Posted by mike on 2006/8/16 13:24:12 (1285) reads
(submitted by ScramblerKen)
I recently got back from Camp Jeep 2006, and if you were one of the many attendees, you know what great family fun these can be. Just to make it clear, I do not work for Jeep, nor am I involved with the auto industry in any way. I'm just an 'average Joe' like most of you.
If you never have been to a Camp Jeep, you are missing out on a truly remarkable experience. For 12 years, Jeep has sponsored these events, and for a modest fee (around $350) you get full access to the event. You must be a Jeep owner, but this is not restricted to just new owners, as it is open to all Jeep owners. If you are just looking for trail rides, this is NOT the event to go to, instead look for Jeep Jamborees or other off-road clubs.
Since you are already a Jeep owner, you don't get hit with big sales pitches. Instead, Jeep uses this event to help educate some of the best Jeep sales people, you and me. If you think about it, who knows more about Jeeps and influences others to buys Jeep than current Jeep owners. I think Jeep is pretty smart in doing this.
The other great things is Jeep gives us a chance to play with the latest new 'toys', have face to face talks with the guys and gals that designed are favorite toys, and give us a chance to explore non-Jeep fun as well. I've been to 3 Camp Jeep events over the years, and each one has had different and unique experiences. This year was no exception.
When Jeep announced the SRT version of the Grand Cherokee, I thought this was one of the dumbest ideas. What the 'heck' was Jeep wasting money on building a 'race car' version of the Grand Cherokee. Jeep is about off-roading right?
Since Camp Jeep was held at Road America, we had access to the race track. Those clever guys at Jeep decided to take advantage of this and show off what the SRT Grand Cherokee can really do. Road America's race track is
not just some boring oval track either.
Initially, they had planned to just give us a ride in the vehicle. I've been to various Auto Shows, and Chrysler sets up mini courses to show off what their SRTs can do. Nice, but not all that exciting. I thought this was going to be something like that, but I signed up anyway.
Shortly before Camp Jeep, I get a call saying they were changing the SRT thrill ride. They now asked if I would like to drive the vehicle instead. I thought what the heck, sounds like fun.
When we got in line for our turn, we noticed a long list of rules, and we had to wear safety helmets. I quickly realized this was not just a simple little course they set up, but instead they were going to let us drive the 4-mile Road America course. They set up two groups of four vehicles per heat. The first group was behind a pace car, and you were not allowed to pass up anyone, including the pace car. A second wave followed later. You basically were not supposed to go above 60MPH, but I know many of us did.
It was so bizarre to smoke the tires of a Grand Cherokee and accelerate from 0-60 in less than 5 seconds. I have to admit, zooming around a race track on one of these toys was pretty cool.
If you still did not get enough of this, they also offered rides in the vehicle with a professional driver showing off the speed and handling of this beast at over 130MPH. I was amazed to see how fast these guys could race each other in Grand Cherokees. You could tell these professionals were having a blast zooming around and taking the curves at speeds us normal folk would not even consider.
Now that I think about it, Jeep created one of the only practical muscle cars. You basically have a vehicle that can go 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, but also hit light trails or deal with bad weather and still carry a decent amount of luggage. Let's face it; the Grand is the 'cousin' to the true off-road Wranglers, so most of us are not really going to take a Grand on serious trails. My wife and I joked around about this, but if you think about it, you buy one of these bad boys to be your tow vehicle for your elaborate off-road Wrangler, and you can cruise around town in style and zip pass everyone on the highways.
Personally, I want to thank Jeep for giving us such a fun time. I no longer think an SRT version of the Grand is so dumb. I wish I had the $40K to buy one of these.
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