Jeep’s newest model, and a recent weekly driver at that.

Just to clear up matters, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is a crossover, a class of SUV where the body and frame are a single unit. All Jeeps made today (except for the Wrangler) are of unibody construction, what provides much more structural strength. The downside is that these vehicles are not designed for anything past light-duty off-road use although the tested Cherokee is “trail rated” and can go places not one of its competitors can go.

Those competitors are legion and include the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Traverse, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Outback, Mazda CX-5, and others. The Cherokee is part of this segment, but it is a class above the rest especially when outfitted with a 4×4 system. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

Jeep Liberty Replacement

The current Cherokee replaces the defunct Liberty itself a replacement for the original Cherokee. There is no similarity between these models as Jeep took a Fiat platform and modified it to underpin the Cherokee. That platform underpins other Fiat Chrysler models including the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Dodge Dart, and the 2015 Chrysler 200.

You won’t notice the similarities and most people simply will not care. The Cherokee is built in Ohio too — a true Italian-American!

The cabin of the Cherokee is a cut above the Liberty and is closer in quality and finish to the Grand Cherokee, Jeep’s flagship model. Soft touch materials, available leather seating and elegant stitching give this model a high-end look. The driver controls are sensibly placed with secondary controls located on the steering wheel.

The instrument panel features a pair of analog displays — tachometer and odometer — what flank a driver information display that yields trip and other information. The center stack holds what is perhaps Jeep’s crown jewel — I’ve given Fiat Chrysler models high marks for the UConnect system found in these vehicles. The color display is large and clear, the information presented is easy to figure out, and touchscreen access is supplemented by switches and knobs. You have voice-controlled access to the system too, but I prefer to key in that information myself.

The driver’s seat is as comfortable as any seat in this class, if not more so. My wife owns a late model Toyota RAV4 and I kept comparing my Jeep Cherokee experience to her vehicle. She loves her model, but I must say that this Jeep comes in better refined with features typically not found in this segment. Both models comfortably seat five which is the standard for this class.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

Three 4×4 Systems

What the Toyota doesn’t have nor do any of Jeep’s competitors is a true 4×4 system. Sure, all-wheel drive is optional for all compact crossovers (standard with Subaru), but you won’t find a 4×4 system.

Before we dissect the 4×4 you need to know what is powering this model. Base models get a 2.4-liter four cylinder engine, but the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk comes equipped with a 3.2-liter V-6 engine. It is the latest in a family of Pentastar V-6 engines that includes the 3.6-liter mill found in larger Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles as well as a 3.0-liter V-6 available in China only reports Ward’s Auto.

The new engine makes 271 horsepower and is wholly suited for the Jeep Cherokee. Chrysler worked with ZF to develop an all-new 9-speed automatic transmission too, the first of its kind. Together, this Jeep has the stamina to handle off-road duty to the extent that no competitor can match including Subaru.

2014 Jeep Cherokee: To the Rubicon!

View manufacturer details and pricing

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee offers three new four-wheel drive systems. Active I is a single speed fully automatic system. Active II is a two-speed system with torque management and low range; Jeep Active Drive Lock is the third system with its locking rear axle.

The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is the transcendent model, what 4×4 fans will want and what I had the pleasure of getting dirty. This model is “trail rated” and wears a badge testifying the same. To earn this internal marketing rating, Jeeps must travel the Rubicon trail and prove worthy in several categories including: maneuverability, ground clearance, articulation, traction, and water-fording. Its 8.7-inch ground clearance and 17-inch all-terrain tires also work to give this Jeep some extra lift.

The extent of my off-roading was limited, but I did play with the included Selec-Terrain System and its five modes: auto, snow, sport, sand/mud, and rocky. Well, forget the snow — at 80 degrees there would be none of that. And as far as rocks go, the only worthwhile destination was more than an hour away. So I played in the mud and kicked a few stones around.

And mud was no obstacle for the Trailhawk even as it sunk several inches into wet clay. Back and forth I went with nary a hint that I might get stuck. If I had, there were tow hooks to pull me out — two up front and one in the back — painted bright red at that. Then again, the Trailhawk could have been used to pull out any one of its competing models that might have dared to follow it.

Props to Jeep for developing what is easily the best off-road maneuvered SUV of its class. Its not bad on road too as the V-6 bangs out a lot of power and the transmission shifts smoothly. Its fuel economy, however, isn’t particularly good — the V-6 4×4 model is rated 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway for a combined 20 mpg. For my 311-mile, one-week test drive I averaged 19.7 mpg according to Jeep.

Generous Jeep Amenities

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk brings Grand Cherokee amenities to the model line. A tilt and telescopic steering wheel column, dual climate control, leather touches, a rear view monitor and a navigation system were just a few of its many upmarket features. Jeep also included generous amounts of storage compartments including a cargo management system to the rear.

The leather group package ($1,295) included heated seats and a heated steering wheel; the convenience package ($1,895) added remote start, keyless entry, power front seats, a security alarm and a tonneau cover. Decals and an upgraded infotainment system added another $945, bringing the Trailhawk’s final price to $36,120.

That’s a lot of moolah, but if you want a much lower price then just look at a base front-wheel drive Cherokee S that can be had for only $22,995. Your other choices include Latitude ($24,495), Altitude ($24,995), and Limited ($27,995), with optional four-wheel drive adding $2,000 to these beginning price points.

And just in case you think Bott syndrome is holding down Cherokee sales you’d be mistaken. On sale since Oct., Cherokee demand is coming on strong, averaging more than 12,000 units sold monthly for the first quarter of 2014 — just ahead of the Wrangler and behind the Grand Cherokee. Others have looked past the nose — shouldn’t you?

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4

  • Sticker price from $29,495
  • Price as tested: $36,120
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 3.2-liter 24-valve turbocharged V-6 engine
  • 271 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
  • 239 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,400 rpm
  • 3.58 inches bore by 3.27 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 10:7-to-1
  • 9-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 107 inches
  • Length: 182 inches
  • Width: 74.9 inches
  • Height: 67.8 inches
  • Passenger volume: 128 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 24.6/54.9 cubic feet
  • Towing: 1,000 pounds (std.); 2,000 lbs. (Class II); 4,500 lbs. (Class III)
  • EPA: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 15.8 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 4,044 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Top Safety Pick
  • Safety features: 10 airbags including driver knee and thorax airbag
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years/100,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 5 years/100,000 miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Toledo, Ohio

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2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4 photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.