2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Range Review

Exemplary performance and a truckload of equipment have made the Jeep Grand Cherokee a very popular big 4WD wagon. It is built on the same platform as the Mercedes GLE 4WD.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 2017 Drive MAIN 3 Jpg
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   A wealth of four-wheel drive for wage-earner money
Not so much
  •   Only five seats

What stands out?

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.

What might bug me?

The parking-brake pedal. It resides on the left side of the narrow driver’s footwell, and might tend to rub against your left leg.

That friends’ Land Rover Discoveries and Toyota Prados can carry more luggage, and look more comfortable and composed when off-road.

That such a big car can’t seat more than five people.

That you can’t listen to CDs – there’s no player.

What body styles are there?

The Grand Cherokee comes in a single body style, a five-door SUV-style wagon.

The least costly Grand Cherokee, the Laredo 4x2, drives its rear wheels only. All other Grand Cherokees drive all four wheels all the time, with either dual-range or (on an SRT) single-range gearing.

The Grand Cherokee is classed as a large SUV, lower priced.

What features come with every Grand Cherokee?

A smart key, which means you can unlock and start the car provided you have the key somewhere on your person (for example, in a bag or pocket).

A sound system with a radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, ports for USB, SD-card and Auxiliary media, and at least six speakers, controllable from a centre-console touchscreen.

A reversing camera, and front and rear parking sensors. Cruise control.

Height and reach adjustment for the leather-clad steering wheel, which carries controls for the audio system and paddle-shifters for the transmission.

Power-adjustment and heating for the front seats.

Dual-zone air-conditioning, which allows the driver and front passenger to set their own cabin temperatures.

Extremely bright bi-xenon headlights that switch on automatically when it gets dark, and that also switch themselves between low and high beam at night as required. Windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains.

Aluminium alloy wheels. Tyre Pressure Monitoring, which alerts you if a tyre has lost some air – a helpful feature that contributes to safety.

Electronic traction control, which helps prevent wheelspin in slippery conditions and is a great help off-road.

Trailer sway control, which helps prevent a dangerous oscillation from developing when you are towing.

Seven airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skid. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Grand Cherokee safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

All Grand Cherokees come with a five-year, 100,000km warranty, and lifetime roadside assistance.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The diesel, which consumes 7.5 litres/100km in official tests (city and country combined). This turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 is the most common engine across the range and offers strong power as well as good economy. It’s available in all Grand Cherokees except for the least expensive of them and the most expensive.

In the real world, a diesel Grand Cherokee will use about 9 litres/100km on average, for mixed city and highway use.

The main reason you would not choose a diesel Grand Cherokee is that it will cost a lot more to purchase than its petrol equivalent. As well, refuelling any diesel vehicle can be unpleasant at poorly maintained service stations, given that diesel is oilier and smellier than petrol.

Two petrol engines are available in a Grand Cherokee, but only one is widely available.

That is a 3.6-litre V6. This is the only engine you can get in the least costly Grand Cherokee, the Laredo 4x2, and it is standard in the Laredo 4WD and the Limited. It uses more fuel than the diesel – about 13 litres/100km in the real world – and for most driving conditions offers less power.

The second petrol engine is a 6.4-litre V8. This gets you a lot of power, but it comes only with the Grand Cherokee SRT – a high-performance wagon that is not designed for off-road use.

All engines are mated to sophisticated eight-speed automatic gearboxes, from the German transmission specialist ZF.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least expensive Grand Cherokee, the Laredo 4x2, comes with cloth-covered seats, a 5.0-inch touchscreen, 18-inch wheels, and the V6 petrol engine – which drives the rear wheels only.

Spend more and you can have a Laredo 4x4, with four-wheel drive, dual-range gearing (which allows you to drive comfortably at very low speeds on rough terrain), and the option of the diesel engine. The Laredo 4x4 also has a much bigger, 8.4-inch, touchscreen, and receives digital radio signals (DAB+).

Spend yet more for a Grand Cherokee Limited and you get, in addition, leather seats, which are heated for rear passengers also, and a power-adjustable, heated, steering wheel. The driver’s seat and exterior mirrors can remember your preferred settings, and the mirrors rotate down to show the gutter when parking. The Limited also has satellite navigation, and a high-output audio system with nine speakers – including a sub-woofer that boosts bass response. Wheels are bigger at 20 inches, and lower-profile tyres sharpen steering on smooth, paved surfaces.

