Following on from our taste of the SRT, we take a look at the petrol V6 engine to see if it makes sense within the broad Jeep Grand Cherokee range.
The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee is an SUV (or 4WD in the traditional sense of the word) that we really want to love at CarAdvice. It is price-positioned as extremely good value for money in the proper 4WD segment, it’s above average on-road, properly capable off-road, well appointed and comfortable inside the cabin, and carries the weight of a legendary badge.
It’s that legendary badge that can either be a blessing or a curse. Jeep’s off-road history is both long and forged in the dirt of the most remote corners of the earth. 4WDers will tell you until they are blue in the face that Land Rover, Nissan and Toyota need a competitor like Jeep to keep them honest, and to give buyers an extra option.
The question we need to answer here, though, is whether this specification grade – especially with the petrol engine – is the one you should buy.
The theory of Grand Cherokee ownership goes something like this for me. Forget the 2WD model – why would you? Really? It’s a Jeep Grand Cherokee. 2WD makes no sense. Sure it’s a price leader, but let’s scratch that one altogether for serious buyers. Imagine trying to explain your Grand Cherokee was 2WD. No thanks.
If you want to go off-road, tow or head off on long road trips, get the AWD diesel in whichever specification grade you can afford. If you have plenty of money and you love cars, buy the SRT with a bellowing Hemi V8. If you’ve got even more money, wait for the Trackhawk to arrive with an even more offensive bellowing Hemi V8.
What that theory above does, however, is leave the garden-variety AWD petrol V6 variant sitting out in the cold somewhere. Is it the right option for buyers who spend most of their time around town? Never head off-road? Never tow a trailer or boat? Diesel is usually more expensive to run, and more expensive to buy in the first place, so let’s look at that straight up.
We’re testing the AWD petrol V6 Limited model here – the petrol range-topper aside from the SRT in other words. The Limited has a starting price of $62,500 before on-road costs. Compare that to an AWD diesel Limited, which starts from $69,000 before on-road costs. So you already have a $6500 saving over the equivalent diesel before you even start.
We’ve tested the new Grand Cherokee extensively at CarAdvice, and most recently I spent time in the SRT, which slurped a not completely ridiculous 16.1 litres per 100 kilometres at the end of a week behind the wheel. Considering the sledgehammer ability of the Hemi bent eight, that’s not too silly at all.
This V6 Limited used 16.6L/100km after our week with it, believe it or not – against an ADR claim of 10.0L/100km. Some of that excess could be explained by the reality that you have to work the V6 engine pretty hard, but we’ll get to that. By way of comparison, our most recent week with an AWD diesel Grand Cherokee saw an impressive return of 7.9L/100km.
Okay then, so fuel consumption isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it is one of the aspects buyers talk about before a purchase. You can see why the extra cost of the diesel model makes sense, though, if you spend a lot of time towing or driving off-road.
Some buyers hate diesel – they don’t like the smell, the oily bowsers and ground surrounding them on petrol station forecourts, and they think petrol is a perfectly sensible option for daily driving, even in the large-SUV class. That’s where the AWD Grand Cherokee petrol steps in.
I like the style of the Grand Cherokee, and I think it is different enough in an otherwise bland sea of large SUVs to stand out in a crowd. The ‘There And Back’ guarantee is designed to give buyers peace of mind, and Australia is the only Jeep market in the world to offer a five-year warranty. It’s a specifically directed move, and it should ease much of the perceived pain associated with previous quality-control issues.
Is the Grand Cherokee Limited good value for money? It is, when you look around at what $62,500 will buy you anywhere else in the large-SUV class – there’s no doubt about that. A top-spec petrol Prado starts from $84,591, while a top-spec Kluger petrol starts from $69,617 just for example. As befits the Limited’s range-topping status, it is packed with just about everything Jeep could throw at it.
The Grand Cherokee’s cabin is well appointed, comfortable and insulated. It’s quiet around town, as you’d expect, but that translates to coarse-chip country roads and the freeway at 110km/h as well. There’s a bare hint of wind noise at that speed, but the cabin is otherwise serene. We love the Jeep seats and find them comfortable even on longer trips, with no fatigue creeping into the long-distance equation.
The driving position is excellent, with exceptional visibility both fore and aft, and there’s more than enough adjustment in the driver’s seat to get comfortable behind the wheel. If you’ve read any of our previous Grand Cherokee tests, you’ll know we like the layout of the main controls and the intrinsic ease of the UConnect infotainment system, which is excellent. Yes, we’d like (demand) Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, but in lieu of that, the system is otherwise excellent.
I didn’t love the interface when using my iPhone as an iPod, but Bluetooth phone calls were clear, and music streaming via Bluetooth was also excellent.
The cabin is spacious and usable for four adults with luggage. There’s no doubting the GC’s family credentials. And the second row is as comfortable as the front pews on longer drives. While the wheel arches do eat into luggage space a little, they don’t intrude so much as to make it annoying.
The 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine churns out 213kW and 347Nm, which really isn’t a lot for either the size of the engine or the weight of the Grand Cherokee. You do get an excellent eight-speed automatic and proper 4WD system, though.
The Grand Cherokee has light steering, which makes it easy to pilot around town, and the eight-speed automatic is smooth enough at low speed to never intrude into the comfort of the drive experience.
The way the engine delivers its power and torque, though, means you’ll feel more shifting between those ratios than you would like or perhaps expect, and you have to work the V6 to the point of thrashing to get up to speed quickly. The same goes for roll-on accelerating up to highway speeds, where you will need to make the engine roar up to redline with more strain than seems necessary.
We liked the ride and bump absorption around town, and while we don’t expect a Grand Cherokee to handle like an MX-5, the engine’s characteristics ensure you don’t feel like working it hard enough to test the handling in the real world anyway.
Is the Grand Cherokee Limited an above-average large SUV? Yep. There’s no doubt about that. Is the petrol V6 the smartest engine option in the broad stable? Probably not, especially given that we couldn’t coax it below the fuel usage of the Hemi V8. However, the Grand Cherokee remains solid value for money in any guise, and a genuine take on American premium.
I’d buy the diesel on a budget or the Trackhawk if money were no object, but that’s fantasy for most of us. The petrol V6 therefore exists for a reason and fills that brief. Don’t just follow the sheep to the Toyota dealership if you need a rugged 4WD with some pretension of luxury – take a look at the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
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