TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the oldest products in the off-road specialist’s growing Australian showroom. It has easily been the brand’s biggest seller since its launch here in 2011.
It’s one of the few cars in this segment to base itself on a unibody chassis instead of the trade ute-derived body on frame. It’s also one of the rare ones to offer a mix of SUV-like rear-drive versions that are more at home on city roads, and hardcore four-wheel-drive versions that will get you from one side of Australia to the other without relying on bitumen. Or even a formed road, for that matter.
It’s important, then, that any updates to the large premium SUV/off-roader need to keep it ahead of fast-moving rivals including the strong-selling Toyota Prado off-roader and its on-road equivalent the Toyota Kluger, the even older Mitsubishi Pajero, and the Nissan Pathfinder.
In its richly equipped $62,500 Limited form, the petrol V6 Grand Cherokee goes head-to-head with the range-topping Nissan Pathfinder Ti AWD and the Toyota Kluger Grande AWD, and the entry-level petrol-engined Toyota Prado GXL. The Limited is the Grand Cherokee’s best-selling variant.
- It’s good value. Prices have gone up by just $500 after this significant overhaul of the Grand Cherokee’s looks and equipment, but it is still significantly cheaper than its direct rivals.
- Standard equipment is good. It has leather seats, powered front seats (driver’s with a memory function) and tailgate, nine-speaker audio system, sat-nav, heated front seats and steering wheel, tinted glass, and dual exhausts.
- It still looks the business. A subtle upgrade to the Grand Cherokee’s nose brings slightly more chiselled, and proportioned, looks to the traditional seven-bar grille that also brings the parking sensors closer to ground level.
- The overhauled petrol-fuelled Pentastar V6 grows in performance and fuel economy. Power increases slightly from 210 to 213 kilowatts (torque is 347Nm), but more significantly, it adds a stop-start function to help save fuel in city traffic.
- It’s still a nicely quiet SUV to drive. There’s some wind noise from the large side mirrors, and some tyre roar from the 20-inch Continental CrossContact rubber fitted to our test car, but it’s barely noticeable.
- You can switch between active cruise control, and normal cruise control.
- The eight-speed automatic gains paddle shifters (well, half-sized ones that poke out from the top of the steering wheel) and a much more stylish gear selector.
- Jeep doesn’t hold back on the leather used for the seats in the Limited. You won’t need to describe them as “leather trimmed”.
- The Limited includes a high/low transfer box and a five-mode selectable off-road system. Match the setting to the terrain outside the windows, and the off-road system’s electronic brains takes care of the rest.
- You’re not missing out on much in the rear seats. There’s a nice, wide bench, air-conditioning vents on the back of the centre console, two USB ports, and heaters for both outboard seats. Above, there’s individual reading lights for both outboard seats.
- If you need to pack the rear with gear, the back seats’ 70:30 split seatbacks tumble forward automatically to almost flat at the pull of a lever mounted on the side of them.
- The upgraded multimedia interface adds a trailer hitch function that lets you check how things on the tow ball are travelling.
- The Limited adds an automated parking function that can help you manoeuvre the big SUV in and out of tight spaces.
- Changes to the petrol V6 engine have extended service intervals to 12 months or 15,000km, while Jeep says the cost of the parts used for servicing have come down. You should therefore need fewer visits to the service centre, and they should be cheaper.
- It gets a full-size spare tyre, which is suddenly very important when you find yourself 200km west of Birdsville with a flat.
- The Pentastar V6 still likes to drink deep despite its newfound environmentalism. The average fuel economy on test we noted was 12.2L/100km against an official average of 10.0L/100km. The 3.0-litre diesel V6 version will return 7.5L/100km.
- The engine and gearbox still aren’t the best of friends. The throttle pedal is slightly too overly sensitive, and the gearbox will jerk slightly as it hunts for the right gear on a hill.
- The mix of analogue and digital instruments on the dash is very well integrated, but the sat-nav system still doesn’t show turn-by-turn instructions in the instrument cluster. Instead, you need to drag your eyes down to the square-shaped 8.4-inch touchscreen to see what’s up next.
- The power steering has swapped over to an electrically assisted system. It doesn’t quite read the road surface as well as the old hydraulic one it has replaced, but adds lightness and that automated parking function.
- The Pentastar adds an “eco” mode activated via a button mounted on the centre console. It’s the electronic equivalent of trying to run in gumboots, sapping the Limited of performance as the throttle dulls and the gearbox hunts up the range and becomes a downshift niggard.
- Controlling the uConnect multimedia/smartphone/climate control/satellite navigation interface can be a bit inelegant. The physical buttons below it are easy to stab, even with a gloved hand, but try and turn the seat heaters on and it’s a glove-off, stop moving affair while you navigate the menus and their physically smaller virtual buttons. And it doesn’t support Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
ARE THERE ANY RIVALS THAT I SHOULD CONSIDER?
If you plan to head off-road, look at the entry-level Toyota Prado GXL with a 4.0-litre V6, priced from $62,210. If off-road strength isn’t as important, an all-wheel-drive, seven-seat Toyota Kluger Grande powered by a 3.5-litre V6 is priced from $69,617. Our last choice would be a Nissan Pathfinder Ti priced from $66,190 and powered by a $3.5-litre V6.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited is available with a 184kW/570Nm 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine that is much better suited to tapping the 3500kg towing capacity, and the fuel-hungry demands of off-road use. It is a huge $6500 premium over the Pentastar, though.