Jeep’s Grand Cherokee has always been just a little different than your typical SUV. Always a little rougher and a little more rugged, now it’s trying to be as luxurious and comfortable as the best from the competition, too.
For the new model year, the Jeep Grand Cherokee receives enhancements that improve both on- and off-road performance. Jeep hopes that these changes, in combination with new option packaging, will keep the Grand Cherokee at the head of the pack in off-road ability and on-road refinement.
The first thing that you notice is the new styling. The Grand Cherokee always had very lean styling, with short overhangs that not only aid it when it comes to off road capability but also gives it an aggressive look. The new version follows in that tradition with clean styling that makes the Jeep look much smaller than it really is. At 189 inches in length, the Jeep is about 10 inches shorter than a Ford Explorer.
The downside of the neat styling is that the Grand Cherokee only seats five passengers. Many of the Jeep’s competition have a third row to seat seven passengers. While that may be an important factor for some buyers, it is sometimes better just to be honest. Many of the competition have put in the third row just for advertising purposes, and they’re useless for anyone with legs — what you end up with is almost no cargo space. With the Jeep you have a very roomy and comfortable second row that can easily carry three people. Behind them is 35 cubic feet of cargo area or you can have 68 cubic feet of cargo space if you fold the rear seat.
Under the hood of the Grand Cherokee, you have a choice of a V6 or V8 engine. The V8 puts out 360 horsepower and gets 13 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the freeway with four-wheel drive. The V6 engine puts out 290 hp and gets 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the freeway. Our car had the V6 engine which is the preferred engine for most people. The engine is a very modern design that has just been updated. The all-aluminum engine runs on 87 octane fuel and gets good fuel economy for such a powerful engine pulling 4600 pounds of car. The V8 option adds about 300 pounds of weight to the Jeep’s curb weight further hurting fuel economy.
Weight is the big issue with the Jeep and you can feel it when you are driving it. The Grand Cherokee used to be the sports car of its class but the new version, even with the V6 engine, feels heavy and slow to respond. Handling is typical SUV or the opposite of a sports car. On the positive side, the ride is very comfortable and there is not much road or wind noise inside the cabin. Much of the credit has to be given to the isolated front and rear suspension cradles.
A new feature is the Selec-Terrain system on the Grand Cherokee. The traction control system lets the driver choose the 4-by-4 setting for the optimum experience on all terrains. Instead of the driver selecting various parameters, the system makes it easy for the driver. All the driver has to do is to select the terrain and the computer does the work. Selec-Terrain electronically coordinates up to 12 different powertrain, braking and suspension systems, including throttle control, transmission shift, transfer case, traction control and electronic stability control.
The Jeep Selec-Terrain’s control dial allows the driver to choose from five driving conditions to achieve the best 4-by-4 performance. Torque management to the drive wheels for maximum grip is achieved through various steps. The driver can choose between Sand/Mud, Sport, Snow, Rock and Auto. Some of the higher models such as the Overland model also give you Quadra Lift suspension which is an air lift suspension that really raises the capability of the Grand Cherokee to a new level.
Features like this really separate the Grand Cherokee from your average SUV. While most people will never turn the knob past Auto, they will feel much better about their purchase knowing that the Jeep is capable of almost anything. And all these features are available for as little as $27,195 for the entry-level Laredo package. Our test car was a Limited, which starts out at $36,795 and you can go all the way up to $43,495 for the Overland Summit. That is a great deal for a very capable vehicle, even if you never test it.