The Grand Cherokee’s gotten better with age.
SUVs are the trend of the day it seems, and while there are plenty of newcomers trying to muscle their way into the segment (with varying degrees of success), a member of the old guard has just gotten a fresh new suit and has returned to the fore with some buddies at his side to show the young ‘uns who’s boss.
We are of course talking about the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which has been with us since 2011 and revised twice since then. Of course, the Grand Cherokee nameplate has been around for much longer than that, and for the most part, it’s remained true to its recipe of offering great value and unmistakably-Yankee design, paired with tough engines and plenty of off-road ability.
Refreshed in May 2017, the very latest Grand Cherokee is now available in Laredo, Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, and SRT guises, with no less than 3 engines available (two atmo petrols and one turbodiesel). There’s a Grand Cherokee for everyone, should they want it. Question is, should you want one?
“The Grand Cherokee’s look is distinctive…” — CarsGuide
In a world where SUVs have gone soft, the Grand Cherokee’s upright proportions, muscular haunches and in-your-face grill are a breath of fresh air against ‘off-roaders’ that have more angles and lines than a cliff-side, with about as much ability to climb that terrain as a loofah. The Grand Cherokee is a well-engineered tough-as-nails no-nonsense SUV that does exactly what you’d expect it to do, and its design plays a huge role in perpetuating that belief.
The Grand Cherokee can never be described as ‘beautiful,’ while the word ‘imposing’ does spring to mind with alarming frequency. The design adopted by Jeep, with its squared-off wheel arches, strong fascia and straight roofline is one that’s very different from the current crop of SUVs on the market, and all the better for it. It’s tough enough trying to stand out in the school carpark with an SUV, though you won’t have any issues in a Grand Cherokee.
No matter where you end up buying into the range, the Grand Cherokee is a handsome thing with distinctly American styling that, if you’re a fan, you’ll love for years to come. A refresh in 2017 brought about slimmer headlights and a revised fascia, though the changes are so minimal you’ll need the perception of a super-sleuth to notice them. Not that it matters: The Grand Cherokee’s design was hardly broken, so there was no need to fix it.
Engine & Drivetrain
“The Grand Cherokee offers excellent diesel and petrol engines.” — WhichCar
The Jeep Grand Cherokee comes with no less than three engine choices, with two petrols and one diesel on offer. The range kicks off with the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol, a smooth operator to say the least, which is silky smooth in operation but can’t really be described as economical in the real world. Realistically, you can expect to achieve about 13L/100km in fuel consumption, though a very light foot might just get you 9L/100km (a figure that we have seen ourselves with some careful driving).
Step up a bit and you’ll get the choice engine in the range (for day-to-day usability at least), a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6, which is both torquey and refined. It’s the most common engine across the range (and the sole choice for the Trailhawk model), and also the most economical, with 9L/100km easily achievable in urban and extra-urban driving. Despite being a diesel it’s hardly gruff, with the only real drawback being the considerable step up from the Pentastar petrol, though we’d argue that the increased driving range and improved fuel economy more than make up for the premium, especially if you envision your Grand Cherokee as a long-distance cruiser.
If you’re nuts about power, really like V8s, or just don’t need your Grand Cherokee to pack proper off-road ability, there’s a 6.4-litre HEMI V8, which sounds biblical under heavy throttle. As you’d expect of anything with the word ‘HEMI’ on it, expect to pay dearly every time you visit the pumps, and be prepared to see those pumps often. We doubt this will surprise anyone seriously considering the Grand Cherokee SRT though, because you’ll have to endure a similar experience with any of its peers. And the soundtrack arguably makes it worth it.
All Grand Cherokees send power to all-four wheels (the entry-level Laredo 4x2 being the only exception) and come with an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
“The Jeep is not only comfortable, but also commendably quiet.” — Autocar
One of the biggest sore points with the Grand Cherokee was its interior, though thankfully the 2017 update has improved perceived quality by some way. It doesn’t feel quite as low-rent as it used to, which was one of the biggest turn-offs for buyers looking for a luxury family wagon; The Grand Cherokee now feels properly plush, particularly higher up the variant range.
It has the feel of a high-tech car, with a huge infotainment screen taking prime placement on the dashboard, while a scene lives between the physical dials in the instrument cluster that allows for a customisable display. Space is generous too, with the lankiest occupant able to sit at the rear even if the pews in front are hosting basketball players.
The ergonomics for the driver, while not overly impressive, are far from bad too. Things fall easily to hand once you’re familiar with the layout, and the seats themselves are comfortable and cosseting, if not overly supportive (especially on the sides), feeling more like armchairs in their execution. Cargo room is excellent too, though that comes as a result of the Grand Cherokee not offering 7-seats the way a lot of its rivals do. If you need a high-riding cargo-wagon, then the Grand Cherokee will deliver well, with the second row capable of folding flat, offering about enough room to haul everything and the kitchen sink.
Behind the Wheel
“Jeep wants everyone to know the Grand Cherokee can tackle any task, and satisfy the needs of a broad scope of buyers. Around town, off-road or flat-out, there’s a Grand Cherokee model to suit your needs.” — CarAdvice
The Grand Cherokee is very much an American car behind the wheel, with a very direct steering feel paired to a very relaxed driving experience as a whole. Excluding the ‘specialist’ SRT and Trailhawk models, the rest of the range enjoy comfortable, quiet, fuss-free progress, even with the bigger wheels available on Overland models doing little to compromise the luxury feel. Of course, higher-end models are aided by the Quadralift air suspension setup while lower down the range you can expect to find the usual passive suspension setup that is actually more than competent in most situations.