The most off-road ready Grand Cherokee is the Trailhawk, and it costs a bit more than a Limited diesel. Available only as a diesel, the Trailhawk reverts to more off-road friendly 18-inch wheels, and comes with tyres that work off-road as well as on the road. It has a more steeply chamfered front bumper, which is less likely to scrape on obstacles, and four steel plates underneath that protect sensitive parts such as the engine and fuel tank. Two hooks at the front make it easier to recover the vehicle if you get bogged. And it has Selec-Speed Control, which is like cruise control for off-road use: you can set a very low speed that the car will maintain up and down hills – all you need to do is steer.

The Trailhawk has two other features that are very handy on rough terrain. One is Quadra-Drive II, a 4WD system that makes the Trailhawk much more effective off-road than standard Laredo and Limited models (these, confusingly, come with Quadra-Trak II). Quadra-Drive II’s advantage comes from its clever rear differential, which either sends most power to the wheel that has most traction, or in extreme situations locks and drives both rear wheels in unison.

The second is Quadra-Lift, which can raise the car so that it can negotiate obstacles more easily (and lower it so that it performs better at high speeds on the road). It uses air springs that can extend or retract the suspension.

On the luxury front, the Trailhawk has air-conditioned front seats trimmed with perforated leather.

For a small price premium over the Trailhawk, you could have the similar Grand Cherokee Overland, which has a more on-road focus and a suite of sophisticated active driver aids. They include automatic cruise control – which will match your speed to that of a slower car ahead on the highway, resuming your set speed when the way is clear. There is also autonomous braking, a blind-spot warning, and rear cross-path detection.

The Overland has seats trimmed in soft Nappa leather, extra leather trim in the cabin, and a self-parking system. Like the Trailhawk, it has Quadra-Drive II and Quadra-Lift. But it swaps back to 20-inch wheels and loses the Trailhawk’s underbody protection, chamfered nose, and tow hooks.

The most expensive Grand Cherokee is the SRT, a bespoke high-performance model that has the 6.4-litre V8 petrol engine, a single-range 4WD system, sports seats, suspension that adjusts automatically for smooth and rough road conditions, Nappa leather trim, the Overland’s active driver aids, and distinctive styling inside and out.

Optional on the Laredo 4x4 diesel is an Off-Road Adventure Group, which adds most specialist off-road features from the Trailhawk – including Quadra-Drive II, Quadra Lift, and the underbody protection. You can do the same for an Overland, in which case you get the absent features and 18-inch wheels and tyres.

Optional on the Limited and Trailhawk is the Jeep Active Safety Group, which brings you the active safety features which come standard on the Overland and SRT.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The lower-profile tyres fitted to Grand Cherokees with the 20-inch wheels produce a rougher ride than the 18-inch tyres on the Laredo and Trailhawk, because there is less cushioning air between the wheel and the road. These tyres are also more vulnerable to damage in rough terrain, and cost more to replace.

The high-performance SRT, although happy enough on gravel roads and the like, is not suitable for off-road use.

Only white paint comes at no additional cost: all other colours cost extra.

How comfortable is the Grand Cherokee?

The Grand Cherokee has the feel and ambience inside of a high-tech modern car, and the more expensive versions with leather seats also bring luxury. At all price levels, you feel that you are getting lots of car for your money. Front-seat passengers have plenty of space and good comfort.

On the road, the Grand Cherokee feels like a big car to drive too – rather than a more cumbersome and rough-riding 4WD. It is quiet and smooth to ride in regardless of which engine is fitted, thanks in part to the silky automatic gearbox.

The popular diesel engine runs smoothly, and the petrol V6 even more so. The petrol V8 delivers the most luxurious and effortless driving experience.

What about safety in a Grand Cherokee?

Grand Cherokees offer all the expected safety features of a modern car. The standard package includes anti-lock brakes, stability control, seven airbags, auto-on and auto-dipping headlamps, tyre pressure monitors, and a reversing camera.

There are two airbags directly in front of the driver and front passenger; airbags outside each front occupant to protect from side impacts at chest level; curtain airbags that protect front and rear occupants from side impacts at head level; and an airbag to protect the driver’s knees and legs.

In addition, a suite of sensor-based active safety features is standard on the Grand Cherokee Overland and SRT, and optional on the Limited and Trailhawk. It includes autonomous braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot detection and rear cross-path detection.

The auto braking works with a forward collision alert and operates at city and highway speeds – Jeep calls it Full speed forward collision warning plus. It uses camera and radar sensors to scan for obstacles ahead – typically another car that has slowed suddenly. If it determines that a collision is likely, it warns you to brake. If you ignore the warning, it will pulse the brakes to wake you up. If you fail to react, it will apply partial braking to bring down your collision speed. At speeds under about 40km/h, it will apply enough brake pressure to stop the car, Jeep says.

