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Jeep Wagon vs. Chevy Suburban

1. Introduction

Sport utility vehicles are supposed to be the vehicle that can do it all. A sport utility owner wants a vehicle that can take his/her family on vacation to Florida, tow a boat to the lake, and take a hunting trip to the country. Two of the best SUVs for those do-it-all types of activities are the Chevrolet Suburban and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. In this paper, I will compare these two vehicles and explore how they are an extension of one's personality. Personality can be defined as the distinctive, individual character of a person. The Suburban and the Grand Cherokee have very different personalities because they were designed to do different things with the same end results being a loyal, satisfied customer. [1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

The automobile has come a long way from the introduction of the Model T Ford. The automobile is an extension of one's personality, from the exterior paint to the interior styling. Americans are very passionate about their cars and of that, sport utility vehicles. It is the most popular selling type of automobile on the market today. Sport utilities were introduced in the 1930s as a durable, no-frills, off-road vehicle. They stayed on the market for quite some time until they were revived in the 1980s in the form that we know today. SUVs are available from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive, seating for four to eight people, off-road capabilities, towing capabilities, and the features go on and on.

2. Features and Specifications

The low range NV247 Quadra-Drive II 4wd system offers a balanced 48/52 torque split which can vary to 100% in the front or rear axle. In comparison to the Suburban, this system is far superior to both the early 1st gen Auto-Trac 4wd and the part-time 4wd system offered in 2nd generation and onward Suburbans. With solid front and rear axles and a limited slip differential, the Jeep Wagon offers exceptional off-road performance. Unfortunately, the vehicle has been plagued with transmission and electrical problems, and it is quite hard to find one in good condition today.

Starting with the 2003 model year, DaimlerChrysler has released the Jeep Wagon in limited quantities. Featuring the old Jeep designs, the 4.7L V8 engine, and 5-speed automatic transmission, this vehicle is indeed built for utility with a 6500 lb towing capacity. This is more powerful than some of the early 4th generation 5.3L V8 equipped Suburbans, and nearly as powerful as the newer 5.3L V8 versions with enhanced torque capabilities. And even though the Suburban has grown in weight over the years, the Jeep wagon is still quite comparable in size and dimensions making it a suitable replacement for some customers.

For those potential customers seeking a handy and utilitarian vehicle, the Station Wagon is reviewed in terms of its specifications and features as compared to the Chevrolet Suburban. This comparison will offer factual information to assist the consumer in making a wise purchase decision.

2.1. Jeep Wagon

The first station wagon, Woody, became available to buyers in 1946. The vehicle was constructed with a steel body and used the same elements as the previous 63, 125-inch wheelbase CJ-2A. The Motor Company wanted the wagon to be a part of the CJ-4 line, and the vehicle was marked as a CJ-4MAA. The CJ-4MAA was soon changed to CJ-2MAA. Research has shown that the "4" on the front of the original name stood for 4-wheel drive. After sixty-eight of the CJ-2MAA vehicles were produced, the "4" was removed, and the CJ-2MAA was marked as the CJ-2A. Data for the CJ-4MAA and CJ-2MAA was integrated with the CJ-2A model while we were doing our write-up on the vehicle. A major factor separating the CJ-2MAA from the 2A is a mechanical change which allows a power take-off at the rear of the vehicle on the right-hand side. The PTO on the CJ-2MAA is located to the center of the vehicle and is standard. In later 2A vehicles, a unique rear cross member was offered as a no-cost option which allowed a PTO to be installed. The model later carried its own brand, the "Willys Jeep Station Wagon". This vehicle was then produced for 27 years, and only in the last year was it marked as a Kaiser Jeep Corporation product. During this period of production, there were many version changes and component modifications. [8][9][10][11][12]

2.2. Chevy Suburban

Pricing for the Chevy Suburban is as follows: $41,211 for the base LT1 model; $45,143 for the LT2, which offers fog lights and the aluminum wheels; $45,849 for an LS model that includes a second air conditioning unit with separate controls in the rear, $45,932 for the LT3, and $47,283 for the top of the line Z71 model; with no cost difference in either 2WD or 4WD. This is quite a bit more expensive than the Jeep Wagon, and a little less than the Expedition; pricing varies high if considering one with all available options. All in all, the Chevy Suburban is a good choice as a family vehicle, and also has modest off-road capabilities; the best of the Suburbans would be closer to that in the LT2 model with the Z71 off-road package.

