Wednesday 7 December 2011
Despite its size and US origins, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the most understated large 4×4s on the market. Yes, the trademark seven-slot grille is perhaps chrome-heavy but the rest is surprisingly subtle, its bumpers and wheel arches are free from rugged protective cladding. Overall the Grand Cherokee is less aggressive-looking than rivals such as the BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport, opting for a more subtle look like the Volkswagen Touareg. This will attract some, while others may find it a little bland.
The best interior Jeep has ever made. The company has made huge investments in cabin quality and nowhere is that more apparent than in here. It’s still not up to the very high standards set by its German rivals but the gulf that once existed is now a narrowing gap. Touches such as the chrome-ringed dials and leather-trimmed dashboard on top Overland models lift the overall ambience. However its clunky touch-screen navigation system and cheap-feeling buttons and switches make it feel a little old-fashioned.
It doesn’t feel quite as spacious as some rivals inside but still has more than enough room to serve duty as a family car. The boot is one of the largest in its class, with a capacity of 994 litres with the rear seats up, compared to 833 for the Mercedes M-Class and just 620 litres in the BMW X5. Folding the rear seats is a brilliantly simple, one touch operation and liberates a massive 1,945 litres of space.
4. Ride and handling
The Grand Cherokee rides well, particularly with the height-adjustable air suspension system fitted to the top-spec models. It’s comfortable and isolates those inside from even the biggest bumps. The steering is light – perhaps a little too light for some – but it is accurate and makes the car easy to place on the road. The BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport are more fun to drive, the Jeep feeling a little vague during fast cornering. There is plenty of grip though and it’s never anything other than safe and predictable. Being a Jeep, it’s virtually unstoppable off-road with a host of mechanical and electronic aides helping it to seemingly defeat the laws of physics.
While the Grand Cherokee is available with 3.6-litre V6 and 5.7-litre V8 petrol engines, we tested the 3.0 CRD diesel, which is expected to be the biggest seller. With 238bhp and 406lb/ft, performance is reasonably swift, with 0-62mph acceleration taking 8.2 seconds. However the V6 engine is too noisy when compared to its rivals. The engine itself wouldn’t be such an issue if it were fitted to a better automatic gearbox. The old-fashioned five-speed unit is jerky, slow to react and constantly feels to be in too low a gear, exacerbating the noise issue. The lack of a sixth gear means the engine revs unnecessarily quickly when cruising on the motorway, affecting both refinement and fuel economy.
6. Running costs
The Grand Cherokee is considerably cheaper to buy than its similarly-sized rivals. It will lose more of its value over three years.
Jeeps are renowned for their ruggedness but aren’t as highly-rated in customer satisfaction surveys as some rivals. However, with such an obvious focus on improving the build quality of its latest cars, the Grand Cherokee has the potential to rewrite its reputation.
The Grand Cherokee hasn’t been subjected to a test by Euro NCAP to assess its ability to project both occupants and pedestrians in the event of an accident. However large off-road cars tend to fare well by their nature during crashes and the Grand Cherokee is fitted with the latest safety equipment, which should ensure it isn’t an exception to the rule.
All Grand Cherokees are well equipped, with all but the Laredo model featuring leather upholstery as standard. The range-topping Overland is fitted with every extra including electric, heated seats, satellite navigation and parking cameras.
10. Why buy?
Handsome, understated looks and good value for money plus that all-American image.