The SUV market is a tough one to stay competitive in. The yanks have had it especially tough considering their big burly V8’s, custard on-road dynamics and boxy styling have all taken a knock. Not only have BMW, Lexus & Mercedes turned the SUV into what is now merely a medium sized saloon that has some extra ground clearance, but has also created an expectation and raised the bar for what can physically be done with an SUV.
If you ever drove the old Grand Cherokee, there were some key traits that you love to hate. Firstly, the ride was everything I hate about American SUV’s; shaky, wallowy, pitchy and soft to the point of being dangerous. The big V8 did its best to hussle it along, but mainly turned petrol into noise, not movement. Finally, the interior was a place fake wood, plush leather and cheap plastic went to die.
Sounds rather grim… and it was.
Thankfully I’m happy to report that someone at Jeep got given a whollop to the back of the head, and the new Grand Cherokee has turned its back on all these bad old traits
In the current climate, every SUV maker knows the diesel engine is the volume driver, so thankfully Jeep has introduced the 3 litre V6 co-developed with FIAT to the range. Developing 177kW and 550NM (1800-2800RPM) of torque it compares well with the competing engines from BMW & Land Rover. Due to the fact that the Jeep is extremely capable off-road and it might actually see something else than the inside of Sandton City parking lot, the engine can run on 500ppm diesel, which is a huge plus considering the state of availability of 50ppm in outlying areas. Tick to the Jeep.
I was very impressed with the new engine, it easily hauls what is not a light vehicle around, with more than enough grunt, and returned ok fuel consumption of 12.2l/100km. (A 93litre tank is standard) Sadly, I must share the same sentiment with some other journalists, where the engine is a gem, it’s definitely let down by the 5speed auto gearbox. I’m sure it’s also to blame for the turbo lag more than the engine itself. Cruising however is sublime, and there’s no shortage of overtaking power, which is something the Prado definitely suffers from.
With the new engine comes a new outer shell, and in my view it’s the best looking SUV on the road. Muscular simple lines, thin glasshouse and big grille give it more of a car like look (a-la BMW X6) and less “hello I drive an SUV come throw red paint at my car”. In Overland spec (an additional R50K for some serious bells and whistles) with the optional 20inch rims (fitted) this car looked the part in town.
Inside it’s like chalk and cheese from the previous generation. My eye is however fixated on the now standard Jeep steering wheel, which has been given the oak finish once over. How very 90’s Lexus. Otherwise the seats are fully electric with, hold onto your sweaty pants folks, seat heating AND cooling. A damn novel invention if you ask me. Steering wheel heating, dual zone climate control, rear seat heating (ps the rear seats are as firm as a church pew), large cupholders (thanks yanks), keyless-go, a 40gig HDD to save all your CD’s on, Bluetooth, voice command, Navigation, auto xenon lights & wipers, Panoramic roof, puddle lighting, power tailgate and the list goes on. Spec for spec, there really isn’t anything that can beat this car at the price, which I’ll get to a little later
Otherwise the interior is a very nice place to be. I can’t fault anything except the very oldschool centre binnacle on board computer graphics which could do with an upgrade out of DOS, and while they are at it, the navigation system isn’t exactly a cinch to use. Actually I couldn’t get it to work at all. It is a comfortable place to be, the fit and finish near on up to German marquee levels and great use of quality plastic and leather to really do the interior of the vehicle a lot of justice. A job very well done.
There is a fair amount of space in the rear, and overall the vehicle feels a lot bigger inside, something you can probably thank the panoramic roof for.
So what’s changed under the skin of the new Grand Cherokee? Firstly there’s a fully automatic Quadra-Lift air suspension which can raise the vehicle up to 270millimters should you need to cross a small stream. As seen in the new Landies of late, is a simple selector type system to choose what you’re going to be tackling off-road, and the car makes the necessary adjustments. The Grand Cherokee employs a similar system, with adjustments for suspension height, 4 wheel-drive low range and hill descent. It’s no soft-roader, with the addition of Quadra-Trac II (proportions drive to the necessary wheels) and Quadra-Drive II (Rear electronic diff) you’re going to find it’ll be easy to get out of a sticky situation, something Jeep is legendary for. Quadra-FullStop.
A short stint “off-road” was hampered by what I hope was an electronic malady with the 4wheel drive system, so I didn’t get to put it through much of its paces off-road. This is something I continue to worry about with all the electronic aids, when something like that goes wrong out in Botswana, it’s not a simple part to replace (a-la Fortuner / Prado)
That said, the Jeep is now definitely closest it has ever been in the battle against the Discovery and Prado. Huge leaps and bounds in terms of on-road performance, looks and interior. At R650 000 it’s not cheap, but considering the following below, it really is an excellent buy.
- BMW X5 XDrive 3.0Diesel (no extras) at R685K (More on road performance bias but nowhere near in spec)
- Toyota Prado VX diesel (relatively well specced, roomier but engine not in the same league) R694K
- Land Rover Discovery 3.0D SE (Not same spec, but equally capable off and on road) R693K
- Mercedes ML 350 CDI (current generation is very similar in drive, interior and feel to this Jeep. The Daimler-Chrysler influence can be seen coming through heavily in the Grand Cherokee) R727K
I already see quite a few of these on the road, and am sure this diesel model will even further secure bigger sales for the Jeep brand in SA. I truly hope so as it’s an absolutely superb improvement!
Standard 3yr/100000km maintenance plan