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Two SUVs avoid typical family-friendly focus

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee cropped for webThe 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a midsize SUV that blends off-road capability and on-road luxury. COURTESY PHOTO  While sport utility vehicles were once designed to focus on off-road capabilities, Most of today's market-leading SUVs and crossovers are built as family cars that tend to prioritize the more everyday qualities of interior volume, gas mileage and value for the money.
Such vehicles often look and feel as dull as that description sounds. While the Honda Pilot, for instance, is often a terrific family car, such smooth, quiet, spacious minivan-like family-haulers offers little verve or personality to attract someone without plans to shuttle a carload of kids.
But a few larger SUVs – the midsize Jeep Grand Cherokee and the full-size Chevrolet Tahoe – manage an appeal that transcends the norms of their market segments.
Neither stands out as a family car. While both are decently spacious, to be sure, they’re far from the market leaders in that regard.
But the Tahoe and Grand Cherokee make up for those deficiencies by boasting uncommon levels of heavy-duty capability with the looks to match.

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Fiat and Jeep offer distinctive crossover flavors

2017 Fiat 500X cropped for webThe 2017 Fiat 500X looks sportier than the Jeep Renegade, but the Jeep has more interior space. COURTESY PHOTOYou'd never guess from looking at them, but the tested 2017 Fiat 500X and 2017 Jeep Renegade have more in common than their boldly orange paint jobs. Hidden below carefully distinctive styling — both brands pile on heaps of their respective flavors — these two subcompact crossovers are fundamentally identical.
The unexpected relationship between the curvy, retro Fiat and the assertively boxy Jeep stems from the merger between Fiat and Jeep's owner, Chrysler. The two models ride upon a Fiat-designed platform and are powered by Fiat-designed four-cylinder engines.
Their mechanical relationship ensures that they share many strengths and weaknesses, even as they offer decidedly different flavors.
Regardless of whether you pick the Renegade or the 500X, you end up with an abundance of personality — a characteristic that's lacking from such popular subcompact crossovers as the Honda H-RV, Nissan Rogue Sport and Chevrolet Trax. The impression is that the design teams genuinely enjoyed themselves.

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Chevrolet and Jeep redesign and improve their small crossovers

2018 Chevrolet Equinox cropped for webThe 2018 Chevrolet Equinox compact crossover is smaller but more luxurious than its predecessor. COURTESY PHOTO  Two of the oldest small crossovers on the market have just been fully redesigned – and although both make fairly dramatic departures from their predecessors, both are transformed from also-rans into competitive vehicles in this burgeoning segment. These models are the new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and new 2017 Jeep Compass.

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Modern Jeeps haven't abandoned off-road heritage

2016 Jeep Cherokee -- cropped for webThe 2016 Jeep Cherokee is a compromise between the everyday comfort of a crossover and the all-out off-road ability of a traditional Jeep. COURTESY PHOTO  

During a recent test of a 2016 Jeep Cherokee, a passenger remarked that it wasn't what she pictured when she thought of the brand. Indeed, from the vertical slats on the grille, there isn't much resemblance between the Cherokee and the World War II military vehicle that birthed today's Chrysler-owned SUV brand.

This Cherokee was the official 75th Anniversary Edition – “Since 1941” is printed on the steering wheel, and profile views of vintage military Jeeps adorn badges on the front doors. But otherwise, from looking at this vehicle, could be any of the many modern crossovers that are popular today for merging SUV-like style with the everyday comfort and convenience of a station wagon.

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