Lane departure warning plus monitors road markings and warns if you seem to be drifting wide of your lane on the highway – perhaps from distraction or fatigue. It can apply gentle steering assistance to help bring you back on course.

Blind spot and rear cross-path detection monitor traffic behind you. The former alerts you to nearby cars that might not appear in your mirrors. The latter works when reversing, checking for vehicles crossing your path.

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).

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The Grand Cherokee is a great car to drive, in whatever form you prefer it. The 6.4-litre SRT offers more bang for your buck than any other high-performance SUV, and is a seriously rapid car by any measure.

Diesel Grand Cherokees feel enthusiastic and effortless in general driving, and at highway speeds overtake without fuss. The petrol V6 engine also has a sting in its tail, but it needs plenty of revs to give its best.

The Grand Cherokee’s chassis, which essentially is the same as that used for the Mercedes-Benz GLE (and former ML-Class), offers nimble, precise handing for a big 4WD wagon and excellent stability. Compared with similar cars at similar prices, the Grand Cherokee’s handing on sealed roads is almost sports-car like, underpinned by its independent suspension.

Given how good it is on bitumen, you’ll also be impressed with just how capable the Grand Cherokee is off road in Trailhawk guise, or as a Laredo or Overland with Off-Road Adventure Group options.

More often than not with 4WD vehicles, good on-road handing comes at the expense of off-road ability (and vice versa). The Grand Cherokee largely defies this trade-off, when equipped appropriately.

One word of caution however: while the Grand Cherokee can be very capable off road, it won’t be as comfortable to ride in over rough terrain as similar vehicles such as the Toyota Prado and Ford Everest. The suspension that is so helpful on bitumen does not accommodate off-road humps and holes as fluently as the live-axle designs on most dual-range 4WD alternatives.

How is life in the rear seats?

The Grand Cherokee has a wide back seat, and comfortable leg room for all but the tallest adults.

However, rear-seat passengers have less head and shoulder room than in the Land Rover Discovery and Toyota Prado.

Upper-tether and ISOFIX anchors are fitted for child seats.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The Grand Cherokee does not have a big luggage area by the standards of big 4WD wagons.

What’s more, the spare tyre is mounted under the cargo-area floor, which means unpacking the vehicle in the event of a flat tyre.

However, the Grand Cherokee has a class-leading towing capacity of 3500kg (braked trailer) – and enough power to tow heavy loads.

Where is the Grand Cherokee made?

The Grand Cherokee is built in the USA, although the diesel engine comes from Italy and the 6.4-litre V8 engine is assembled in Mexico. The eight-speed gearbox used with the 3.6-litre petrol V6 is made in the USA under licence from German firm ZF, while the eight-speed gearbox used with the diesel and the petrol V8 is produced in Germany by ZF.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Most of the Grand Cherokee’s main competitors, including the Isuzu MU-X, Holden Trailblazer, Ford Everest and Toyota Fortuner, offer seven seats.

The Toyota Prado and the Land Rover Discovery offer seven seats and also more luggage space than the Grand Cherokee.

Prado and Discovery are more comfortable in rough off-road conditions than the Grand Cherokee.

If you are considering a Grand Cherokee, all of these alternatives are worth a look, as is the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. But few will feel like they get you as much for the money.

Are there plans to update the Grand Cherokee soon?

This fourth-generation Grand Cherokee dates back to 2011, but a major revision in mid-2013 introduced the eight-speed automatic gearbox

Jeep added the Trailhawk in conjunction with a minor facelift in May 2017. About the same time, it dropped the 5.7-litre petrol V8 that had been optional on the Limited and Overland.

There is no firm arrival date for a fifth-generation Grand Cherokee, but expect to see it before 2020.

I like this car, but I can’t choose which version. Can you help?

It’s hard to go past the Laredo 4WD diesel as the best buy here. It’s well equipped for the money and has most things you need. If you want sat nav or the luxury of leather you’ll have to move up to the Limited, or beyond.

If off-road driving is on your agenda, you can add the Off-Road Adventure Group options to the Laredo – which get you the off-road ability of the Trailhawk but at a lower cost.

Buyers of the more expensive Overland who want to head off road will also need to add the Off-Road option pack, but in this case the option merely swaps the 20-inch wheels for 18s and adds underbody protection. The Overland comes standard with the other important off-road features.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   A wealth of four-wheel drive for wage-earner money
Not so much
  •   Only five seats


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