The Chevy Suburban offers a V-8 engine, 390 horsepower @ 5600 RPM, 407 lb-ft @ 2400 RPM, four-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive, 9-13 mpg in the city, 12-16 on highway. Independent front suspension with a live rear axle and four-wheel disc brakes are better for handling than Jeep's solid front axle and rear drum brakes. It has an overall length of 222.4 inches (vs. the Jeep's 181.5 inches), and the wheelbase is 130 inches long. A longer wheelbase adds to stability and increases turning radius, allowing more interior room as well. The Suburban has a curb weight of 5,802 pounds. It has seating for 8, not including any extra room in the rear for hauling things. The Suburban is still using the same overall body style that has been carrying on for many years now, with slight changes to headlights and trim.

3. Performance and Handling

The two vehicles perform similarly, but the Jeep is slightly quicker and more responsive, perhaps due to a combination of less weight and a shorter wheelbase than the Chevy. The lighter, smaller Wagoneer has a turning circle that is nearly two feet smaller than the Suburban's. All Wagoneers have power-assisted recirculating-ball steering, which becomes variable-rate in Limited versions, and all have power front disc brakes, rear drums, and a combination valve that gives maximum braking pressure to the wheels with the most traction. The two-speed transfer case and Quadra-Trac are options. The part-time four-wheel-drive system has the aforementioned transfer case and manual locking front hubs. Performance can vary between these systems due to a more limited slip in the transfer case and simpler operation with lesser overall maintenance and cost. High-line Wagoneers are very well suited to pulling trailers and can do so with a gross weight of up to 6500 pounds. This was because of heavier-duty leaf springs used in the rear suspension. Step-down acceleration from 1984 is poor for automatic transmission vehicles due to a differential gearing change, but possibly better for fuel efficiency. The top speed at best is electronically limited to 113 mph. For the 1970s through the early 1990s, the Wagoneer was known for having strong engines, particularly the 360 and 401 V8s. Any Wagoneer or J-series truck could have either the 360 or 401 throughout the entire production run, as these were staple Jeep engines at the time.

3.1. Jeep Wagon

Image result for Jeep Wagon The wagon will keep up with traffic over rough terrain and has good heat for both rapid pickup and a 60 mph cruising speed. However, the most economical pace is around 45 mph. The effective gear ratios, torque range, and available horsepower enable the wagon to deliver excellent performance in climbing or slogging over rough going. With either the 4.88:1 or the 5.38:1 low range axle, the vehicle moves at slow speeds with good engine response. Simulation studies predict the vehicle will climb a 45-degree soft soil grade and ascend a 30-degree rocky slope. The gas-cooled clutch and effective control of under-hood temperatures under adverse conditions make it very unlikely that the vehicle will experience high clutch temperatures during tough going. The independent suspension provides maximum traction and superior handling in comparison to a live axle system. Michigan Mobility's RTI test indicates this vehicle should articulate to the point that we can barely keep both diagonal wheels on the ground, which is a sure sign of good off-road vehicle stability. For off-road sport driving, the RTI can be used as an alternative to increase suspension stiffness during extreme driving maneuvers. Step by step pressure on the throttle while climbing a hill will trigger an increase in shock absorber damping force to prevent bottoming and maintain tire contact with the ground.

3.2. Chevy Suburban

Handling on a Suburban is best described as truck-like, which isn't surprising given that Suburbans and trucks are virtually identical from the B-pillar forward. Steering is stiff and can be cumbersome compared with the car-like feeling of import and smaller SUVs. High seating position and good visibility make it easy to maneuver in parking lots and tight spaces. 4WD Suburbans have commanding traction in slippery conditions. This comes at the expense of a stiff ride, and the heavy trucks are prone to body roll if cornering is pushed too hard. The ride quality on the 4-door models can be quite a bit better than the shorter 2-door models due to a longer wheelbase and is quite acceptable to most drivers. The Suburbans with 3rd row seats have the smallest turning radius of any of the full-sized Chevy or GMC SUVs, which can be a big plus when driving in tight spots or off-road.

