Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Give Me Diesel Or...

Back in the day, I rolled in a '92 Jeep Wrangler. It was fly yellow, with a black hardtop. I drove that truck for over five years, the longest stretch of any vehicle I ever owned. It was tragically taken from me by a drunk driver, who plowed into it at 2:00 on a Sunday morning while it was parked in front of my old house in Koreatown. It's a long story that involves seven crashed cars, a drunken illegal immigrant, a "Club" brand security device, and being handcuffed in the dirt by the L.A.P.D. Someday I'll tell you all about it.

Suffice it to say, I miss my Jeep. Designed for the rocks, it was paradoxically a great city car; short and high, with a tiny wheelbase for easy U-turns and parallel parking. But while I loved my yellow Wrangler of fury, I don't miss some things about it. The lousy build quality, the narrowness that meant that passengers were practically sitting in your lap, the kidney-crushing freeway ride, the useless back seat.

Jeep has worked on fixing those problems. The new Wrangler coming out in 2007 is wider and better built, with a much nicer ride. Best of all, Jeep has finally done something that they should have done years ago, a move that I have been waiting for them to make.

They've decided to offer it in four doors.

This is the first new vehicle in a long time that actually captures my imagination. The thing is, the Wrangler is essentially a vanity vehicle, a rolling catwalk with limited practicality. It looks great, but it is not an adult vehicle. The extra doors changes all that. It somehow makes the vehicle more "Land Rover" and less "High School". Now, the Wrangler is actually a vehicle you could carry something in, a vehicle that more then one passenger can ride in for a trip to the mountains, a vehicle that maintains all the things I loved about my Wrangler, while doing away with its toy-like shortcomings. It's just cool. It looks cool. It stands well. I can see driving this truck down to Laguna on a Sunday morning with my friends, up to Mammoth for a winters weekend. They're going to sell a million of them. My adversion to financing companies aside, I'd buy one in an instant.

If they just offered the goddamn diesel.

You see, I've made a promise to myself. The next vehicle I buy will be one that addresses the Gordian Knot of America's dependence on oil. I just can't bring myself to own another high-mileage gas burning vehicle. As much as I love trucks, sucking down an eighty dollar tank of gas, knowing what it does to our environment and our national security, has become morally untenable. I've stopped driving my Ram, and I'm trying to keep driving to a minimum even in my fuel-wise Cavalier. But like any car nut, I still want to roll in something cool.

Jeep has the answer. Right now, they are offering a four cylinder Common Rail Diesel engine. This powerplant, essentially designed for Europe, is currently available in the U.S. in only one Jeep, the incredibly bland Liberty. Jeep has announced that they are going to make this engine available in the Wrangler, complete with a manual transmission.

They are going to only sell it overseas.

If Jeep offered this vehicle here, I'd buy it. I can't really afford a new car, but I'd find a way. I'd work overtime for this kind of truck. I'd buy it, and I'd fill the tank with biodiesel, which my employer has been kind and decent enough to offer right here at the factory for employees. It would be my automotive wet dream; a rugged, great-looking, eco-friendly truck that I could drive with a clear conscious, without sacrificing any of the things I love in a vehicle. If Jeep actually did this, I can also promise that this truck would be the new darling of the urban enviro set. Fuck the Prius. Can you imagine how it would sell in Hollywood, an enviromentally responsible ride that actually made you look cool?

If anyone from DCX is listening, it's time for you guys to start niche marketing.

To me.


Blogger Grant Miller said...

That's a rather small niche. But ok.

11:38 AM  
Blogger rich nelson said...

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4:25 PM  
Anonymous MeinPassat said...

Large scale implementation of diesel will have to wait until they clean up diesel fuel in the US, as well as further development of a particle filter. There is a deadline (2007? 2008?) for reducing the sulfur content of diesel fuel, so that more diesel engines can meet emissions standards. In the meantime, my "SUV" is a turbocharged Passat wagon. I chipped the turbo so it puts out 215 hp at the wheels (a cat back conversion with larger intercooler would yield 225 or so), but I still get 35 mpg at 70 mph on the freeway, thanks to the fuel-sipping 1.8L engine. Some friends of mine in New Hampshire own a Jetta TDI wagon (for a daily commute to Boston) and get 45-48 mpg on the freeway. Sweet!

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now they're even thinking of an electric wrangler!


2:27 PM  

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