Chrysler’s iconic Jeep brand is enjoying resurgence as it celebrates 70 years of SUVs. And that resurgence is riding on the back of outstanding new products like the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee.
In its latest guise the Jeep Grand Cherokee goes head-to-head with the well-developed local Ford Territory and world-class rivals like Toyota’s Prado/Kluger. But this is the new Jeep, enjoying its part in Chrysler’s $1.8 billion investment in new vehicles.
So the latest Grand Cherokee is all-new from the ground up and it’s a beauty – a Car Showroom favourite in fact. Sure there is world-class engineering and quality, nice driving dynamics and unsurpassed off-road ability but - as much as anything - the Jeep Grand Cherokee scores points with us for its ‘American-ness’ – the interior comfort and space which are the hallmarks of American vehicles and which distinguish the Jeep from the comparatively bland Toyotas.
And the local Jeep management has played its part - pricing the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee very competitively against its rivals.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Overview
Jeep’s luxury range-topper looks good, boasts abundant technology for off-road going and an impressive safety artillery which includes standard stability control and roll mitigation plus multiple airbags including side thorax airbags and a driver knee airbag. By any measure this full-size SUV is state-of-the-art and compares favourably with similar benchmarks like the Land Rover Discovery 4.
Inside is ample space and comfort (as you would expect from an American vehicle) and on the road, improved chassis technology and body stiffness have delivered previously unheard-of levels of refinement and competence for the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee.
All of that means the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee is a world-class vehicle that deserves serious consideration by those shopping in this segment.
Car Showroom tested the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8 ($60,000) or for $45,000 you can choose the entry-level V6-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. You can also get the Limited specifications with the V6 engine ($55,000), while the range-topper is the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Hemi V8, which gains a rear seat DVD entertainment system amongst its inclusions.
Jeep Grand Cherokee The Engine
Our Jeep Grand Cherokee ran the excellent 5.7-litre HEMI V8 engine which now features variable valve timing for enhanced throttle response and reduced fuel consumption.
The Multi-Displacement System (MDS) was very impressive – smoothly shutting down four cylinders at idle and on small throttle openings. This slashes overall fuel consumption and in stop/start city traffic you are surprised how often you’re running on just four cylinders.
Matched to a five-speed automatic transmission, the HEMI V8 delivers its 259kW/520Nm smoothly and acceleration is lively.
The V8-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee provides a towing capacity up to 3,500kgs.
Jeep Grand Cherokee The Interior
Inside the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee successfully blends the hallmark Jeep attributes with more quality and significantly boosted luxury. There is an immediate ‘American’ feel provided by the large, comfortable seats and multi-adjustable steering wheel
Drivers score a comfortable position thanks to 8-way electronic seat adjustment with 4-way electronic lumbar adjustment and even adjustable head restraints.
Instrumentation has also been improved with much better graphics.
Our Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited was fitted with the optional ‘Luxury Group’ pack, which brought a heated steering wheel and power lift for the tailgate. During a nasty Melbourne cold snap we used the heated steering wheel and can vouch for its effectiveness.
To the left is the simple ‘Selec-Terrain’ dial which the driver employs for variable driving conditions ‘Auto’ is the default or you can choose between ‘Snow’, ‘Sport’, ‘Sand/Mud’ or ‘Rock’. Selecting the latter brings the new Quadra-Lift suspension into play, which raises the ride height to 271mm and activates the transfer case, differentials and throttle for low-speed extreme off-road going.
Access to both front and rear seats has been improved with larger, wider-opening doors and as part of the overall spaciousness inside, rear seat passengers enjoy plenty of room.
Same out back with cargo capacity up by 11 per cent to 1,554-litres (seats folded) or 782-litres (seats in place). Jeep being Jeep, the spare wheel hold contains removable storage bins – perfect for wet/muddy gear.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior & Styling
Jeep has really overhauled the looks department of the latest Grand Cherokee – its sculptured and curvy with a modern, athletic look that provides substantial on-road presence, but in a modern, dynamic way.
Aerodynamics are substantially improved compared to the previous model with the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee providing a drag Cd of 0.37 (0.404 for the old model).
At the front, the hallmark Jeep seven-slot grille is a modern interpretation, accompanied by modern round headlights. Underneath is an innovative air dam, which is easily removable for extreme off-road action (approach angle is increased from 26 degrees to 34.3 degrees).
From the side, the stylish high waistline adds a purposeful look which disguises the large glasshouse (much better visibility in the new model).
And the modern looks continue at the rear with good-looking wrap-over taillights and a nice treatment for the tailgate.
Our Limited model ran the standard 20-inch alloy wheels (18-inch for entry-level Laredo).
Jeep Grand Cherokee On the Road
The latest Jeep Grand Cherokee is a perfect example of how time has changed American vehicles. By any measure the Jeep Grand Cherokee delivers a world-class performance in driving dynamics.
Sure our Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited model was off to a flying start thanks to its high-tech 259kW/520Nm V8 engine, but there’s more to the package than just V8 power.
The new independent suspension designs and new body structure with 146 per cent extra torsional stiffness have transformed the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Refinement levels now match or better the best in class, grip is impressive and in most situations the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a very cohesive package.
Around town we were surprised how often the V8 slipped seamlessly into four-cylinder mode to save fuel while still keeping pace with surrounding traffic. And of course when you nail the throttle, the 520Nm delivers massive acceleration for freeway merging and overtaking.
And we must say, despite its 4,822mm overall length and 2,915mm wheelbase, the Jeep Grand Cherokee delivered a stellar performance when reverse parking or negotiating our CBD car park. Our female testers were pleasantly surprised and also commented on the excellent rear visibility (a payback of the larger glasshouse included in the new design).
Out of town again the refinement and impressively low levels of NVH stood out to highlight how much improved the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee is compared top its predecessors.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Challenges
One minor criticism came after our Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited emerged from Car Showroom’s high-speed mountain roads test loop. In that environment the Jeep Grand Cherokee wasn’t quite as sharp as Ford’s very impressive latest-generation Territory.
Sure this is an area where the locally developed Territory is clearly the leader of the pack and while the Jeep Grand Cherokee is very close, it just needs a bit more body control and steering feedback in the twisty stuff.
We would also lobby for a six-speed transmission.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Verdict
Much improved over its predecessor, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a Car Showroom favourite. The mix of American style, interior space, abundant technology and the silky-smooth V8 powering the Limited model all add-up to an SUV which stands out from the crowd.
And, with a 70-year history, there’s no doubt Jeep is an iconic brand with an off-road reputation to match Britain’s Range Rover at the front of the pack.
Locally Jeep has done a great job pricing the latest Grand Cherokee range – value-for-money compared to Ford Territory and Toyota Kluger/Prado is impressive.
Jeep Grand Cherokee The Competition
Starting at $45,000, the Jeep Grand Cherokee presents a formidable American rival to vehicles like the Ford Territory and Toyota Kluger/Prado. And even at $60,000 for the Limited model Jeep Grand Cherokee we tested, the ‘Born In The USA’ SUV stacks-up very competitively.
Nissan’s Murano and Pathfinder are in the mix but don’t match the luxo feel of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
If you’ve got a bit more coin, the Land Rover Discovery 4 is superb ($68,490 starting price) but it’s over $100k for a V8 petrol ‘Disco’.