Every June, Chrysler gives us a chance to get behind the wheel of the new model 4x4s coming out the following year. There is literally an entire fleet of Dodge, Jeep and Ram 4x4s to choose from and hot lap around closed courses on- and off-road in Chrysler’s Chelsea proving grounds. This year, we decided to pick our favorite trim levels and point out the notable and new features of each 2015 Dodge, Jeep and Ram 4x4 that we think are significant.
2015 Dodge Durango R/T
The Dodge Durango is totally underrated by most people. If you hate the idea of owning a minivan, but need the seats and storage space, the Durango is a top pick. Think of it as a minivan in wolves clothing. Of course it’s not something you would ever take on a hardcore trail ride, due to the lack of tow hooks and adequate ground clearance. However, the many comfort features, precise handling and big power from the optional 5.7L V-8 make it an extremely fun commuter car that can haul the family and tow up to a 7,400-pound trailer far better than any crossover SUV. Given a choice, we’d opt for the all-wheel-drive Durango RT. It’s sporty and fast yet still has a real transfer case with a low range. It’s perfect for the family that plays together outdoors, be it skiing, camping, boating, fishing or hunting. New for 2015 is the Blacktop edition (pictured). It’s essentially an RT with black wheels and trim bits.
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2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk
While we were not allowed to get behind the wheel of the all-new Jeep Renegade just yet, we did appreciate the design and some of the features. We wouldn’t even consider owning anything but the Trailhawk model (pictured), however it will never be accepted as a hard-core trail rig. Interestingly enough, it has more off-road features than many of the 4x4s that are more highly praised, including real tow hooks, a 20:1 crawl ratio, and aggressive tires. If you want a lift kit, winch and monster rolling stock, the Renegade is not for you. If you need a small fuel-efficient commuter vehicle that you can easily park in the city, but need four-wheel-drive capability to get you to the cabin on the weekend, then the Jeep Renegade starts to make sense. We’ll get a better idea for how this new Jeep actually performs and report on it soon.
2015 Jeep Wrangler
Sorry four-door fans, we get that you want to fit the whole family and all of your camping gear in your monstrous recreational commuter 4x4, but a Wrangler just isn’t a Wrangler unless it’s a two-door. We love the more compact size, handling and maneuverability of the shorter wheelbase. With a new redesigned Wrangler set to hit the dealer lot in a couple years, we wouldn’t have expected to see many changes for 2015. However, as Jeep has done in the past, the company continues to refine and tweak one of our favorite 4x4s. Fresh colors, improved stereo options and a top removal tool kit are but a few of the new additions. One thing we noticed was the new subwoofer box that is now hidden in the under-carpet trunk area, instead of filling the cargo area. The Rubicon package seems to garner the most attention from the off-road crowd, and it continues for 2015. But dollar for dollar it’s hard to beat the Sport model. Several limited-edition Wrangler models will be available for 2015 including the Rubicon Hard Rock, Willys Wheeler (pictured) and Freedom trim packages.
2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
Most die-hard enthusiasts don’t consider the current Jeep Cherokee a real off-road vehicle. However, the truth is that there is no vehicle in the class that even competes with the off-road capability of the Cherokee Trailhawk. With an available selectable locker, 56:1 crawl ratio, up to 31 mpg and up to 4,500 pounds of towing capacity, the Cherokee will literally drive circles around any similar SUV both on- and off-road. Just as with the new Jeep Renegade, we wouldn’t consider owning anything but the Trailhawk trimmed Cherokee. Forget about lift kits and other mechanical modifications, this Jeep is built to compete in the crossover SUV market. For 2015 the Cherokee receives a newly enhanced interior and many new safety features including Forward Collision Warning Plus, blind-spot monitoring and rear Cross-Path Detection, ParkSense rear park assist and signal mirrors with courtesy lamps.
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
You’re right, it’s not a true 4x4 and it doesn’t even have a low range, but the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is the sports car that all Jeep and SUV owners should aspire to own. For 2015 the 6.4L Hemi V-8 in the SRT Grand gets more horsepower and torque to the tune 475hp and 470 lb-ft. This gives the sporty Grand a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds, a quarter mile time in mid-13 second range, and a top speed of 160 mph, making it the best performing Jeep SRT vehicle ever built. Towing capacity has improved 44 percent over the previous model, for up to 7,200 pounds. Several new electronic features can be found inside as well as new Active Noise Cancelling technology providing more in-cabin refinement. A new Red Vapor special-edition package brings unique interior and exterior content to our favorite Grand.
2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
Of all the pickup trucks available today, the Ram 1500 3.0L EcoDiesel is the truck our friends ask us about the most. With up to 28 mpg and a tow capacity of up to 9,200 pounds it’s easy to understand why. This V-6 diesel fuel miser returns for 2015 with a price of $2,850 greater than a similarly equipped Ram 1500 with a 5.7L Hemi V-8 and TorqueFlite eight-speed transmission. It’s important to keep in mind that if you are looking for maximum towing capacity and pulling performance, this is not the truck for you. You should be looking at the Ram 1500 with the legendary 5.7L Hemi V-8 with fuel-saving cylinder shut-off and VVT providing 395hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. The EcoDiesel is better suited for those looking for the best fuel economy in the ½-ton truck segment. Some hypermilers are reaching near 40 mpg with ultra carful driving.
2015 Ram Power Wagon
Was there any doubt that we would choose the ‘15 Power Wagon as the Ram 2500 we’d most want to own? Of course not. The Power Wagon returns for 2015 with its standard 6.4L Hemi V-8 pumping out 410hp and 429 lb-ft of torque, coil-link front and rear suspension, dual lockers, a real Warn winch, an electronic sway bar disconnect and aggressive off-road worthy tires. It’s a great choice if you can only own only one truck that has to work during the week and play on the weekend. New for 2015 on the Power Wagon is hill descent control among other things. Because the Power Wagon is available in the Tradesman, SLT and Laramie trim levels, there are accoutrements that fit the needs of nearly everyone. And what’s not to love about the unsurpassed powertrain warranty of five years/100,000 miles.
2015 Ram 3500 6.7L Cummins
You probably should be eyeballing the ’15 Ram 3500 if ultimate towing and hauling capacity is your cup of tea. The truck features a best-in-class SAE J2807 compliant tow capacity of up to 30,000 pounds and a payload capacity of up to 7,390 pounds when properly outfitted. The Ram 3500 is currently the only 1-ton available with a manual transmission for those of you keeping track. If we were into heavy hauling we’d opt for the spendy 6.7L Cummins inline-six twisting 865 lb-ft of trailer-hauling torque, the factory supplemental air suspension system, the integrated gooseneck/fifth wheel hitch mount and depending on how dirty we planned to get, maybe the new for 2015 optional Ram Work Grade vinyl seats for easy cleaning. Other new features include power folding mirrors and more content in the configurable vehicle information center with a 7-inch multiview display.