Price: $39,050 to $45,980
It has been the source of a lot of Jeep’s reputation issues both in Australia and overseas, we are of course talking about the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The new model’s pretty design and raft of features is a great way to win back Jeep’s rightful brand image, but is it enough? I set out to discover if the new Jeep Grand Cherokee is new enough and good enough to enter the ring with some of its competitors.
From the outside it’s not hard to see that Jeep has performed a stylistic revitalisation of the aged four wheel drive. Chrome highlights across the range, including bi-xenon lights and alloy wheels give the new Jeep Grand Cherokee substance on the road. Exposed tow hooks on the front also convey the vehicle’s intentions and also help you when yours truly gets it bogged, which I’ll talk about later.
On the road, the Grand Cherokee has a presence you won’t find with competitors like the Ford Territory, Mazda CX-9, Holden Captiva, Subaru Tribeca, et al. During our test we had countless people checking the Grand Cherokee out, with a young family enquiring about it at the local shopping centre.
Inside the cabin is where the Grand Cherokee really shines. The mid-spec Limited model we tested was eloquently kitted out with leather and lashings of woodgrain. The leather-clad steering wheel fills the hand nicely, while the hugging seats keep everyone in place during cornering.
To help the Grand Cherokee out, Jeep has loaded it with standard features, some of which aren’t even available on competing vehicles. Headlining the Jeep range are things like bi-xenon headlights, auto headlights, auto windscreen wipers, power folding and heated exterior mirrors, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, electric driver and passenger seats, 30GB UConnect system with LCD screen and full-time 4WD system. That’s just the entry level; other models in the range come with a full size panoramic sun roof, air suspension, off-road pack, power adjustable steering wheel and auto-dipping high beam lights.
The driving position in our Limited test vehicle was one of command over the road, but sedan-like in terms of the feel in the cabin. Visibility out of the front and rear is great, with front and rear parking sensors, along with a reversing camera. Front leg and head room is great, but second row leg and head room is fairly limited, which is disappointing for a car of this size.
Fit and finish, along with build quality in our test vehicle was excellent. Everything from the feel of the dashboard and doors, through to the sound the doors made when they closed left a feeling of confidence in longevity.
At this stage, the Grand Cherokee is only available with two engine options, a 3.6-litre V6 engine that produces 210kW and 347Nm of torque and a 5.7-litre HEMI V8 that produces 259kW and 520Nm of torque. Obviously lacking is a diesel engine, which is coming later in the month.
Our test vehicle was fitted with the V6 engine. One of the first things you will find with this engine and gearbox combination (five-speed automatic gearbox) is that it really needs revs if you have to get somewhere in a hurry. Peak torque is produced at 4300rpm, which means that you won’t get that shove in the back until well into the rev range. In layman’s terms, the result of this is greater amounts of throttle required to get the car moving with any great pace, which also results in higher fuel consumption.
That’s not to say the V6 Grand Cherokee is underpowered, it’s simply a milder affair below that critical torque figure. The official fuel consumption is 11.4L/100km, on test I achieved around 10.5L/100km with a greater percentage of highway driving. If you opt for the HEMI V8, expect that number to jump to 14.1L/100km. The advantage of the V8 is the massive 3.5-tonne towing capacity, compared to the 2.3-tonne towing capacity of the V6.
The Grand Cherokee’s main draw card would have to be its impressive four-wheel-drive system. Unlike most of its competitors, the Grand Cherokee comes with a low-range gear-set and a transfer case that allows up to 100% of torque to be sent to a particular axle at any given time. A system called Quadra-Drive II can also be optioned and adds an electronic limited slip differential. In addition to Quadra-Drive II, Quadra-Lift is also available to jack the ride height of the Grand Cherokee up to 271mm.
Our test vehicle was optioned with Jeep’s height adjustable suspension and when in the highest setting, it cleared everything thrown at it, which is pretty impressive for an SUV of its size.
The test vehicle wasn’t fitted with Quadra-Drive II, so there were no differential locks. I was keen to see how it would fare when faced with a scenario where half the car’s traction was taken away (I keep telling everybody that it was planned). Realistically, no driver would stop a car in a muddy situation like this; they would simply drive through with momentum.
The lack of differential lock meant the left hand side of the car (which was submerged in mud) span freely, leaving no torque for the right hand side tyres to get grip. For anyone serious enough when it comes to off-roading, they would simply select the Quadra-Drive II and Quadra-Lift options when purchasing the vehicle. With these, there really aren’t many places the Grand Cherokee couldn’t go.
Getting the car stuck was also a great opportunity to test recovery options. Jeep has taken some excellent forethought and fitted the Grand Cherokee with exposed front and rear tow hooks. It was as easy as attaching the snatch strap and snatching the Grand Cherokee out of its bog.
Priced from $45,000, the Limited variant tested costs $55,000 and the top-spec Overland V8 finishes off the range at $69,500.
Is the Grand Cherokee the turning point for Jeep in terms of reputation? Absolutely. The Grand Cherokee is a feature packed, capable and stylish SUV that really does tick all the boxes, that is except one, the engine options. While the V8 is great for towing, the fuel economy is nothing to write home about. The V6 fares better when it comes to fuel use, but is held back by a lack of torque.
There is hope, though. The new torque-laden V6 diesel will be here at the end of the month and I wouldn’t be seen dead in any other SUV given the option. If seven seats aren’t a must, it’s almost impossible to look beyond the Grand Cherokee if you’re after a stylish and capable SUV that won’t blend into the crowd.