Compared to most other 4WDs, Jeep has a huge range of Grand Cherokee variants available. The Trailhawk is the off-road specialist, while the TrackHawk is a bona-fide mental performance option.
The SRT is a slightly less crazy take on brawny V8 power, while the Overland and Summit represent fully stacked, less specialised options. Go all out and you can blow over $130,000.
What we have on this test is the 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with the turbo-diesel V6 under the bonnet. It sits beneath all of those aforementioned options, and above the price-leading Laredo (starting from $47,500 for 2WD or $52,500 for 4WD).
This variant, with this engine, has an indicated price of $67,950. At the time of writing, Jeep's website indicated a drive-away price of $71,781.
Options are sparse at this level. Spend $695 on any colour other than white, and you can also up-spec some interior metal details ($585), improved Nappa leather ($1625) and a dual-pane sunroof ($3250).
While there's a ‘Pentastar’ 3.6-litre petrol V6 available (good for 213kW and 347Nm), our diesel option makes sound numbers: 184kW at 4000rpm and 570Nm at 2000rpm. This runs through an eight-speed automatic gearbox to all four wheels, via a low-range transfer case and some trick off-road driving modes.
If you feel like your engine options are covered, you’d be wrong. A sport package was introduced earlier this year, which gets a 5.7-litre, 259kW/520Nm Hemi V8 along with a smattering of different specifications.
But anyway, let’s have a look at what we have here. Limited is a reasonably well-specced option, with a new-generation 8.4-inch ‘Uconnect’ touchscreen in the inside, with a nine-speaker Alpine system, Capri leather seats with electric memory function, and a heated steering wheel. There are also 20-inch alloy wheels, powered tailgate and park assist.
From a safety point of view, you’ve got forward-collision warning, a kind of autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert.
The ability of the AEB is underdone compared to other systems. It works up to speeds of between 2km/h and 42km/h, which is under the vast majority of posted limits around Australia.
It’s interesting to look at the Grand Cherokee in comparison to the broad and sprawling SUV segment. Monthly beancounting report VFACTS simply lists it as ‘SUV Large < $70K’. This includes best-sellers like the LandCruiser Prado, Isuzu MU-X, Pajero Sport and Everest. But they are all seven-seaters, the Grand Cherokee is not.
Options like the CX-9, Kluger and Santa Fe seat seven, as well, and they haven’t got the same proper off-road ability that this Jeep has. Looking higher up the food chain at more ‘luxury’ options, pricing soon becomes an issue.
While the Grand Cherokee naturally competes with all of these options to varying degrees, the lone American is also a bit of an outlier. While it once toppled the LandCruiser Prado for outright sales, it now ticks along at an average of 260 per month, which is down 27 per cent on the previous year.
While it was updated in 2017, the Grand Cherokee sits on a platform that has been around since 2011 (and was co-developed with Mercedes-Benz) with a steel unibody and independent suspension employed. In other words, she’s a bit long in the tooth.
Where the Grand Cherokee feels dated, crucially, is in a few key areas. While the interior is well specced and bolstered by a newer, slicker infotainment system, its general look, layout and vibe (to quote The Castle) are dated. When you think of what the Touareg, Santa Fe and CX-9 look like inside these days, the Grand Cherokee is left with a resounding feeling of tiredness.
The colour scheme is mostly black, with only small and subtle variations of colour anywhere. Switchgear and materials feel a bit on the cheap side, as well, for an SUV nudging $70K before on-roads.
The 8.4-inch infotainment display is a welcome distraction. It’s fast and responsive, with all of the latest mod-cons at your disposal: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, digital radio and native mapping. It does a good rendition of the reversing camera, as well.
The Grand Cherokee’s second row is comfortable, but not outrageous in terms of space. Having a big rearward-facing child seat does eat into the available space for those up front, for example.
There are a couple of air vents at the rear of the centre console, along with USB points. While you can recline the seat backs, you don’t have any sliding adjustability.
