Jeep Grand Cherokee review
The Jeep Grand Cherokee offers immense off-road capability, powerful engines and keen pricing compared with rivals
There’s no doubt the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee is head and shoulders above its predecessor when it comes to premium feel, ride comfort (of air suspension models at least), and the efficiency of a torquey 3.0 litre diesel V6.
It’s stacked-out with equipment too, making it look pretty good value on the showroom floor once the optional extras for its mainly European rivals start adding up. Satisfied Grand Cherokee owners rate comfort, performance and tech extremely highly, but they’re less impressed with build quality. Fit and finish just doesn’t match up to the standard set by the Europeans, and a lavish spec-sheet can’t hide the fact.
The driving experience is also a little less taut and refined than the best rivals, and some will also take issue with the car’s slightly ‘bling’ image - perfectly expressed by the polished and lacquered 20-inch alloys of the top trim level.
The very first Jeep Grand Cherokee famously made its public debut at the 1992 Detroit Motor Show by driving up the steps of the exhibition hall and smashing through a plate glass window. It was a high profile if brash introduction for a model that played a key role in helping to shape the concept of the luxury 4x4 SUV, a segment that’s still growing and evolving today.
Subsequent evolutions of the Grand Cherokee saw out the Chrysler group’s merger with Daimler-Benz, and survived the global economic downturn and US auto industry crisis which saw Chrysler file for bankruptcy in 2009 - partly as a result of its over-reliance on big, inefficient SUVs and pick-ups. While consumers looked towards downsizing to more fuel-efficient vehicles Chrysler – and the Grand Cherokee – battled on. The Jeep flagship proved it had staying power, even as annual sales slumped to around fifth of their late 1990s hey-day.
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Things improved after the crisis, and now the Grand Cherokee has been in production for almost a quarter of a century. The current fourth-generation model was introduced in 2010 and updated in 2014. Under Fiat ownership, the Grand Cherokee range offers updated looks and a revised diesel engine, which emits less CO2 than ever before as well as offering greater economy.
The Grand Cherokee features plenty of hi-tech mechanical equipment, with four-wheel drive and low range gearbox standard across the range, while higher-spec models also get air suspension.
It has an incredibly generous standard kit list, with prices undercutting premium rivals such as the Volkswagen Touareg, BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport. The current range here in the UK consists of Laredo, Limited, Limited+, Overland, Summit and performance SRT8 models.
The main engine offering is the 3.0-litre CRD V6 diesel, but the SRT features a humungously powerful 6.4-litre V8 and is a charismatic, appealingly uncouth hot-rod of an SUV.
If nothing else the range flagship proves that while the Grand Cherokee has undoubtedly evolved, at heart it’s still a relatively unsophisticated pleasure. And if you’re looking for an ‘eco-friendly’ hybrid, look elsewhere…
Engines, performance and drive
The Grand Cherokee is much more comfortable than its predecessor on road, even on enormous alloy wheels.
Air-suspension is standard on the Overland and Summit trim levels, and while it’s reasonably comfortable at cruising speeds, there’s still some significant body roll in bends, while the low-speed ride is a little on the fidgety side.
Opt for the Limited+ model or below, which come with standard steel spring suspension, and bumps and potholes are more pronounced.
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Where the Grand Cherokee 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.
Steering is reasonably light for such a large car, and there’s a surprisingly tight turning circle, although the steering itself is devoid of feedback.
Thankfully, there are plenty of driving aids to help you get this 2,300kg 4x4 moving. Front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are standard, while adaptive cruise control helps keep your distance to the car in front with little input
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 in just 8.2 seconds, with an all-new eight-speed ZF 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.
The SRT version gets the monster 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.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
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 diesel V6 combined with the new eight-speed automatic gearbox means the picture is a little rosier than it used to be, however. Economy is up from 34mpg to almost 38mpg on the official ‘combined’ test cycle, while emissions have dipped from 218g/km to 198g/km - meaning annual road tax is now £475 rather than £620.
Those are very competitive figures for a car of this type, but despite the improvements, the numbers are still a little way off the BMW X5 and Volkswagen Touareg.
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The reality is though, unless you’re prepared to ghost along on the motorway with your Grand Cherokee’s mirrors full of gesticulating 44 tonne truck drivers, you’re likely to see consumption that’s a lot heavier than those official figures suggest.
All other running costs, such as tyres, servicing and filters, will be expensive too, and the bottom line is that the Grand Cherokee 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 on the official ‘combined’ test cycle.
The 3.0-litre diesel with the lowest 188bhp output is only available in the Grand Cherokee Laredo entry-model, which is rated group 36 for insurance. The 247bhp versions are more popular, and attract group ratings between 40 and 43 depending on spec. The bonkers 461bhp SRT is unsurprisingly a top group 50 car.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is reasonably desirable on the used car market, and valuation experts CAP suggest that all the diesel models should retain between 45 and 47 per cent of their new value after three years and 36,000 miles of ownership. The lower-spec Laredo and Limited models will be at the lower end of that spectrum.
