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Jeep, Buick have much to offer SUV fans

By Roy J. Eaton | Published Saturday, April 5, 2014

If tradition counts, as the first blossoms of spring begin to appear, new car fever begins to rise for many Wise County residents.

If your Suburban, Tahoe or Expedition has gotten “too big” for your daily use, then we have some suggestions for you. For the past several weeks we’ve had the opportunity to drive two great entries in what might be called the “mid-size” sport utility market – the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Buick Enclave.

Mid Size SUVs

MID-SIZE SUVS – The Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Buick Enclave are targeting a similar market. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

Bottom line, they’re both great vehicles.

While designed for a similar market, the Buick and the Jeep are different in many ways. Both come standard with 3.6 liter V-6 engines with similar horsepower. The Jeep has an eight-speed automatic transmission while the Enclave settles in with a six-speed automatic. Both have identical combined highway mileage of 19 miles-per-gallon.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the Enclave is a front-wheel drive vehicle while the Jeep has rear-wheel drive. The Jeep is also available in a variety of four-wheel drive packages while the Buick has an all-wheel drive option.

Another significant difference for the person “trading down” from a larger SUV is the Buick has a third row seat while the Jeep has only two. The Dodge Durango, very similar to the Jeep, does offer third-row seating. We had a Durango last year, and it was a very good vehicle.

The big advantage of vehicles like the Jeep and the Enclave is their higher seating position – not quite as high as the Suburban/Expedition but significantly more comfortable than many sedans where you feel like you have to fold yourself in half to get inside.

Behind the wheel, both vehicles are excellent with great handling and lots of performance. Having driven Suburbans and Expeditions for years, I really noticed how peppy both these vehicles are compared to the larger SUVs.

Our Jeep and Enclave have significantly different trim levels, which makes it difficult to compare the inside of the vehicles. Our Jeep is the basic Laredo model with a list price of $34,485 while the Buick is the top-of-of-the-line Premium model with a list price of $49,895 – a $15,000 difference.

But it’s not fair to stop there. My co-worker Joe Duty just bought a new top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee Limited, and the window sticker is much closer to the Enclave. Because price is a significant factor for many buyers, the Jeep Laredo is competitively priced with the Chevrolet Traverse LS, essentially the same vehicle as the Buick Enclave with fewer “bells and whistles.”

Another possibility, and one that Joe chose, was V-8 power for the Grand Cherokee – an engine that General Motors does not offer in the Enclave or any of its mid-size sport utilities. Jeep also offers a V-6 diesel engine for the Grand Cherokee.

Although we haven’t driven one for a while, the Ford Explorer is the top seller in this field and is priced competitively with the GM and Chrysler sport utilities. Another possibility from Ford, if you want only two seats, is the Edge. We also have a top-line Edge Limited in our Messenger fleet with a window sticker of $42,020.

Ford has gotten lots of criticism for its “My Ford Touch” electronic system, and my co-worker Mark Jordan, who drives the Edge, says the system is troublesome in his vehicle. That is not the case with the navigation system on the Buick Enclave. It accepted my iPhone connection quickly and has worked flawlessly.

While our Jeep Laredo doesn’t have a navigation system, the radio and telephone interface works seamlessly without any problems. Both have satellite radios.

I’m glad I don’t have to decide which one of these vehicles to buy. They both have features that are worth your taking the time to test drive before you buy one or the other. The Buick carries seven, and the Jeep makes five comfortable. I’d throw in the Dodge Durango and the Ford Explorer in my test drive, but make sure you’re comfortable with the electronics in the Ford. That should not be an issue with either the Buick, Durango or the Jeep.

So the next pretty spring day, if you’re thinking about a new SUV, drop by one of Decatur’s dealers and take a test drive or two. I think you’re going to like what you find.

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