I am living in Italy right now so what a great way to arrive by train to Venezia Mestre station for what would be a fun-packed two-day event called Camp Jeep. I was handed over the keys to a white Grand Cherokee Overland model with a pre-programmed route to San Martino di Castrozza in the heart of the Italian dolomites where Camp Jeep 2019 would be held.
I have never driven a Jeep and was very curious as I see loads here in Italy. What is so special about Jeep?
This is the largest annual event in the Jeep Owners’ Group calender. Held from 12-14 July this event will attract more than 1,200 Jeep enthusiasts and will feature over 700 vehicles.
What an absolutely brilliant experience to be part of some terrifying 4WD adventures here in Italy. The off-road experience was the best I have been on for a very long time.
Grand Cherokee Overland
Driving out of Mestre it was mainly country dual carriage roads with quite a bit of traffic. The sun was out and I had the dual sunroof open. The Grand Cherokee Overland was easy to operate via the 8.4-inch central touch screen and via the steering wheel controls that were located on the front as well as at the back of the wheel. The 3.0 liter 237 bhp V6 Diesel was powerful enough for a car of this size and the 6-speed automatic gearbox handled the power smoothly via swift gear changes and propels this car in 7.9 secs from 0-60 mph.
The interior trim was dark brown coloured leathers and it gave the Grand Cherokee a luxury feel. The Harman Kardon Sound system sounded fantastic and with so much bass produced within the doors, I managed to get the side mirrors vibrating.
The final miles to San Martino di Castrozza was where I could test this car on the windy mountain roads. The overland comes with paddles and allowed for a manual override of the gearbox. However large turns are needed to get this car around hairpins and my hands lost touch of the paddles and this affected the overall driving experience. Wouldn’t recommend paddling on windy roads. But in saying that these Italians are crazy drivers at their best.
The Grand Cherokee Overland is also made for some decent offroading and different steering requirements are needed for that activity. For me, the paddles are more of a gimmick that will not be used much for this type of vehicle. Overall I was impressed with the quality and the ride and I hope to get a more detailed and longer review soon.
Camp Jeep and Jeep Gladiator Unveil
After the hotel check-in a rustic trend interior design and a quick sleep, we were whisked off to the terrain where Camp Jeep would be held. Here various old Jeep models were on display and there were various chill-out areas with massive Jeep branded pillows where enthusiastic Jeep owners could chill and talk Jeep. Which I thought was brilliant to learn about the history of Jeep.
A Jeep branded ferries wheel will provide some fun for the little ones coming along.
At Camp Jamp the Jeep Gladiator was unveiled to the European press in a show of loud music, steam, lights and wood. This 4wd pickup truck marks Jeeps return to this segment after 27 years. The Jeep Gladiator, which is based upon the successful Wrangler model, will be scheduled for Q2 2020 for the European market.
Were we entertained, yes we were!
The next day it was time for some serious offroading. I could drive the same 40 kilometres of off-road track and obstacle courses that were laid out for the Camp Jeep participants a few days later. I was going to test Jeep as we all knew best, offroading.
I started the day with the Wrangler Sahara and there was a special mild off-road trail for the Sahara and the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. Having never driven in a Wrangler I had to take off the roof and feel the open air. It was time to rip off the doors, windows, and anything you could think of. Almost anything can be taken off depending on the model, including the doors.
Operating a few swivels and soon the roof was packed in the back of the Wrangler Sahara. What amazed me whilst driving that although the exterior was classic and very boxy, the interior was modern, with a great central touchscreen and a powerful good sounding stereo. Yes the Wrangler interior is up to date with the latest trends. As for the exterior, there are hundreds of customisable options available via the Mopar branded accessories.
The track was not too challenging for the Wrangler Sahara, as there was no need to use the low gear option on the automatic gearbox.
Grand Cherokee Trialhawk – Obstacle Course.
I somehow missed the obstacle course laid out for the Wrangler Sahara and I returned with the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trialhawk. This 8-speed auto is the toughest and most off-road focused Grand Cherokee model out there. However on the obstacle course, there was only one challenge deemed Ok for this model, it was the wooden bridge with steep ramps. With low gearing on and the Quadra-Lift air suspension with the greatest ground clearance, I was ready to tackle the bridge. Luckily the automatic system makes it reasonably easy to tackle the steep ascend of this bridge, I would seriously burn some clutch if it was a manual model. The most difficult thing here was to keep the speed low whilst tackling the obstacle. I wish a had the Wrangler it would allow me to do some other obstacles.
Wrangler Rubicon – Serious Offroad Fun
I managed to squeeze in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, the king of the off-roading, for which there was a difficult off-road trail. I remember the start of the track and I thought how is this Wrangler ever going to go up there. The marshall just made sure that the Wrangler Rubicon was set in low gear ratio and off I went. The track was muddy and steep with 25 to 30% gradient and it felt like no effort at all for the Wrangler. This car can tackle some serious off-road conditions and I can see where the fun in owning a Jeep comes from. Unfortunately, I did not have the time to do the obstacle course in this car. Don’t worry I am in Italy and I keep you posted on my next adventure with this car.