What's in a name? Well, for Mark Johnson of Sanger, California, the "Altitude" name represents a free Jeep Grand Cherokee in his driveway. Jeep presented a "production-intent" version of its Grand Cherokee with a blacked-out exterior design theme at the Houston Auto Show last January and launched the Name My Ride campaign in which it invited the general public to help choose a name for the production model that would follow. (Similar blacked-out editions of the Patriot and Compass have also been created.) Mr. Johnson's submission was chosen as the best, and we agree that it's the perfect name for a Jeep trim level. Wish we'd thought of it. With it, Jeep has an attractive model that's above the base Laredo but a little more affordable than the Limited and much more affordable than the top-of-the-line Overland. Not that our tester, at $42K, is what one would call cheap. Unless I towed frequently, I'd save myself $1700 and choose the standard V-6 over this example's optional V-8 and get significantly better fuel economy in the bargain (16/23 mpg city/highway with the V-6 vs. 13/20 mpg with the V-8). In any case, it's good to see that Jeep is keeping the Grand Cherokee, which we very much like, fresh. Nice job, Jeep, and congratulations, Mark Johnson.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The Latitude's $42,200 list price is actually some $3000 less than the V-6-powered Overland that we had for a four seasons test, and I honestly couldn't think of anything I missed. Except, perhaps, that V-6. I'm usually happy to have more power, but the Grand Cherokee's relatively soft suspension doesn't seem to appreciate the Hemi's extra 300 pounds and 70 horsepower. It bounces around more than I remember and just feels less smooth and sophisticated. The rather touchy throttle surely doesn't help. The V-8's extra towing capability and muscular noise probably appeals to traditional Grand Cherokee buyers, but those who want a modern SUV would do better with the V-6.
David Zenlea, Associate Editor