2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8: Not So Crazy
September 3, 2012
The Jeep people brought out some concepts to one of their recent events. The star of the gathering was the Mighty FC, a favorite of Jeep design chief Mark Allen who took everyone for a quick loop. Inspired by the mid-century Forward Control, the MFC is built off a lengthened Wrangler Rubicon and looks like something out of a wayward Soviet military planning meeting. Just the specter of it must make the NHTSA people froth. Damn if it isn't cool to sit in and peer out the glass, though.
And it got me to thinking: If Jeep can roll the dice on a production SRT-8, with the odd and possibly shaky business plan behind it, Jeep could make a case for a minivan. Something with the stout ridges and flares characteristic of all Jeep products and, if not 4WD, then at least all-wheel-drive.
Sacrilege? Maybe. But I think a Jeep van would look better than just about any current production van. I'm kicking around the edges of the minivan market, and I don't like any of them well enough to buy -- or at least feel too enthused about my purchase.
I like sitting inside the Odyssey, but still remember its jerky six-speed. And outside, I can't get past that most of it looks like a swollen Fit, with an unidentifiable back-third graft. The Sienna looks equally bland, but the V6 is sweet. The Quest wins with smooth CVT power, upscale interior, and I even dig the unapologetic Japanese styling. The fold-flat second row for most situations seems ideal.
It's that other 10 percent of the time when you really need a van to be a van that the Quest falls short. I'm sure there's an engineering explanation for the absence of quick-release for the second- and third-row seats, but it's an omission that keeps the Quest out of contention.
The Chrysler twins are nice, but seem to do just enough to hang around the segment they pioneered.
I can hear you already: "You don't look at the car while you're driving it. Why care what it looks like?"
Well, I have to walk up to it every time I drive it. I don't particularly care about what my car conveys about my place in the world, but I do need to like its shape and proportions when I'm ambling around and stepping into it. I think Jeep could deliver on this score.
Unlikely to happen, but nice to dream. In the meantime, it's back to searching last-gen Odysseys.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor