Sunday, March 1, 2015

2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk vs. 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek: A side-by-side comparison.

2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk vs. 2015  Subaru XV Crosstrek: A side-by-side comparison.

Grasp your pitchforks and light those torches because neither of these vehicles has solid axles or body on frame construction. But that’s ok. What they lack in common with horse drawn buggies they make up for in computer aided traction systems that are filled with magic only electrical engineers can explain. To the rest of us, this means increased forward propulsion with far fewer cracks of the whip.

The 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk and the 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek may not find themselves on everyone’s “Ultimate Expedition Vehicle of All Time” list, but in today’s terms both choices are surprisingly capable. To find out why, let’s start with the Subaru.

Paired with a respectable 8.7” of ground clearance the XV Crosstrek takes full advantage of Subaru’s decades of all wheel drive experience. A double wishbone suspension provides a comfortable and responsive suspension system for twisty paved roads such as Tail of the Dragon or the rough, 62 mile corrugated Hole in the Rock Road.

Subaru’s former Chief Designer of Advance Design, Andreas Zapatinas once said of the company that “"innovation, courage and individuality"” would typify the designs of future Subaru vehicles”. It’s not clear whether he was talking technology or bright colors setting the brand apart, but the list of gadgets available for the XV Crosstrek is impressive –especially considering the low cost. Eyesight Driver Assist Technology, adaptive cruise control, 7” inch touch screen voice activated sat/nav, all help the driver to safely keep on track. Long legged drivers, including myself, are sure to appreciate the telescopic steering column. Subaru owners may have a bit more experience with techno gadgets, but under Fiat’s direction, Jeep has made leaps and bounds in this category.

 In a not too distant past, Jeep owners were excited to find cruise control or air conditioning as options. Now, it seems there is enough technology in the brand to rival NASA. The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk benefits greatly from these vast improvements. A twist of a knob here, a push of a button there and you will find yourself safely traversing several grades of terrain. True, older Jeeps could also cover the same terrain, but with a much more involved driver white knuckling the controls. If there are teen drivers in your household, then the parallel / perpendicular park assist function may give you piece of mind. Another improvement drivers will come to appreciate is the amount of thoughtful storage Jeep has integrated into the Cherokee. My favorite is the under seat-cushion storage panel –Dominic Torreto would approve. Another welcome gadget is the selectable rear locker -this may be the single most important feature of this vehicle.

Jeep Cherokee under seat storage bin. A great place to store either recovery gear or extra tanks of Nitrous Oxide.


    Landrover-esque terrain knob.
  • Base Price – $30,090
  • Engine –
  • 2.4l 4 cylinder “Tigershark”
  • 184hp @ 6250 rpm; 171 lb ft torque @ 4800 rpm
  • Optional Engine –
  • 3.2l V6“Pentastar”
  • 271hp @ 6500 rpm; 239 ft lb torque @4400 rpm
  • Fuel Economy (MPG) – 19 city/25 highway (4 cylinder, 4WD model)
  • Fuel Capacity – 15.8 gal
  • Max Range – 395 miles (4 cylinder model)
  • Transmission/transaxle – 9 speed automatic
  • Vehicle Curb Weight – 4044 lbs
  • Exterior Dimensions:
  • Overall Length – 15’ 2”
  • Overall Width – 74.9”
  • Overall Height – 67.8”
  • Wheelbase – 106.3”
  • Track Width – 62”
  • Ground Clearance – 8.7”
  • Approach Angle – 29.9*
  • Departure Angle – 32.2* 
  • Max Cargo Capacity – 54.9 cubic feet
  • Brakes – Front: 13” /Rear: 12.6”
  • Steering – 37.6’ turning diameter
  • Tires – P245/65 R17 OWL All Terrain
  • Suspension – multilink
  • Locking Differential – Rear only


  • Base Price – $21,595
  • Engine –
  • 2.0l horizontally opposed “boxer” 4 cylinder
  • 148hp @ 6200 rpm; 145 fl lb torque @ 4200 rpm
  • Fuel Economy (MPG)– 26 city/34 highway
  • Fuel Capacity – 15.9 gal
  • Max Range – 541 miles
  • Transmission/transaxle – CVT (AWD)
  • Vehicle Curb Weight – 3098 lbs
  • Exterior Dimensions:
  • Overall Length – 14’ 7.2”
  • Overall Width – 70.1”
  • Overall Height – 63.6”
  • Wheelbase – 103.7”
  • Track Width – 60”
  • Ground Clearance – 8.7”
  • Approach Angle – 18.0*
  • Departure Angle – 27.7*
  • Max Cargo Capacity – 51.9 cubic feet
  • Brakes – Front: 11.6”  / Rear: 10.8”
  • Steering – 34.8’ turning radius
  • Tires – 225/55 R17 95H all-season
  • Suspension – double wishbone front and rear
  • Locking Differential – NA


  • Superior approach and departure angles.
  • More towing capacity.
  • More powerful 4-cylinder engine and even more powerful 6-cylinder option.
  • Slightly larger cargo area.
  • Thoughtful small item storage.
  • Selectable rear locker.

