While other luxo-utes go the soft-roader route, this Jeep tries to offer the best of both worlds
It seems some of Canada's more famous sport utilities have reached, err, a 'certain' age. Put plainly, they're softening about the middle. Vehicles that were once ready and willing to venture anywhere, anytime have changed their tune. Machines like the Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder are wearing crossover pants now (hiked to their belly buttons?) and are happily living life now as essentially tall wagons.
Don't get me wrong, these are very fine rides and ideal for any Canadian family. But what if you still want an SUV that can do all the day-to-day driving stuff, plus, say, drive up Mount Logan? Well, there's this Jeep Grand Cherokee. It's not the smoothest quasi-premium offering out there, but as far combining luxury trappings with all-terrain capability, this is basically an American Land Rover.
This is the smoothest driving vehicle Jeep's ever made and that's due mostly to the roots of its chassis. Dig deep and you'll find the bones come from the Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV. Chrysler Co. sourced those bits when it was married to Daimler AG a few years back.
That said, the Grand Cherokee's still not a silken as the Benz or its rivals that have gone the full-blown crossover route. Mainly because this thing can and will tackle some insane trails, the on-road ride has just a small hint of, um, "truckiness," I think it's endearing to the Jeep's character. Others may not.
Base power in the Grand comes via Chrysler's excellent new 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, good for 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Our Limited-spec tester, though bought up to the 5.7-litre V8. In an age where small, turbocharged engines are making big power and still returning good fuel economy, the Hemi seems a tad old school. That said, its significant jump in muscle to 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque move the Jeep out justly and brings best-in-class V8 towing capacity of 7,400 lbs.
A Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which seamlessly shuts down four of the eight cylinders when you're not hustling helps the fuel economy cause. I averaged in the 10-12 L/100 km range.
To get to the Limited Grand Cherokee model, you essentially have to make a $10,000 walk from the $37,795 base model. That said, the Limited and the next up $50,095 Overland model are where the Jeep best shows its clever ability to meld luxury and all-terrain prowess. A few standout features: nappa leather seating, a heated steering wheel, HID auto-levelling headlamps, a panoramic sunroof, a backup camera and remote start
Note that it's a bit of climb into the Grand Cherokee and the vehicle feels and drives large. Once seated though, there's plenty of space in both rows (the rear seats can be heated too - bonus!). As far a quality and materials go, this is one of Chrysler Co's best efforts to date. Some of the plastics are not quite at, say, Benz levels, but overall fit and finish here should please most drivers shopping for a near-luxo brand SUV.
I'm going to swing back around to driveability here for a moment. Our tester G.C. came outfitted with Jeep's Selec-Terrain system. As you'd see in a Land Rover, it's a knob on the centre console you use dial in traction for five different driving conditions. Essentially the truck's computers manage the engine power and traction control systems to keep you moving. It's slick piece of kit, made all the better if you option up to the air suspension which can raise and lower the vehicle for loading people or for climbing boulders.
Note that there are three levels of four-wheel drive systems offered under the G.C., essentially getting smarter and more complex as you move up the price sheets.
On the cargo carrying front, the Jeep does have a pretty tall lift in height, but once stuff's up there, space in pretty capacious. Officially there's 993 litres with the seats up, more than the rival like the Volkswagen Touareg and Ford Explorer, though the latter has a third row seat.
The built-in-Detroit, Michigan Jeep Grand Cherokee has been in production now 20 years. Over that time the sport ute's basically worked to keep its stout off-road abilities, while refining its ride and luxury features (Adaptive Cruise Control, a Forward Collision Warning system, a 470 horsepower SRT model, etc. are now offered...)
Add in its slightly-larger-than-midsize dimensions and the available V8 engine and the Grand becomes a pretty unique machine in today's SUV world - and an authentic all-roader to boot.