Road Trip: 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Day One (Cont.)
Our road trip across Wyoming consisted primarily of driving west on Interstate 80, and the first 4 hours of our journey was primarily uneventful. That changed after we reached our halfway point — roughly around Wamsutter, Wyoming — when the weather started to take a turn for the worse.
As the photo above demonstrates, the first few hours of our road trip were met with good roads and relatively clear skies. We found the Grand Cherokee to be an excellent highway cruiser, with excellent sound deadening and a smooth, compliant ride. Mileage up until this point hovered around a combined 20-21 MPG, with most of our driving done in the 70 to 80 MPH range.
That good luck started to change after we stopped in Wamsutter, WY, for lunch at Subway and gas at Love’s travel stop. Not long after gassing up — the Grand Cherokee owner’s manual suggests 87 octane unleaded, incidentally — and getting back on I-80 heading west, we encountered heavy traffic that quickly turned into a parking lot, with traffic at a standstill for more than 30 minutes.
About an hour later we creeped past the cause of the hold-up: A jack-knifed semi trailer had taken out some road fencing and slammed into a nearby cliff face, leaving both lanes temporarily blocked while the wreckage was cleared. Hopefully no one was injured in the wreck.
After passing the wreckage and picking up speed, our next challenge came in the form of worsening weather conditions. We encountered some patches of black ice and roads covered in windswept snow, and visibility was variable at times as we continued west. As we started to approach the Wyoming / Utah border, things started to get even worse: Traffic slowed to 30-40 MPH in spots, and a few falling snowflakes were followed by heavier snowfall and reduced visibility.
The Jeep handled the icy freeway spots with ease, and we turned off cruise control and manually modulated the throttle when the roads worsened. Our Grand Cherokee features the Limited trim level, which includes the Quadra-Trac II 4×4 system. While the Quadra-Trac II offers manual modes for a variety of road conditions, namely mud, rock, sand, and snow — we opted for the automatic mode for the majority of our trip.
The most harrowing part of our journey started just East of the Utah / Wyoming border, when heavy snow started to accumulate on the highway, obscuring lines and road markers and leading to vehicles wandering in and out of now unmarked lanes. Our average speed for the last two hours of our trip hovered in the 45 MPH range thanks to the snowy conditions, but the Jeep helped us find our way to our destination, some 467 miles and roughly 9 hours later.
While we arrived at our destination 3 hours later than expected thanks to the inclement weather, the Grand Cherokee proved itself to be an invaluable travel companion, with the full-time AWD helping us navigate some fairly treacherous road conditions during the course of the day’s travel. The slower highways speeds also helped boost our combined MPG rating a bit, ending the first leg of our trip with a respectable combined 24 MPG.
While the first day of our road trip consisted almost exclusively of highway driving, the next phase of our trip involved lots of stop and go city driving on snowy and ice roads, which I’ll touch on in the next installment of our road trip series.
Have you braved some wintry weather to see loved ones during the holidays? I’d love to hear about your travel experiences, so feel free to share them in the comment section below.