Jeep Grand Cherokee review
The Jeep Grand Cherokee offers immense off-road capability, powerful engines and keen pricing compared with rivals
Launched in 2011, the Grand Cherokee has been given a mid life facelift for 2013 that has resulted in a sharper and more subtle European-inspired look. The previous two engine choices - a 3.0-litre V6 diesel (which has seen emission and economy improvements), and a high-performance V8 HEMI in the SRT – remain, though a third lower powered diesel option is available in entry level Laredo trim. The Grand Cherokee features plenty of hi-tech mechanical equipment, with four-wheel drive and low range gearbox standard on all models, while higher-specification cars also get air-suspension. Despite its enormous proportions, the Jeep has just five seats, but with an incredibly generous standard kit list, it undercuts premium rivals such as the BMW X5 and Volkswagen Touareg.
Our choice: Grand Cherokee 3.0 CRD V6 Overland
In an attempt to bring more appeal to the European market, things have been toned down a little. The seven-slit grille is less bulbous and now a little more sleeker, while there are also new LED daytime running lights. The rear also gets a mild makeover with tightened rear lights and more subtle finish. Top-spec Overland and Summit models come with huge 20-inch chrome alloy wheels as standard. There have also been improvements to the interior, though look closer and the quality still feels a step behind rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery with some cheaper looking and feeling plastics dotted around the cabin. A new 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen takes centre stage in the cabin, and means there are fewer buttons around which cuts down on clutter. The system includes sat-nav, MP3 nad controls for heating and driver settings.
There are three engines in the range: two diesels and one petrol. Things start off with the lower-powered 188bhp diesel, which is only available in the base Laredo model, and will go from 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds. The most popular engine, however, is the 247bhp version. This model can sprint from 0-62mph sprint in just 8.2 seconds, with an all-new eight-speed automatic gearbox that has replaced the five-speed automatic. Changes are quick and smooth, and this has helped improve the car’s impact on the environment, with better economy and lower emissions than before. Overland and Summit models get air suspension, which gives the Grand Cherokee a waft-like smoothness on the road, though the 20-inch wheels mean larger road scars can crash in to the cabin a little. Opt for the Limited model or below, which come with standard steel spring suspension, and bumps and potholes are more pronounced. These models also are more apparent in terms of body roll round any tight corners. Where it excels is off-road, where the commanding driving position, high ground clearance and air-suspension make it adept at tackling the toughest terrain. All models get a Selec-Terrain control system, which is similar to the Range Rover’s Terrain Response system and allows you to opt for sand, mud, auto, rock and snow mode depending on the environment you’re driving in. It's much more comfortable than its predecessor on road too, even on those enormous alloy wheels. The SRT version gets a 461bhp 6.4-litre V8 and can accelerate from 0-62mph in five seconds. Off-road ability comes second to handling in this variant and comfort is also sacrificed.
All Jeeps come with a three-year or 60,000 mile warranty, and the new version shares a lot of its mechanical underpinnings with the new Mercedes M-Class, so buyers should have little to fear in terms of breakdowns. There were some recalls on the previous generation, but the Grand Cherokee is much improved, inside and out. Euro NCAP gave the car a four-star safety rating. In isolation the result is commendable. However, compare it to the BMW X5 and VW Touareg, which both achieved five stars in the pre-2009 ratings, and it doesn’t look quite up to the standards of its main competitors.
As you'd expect, there's plenty of room in the back of the big Jeep. Filled to the roof, there's a massive 782 litres of luggage space, with a pair of extra storage bins on either side of the spare wheel beneath the boot floor. It comes fitted with a retractable tonneau cover as standard but, with this in place, the Jeep's boot can seem a bit shallow. Drop the back seats and that space rises to 1,554-litres – that's a little behind the Land Rover Discovery but still more than enough to meet most people's needs. Space in the back is also excellent, with reclining and ventilated rear seats on top-spec models. Parking can be an issue and there are occasions where the Jeep can feel a little unsuited to narrow UK roads.
Things have definitely improved over the previous generation, but the Grand Cherokee is still unlikely to win any awards for helping the environment. The big V6 combined with the new eight-speed automatic gearbox means things have been improved, however. Economy is up from 34mpg to 38mpg, while emissions have dipped from 218g/km to 198g/km - meaning annual road tax is now £475 rather than £620. Despite these changes, it’s still a little off the BMW X5 and Volkswagen Touareg. Those are very competitive figures for a car of this type, but all other ancillaries, like tyres, servicing and filters, will be expensive. This is not a cheap car to run. That's particularly true if you go for the SRT model, which will cost more than £1,000 in road tax for the first year and only manages 20.1mpg.