Zombie apocalypse now: Best car for surviving World War Z

Consumer Reports News: June 21, 2013 10:38 AM

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With Y2K long behind us, the greatest threat to mankind appears to be the zombie apocalypse, if "The Walking Dead" and "World War Z" are to be believed. And it is clear from studying those survival training "documentaries" that having the right vehicle is key to staying alive.

Television sponsorship has shown that a Hyundai Tucson could come in handy, but for true survival in a post-civilization world, we suggest something more rugged to flee the zombie hordes. After much consideration, and far too much war gaming, I've concluded that the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the model that would most aid my survival.

Last July, I explored this same topic, pointing out that a Mad Maxxed Hyundai Elantra, like the one built for the San Diego Comic-Con, simply wouldn't cut it. Beyond looking silly, it didn't have the prerequisite approach and departure angles necessary to scale all the destruction and debris. My conclusion then was that a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon would be the best choice. But upon further reflection, and seeing the horrifying "World War Z" footage, I'm convinced that there is a better choice from the same Trail Rated brand. (My I do lust for a Wrangler.)

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To start with, the best car to survive the zombie apocalypse has to be Consumer Reports recommended, meaning it performs well in our tests, has average or better reliability based on our annual survey, and has done well in government and/or insurance industry crash tests. Sounds reasonable, right? But that rules out the Wrangler. The Grand Cherokee, on the other hand, is, indeed, recommended.

Taking it a step further, this zombie-escape machine should do well in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's roof strength test, just in case of a dreaded zombie pig pile. Also, it must be reasonably resistant to rollovers in the government tests, while being off-road capable with generous ground clearance. After all, you never know what you might have to run over or when the brain-craving crowds may try to rock your vehicle over to peel it open like a can of sardines.

Jeep-Grand-Cherokee-zombie-sign.jpgIt would be natural to emphasize fuel economy, but instead, I'd focus on range. Based on our tests, the Grand Cherokee V6 has a range of 435 miles. And it uses readily available regular gasoline. (The new diesel Grand Cherokee is highly tempting, with a claimed range of more than 700 miles.)

Normally, I'd favor a light vehicle, but in this doomsday scenario, weight can help to plow through obstacles and flesh-eating mobs. The Grand Cherokee tipped our scales at 4,900 lbs., before being loaded with water, fuel, family, and countless essentials--plenty to topple stumbling cadavers like bowling pins and bust through minor road blocks. Plus, the right vehicle will have a full-sized spare tire and no roof rack, where undead passengers could cling. Can't have any hangers-on.

Let's face it: survival is often in the details. There are several modern conveniences whose importance cannot be overstated, such as a navigation system, 115-volt outlet, blind-spot detection, back-up camera, remote start, and a moon roof to aid surveillance and turret-style road clearing. A tow hitch could also come in handy. Toss in comfortable seats, a rear entertainment system for the kids, ample storage for zombie-annihilating ammo and sundries, and generous elbow room, and you have an inviting cabin ready to serve as your mobile command center.

Based on these criteria, the Honda Pilot could also be a fine choice, but I'd go with the Grand Cherokee. The Jeep is quicker, brakes shorter, and negotiates our "zombie avoidance" test at a much greater speed. (If you've seen "World War Z," you know that speed counts.) Plus, I simply like it more and take comfort in its formidable, and proven, off-road prowess. Sure, its cost of ownership may be higher, but that won't be my greatest concern during a virulent outbreak. Not by a long shot.

In outfitting your rig, be sure to stock the vehicle with the prerequisite boomstick, chainsaw, first-aid kit, bottled water, traditional roadside emergency kit, and go-bag. (Learn what your zombie apocalypse go-bag should contain.)

Of course, in buying your next vehicle, it is most important to choose the best model for your lifestyle and budget. But, should you want to be prepared for such a "what if" scenario, I hope these points help you to choose wisely.

Do you agree with this pick and the criteria used to select it? (If not, let me know before it is too late!) What would you want to drive during a zombie apocalypse?

Jeff Bartlett

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