Naysayers have been waiting for big 4WDs to suffocate under the weight of emission laws, soaring fuel prices and a urban-led rush to soft-roaders. Here's the proof that like global warming, things don't go according to plan: Jeep sales are up 21 per cent on 2012 and more than 63 per cent of its five-model range sales are now attributed to the big Grand Cherokee.
Why? Two things - looks and price. Soaring fuel prices and rival wannabes aren't factors. Of the biggest Jeep models, the Grand Cherokee Overland is the top-shelf off-road wagon from the American - the SRT8 isn't trail capable - and not only does it deliver better economy than a Holden Commodore but even loaded with features, is still cheaper than a four-cylinder BMW 328i wagon.
It's seriously good value for money and it's so alluring that I'm waiting for the qualifier. And here it is. I'm aware quality control has always been a sword hanging above Jeep - and parent Chrysler for that matter - and though I've recently driven some examples that had bits starting to fall off, the Overland showed a measurable step up in getting it right.
Nothing fell off - sure, it shouldn't for $71,000 - or creaked or groaned despite some hurried off-road work and country runs. Perhaps this is the turning point for Chrysler-Jeep.
The Grand Cherokee ticks all the boxes for value and the Overland, for the price, throws a unmatched luxury and safety features - oddly, except the important five-star crash rating - plus boasts a strong diesel engine, good fuel efficiency, brilliant off-road capability and a new-found driveway status of simply being a Jeep.
The $71,000 Overland gets perforated leather upholstery with heated front and rear seats (ventilated for the fronts), double-pane sunroof, electric tailgate, nine-speaker audio with sat-nav and voice recognition, wood and leather cabin trim, 20-inch alloys and lots more. There's no capped price service program, the service interval is six-monthly but the resale is a very strong 61 per cent.
This looks good in the driveway and is one of the reasons for its popularity. The slim-line headlights with the LED daytime running light surround, high bonnet line with slim glasshouse and neatly trimmed tail work as good in the city as it does on a dune.
Overland gets stitched dashtop, soft-feel plastics, clearly-defined switchgear, big touchscreen and an information-crammed digital TFT instrument binnacle with alternate readouts. Console bin space is taken up by CD/DVD and iPod/USB players. It seats five and has a generous 782 litres of cargo space with the seats up and 1554 litres when folded down. Love the electric tail gate but foot-operated parkbrake is primitive.
The 184kW/570Nm 3-litre V6 turbo-diesel claims 7.5L/100km. It's output is up 20Nm on the old model and performance is enhanced by the new eight-speed (previously five-speed) auto. Overland gets best Quadra-Drive 4WD kit with rear and centre electronic diffs, Selec-Terrain vehicle management through five modes, air suspension with five ride heights (181-287mm ground clearance) and a host of off-road specific aids. It will tow up to 3500kg.
Grand Cherokees have no crash test results though the previous model was a four-star. Standard gear includes forward collision warning, blind-spot monitor, adaptive cruise, rear cross-path detection, seven airbags, electronic stability and traction control, trailer sway and rollover control, reverse camera and front/rear sensors, bi-xenon headlights with washers and auto high-beam control, tyre pressure sensor, LED tail lights and daytime running lights, auto headlights and wipers and a full-size spare wheel.
Good visibility and an armchair driver's seat make this an easy wagon to punt. At 4.8m it's not as big as some rivals - Toyota Prado is 100mm longer, for example - and sensors and reverse camera make it simple to park.
Torquey V6 diesel is brisk off the mark and always responsive - more so than Discovery 4 which is almost identical in power and vehicle size - and is very quiet at idle. The new automatic gets paddle shifters and is the Grand Cherokee's shining light. On the bitumen its handling is positive, though the steering is a tad vague, with a very supple ride. In the dirt the combination of electronic aids, adjustable ride-height and the dial-up terrain assistance makes it almost unstoppable. That compliant on-road ride translates perfectly to rough dirt roads.
Top wagon at an unbeatable price. Consider also the 3.6-litre petrol version for $5000 less.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland
Price: from $71,000
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km, 3yr roadside assist
Capped servicing: None
Service interval: 6mths/10,000km
Safety: 8 airbags, ABS, ESC, EBD, TC
Crash rating: none
Engine: 3.0-litre, V6 turbo-diesel; 184kW/570Nm
Transmission: 8-spd auto, 2-spd transfer; constant 4WD
Thirst: 7.5L/100km; 198g/km CO2
Dimensions: 4.8m (L), 1.9m (W), 1.8m (H)
Spare: full size