Jeep Grand Cherokee 2012 overland

Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel Review

Rating: 8.0
$45,000 $69,500 Mrlp
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The new Grand Cherokee Diesel will no doubt build a healthy order book...
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Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel Overland 3.0-litre turbo, direct-injection V6 diesel five-speed automatic transmission, 177kW/550Nm: $69,500 (Manufacturer’s List Price)

Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel Laredo 3.0-litre turbo, direct- injection V6 Diesel five-speed automatic transmission, 177kW/550Nm: $50,000 (Manufacturer’s List Price)

Chrysler Australia has just released the newest addition to the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee model range and, thankfully, it’s a diesel.

Jeep has essentially been without a diesel variant in the Grand Cherokee line-up ever since the successful launch of the latest generation model back in February.

The previous diesel powertrain deployed in the Grand Cherokee was a Mercedes-Benz unit and although it had the same 3.0-litre displacement as the new CRD powerplant from Italian specialist VM Motori, it was considerably less powerful and less efficient.

While the new Grand Cherokee Diesel will no doubt build a healthy order book with those wanting to exploit its 3500kg towing capacity among it’s countless other attributes, it may also create a problem of choice for other more urban-based buyers.

The issue is twofold. The Grand Cherokee 3.6L Pentastar V6 is such a superb vehicle given its exceptional performance and NVH management that the $5000 premium for the new diesel (notwithstanding the slight gains in fuel economy) may be too much for some buyers. However I doubt the Chrysler Australia bosses will be losing too much sleep over the issue, as it’s always nice to have too much of a good thing.

We came away from the February launch of the all-new Grand Cherokee with nothing but praise for how far Jeep had progressed with styling, on-road dynamics and the level of refinement of the new model. It was a huge step up from the previous generation and essentially put the brand up there with some of the Euro offerings in the segment.

The interior was given the Klaus Busse treatment and quality and attention to detail is his passion. He’s ex-Mercedes-Benz, where he handled interior and exterior design for 10 years, so he knows a thing or two about how to do interiors. These days he’s head of interior design for the Chrysler Group and that’s a very good thing if you’re considering a new Jeep Grand Cherokee, or any other brand new vehicle from the group.

It’s also the reason the fourth-generation Grand Cherokee’s interior is unlike any Jeep product that has come before it. In fact, Klaus has no issues in comparing previous Jeep interiors with those cheap plastic fluoro coloured water pistols out of China. It’s probably a bit of an exaggeration (they weren’t that bad were they?) but you get the message that luxury and quality are what drives him.

One of the first things he did at Chrysler was to ban ‘grey’ in the interior. "Enough is enough," he said to his team. Black has replaced any previous grey materials in the new Grand Cherokee. It’s as much about the touch and feel of each material too, Klaus said. For example, he chose a soft Nappa leather for the steering wheel, which feels like that which BMW uses on its higher spec models; soft to touch and plenty of tactility and grip.

He also spoke at length about the detail that went into the design of the air-conditioning vents, how the plastic vanes are strengthened so as not to bend when touched and the soft rubber touch points on the direction knobs.

It’s this kind of obsession that gives you a major confidence boost in the brand and especially the Grand Cherokee.

Another element that’s become a major driver in the Chrysler comeback is a two-minute television advertisement entitled ‘Made in Detroit’, which ran during this year’s Superbowl in the United States. It’s a powerful piece of imagery that talks about luxury and the strong Detroit worth ethic. It also includes Eminem and classic scenes from the Motor City itself and has inspired not just the folks of Detroit, but a whole nation.

Jeep Australia chose Queensland’s Moreton Island to launch the new Grand Cherokee Diesel, which happens to be covered in the some of the softest silicon sand in the world.

Our assigned vehicle for the first leg of the drive program was the top of the range Grand Cherokee CRD Overland. With a list price just below $70,000 it comes loaded with more luxury kit than the Trump Soho in New York.

