MoparInsiders Takes The $40,000 Family Utility Vehicle Challenge:

We Choose The Our Top Picks For Under $40K...

Let’s face it, modern cars are expensive. By the time you find a vehicle with the options you are looking for, the vehicle can often be in the $50,000 USD to $60,000 USD range. Over the last few years, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) have had a hard time discontinuing some of their older vehicles because they have sold so well. Vehicles like the Dodge Grand Caravan, which the current generation was brought to market in the 2008 model year continues to be the Dodge brand’s best selling vehicle and outsells the vehicle that was supposed to replace it (Chrysler Pacifica) by a huge margin. It goes to show, that people are looking for value more than ever in today’s market.

So the MoparInsiders team sat down, to figure out what would be their best choice for a vehicle in the FCA U.S. lineup for $40,000 USD. But there was a catch. The vehicle had to offer all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4×4), have navigation and seat 5 adults. The total of their optioned vehicles had to come in at $40,000 USD or below and before incentives. It wouldn’t be fair, to have a vehicle to have $12,000 in incentives on the hood with much higher content value. All total prices also include destination charges.

So here is what the MoparInsiders team came up with…

2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo X 4×4. (Jeep).

Co-Editor Robert S. Miller picked the 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo X 4×4 for $39,830.

“My choice would be the 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo X 4×4. With the Laredo X package, buyers can upgrade their Laredo E trim level with a variety of features for $1,995. The Laredo X package adds 18-inch Tech Grey Aluminum Wheels, All-Season All-Terrain Tires, Black Leather Seats with Suede Inserts, Power Liftgate, Heated Front Seats, Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror, 9-Speaker Amplified Sound System with Subwoofer and the beloved 8.4-inch Uconnect Touchscreen with Navigation. The Laredo X offers a lot of features found on higher trim levels for a pocket-friendly price. Also, I would have to equip the Grand Cherokee with the optional Trailer-Tow Group IV for an additional $795. That package also gives the Grand Cherokee a 180-amp alternator, 7 and 4-pin wiring harness, Class IV receiver hitch, heavy duty engine cooling, full-size spare tire and rear load leveling suspension. In total without incentives, the Grand Cherokee Laredo X 4×4 with the Trailer-Tow Group comes to a total of $39,830 USD with the destination.”

2019 Dodge Durango GT AWD. (Dodge).

Co-Editor Jared Balfour picked the 2019 Dodge Durango GT AWD for $39,830.

“I went with the Durango GT AWD. Starting at $37,245 with all-wheel drive didn’t leave me with a lot of room for options, so I went with the required navigation and added in blind-spot monitoring with cross path detection. That brought the price without incentives to $39,830 just squeaking in under the $40k mark. Standard features on Durango GT include LED daytime running lamps, dual exhaust with bright tips and seven-passenger seating, a performance front fascia and LED fog lamps shared with R/T and SRT models while an SRT-inspired performance hood with a central air inlet duct and two heat extractors are available. Also new for 2019, Durango GT models now offer available cloth seating and a new 20-inch wheel design in a Satin Carbon or Brass Monkey finish. The Durango GT is powered by the award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar that produces 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque with dual exhaust mated to a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission. Equipped with the V-6, Durango can tow a best-in-class 6,200 pounds. Based on my experience with Durangos they are very roomy and fun to drive, perfect for a family vehicle with utility for a bargain price.”

2019 Jeep Cherokee High Altitude 4×4. (Jeep).

Contributor and In-House Graphic Artist Ryan Dodd chose the 2019 Jeep Cherokee High Altitude 4×4 for $39,080:

“I chose a Cherokee High Altitude as my affordable family vehicle of choice from FCA. It barely scraped in under $40,000 at $39,080 before incentives. The Cherokee High Altitude is one of my favorite Cherokee models because it adds dark trim, dark wheels, and body color moldings instead of the typical black plastic moldings on everything else aside from the Overland. This gives it a more upscale presence that, combined with the dark accent trim, makes for an SUV that looks much more expensive than its sub-$40k price would suggest.

The options I added were 4WD, the new 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine, and the Technology Group. I built mine in Pearl White for maximum contrast between the paint and dark trim. The Cherokee is a great family crossover. Although this one isn’t a Trailhawk, it does have AWD for all-weather capability and leather seating throughout. There is a decent amount of space in the second row for most average-size adults.”

2019 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4×4. (Jeep).

Contributor Cody Wagner chose the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4×4 for $39,590.

“On the face of it, going for a 2019 Jeep Cherokee Overland might not seem like the smart choice. With a starting price of $37,995, that doesn’t leave much room for options. However, I went with the Overland because it comes with a ton of sweet features as standard. Negating the need for options outright. I optioned mine with the 2.0 Liter Turbo Engine, AWD, Black/Tan interior (this didn’t add to the price), Velvet Pearl-Coat exterior paint (this also didn’t add to the price), and the Technology group… that’s it. No fuss, no muss.

That’s not all though. Being someone who lives in a cold climates means heated seats are pretty much a must-have. Standard or not. Thankfully, the Cherokee overachieves in this area. Not only does it have heated front driver’s and passenger seats, but it also has heated second-row seats! How’s that for a family vehicle? Now the kids don’t have to wait for the A/C to heat up the entire car for them to get warm from having just done a bit of sledding (and a not-so-minor snowball fight). Oh, and it has ventilated front seats. All of which is standard. So when the cold makes way for the heat, the driver won’t have to worry about their back sweat gluing their shirt to the seat like cherry sidewalk gum to a shoe. Very nice indeed.

Add in standard navigation on FCA’s ubiquitous 8.4-Inch touchscreen and you have the recipe for the perfect vehicle for a family on a budget. What’s the cost for all this excellence? I came in at $39,590. Cutting it close but I got everything I wanted. Awesome!”

2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite 4×4. (Jeep).

Contributor Jonathan B. chose the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite 4×4 for $39,395.

“I looked at a bunch of vehicles: Journey GT AWD, Durango GT AWD, Compass Trailhawk, Grand Cherokee Limited X, but finally came back to my choice of a Cherokee Trailhawk.

The Trailhawk Elite comes with a bunch of features included as standard. The only required option for this challenge was to add the 4C NAV, which gives a bunch of other functionality as well. V6 + 5 passenger + 4×4 and a fairly roomy interior makes this a great everyday vehicle, and also allows you to have some fun with the family on the weekend! If you were to push the budget a bit and add the trailer package you’d have a competent tow vehicle as well for weekend camping adventures. Plus, it looks cool, but I’m probably biased!”

2019 Jeep Cherokee High Altitude 4×4. (Jeep).

Contributor Ivan Barišić chose the 2019 Jeep Cherokee High Altitude 4×4 for $39,775.

“I have chosen a Jeep Cherokee High Altitude with a 3.2 liter V6 Pentastar engine. The only two added options are Technology Group and Luxury Group. Total price is $39,775.

In comparison to other FCA US SUV models, it’s the only one which offers all up to date electronic technologies.
UConnect is at the top of the game and it offers excellent voice controls which are not silly like “Hey [put the name of the brand]”.

Technology Group also adds a lot of active safety systems where Active Lane Keep Assist is at the top of the game. Luxury Group adds features like ventilated seats and a foot-activated power liftgate.”


Robert S. Miller

Robert S. Miller is a diehard Mopar enthusiast who lives and breathes all that is Mopar. The Michigander is not only the Editor for MoparInsiders.com, 5thGenRams.com, and HDRams.com but an automotive photographer. He is an avid fan of offshore powerboat racing, which he travels the country to take part in.

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