Grand Cherokee wins winter, POV awards; Ford, GM collaborate

The folks at Jeep advertise the present generation of the Grand Cherokee as the “most awarded SUV ever.”

Now it appears that they’re going to need an even bigger trophy case at Chrysler’s Auburn Hills, MI, headquarters because the present generation Grand Cherokee, nearing the end of its third year on the market, has won two more significant awards.

• Last month, it was named Winter Car of the Year for the third straight year by the New England Motor Press Association.

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• Last week, it was named Previously Owned Vehicle of theYear by Acton-based Wheels TV (more on this below).

That means that the Grand Cherokee will be getting both a new- and used-car award when the presentations are made at NEMPA’s annual banquet on May 9 at MIT.

To be eligible for the previously owned vehicle award, a model needs to have been on the market for two years.

Don’t be surprised if the Grand Cherokee is back in consideration again next winter because, for 2014, Jeep is adding a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 that will return an estimated 30 miles per gallon, expand the driving range to 730 miles, and increase towing capability to 7,400 pounds.

In addition, an eight-speed automatic transmission will improve fuel economy with all engines and offer a lower crawl ratio for the Grand Cherokee’s off-road capabilities.

Chrysler officials say Grand Cherokee’s market share has risen significantly in New England since the present generation—the one that has won the three consecutive Winter Car of the Year awards—was introduced in 2010. Sales nearly doubled in the two years from 2010-2012 and the brand overall is up 71 percent in that time frame.

Grand Cherokee is Jeep’s top-selling model, having sold nearly five million units since its introduction in 1992. It had record sales of 220,000 globally in 2012.

The award will be presented at NEMPA’s annual banquet on May9at MIT. Other best-in-class winter car awards went to:

BMW X1 - Premium Compact SUV/Crossover

Buick LaCrosse AWD—All-Weather Sedan/ Wagon ($25,000–$40,000)

Cadillac ATS 4—Premium All-Weather Sedan/ Wagon

Ford Explorer Sport—SUV/Crossover $40,000–$60,000

Ford Raptor—Extreme Vehicle

Hyundai Santa Fe—SUV/Crossover Under $28,000

Infiniti QX56—Luxury SUV/Crossover

Jaguar XF AWD - Luxury All-Weather Sedan/ Wagon (tie)

Lexus LS460 AWD—Luxury All-Weather Sedan/Wagon (tie)

Nissan Pathfinder—SUV/Crossover over $28,000

Porsche 911 Carrera 4—All-Weather Sports Car

Ram 1500 4x4—All-Weather Pickup Truck

Subaru Impreza - All-Weather Sedan/Wagon under $25,000

Volkswagen Touareg TDI—Alternative fuel/ hybrid SUV or Crossover

A Ford-GM Joint Venture

General Motors and Ford are collaborating to develop next-generation, 9- and 10-speed automatic transmissions.

It’s the third time the companies have worked together on transmissions in the past decade. Today, more than eight million six-speed automatics are on the road as a result of past collaboration.Today’s six-speed front-wheel-drive transmissions are in Ford’s Fusion, Edge, Escape, and Explorer. GM uses them in the Malibu, Traverse, Equinox, and Cruze.

The next-gen transmissions will be built for both front- and rear-wheel-drive models with the goal of improving both performance and fuel economy.

“Engineering teams already have started initial design work,” says Jim Lanzon, GM vice president of global transmission engineering.

“The goal is to keep hardware identical, maximize parts commonality, and give both companies economy of scale,” says Craig Renneker, Ford’s chief of transmission and driveline component engineering. “However, we will each use our own control software to ensure that each transmission is matched to the individual brand-specific vehicle.”

Big Wheel Award

The Wheels TV previously owned vehicle award is a giant antique steering wheel on a large trophy base, a design originated by CEO Jim Barisano when the award was inaugurated in 2010. Past winners were the 2007 Toyota Camry (2010), 2006–2009 Ford Fusion (2011), and 2007–2010 Chevrolet Silverado (2012).

This year’s finalists and overall winner were selected by a panel of WheelsTV analysts and members of the New England Motor Press Association.

Nominations were taken from the floor in eight categories, followed byadiscussion of the merits of the vehicles in question and voting for category winners.

Final voting was among these category winners: Toyota Prius (green vehicle), Grand Cherokee (SUV),Subaru Forester (crossover), Toyota Corolla (small vehicle), Chevrolet Corvette (sporty car), Audi A8/S8 (luxury car), Ram 1500 (light truck), and Honda Odyssey (family vehicle).

Save 1M Gallons of Gas

The US General Services Administration (GSA) plans to expand the number of hybrid vehicles in the federal fleet by up to 10,000 vehicles, saving approximately a million gallons of fuel per year over the vehicles’lifespans.

That brings up two thoughts:

1. Hybrid cabs seem to be holding up in service and saving owners/drivers money for fuel costs and repairs.

2. Hybrids aren’t just for economy. The extra electric-motor torque can be designed for amazing performance.

Etc.

Those yellow “Check Twice, Save a Life— Motorcycles are Everywhere” signs are out on lawns and fences as the motorcycle season gets under way. The Massachusetts Motorcyclists Survivors Fund is co-sponsoring its annual inspection nights and cookouts (‘Sticca Nights’) at Seacoast Cycles in Newbury (May 15) and Cycles 128 in Beverly (May 22) … Event of the Week: Formula Hybrid, a collegiate competition for collegians to design, build, and compete in high-performance hybrid and electric vehicles continues tomorrow through Thursday at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, NH.