An impressive, reliable car held back by its reputation for customer service.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is the sort of car that commands a presence on the road. Its aggressive looks, unashamed size and its reputation for comfort make it an attractive option for people in the market for a large SUV. The 75th Anniversary model embraces all these things and adds some nice additional touches to celebrate the company's proud history. These include a good grille and wheels, as well as orange stitching in the interior and anniversary embossing and badging,
It hasn't all been smooth sailing for Jeep, however, and with a number of recalls and high-profile incidents around these recalls, Jeep has taken a big hit in sales in Australia in recent times. Now, with a change in management, Jeep has vowed to build its reputation back up in the areas of reliability and customer service. But has it done so?
The 75th Anniversary model was marketed as a preview for the face-lift the 2017-model Grand Cherokees would receive. A move away from the ill-fated gear stick and other problematic elements in previous models has seen this Grand Cherokee return to the glory days. What Jeep has produced is a car that is a very enjoyable ride. Great attention to detail in design, leather throughout, and a touchscreen and instrument display that is logical in its layout and design with substantial customisation options.
This is a very well-specced car for its price – 20-inch wheels, a 3.6-litre V6 engine, a large 8.4-inch touchscreen, heated seats for the front and rear, and memory-profile driver's seat – leaving owners wanting and needing little more. This was released, however, just before the big push for the safety suites in new cars these days, and so apart from AEB brakes, other safety features such as blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning are missing.
For those who are adventurous, you have control over the 4WD mode options you want. A compass is built into the display, and the boot is equipped with its own torch. Cargo space is extremely generous, as one would come to expect in Grand Cherokees, and towing capacity is very generous at just under three tonnes.
Handling is excellent, and with the weight of the vehicle, bumps are seldom felt as you drive. A strong engine provides for plenty of power, although it can labour a bit when accelerating up hills from a stationary position.
Practicality-wise, the size of the vehicle makes it excellent for transporting objects that can be quite big, and this has been handy for me in my time owning this car.
Petrol costs can be substantial on the back of a 93.5L tank and a fuel economy that I was obtaining of around 14L/100km. On a positive note, E10 and 91-octane fuels are compatible with the engine to save a bit at the pump. I even found that the car seemed to perform better when using ethanol.
Jeep has a fantastic product here, and it's a show of force for a company looking to earn back consumer trust. Over the 18 months I owned this car, its reliability could not be faulted.
No car is a perfect proposition, though, and despite all the big ticks in the right spots for the 75th Anniversary Grand Cherokee, there are still glaring deficiencies in customer service in my experience. It can be seen quite clearly that dealerships and service centres are under a strong directive to achieve high customer satisfaction levels, and the experience here has been very positive. To me, though, this did not appear to extend to higher up the company, and when contacting FCA, the notoriously poor customer service reputation was still evident to me.
Servicing for this model can be very expensive, especially in the back half of the five-year warranty period, with service intervals every six months. This issue is averted with Jeeps 2017 or newer, where servicing becomes annual.
I have recently traded in this model after struggling to sell it privately, and found that the resale value is not great these days with people still nervous about Jeep as a company. On the plus side, as a buyer, there is a lot of room for negotiation on purchase price at dealerships because of their current difficulties in sales.
All in all, this is an excellent vehicle that has shed the tag of unreliability. Jeep has an excellent product with strong marketing, and if it can address perceived shortfalls in customer service, the company should in time start to lift sales again. This is something I'd really love to see, because cars as iconic as the Grand Cherokee should rightfully be selling in much higher volume.