The Grand Cherokee measures in at 4824mm long, 1943mm wide and 1802mm high, with a 2915mm wheelbase.
The boot is a good size, and has one of the better rubber mats I’ve come across. There’s 782L of space, which grows to 1554L when the 60:40 split second row is folded down. There's some extra room for gear next to the full-size spare, although I note the Nexen rubber is a cheaper option compared to the four Continental road tyres.
Another place where the Jeep feels a bit dated is the ride. Whereas more expensive iterations get ‘Quadra-lift’ airbag suspension, the Limited makes do without any form of adaptive or adjustable nature.
It feels a little on the firm and jiggly side for my tastes – especially for a big SUV at (almost) 70 grand's worth of asking price. Those 20-inch wheels likely don’t help the busy feeling, especially on those typical broken surfaces around town.
That V6 diesel, sourced from VM Motori, makes for rapid progress with the quoted 570Nm coming on hard at 2000rpm. It’s a bit surge-like in its delivery, with little real grunt to offer below this mark.
In a quest for economy, the eight-speed gearbox pegs the engine at the 1500rpm mark when doodling around town and cruising on the highway.
Push down the pedal, especially at lower speeds, and sometimes that delivery of torque feels clumsy and overdone. You ask for a little extra progress via the right foot, and by the time the gearbox shifts down and turbocharger starts compressing, you’ve all of a sudden got much more grunt than you were initially looking for.
While it’s certainly not linear and smooth, it’s probably preferable to have the power there, rather than not at all. And hey, maybe you’ll get used to it after some period of ownership.
My commute to and from work is always sympathetic to fuel economy figures, sitting between 80 and 110km/h for a majority of the time on the daily pilgrimage to and from the west. With that in mind, I logged 8.5L/100km. Compared to the official figure (7.5L/100km combined) that sits a bit high, but it’s still decent for a vehicle of this size and performance.
One strong point for this Grand Cherokee is the off-road hardware that comes with it. While you can option a 2WD version, 4WD models get a low-range transfer case and a few off-road modes to choose from.
Quoted running clearance of 218mm is misleading: underbelly ground clearance isn’t that good, but it is decent. And the 508mm wading depth will be plenty for most punters, but the forward-facing air intake under the bonnet is inviting some big problems if you go over that quoted number.
If you’re keen on doing some off-roading, this Grand Cherokee is a decent starting point. However, I would prefer to point you in the direction of the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, which costs roughly $4000 more, but is much better equipped off the bat. Plus, it doesn’t really lose many points on the blacktop at the same time.
It’s also worth mentioning the Grand Cherokee has a nice following of aftermarket providores: Uneek 4X4 and Chief Products are two that instantly come to mind, with a wide variety of accessories available.
Five years' worth of warranty is nice to have, but it's still on the skinny side in terms of distances covered: 100,000km is the upper limit. Servicing intervals come every 12 months or 20,000km, and have capped prices of $665, $1095, $665, $1195 and $665. Total: $4285.
Towing is a strong suit for the Grand Cherokee, with decent take-up amongst grey nomads who want something a little different (or cheaper) than your typical options.
There’s a 3500kg towing capacity coupled with 350kg worth of ball mass limit. There’s 668kg between tare mass and GVM, and a Gross Combination Mass of 6099kg means you can’t use all of the towing and payload at the same time. Pro tip: for those towing full time, know exactly what your combination weighs – trailer, vehicle, accessories, people and gear.
This platform is hanging out for an update, no doubt. The interior design needs a refresh, and the suspension tune could use some work to feel more salubrious. But while the driveline doesn’t deliver its mumbo smoothly, the 570Nm is impressive. For a value-packed tow rig, the Grand Cherokee does stack up.
For a more rounded, all-purpose family vehicle, some of the Grand Cherokee’s foibles will need to be lived with or glossed over. There are options with a better ride and interior. I’d be looking to spend some time with a LandCruiser Prado and Ford Everest to ensure you’ve surveyed the market thoroughly enough.