There were two things that I really wanted to accomplish while at the New York International Auto Show: see the 2014 Jeep Cherokee for myself and take a ride in the Jeep Experience. I had already seen all the pictures of the new Cherokee but I really wanted to see it for myself because I kept thinking, “it can’t possibly be as bad in person as it seems in the pictures.” And I have heard so many great stories about how people react to the Jeeps being put through the obstacle course that it would have been a shame to miss out on that.
The Jeep Experience was a very large area placed outside the Javits center which attracted attention from everyone as they drove by the event. The air was crisp and the sky was clear making this a perfect day to introduce the city-dwellers to the capabilities of some Jeeps.
As you approach the exhibit, you follow a red carpet through a height check station which prevented my 5 year old daughter from taking a ride since she was under the 44″ height requirement by a few inches. She was pretty bummed about that but everything was made better when I reminded her that we get to go offroading to more exciting places in daddy’s Jeep at home. Going forward, we came to a registration/survey desk. The only payment required for the ride is a signature on the consent form and the time to fill out a survey about your thoughts and feelings about the Jeep brand. Once finished with the survey, we received a badge and lanyard with a QR code to identify us at the survey station at the end of the ride. The line continued to snake around past screens playing Jeep commercials and signs bearing interesting Jeep trivia.
The Jeeps on the course consisted of Wrangler Rubicons and Grand Cherokees. The Patriot was just a static display but I made sure to ask, “why isn’t the Patriot giving rides?” The answer was somewhat humorous, “well, we have a lot of people to get through the course and we want to use vehicles that make it easier to get in and out of.” What I heard though was, “Yeah, that thing has a Trail Rated badge but we don’t think people will want to buy one after being on this course. And they will feel cheated when their friends ride in a Rubicon or Grand instead of the Patriot.”
But lets talk about what is on the actual course and why you’d want to wait in line to ride on a manufactured pseudo-offroad course. The course was comprised of obstacles that were specifically designed to highlight the capabilities of Jeep’s offroading vehicles. The first obstacle is a 30 degree side hill and as the Jeep climbs onto the ramp, the lockers get a bit of a work out. 30 degrees is quite a bit; probably more than I would feel comfortable with in my own Jeep due to its raised center of gravity. There are actually two ramps so you get to experience the pucker-factor from both sides.
Next up was a platform made of logs of various lengths standing on their end designed to demonstrate ground clearance. It was a fairly rough but I don’t think it was a real good demonstration of ground clearance because the setup was built for the Jeep wheelbase and break over angle making it feel a bit deceptive.
The next area was designed to highlight the suspension by placing logs perpendicular to the wheels. This does a really good job of demonstrating what a suspension is capable of, especially when a sway bar is disconnected. I think however, that the logs could have been much larger to really show off what the Rubicon is capable off. Instead the logs were only about 8″ in diameter so there wasn’t a whole lot of axle flexing.
The last obstacle was the hill climb. The steel slope was at a 35 degree angle and climbed 18 feet high. This is something I have definitely done far worse in my own XJ. The expanded metal provided a high traction surface allowing the Jeeps to crawl up to the top with ease when placed into 4-low. The steep incline allows the drivers to show off the hill descent control, which is something that other manufactures has had for many years. The hill descent control prevents the transmission from shifting gears and automatically controls the brakes allowing a slow controlled drive down the slope without using the brakes at all.
The hill descent assistance is a very nice feature that I expect will be very useful to new offroaders. All the new systems provide these modern offroad machines such capability that make getting farther from civilization and then getting back home safely much easier. The experience provides shock-and-awe to people that have never experienced offroading before. That shock-and-awe is a sensation that continues to make this demonstration a tremendous hit with the crowd at every event that Jeep bring it to. If you’re at an event and Jeep is has their demonstration setup, I recommend that you check it out! For more info on this, be sure to check out episode 31 of The 4×4 Podcast!