Low mileage of around 14-16 mpg is common for the larger 454-powered trucks. However, the gas mileage can drop significantly with city driving. It is not uncommon to hear of Suburban owners who get 8-10 mpg, or only 100 miles to a tank of gas with their trucks. This is usually offset by low maintenance costs. The engines and drivetrains of Suburbans run virtually forever if they are properly maintained, and this means that the cost per mile actually driven can be relatively low. While newer models aren't as reliable or long-lasting as older trucks, repairs can be expensive, especially if one isn't lucky enough to do their own work. However, in the long run, this is still less money spent than the combination of car payments and higher maintenance costs required for a new or import SUV. Low mileage on a Suburban also keeps the resale value quite high compared to similar models.

3.3. Off-Road Capability

The Suburban is equipped with off-road capability features such as optional AutoTrac active 4WD that allows 2WD to 4WD switching while the vehicle is in motion, and Autotrac 2-speed transfer case with 4Hi and 4Lo that gives the benefits of an on-demand 4WD transfer case but adds a 2-speed gearbox, which enables lower speed and higher engine torque when the going gets really tough, in addition to a fully automatic mode. The off-road package is an option of the LT and Z71 models and includes a high-capacity air cleaner, locking rear differential, and off-road tires. These accessories enhance the raw capability of the vehicle, but it should be noted that the Suburban's lower ground clearance and long rear overhang limit its actual capability, and it is more suited to moderate off-road conditions.

The Jeep Wagon gets high marks for off-road performance, primarily due to its passenger car layout with four-wheel independent suspension. This suspension provides superior traction on rough, uneven surfaces and greatly reduces the up and down motion on each wheel when traveling over a surface, which translates to a smoother ride for passengers. A smooth ride over rough terrain is also made possible by the Quadra-Link suspension. Two solid rods keep the rear axle in a constant position perpendicular to the road, which enhances lateral stiffness. There's also a track bar and stabilizer bar connecting the rear axle to the body and 3-point isolators at the frame ends. On rough terrain, the system allows each rear wheel to react independently to the surface. There is no single formula for correct wheel articulation; therefore, the system's goal is to have the wheels be perpendicular to the surface at all times.

4. Price and Value

Jeep Wagon-- The Jeep Wagon has a respected price. Not too pricey, yet not overpriced for what the car is really worth. The 4x2 Price Class starts at the low end of the scale. It is from $19,520 – $20,565. The 4x4 price class also starts at a low scale from $21,100 – $24,000. These prices are quite cheap for a 4x4 and are prices that are quite competitive to any other 4x4 vehicles. A lot of bang for your buck. When comparing other 4x4 vehicles to it in the same price range, there is no real competition. The Jeep has next to no mechanical problems, and is in no way a gas guzzler. Other 4x4 vehicles may be cheaper, but have massively wrong fuel economy, or maybe vice versa. Most 4x4 vehicles in the SUV class are overpriced because it is an "ongoing trend" to have kitted SUV during day to day urban living. Most car companies will overstyle, and kit the car so they can charge an extra $5000, but the actual car will not do anything more different compared to another overstyled SUV and compare it with an understyled version. Then the car company will hope to recoup the design losses on the mechanical side. The Jeep Wagon sticks to the branding concept and build up of Tough, no BS vehicle that has tradition in going off-road. All of the Jeep range, excluding the SRT8, have the Trail Rated badge which shows that Jeep has tested the vehicle in most off-road categories whether it is off-road traction, water fording, articulation, and ground clearance. In the middle of the scale, the Jeep Grand Cherokee starts off at $14,780 – $15,595 for the 4x2 price class and then for 4x4 going up to $16,615 – $17,835. At the higher end of the scale is the Jeep Cherokee. For 4x2, the price class is $14,692 – $15,525 and the 4x4 price class is $16,425 – $17,632. Now when comparing any of these Jeeps to another manufacturer, no other car company has a similarly priced V6 SUV that has slightly later than the millennium models these days. If you compared any of these to other manufacturer vehicles, you would be buying a 10-year-old car from any other company with more mileage on the clock. With the "newness" of these cars, the build quality and mechanical side is quite superior. These Jeeps are still more reliable than newer SUVs manufactured by other companies. By going on car reviews, these Jeeps have fewer mechanical problems new or used compared to similarly priced new SUVs of today. The cars have good safety features, which you would not see in many similarly priced SUVs these days, and also are quite economical.

