Too many of today's cars feel exactly the same.
If you're looking at a new crossover vehicle or mid-size sedan, nearly every one is a slightly different flavor of vanilla. They've all got good brakes, good steering and a good suspension. They're all quiet and relatively smooth riding.
Differences between them are so subtle, it's easy to accuse the auto manufacturers of playing a giant, expensive game of copycat.
Then you drive a Jeep Wrangler and realize just how different a vehicle can be.
The Wrangler is an anachronism, the kind of car that has all but died off as buyers focus on comfort and fuel economy — two things the Wrangler simply doesn't exist to do.
But thank God it's still around.
This is the original Jeep, the one with roots dating back to World War II, and you can feel it all the time. It's like driving a tent on roller skates. There's simply nothing else like it, as anyone who's driven a Jeep knows.
It's become even more of a loner now that the Hummer brand has disappeared, leaving it virtually deserted as the only affordable vehicle that's engineered specifically for off-road driving. Other cars may have boxy bodies and all-wheel drive, but a 4x4 Jeep is the real thing — the one vehicle that's actually meant to spend all day pounding the trails, not just looking the part.
That means it comes with tradeoffs, of course, as it sacrifices comfort at the altar of off-road performance. It's bouncy and rough riding, and also one of the noisiest vehicles at highway speed.
At the same time, it's come a long way in terms of livability in just a few short years. It's still largely a toy, something designed for fun on the weekends — and making you smile throughout the week — but it's also quieter and more modern than it used to be.
The 2013 Wrangler, for instance, comes with thicker, premium cloth material for the soft top that does a better job sealing out wind and road noise. It also comes with new, more comfortable seats and an easy-lift mechanism for helping remove the top.
At its core, though, the Wrangler stays true to the Jeep mission — off-road performance. It's all about tow hooks and roll bars, torque and traction, and it's an absolute blast to drive off the pavement.
To get similar performance in a different car, you've got to pay a whole lot more. Only a few vehicles come close to matching what the Wrangler can do, albeit more luxuriously, including the Range Rover ($83,500), Toyota Land Cruiser ($78,255) and Mercedes-Benz G-Class ($113,000).
Who would actually want to take those expensive cars onto trails, though? You'd have to be both crazy and wealthy to do it.
For those of us who are only slightly crazy and not wealthy, the Jeep Wrangler exists to whet our off-road appetite.
It starts at $22,195 with two doors, or $25,695 for the four-door Wrangler Unlimited.
Too many of today's cars feel exactly the same.
UPDATE: YMCA officials remain optimistic on opening date
There is no longer an electronic ticker on the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA's website that counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the new facility's opening.Continued ...
New Northport golf course hopes to draw tourists
Local business leaders are optimistic the newly opened Northport Creek Golf Course will bring more visitors to a village that’s already experiencing a small business renaissance.Continued ...
Mark Spitznagel on the world of farming, finance
A herd of bleating Alpine goats emerged from the woods and followed Mark Spitznagel as he stepped along sloped pasture at Idyll Farms near this Leelanau County village.Continued ...
SCORE: Is a fulfillment firm right for your business?
With the increasing popularity of online shopping, one issue many small business owners face is online order processing and fulfillment.Continued ...
Futures File: Cattle futures stampede higher
Cattle futures shot to all-time highs again this week, reaching $1.58 per pound on Thursday.Continued ...
Ag Forum: Rebuilding 'foodshed' and community resilience
In my previous life as a reporter for the Record-Eagle from 1986 to 1998, I remember reporting on two words that were new to me at the time.Continued ...
4 more Michigan cities get Uber ridesharing
A California company that uses mobile application software to link people needing transportation in Ann Arbor and the Detroit area to drivers is expanding to several other Michigan cities.Continued ...
Judge denies request to halt oil drilling work
A judge has denied a request by opponents of an exploratory oil well in Washtenaw County for court intervention to stop work at the approved site.Continued ...
- Thursday, July 24, 2014
The Record: 07/25/2014
Assumed names filed in Grand Traverse County:Continued ...
Building Permits: 07/25/2014
Building permits issued in Grand Traverse County:Continued ...
- Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Goals set on energy policy
Adaptability. That’s the goal of Michigan’s energy policy in the next decade, said Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief energy policy adviser.Continued ...
- Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Glenn Puit: Block 65 wine honors a special life
The customers milled about the Brengman Brothers at Crain Hill Vineyards on a recent afternoon, scurrying to get ready for a much-anticipated wedding at the facility the following day.Continued ...
Business in Brief: 07/23/2014
Expo looking for artisan vendors; Cooking with Kids at the Fair; Bret Michaels talks about diabetes. (Plus more)Continued ...
Pressed for Grapes: Expected low yield blamed on winter's freezing temps
Vineyards look pretty barren across the region because of the relentless winter temperatures that smothered the area.Continued ...
Business Memoranda: 07/23/2014
Margo Francisco was named vice president of planning and regional collaboration for Munson Healthcare.Continued ...
Global Marine celebrates 25 years
Global Marine Insurance Agency introduced itself to the boating world with a plate full of chocolate chip cookies.Continued ...
Kent Rabish: Distillers keeping it local
Michigan craft brewers, wineries and now craft distilleries are helping Michigan grow in new directions that will help our state overcome some of the challenges of the auto industry and the other tough obstacles we’ve lived through.Continued ...
Bonobo Winery: Construction in progress
Todd and Carter Oosterhouse want their new winery on Old Mission Peninsula to attract a new market – locals.Continued ...
Festival celebrates misunderstood wine, region
Many casual wine drinkers consider Riesling a sweet, syrupy, simple white wine, but winemaker Bryan Ulbrich knows better.Continued ...
- Monday, July 21, 2014
Cherry Capital totals on the rise
New statistics show business took off at Cherry Capital Airport this spring. Both passenger numbers and fight totals rocketed skyward.Continued ...
- Sunday, July 20, 2014
SOS seeks to redefine education
Genna Mang dreams of being a special education teacher. She’s 16, bright, soft-spoken and loves animals. She learns differently, though, than most other kids.Continued ...
Downtown Kalkaska construction to start in Aug.
Kalkaska will soon be under construction as the village redesigns two blocks of Cedar Street, the four-lane road where drivers on M-72, M-66 and U.S. 131 roll through downtown.Continued ...
Kalkaska streetlights repurposed
The existing downtown Kalkaska won’t be lost forever once machines roll in to update the commercial district.Continued ...
Fred Goldenberg: Longevity economy drives growth
Current rhetoric on Capitol Hill and in the media contends there are too many “old” people, that we are a financial drain on society and, unless there are massive cuts and changes to our so-called entitlement programs (i.e. Social Security and Medicare), we will drag the country into ruins.Continued ...
- Friday, July 18, 2014
Futures File: Downed jet prompts increase in commodities
The crash of the Malaysia Airlines flight in Eastern Ukraine killed all 298 people aboard. Initial fears that the plane had been shot down were supported by intelligence agencies, sparking concerns the crash could signal a deepening of the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists.Continued ...
- UPDATE: YMCA officials remain optimistic on opening date