  • Fuel economy and range.
  • Turning radius.
  • Much lighter curb weight than the Jeep.
  • Low foot threshold makes getting in easier for smaller drivers.
  • Optional six-speed manual transmission.


  • High purchase price.
  • Poor fuel economy.
  • Wrangler and XJ owners won’t recognize you as a “real” Jeep owner.
  • Exterior design lacks imagination.
The Cherokee suffers from an abysmal fuel economy of  19/25 mpg.

  • Poor approach and departure angles.
  • It’s still a wagon –sorry Subaru.
  • CVT transmissions inherently degrade driving enjoyment.
  • Poor acceleration.
  • Underpowered engine.
  • Strange sounding name.
At 148 hp and 145 lb/ft of torque, the iconic Subaru boxer engine may struggle to keep up with traffic when loaded down with gear.


A few bones to pick: With all of the technology available today, there is no excuse for the XV Crosstrek’s lack of power. Subaru could have used a turbocharger to maintain it’s impressive fuel economy while providing more power when needed.  The Trailhawk is an extremely complex vehicle. As we all know, complexity can have dire effects on long-term reliability. Jeep continues to struggle with fuel economy. Even compact vehicles such as the Trailhawk receive abysmal mpg ratings. With that out of the way, both manufacturers have done a remarkable job of turning what could have been very benign offerings into well-rounded, surprisingly capable platforms. If you asked me ten years ago if a “cute-ute” or station wagon could be even half as capable as these two the answer would have been a shortsighted “no”.

Though neither vehicle will bring you high praise from the overlanding elite, both are worthy of serious consideration as adventure mobiles. There are certainly a fair amount of well respected vehicles out there that are nowhere near as comfortable or capable. Perhaps it is time to rethink what it means to be an adventure mobile.

Even in such a beautiful rugged setting, the Cherokee struggles with its outward appearance.

Most of the colors are highly subjective, but overall, this is such a great looking vehicle.

Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van: Improvements for 2015 featured on Expedition Portal

Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van: Improvements for 2015

[This article originally appeared on Expedition Portal.]

The Mercedes Benz (MB) Sprinter van is an albatross of a vehicle. Not only is it extremely long (the 170” wheel base model is 24’ 1.2”) it’s also extremely tall at a slight tic over eight feet (8.03 ft) -for the High Roof model.  Just to put that into perspective, the van is as tall as the ARB 2500 awning is wide. So who cares? We already know this is, and it’s the same as it was last year. Well, as one could imagine, a vehicle of this immensity is prone to scary and dangerous lane changes with even the slightest gust of wind. New for 2015, MB introduces their proprietary Crosswind Assist. Using the vehicle’s Load Adaptive Electronic Stability Program to modulate the brakes individually, the Sprinter aids the driver in steadying the helm at speeds above 50mph (81km). What this means for the driver is greater vehicle control and an increased margin of safety over previous models. All this technology works towards making this behemoth appear smaller from behind the wheel. Not only is the new Sprinter van safer, it is also much more capable.

The 2015 MB Sprinter 4x4 on the factory proving grounds.
Safety 3rd

Also new for the 2015 North American market is a four-wheel drive option. That’s right, a four-wheel drive, diesel, Mercedes Benz van for North America. With two additional drive wheels (additional cost, $6500 USD) buyers now have the option of a push button, low-range transfer case (additional cost, $300 USD) providing a 42% crawl ratio reduction. OK, so, no doubt everyone is thinking: how capable can something like this be? In a word: very.
In the small town of Ladson, SC, where all of the Sprinter vans are produced for the North American market, lies a small off road test track. Peppered with strategically placed ruts, hills and off camber portions, drivers can test the computer controlled traction aids as well as the increased suspension ride height (+4.3” front, +3.1” rear). 

The 2015 Sprinter is a bargain at just under $45,000 USD. It’s only a matter of time before camper versions begin to appear on your favorite trails and back roads. Expect to see some interesting conversions showing up in increasing numbers to events like Overland Expo very soon.

I don’t know about you, but I for one am excited to see what the community does with these.

Specifications: Via
  • Diesel engine
  • 6-cylinder, V 72*
  • 4 valves per cylinder
  • Displacement: 2987cc
  • 188 hp at 3,800 rpm
  • Rated torque: 325 lb-ft at 1,400-2,400 rpm
  • 5 speed automatic
  • Fuel Type: Ultra-low-sulfur diesel
  • Tank Capacity 26.4 gallons
  • Electronically controlled direct injection with common rail
  • Turbocharger and intercooler function
  • Battery 12V/100Ah, alternator 14V/220A

The large van does incredibly well maintaining forward progress even with one wheel lifted completely off of the ground –something that would leave two wheel drive versions in need of recovery.

Introducing Overland Essentials

Toyota Hilux camper from Holland spotted near Moab, Utah.

Overland Essentials is a spin-off of our adventure blog which highlights our travels, camping trips, and other events. Here you will find reviews of products, vehicles, and literature covering everything you need to have a safe, comfortable and enjoyable adventure.

Brandon Libby
Overland Essentials