For starters, there’s a beautiful power-adjustable leather/wood trimmed sports steering wheel that’s also heated for those cold winter mornings.

The leather-upholstered seats are unusually supple and clearly of premium grade. They’re also heated and ventilated - perfect for an Aussie summer and a rare addition at this price point. Add to that heated rear seats that also power recline and there are few SUV’s this side of $100,000 that can boast this level of passenger comfort, not to mention the level of kit inside.

The standard features inventory seems extensive enough to rival the substantially more expensive Lexus RX 350 Prestige. Some of those features include Quadra-Lift Air Suspension, Selec-Terrain, CommandView dual-pane panoramic sunroof, Bi-Xenon HID headlamps with SmartBeam, Keyless Enter-N-Go system, Daytime Running Lamps, Blind Spot Monitoring and Cross path Detection Systems, Forward Collison Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Power open and close tailgate, and the list goes on…

There are soft touch materials everywhere inside the Grand Cherokee cabin, which features a nice hand-stitched leather-wrapped dash, door trim and shift knob. The switchgear is generally well laid out except the function buttons at each side of the touch screen. They’re not intuitive and that area seems overly cluttered compared with the rest of the layout. Expect the interior to change with the first Grand Cherokee facelift in line with that of the stunning new 300C cockpit.

The Grand Cherokee has a relatively high beltline and tapered roofline, but vision all round is quite good. The driving position is similar to that of a BMW X5 or Range Rover Sport in that you sit deep into the vehicle, which provides both a low centre of gravity and makes the driver feel more connected with what is a reasonably large SUV.

The NVH in the new Grand Cherokee is first class. Sure you can tell this is a diesel under the bonnet on start up and at low speeds, but the normal clatter is very well muted. It’s a different story when you’re travelling along on some hard sand at 60km/h - that’s when you can’t pick this new V6 diesel over petrol version. Certainly there’s no audible diesel sound, but more importantly, any vibrations or noise from the drivetrain have been completely eliminated – and that’s on sand where everything is working with more load.

The transmission is silky smooth on upshifts and downshifts, but the downside is the lack of a contemporary six-speed automatic box for even more flexibility and smoothness when accelerating, and even greater fuel economy on the motorway. It’s not really an issue especially on this purely off-road launch program, but while a combined fuel cycle rating of 8.3L/100km is commendable for a vehicle of this size and weight, additional gains could probably be expected with an additional forward gear ratio.

Another standout feature of the Grand Cherokee is the obvious lift in build quality as there isn’t a squeak or rattle to heard anywhere inside the cabin and again, that’s in an off-road environment. You immediately get the impression that this is a very tightly screwed together vehicle. It comes down to attention to detail such as reducing the gaps around the switchgear to 0.5mm, which Klaus was keen to mention.

There’s plenty of punch from the new diesel powertrain as you would expect from its output of 177kW and 550Nm, but it’s the NVH that impresses me most. Clearly, Jeep has worked hard to deliver a diesel engine that marries well to the luxury experience you get inside the new Grand Cherokee.

Moreton Island might be covered in some of the softest (read deadliest) sand on the planet but even leaving the Selec-Terrain system in ‘Auto’ mode (there are four other off-road modes to choose between) the Grand Cherokee made light work of sustained travel on the soft stuff.

Deep creek crossings were a breeze too thanks to the Quadra-Lift air suspension, which allows drivers to raise the ride height of the Jeep for 271mm of ground clearance. That said, hoping into the Grand Cherokee from a parked position is a breeze even if short skirts are the preferred dress code of the day, given that the ‘Park Mode’ lowers the vehicle by 38mm for easy ingress and egress.

Regardless of where we took the new Grand Cherokee, it was all a bit too easy for what is a highly accomplished luxury SUV for what can be considered a bargain basement price among its Euro and Japanese rivals.

CarAdvice will bring you an on-road review of the Grand Cherokee Diesel within the coming weeks.

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