2014 SUBARU FORESTER
Our first finalist is the recent winner of our compact crossover shoot-out, the 2014 Subaru Forester. Subaru has been sticking to a winning formula for decades now when it comes to the compact Forester. Create a boxy, practical shape, add a terrific all-wheel drive system and offer the choice of naturally aspirated and turbocharged four cylinder engine choices.
The Forester’s square shape leads to great sightlines all-around and the driver sits up high with a clear view of the road ahead. Ride comfort and NVH are great for this class and the amount of technology, like the Eye Sight system pedestrian detection system and Harman Kardon audio unit, are unexpected at this price point. Inside, however, there are signs of cheapness like a radio and heated seat buttons that look like after thoughts and a few materials that are a bit down market for a $30,000 vehicle.
The new CVT with the base engine provides seamless operation and avoids any hanging rpms. The Forester is an incredibly easy to drive vehicle that is not only practical, but also sips fuel like a compact car. In fact, it was the most fuel efficient compact crossover in our shootout. Unfortunately, this is not enough to win our 2014 Utility Vehicle of the Year Award.
- PRICE RANGE: $21,995 – $32,995
- ENGINES: 2.4 L four-cylinder, 170 hp, 2.0 L turbocharged four-cylinder, 250hp
- TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, CVT
- FUEL ECONOMY (CVT): 24 MPG city / 32 MPG highway
2014 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE
Our second finalist is the heavily revised 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. One of the few true SUVs released this year, the Grand Cherokee continues to offer a balance between luxury and rugged off-road capability. In fact, we found the interior of the Grand Cherokee to be nicer than those found in some more expensive luxury crossovers.
All models now come equipped with a new eight-speed automatic transmission that helps improve acceleration and fuel economy. All-wheel drive is also standard and under the hood there are four engines to choose from including the amazingly efficient 30 MPG EcoDiesel and the ludicrous 470 hp SRT model.
Perhaps more than even utility the Grand Cherokee offers customers choice. Unfortunately choice comes at a cost. With entry level models starting at under $30,000 the top-trim stickers for more than double that.
The outside features revised front and rear styling including nicely sculpted LED lighting. The interior is also much improved with a new 8.4-inch touch screen featuring Chrysler’s amazingly easy to use Uconnect system as well as a 7-inch screen for the main dash gauge.
As much as the Grand Cherokee has improved for 2014, there are some refinement issues with the drivetrain, it still drives a lot more like a truck than most consumers are likely to want and, as mentioned, it can get rather pricey. Although it is a solid refresh, it is still not enough to win our 2014 Utility Vehicle of the Year award.
- PRICE RANGE: $28,995 – $63,660
- ENGINES: 3.6L v6 290 HP, 3.0 L Turbo-Diesel 240 HP, 5.7 L V8 360 HP, 6.4L V8 470 HP
- TRANSMISSION: Eight-Speed Automatic
- FUEL ECONOMY (RWD DIESEL): 22 MPG city /30 MPG highway