While it’s all well and good to offer an excellent driving experience in a practical SUV package the way the Porsche Cayenne and Jaguar F-Pace does, the bulk of buyers on this end of the market actually just want a big, comfy family car that’ll do everything that’s asked of it with little fuss, and in that regard, the Grand Cherokee does exceedingly well.
If you need your SUV to be capable of getting properly stuck into the muck, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is likely all you need. It’s a little noisier on the road and the driving experience is a little less precise, but off-road you’ll be leaving everyone but the guy in a Land Rover Discovery in your wake. The Quadra-Drive II off-road system ensures progress across all surfaces, and is essentially a more off-road focused system than the Quadra-Trak system found in the rest of the all-wheel drive models.
And if you want an exceedingly-fun family wagon for on-road use, the SRT offers more power than most sports cars, and a straight-line ability that would have you disbelieving you’re behind the wheel of an enormous SUV. A bespoke high-performance model, the SRT packs things like a single-range all-wheel drive system, hugging sports seats, and an automatically-adjusting suspension system to maximise the driving experience on the road and on the track. Not that you’ll ever visit a track, really.
Safety & Technology
“The Australasian New Car Assessment Program awarded all V6 Grand Cherokees – diesel and petrol – five stars for safety, its maximum, in July 2015 (and reiterated the rating in March 2017).” — WhichCar
Being aimed at families means that safety is a crucial area where the Grand Cherokee has to excel, and excel it does. Seven airbags are available throughout the range, and the usual suspects of antilock brakes, tyre-pressure monitors, a reversing camera all feature in the kit list. Naturally, moving higher up the range bags you more in terms of active safety technology, with the Overland and SRT models gaining things like autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. These features are also available as options on the Limited and Trailhawk models, meaning that safety is well catered for throughout.
Tech is a big feature in the Grand Cherokee range too, and is where Jeep really pushes the value card. All cars (sans the base Laredo 4x2) get an 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen infotainment system as standard, which controls functions ranging from climate to vehicle settings, operable through a user interface that’s relatively easy to use and very reactive to input. Other features like a premium audio system, panoramic glass roof, active cruise control and what have you get unlocked the further you move up the range, but at no point do the steps upwards feel unjustifiable price-wise.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee might be a bit of a dinosaur now, but it’s definitely gotten better with age. It hasn’t developed a patina, but rather it’s taken its experience over the last 6-years and sharpened up its game considerably, seemingly undeterred by consumer reports and a seemingly-endless stream of recall notices.
Some may argue that the Grand Cherokee needed a reworking, but for the most part, it’s always been a very solid proposition. With the 2017 refresh the Grand Cherokee got that much more appealing, and better for it. It’s a car that can be recommended without hesitation now, especially when taking into consideration the sharp drive-away deals and continuously-improving aftersales service.
If you want an impressive driving experience with a more sensible engine, perhaps the SRT ought to be given a miss, and a BMW X5 considered instead. If seven seats are necessary, we’d recommend going straight to the Volvo XC90, while European suave will be served up readily in the form of the Mercedes-Benz GLE. But if you want to stand out from a crowd, eek out the most value, and love SUVs that are entirely in your face, there can only be a Grand Cherokee for you.
Our pick of the range lies with the Grand Cherokee Limited, paired with the 3.0-litre V6 diesel. Sure there’s a premium to be paid for the engine, but we believe that it offers the best balance between performance, refinement and economy, and will likely see you save enough at the pumps over its lifetime to offset the purchase price. That said, if you’re willing to visit the fuel station more often, the 3.6-litre V6 petrol isn’t without its merits, and it excels especially in town.
Either way, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has pulled itself back into contention after years of languishing as an outlier. We’d be lying if we said that didn’t put a very wide grin on our faces.
CarAdvice – 8.0/10 – “There’s no doubt that the Grand Cherokee is a capable large SUV. It’s priced cleverly and offers a slow array of model grades. We’re now keenly waiting on the feedback of customers to make sure the brand’s trajectory keeps heading in the right direction.”
CarsGuide – 7.9/10 – “Not many SUV brands out there have ranges offering a variety of vehicles as wide as the Grand Cherokee line-up. These are comfortable, good looking, and in nearly all cases, capable off-roaders – particularly the Trailhawk.”
WhichCar – 4.0/5.0 – “Exemplary handling and performance, and a truckload of equipment, have made the Grand Cherokee very popular. The biggest Jeep four-wheel-drive wagon is good off-road and can tow a big caravan or boat. The Grand Cherokee offers excellent diesel and petrol engines, and is built on the same platform as the much more expensive Mercedes-Benz GLE.”
Car & Driver – 4.5/5.0 – “Its pervasiveness in suburban shopping centers may fool you into thinking the Grand Cherokee is yet another soft-roading crossover, but think again. Under the skin it’s a true Jeep: a stout, off-road capable machine. That doesn’t mean it’s a chore to drive on-road; the big Jeep’s an easygoing, high-utility companion that can be had as an unpretentious workhorse, a leather-lined luxo-ute, or something in between.”
Autocar UK – 3.5/5.0 – “Jeep is to be congratulated for producing a car so improved. Perhaps for the first time, and certainly since the very first Grand Cherokee was introduced in 1993, it has a fully competitive and credible full-sized, all-purpose SUV.”
TopGear UK – 6.0/10 – “Latest offering from Jeep has a premium feel, and closes the gap on its rivals. About time.”
WhatCar? – 3.0/5.0 – “A well-equipped, good-looking and relaxing 4x4, but lacks on-road composure. Lots of equipment, good ride on air suspension, pleasant to drive.”
Motoring – 73/100 – “The experience [with the Grand Cherokee] speaks about how versatile the entire range is. Delivering vehicles capable of carrying the family, hauling a trailer, heading on- or off-road, and lapping a racetrack, all without raising a sweat.”