A lot of thought and energy goes into an overland vehicle. Aside from cost, which is always a barrier, functionality has got to be high on the list of needs. After a huge amount of debate, we settled on the "new" Jeep Cherokee (KL) as our vehicle of choice. Here are some of the thoughts that went into making a decision
- Ride Comfort
- Ability On- and Off-road
- Towing Capacity
- Aesthetics In & Out
- Creature Comforts
- Cost of Ownership
Considering all our requirements, lets apply some of them to say an Unimog... First off, an Unimog is exponentially more expensive with huge amounts of ability that honestly can't be fully utilized in a normal world of parking structures, old dirt roads and tree covered remote camping. And spending hundreds of thousands of dollars we wouldn't have any money left for the journey.
Then there is Land Rover. Well any decent LR is going to cost considerably more, in the $80k-$100k range and I still don't have a place to sleep, nor rear or center lockers and the same ground clearance as the Trailhawk. Of course a Defender would be amazingly awesome, but I couldn't find a mechanic with all her teeth.
Wrangler and Grand Cherokee: Although you get a lot in a GC it's about $10k more than a similarly optioned Cherokee Trailhawk. A Wrangler is about $5k more than a KL Trailhawk with practically no storage, ride comfort is terrible for long travel and there are really no creature comforts beyond a padded roll bar. Sure there are endless overland/aftermarket options available, but this would end up costing thousands of dollars and I'd still not have the on-road feel a Cherokee provides.
Toyota offerings in the Land Cruiser end up costing a lot of money without adding much in the way of Off-road ability. Tacoma and Tundras are actual trucks and drive like trucks. Again, great vehicles, but not-so-great MPG, lacking in creature comforts, dated looks and missing technology.
So I settled on the new Cherokee, specifically the Trailhawk model. It has all the features, capabilities and comforts of each competitor, but at a more affordable price and with fewer compromises. Sure, there are a few bad points to the vehicle. One is the small(er) rear cargo area compared to a GC or LR4. It's ample for day-to-day, but after putting a 50l fridge/freezer, we've got about 20" x 28" of space left with the seats up.
Second, and most prevalent at the time of build-out, is the lack of a serious after-market. Great companies like GOBI, Front Runner and Raingler have storage options to say the least. But there isn't a lift kit yet (I want 1" for taller tires), beefier suspension (for the added weight) or front/rear bumper replacements. I know they'll come, until then we'll have to wait.
Finally is the range. The V6 is rated up to 25mpg and I've gotten over 30, but under tow we are averaging 18-ish. Coupled with a 15 gallon fuel tank, our range is limited to 250 miles. If I could only get my hands on a diesel Trailhawk they sell in EVERY OTHER COUNTRY I'd be set. 40-ish mpg and torque, torque, TORQUE.