The most expensive model in the line-up is the £64k petrol SRT model, and this is predicted to lose more of its value – up to 41 per cent over the same period. That will cost you over £38k in hard cash terms, on top of the horrendous fuel bills.
Interior, design and technology
The first thing that strikes you about the Jeep Grand Cherokee is its sheer size. It’s longer, taller and wider than many of its rivals, and the chunky styling does nothing to make it look any less imposing. The facelift for 2014 has added sharp-looking LED running lights that are similar to those seen on the Audi Q7, although Jeep’s trademark seven-bar grille is a distinctive styling touch that sits well with the Grand Cherokee’s chunky lines.
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.
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Climb inside, and the Jeep has a functional layout that is pretty easy to get along with. There’s a touchscreen infotainment system that’s shared with other high-end models from the Fiat group. The dashboard gets a TFT display in front of the driver that features a speedometer that can have selectable information displayed within it.
The cabin also comes with well-finished silver trim and plush leather seats, while further down the centre console there’s a set of buttons and a rotary dial to adjust the suspension according to the terrain.
Equipment levels are a real Grand Cherokee plus point, with all models getting cruise control, climate control, a CD auto-changer and alloy wheels. From the Limited model upwards you get leather seats, while the Limited Plus adds sat-nav. The Overland comes with a panoramic roof, air suspension and an electronic limited slip diff, while the Summit adds bi-xenon headlamps, 20inch polished alloys, and the plushest interior with a high-output sound system.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
All models have a TFT screen display at the centre of the instrument cluster, which is customisable for settings and graphics. It can show a traditional-looking speedo, the sat-nav map, or various vehicle systems.
If you have a model with Jeep’s Uconnect System, there’s a big 8.4-inch touchscreen with 3D navigation, DAB radio plus Bluetooth connectivity and voice commands. The range-topping Harman Kardon sound system has 19 speakers, a subwoofer and an 825-Watt amp.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
You’d expect the accommodation in such a huge car to be pretty lavish, and there’s loads of space for five passengers and the seats themselves are comfortable with lots of adjustment.
Up front storage could be better though, as the door bins are small and the standard fit CD player takes up the centre armrest cubby. Worse still, the pedal area is rather cramped, with no left footrest, while the foot-operated parking brake is uncomfortably close to your shin.
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You do get a good view of the road, but the Grand Cherokee’s far-flung extremities make it a bit awkward on tight back roads or when manoeuvring – the standard fit reversing camera is essential.
The Grand Cherokee measures up at 4,824mm long, 1,943mm wide and 1,792mm high. The Land Rover Discovery is 4,829mm x 1,915mm x 1,912mm, while the BMW X5 is 4,886mm x 1,938mm x 1,762mm
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Back seat space is good, with room for three across the back and there’ll be no complaints about leg or headroom. The chairs recline, albeit rather stiffly, while there are air vents and two USB sockets in the back. Isofix child seat mounts are standard issue too.
Jeep quotes a 782-litre boot capacity for the Grand Cherokee, but this is to the roof, and space inside is surprisingly poor considering the car’s huge dimensions. The extending load cover is mounted quite low too – rivals like the BMW X5 and VW Touareg have covers that are level with the window line – so it doesn’t make the most of the possible space on offer.
The Jeep’s seat folding mechanisms are quite stiff, too, and a maximum boot capacity of 1,554 litres with them folded is less than you get in some rivals.
Convenient extras include lowered access mode suspension. There’s a powered tailgate as well, although the button to close it is located in the boot, so you have to get out of the way before it starts to shut.
Reliability and Safety
This is the fourth-generation Grand Cherokee and it’s been on sale since 2010,
but it hasn’t been without its problems. There have been many issues with electrical glitches affecting the gearbox and infotainment system, although most of these will have been rectified under warranty. However, Jeep dealers don’t have the best reputation, which can be a frustrating part of ownership.
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The model has featured in our Driver Power Survey too, and its results make fascinating reading. For overall satisfaction (out of 200 cars) the Grand Cherokee was ranked a very creditable 35th, but the reliability and build quality rankings were 152nd and 142nd respectively. The car ranked remarkably highly for performance (8th), seat comfort (6th), practicality (2nd) and in-car tech (3rd) though, which mitigated the effect of lower reliability scores on the overall ranking.
Euro NCAP has tested the Grand Cherokee, although it was only awarded four stars which many drivers might consider a bit of a worry as other luxury and premium brands routinely net five stars. Adult protection was reasonable at 81 per cent, while child safety was 69 per cent, and pedestrian safety was 45 per cent. Figures in the same categories for the Mercedes M Class tested in are 2012 were 96 per cent, 75 per cent and 60 per cent.
That said, the Grand Cherokee does feature kit such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitors and a forward collision monitor to help keep you out of trouble.
The Grand Cherokee, like all Jeeps, comes with the manufacturer’s standard three-year/60,000 mile warranty. Warranty cover from BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen for the X5, GLE and Touareg is three years with unlimited miles.
Main service intervals for the diesel Grand Cherokee are set at 12,500 miles or annual, but if you opt for the high-performance petrol SRT model you’d better be prepared for scheduled visits to your dealer every six months or 6,000 miles.