An invitation to hubris, and a warning against it
There was a downpour replete with thunder and lightning. It was angry weather, frightening in intensity and wind speed. I was tempted to plow through the hostile climate, man and machine against nature. But the 8.4-inch Uconnect screen was carrying an emergency weather warning including flood alerts formy driving area.
I laughed at myself. Idiot! This is how so many people wind up being rescued on the evening news, if they are lucky, driving when they should be parked, betting that their four-wheel-drive vehicles are mightier than the Almighty, venturing into water of uncertain depth and flow force because, after all, “I’m driving a Jeep.”
I was driving a Jeep— the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4x4. The Trailhawk is what I call “Jeep Heavy,” equipped with a bona fide off-road-drive system, especially designed to rumble in the rough. In fair weather and on paved roads, I felt invincible in the Trailhawk. Off-road, that is, in limited off-road runs, and in foul weather, I felt daring— that is, stupid.
I thank Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, maker of all things Jeep, for anticipating my self-destructive hubris. The Uconnect screen’s flood warnings were clear, in paraphrased summary: Youmight want to reconsider driving in this direction. Floodwaters can be deep . . . and swift. You have one heck of a capable sportutility vehicle, but you seriously might want to reconsider what you are about to do.
I reconsidered and found a parking spot on a Northern Virginia hill I estimated to be safely above flood level. I parked and waited for the storm to pass.
I probably could have continued forward in the midst of the storm without incident. I was in a Jeep Trailhawk 4x4, after all, one of the heaviest of the “Jeep Heavy” class. But pride is a funny thing. It would’ve been a more exciting automotive review to be able to write that I mastered nature’s fury with tough driving in a tough Jeep Trailhawk. But I feared that God might reward my ego with a postmortem headline in The Washington Post: “Columnist Warren Brown swept away in flash flood; authorities looking for body in a Jeep.”
Embarrassing! And I don’t like being embarrassed, especially not inmy absence when I’mnot around to offer a defense, or, at least, an explanation however implausible.
Besides, the Uconnect emergency information system gave me fair warning. I remembered that joke about a man atop his roof, hopelessly trapped by rapidly rising flood waters. “Oh, God,” he pleaded, “please save me!” To which God responded: “I told you to leave earlier. Why didn’t you listen?”
To which the trapped supplicant replied: “I didn’t think you were serious.”
To which God replied: “Well, do you think I’m serious, now?”
Nope, there would be enough soggy, safer roads, muddy and paved, to examine the Trailhawk’s prowess after the storm. It is a remarkable compact SUV, especially equipped with Fiat Chrysler’s optional 3.2-liter V-6 gasoline engine (271 horsepower, 239 pound-feet of torque).
That engine, linked to a nine-speed— that’s right, nine-speed— automatic transmission, is one of the best available in the compact-SUV class. It pulls with surprising ease and grace and reasonable fuel efficiency, 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the highway.
But if you are looking at the Trailhawk, make sure you are looking at that 3.2-liter V-6. The Jeep Cherokee comes standard with a 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder gasoline engine (184 horsepower, 171 pound-feet of torque). It is more fuel-efficient than the V-6 (delivering 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway). But that fourcylinder engine is a disconcerting wimp in the Trailhawk. Get the V-6.
I enjoyed my time in this one in weather fair and foul. It was a good drive companion on wet and muddy roads. It moved with confidence on high-speed highways. It is a genuine Jeep.