A new rear-wheel-drive base model, a new eight-speed auto and improved fuel efficiency form three of the major changes to the new Jeep Grand Cherokee.
This is the first significant makeover for the current generation of the American 4×4 brand’s flagship model released in early 2011 in Australia.
The first 4×2 Jeep Grand Cherokee to be sold here brings the price of the large SUV down by about $4000 to $45,000 driveaway.
For buyers looking for the full Jeep, go-anywhere experience, the four-wheel-drive range starts slightly higher at $46,000 before on-road costs for a Laredo grade powered by a 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine with 210kW of power and 347Nm of torque.
A 184kW/570Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel provides extra pulling power – including and lower consumption, though continues to carry a $5000 premium that is higher than the industry average for a diesel.
The two engines are also available on the next-up Limited and Overland grades, which also add a ‘Hemi’ 5.7-litre V8 to the choice mix that produces 259kW and 520Nm.
The diesel and 5.7L V8 share the highest-in-range braked towing capacity of 3500kg.
The performance-focused Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, which only went on sale locally in late 2012, is also included as part of the upgraded range, continuing with a 344kW/624Nm ‘Hemi’ 6.4-litre V8.
All engines are carried over, though each is now paired as standard with a ZF eight-speed automatic that is becoming increasingly popular among car manufacturers.
The extra ratios over the old standard five-speed auto improve fuel economy across the range, while a new Eco mode is a default setting on start-up that brings retarded throttle response and earlier upshifts from the auto.
The 4×4 petrol V6 improves from 11.0 to 10.4 litres per 100km, the diesel V6 drops from 8.3 to 7.5L/100km, and the 5.7L V8 now officially slurps 13.0 litres per 100km rather than 14.1.
Choosing the 2WD Jeep Grand Cherokee saves 0.3 litres compared with the 4×4: at 10.1L/100km.
SRT makes the smallest gain, from 14.1 to 14.0L/100km, though the auto also gives the fastest Jeep Grand Cherokee slightly quicker performance courtesy of a new launch control system. It now clocks 4.8 rather than 4.9 in the 0-100km/h sprint.
All Grand Cherokees are fitted with paddleshift levers behind the steering wheel, which also allow drivers to select the speed for the hill descent and hill ascent control systems when off-roading – where Selec-Speed is specced.
The four-wheel-drive systems available depend on model.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4×4 models employ Quadra-Trac II, a full-time system with a two-speed transfer case. In the default 4WD High, torque is varied between the front and rear axles up to 100 per cent either end depending on available traction. Selecting Low range via a console button splits torque equally.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland models are equipped with Quadra-Drive II that includes the benefit of an electronic limited-slip rear differential.
The flagship Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT (pictured above) features Quadra-Trac, an on-demand set-up that apportions more torque to the rear wheels in general driving for sportier handling and can send 100 per cent torque to a single rear wheel to aid traction.
Variable-height air suspension that can increase the Jeep’s ground clearance from a low of 221mm to a high of 287mm is standard on the Overland and optional on Laredo and Limited.
All Grand Cherokees except the RWD base model come with Selec-Terrain, which allows the driver to choose various vehicle calibrations depending on surface – including Sand, Snow, Mud and Rock, plus an Auto mode.
The system previously included a Sport mode, which has now moved to the gearshift lever.
Feature highlights (not including mechanicals) for the four trim grades are:
Bi-xenon headlights with auto high beam
LED daytime running lights
Heated side mirrors
Auto-dimming rear view mirror
18-inch chrome wheels
Electrically adjustable front seats with heating
Leather steering wheel
Dual-zone climate control
Rear view camera
Tyre pressure monitor
Hill descent control
Instrument display with 7” TFT screen
5-inch touchscreen (4×2)
8.4-inch touchscreen (4×4)
Voice command Bluetooth
Alpine 9-speaker audio with subwoofer
20-inch alloy wheels
Heated rear seats
Heated steering wheel
Front and rear parking sensors
Dual-pane panoramic sunroof
Nappa leather seats
Leather trim for upper dash, doors, console and armrests
Ventilated front seats
Wood and leather steering wheel
Adaptive cruise control
Blind spot warning
Forward collision warning