4.1. Jeep Wagon

The 1978 Jeep Wagoneer Limited was the top of the line Wagoneer model and had a base price of $10,500. The price of the Jeep was comparable to the Suburban, and when other similar models from Jeep and Chevy were compared, the prices were fairly even. The purchase price of a vehicle is the first expense that a buyer incurs, but there are residual costs that will occur at intervals during the years of ownership. Depreciation is the largest cost of ownership and is the decrease in value of a vehicle over time. According to a March 1978 article of Motor Trend, "In power and performance, Jeep has an edge, mainly the Suburban because it costs less to operate." The main costs associated with vehicle operation are fuel and repairs, and the article goes on to say that the Jeep I6 engine consumes less fuel than the Chevy V6. Also, Consumer Reports has rated the 1978 Wagoneer models, one with the AMC V8 and the I6, to have better than average reliability. The predicted depreciation and ownership costs of the Wagoneer are just under $6,000 over a 5-year period. The Suburban has costs that are similar to the Jeep, and it is hard to predict what the specific depreciation and costs are for both vehicles, but the average amount per 5-year period for a 1978 vehicle is about 31 cents per mile for a range of $3,000-$9,000 per year. This depreciation and cost range is a small amount more than that of the Wagoneer. Fluidearth.com states that "As the Wagoneer matures, it is gaining collectability due to limited survivors and those having desirable option packages," and NADA has the Jeep gaining value and reaching 125% greater than the original price. This means that over a long period of ownership, the Jeep will cost less. Step one in comparing the value of two vehicles comes with pricing them. The second step, and the most meaningful comparative analysis of the purchase price, is comparing it against the costs incurred in that length of ownership. The second step in comparing the values of the two vehicles is quite possibly the most meaningful cost comparative analysis of the purchase price: the amount of costs incurred over time by a vehicle of its type on an equal use comparison. The Wagoneer and Suburban were 4x4 SUV vehicles used mainly as light duty trucks. Use of a vehicle of this caliber can be compared to the cost of use in operating a similar light duty truck. The AM General Corporation, manufacturers of Jeep vehicles, funded an in-depth vehicle cost of ownership analysis by Vincentric LLC that compared the current data at the time of the Jeep Grand Cherokee's generation to a Chevrolet Trailblazer, Ford Explorer and Explorer Sport Trac, and a Toyota 4Runner and Sequoia. The analysis found that over a 5-year ownership period, the Jeep had lower costs than all comparable vehicle models. The analysis was based on statistical models and Vincentric's vehicle database that compared and quantified the expected ownership costs of comparably equipped vehicles. This is a very meaningful analysis as the upscale 4x4 SUV vehicles compared by type would have similar costs to the Wagoneer and Suburban on a comparative use cost basis. A vehicular cost of ownership is most simply the difference between the purchase price of a vehicle and residual vehicle value over a certain length of time. This is associated with the total out of pocket expenses of the vehicle, and the Vincentric analysis measured four specific ownership cost categories: depreciation, repair, maintenance, and fuel. Consumer Reports automotive expert and author Philip Reed states that "Knowing in advance how much a car will cost to operate is a key step to making the right financial decisions. Calculate the expected depreciation and monthly costs for auto loans and leases. Most importantly, compare the costs of different vehicles on your list." The certainty of knowing and comparing potential costs with knowledge of how much each vehicle will cost in comparison is the most accurate cost of ownership comparison for two vehicles of different types on an equal use cost basis. [13][14]

4.2. Chevy Suburban

It's easy to think of the Suburban as an expedient copy of the Wagon, but in doing so, classification tends to overshadow nature. Suburbans are less expensive to buy than a Wagon. The nation's most popular 4-wheel-drive station wagon has become quite an elegant and expensive vehicle, while the Suburban carries on as an essentially functional conveyance. The base price of a Suburban is about $300 lower than its equivalent Wagon. With the Suburban, Chevrolet is aiming at a broader market, which is made evident by the availability of two-wheel-drive, moderately priced models. In terms of insurance premiums, repair costs, and average purchase price, Suburbans have proven to be less expensive to own than the Wagon, which is something to consider when making a value comparison between the two. Pricing for the two vehicles is not easily compared because of options and model range for each vehicle. However, Chevrolet has kept the Suburban at the lower end of the price scale in the full-size category, and that combined with a better repair record and lower insurance premiums give it the edge in value between the two vehicles. Safety is one aspect of the comparison with no clear advantage to either vehicle. Both vehicles have been of sturdy construction, but the Wagon's crash test performance has been less than stellar, and it has a much higher rate of fatal accidents than that of the Suburban.


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Jeep Wagon vs. Chevy Suburban

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