What a time to be alive people. There have never been more SUVs to take your pick from. But while many are excellent, there sure are a lot out there that are a bit... samey, and conservative, a little domesticated.
And even though they might have several different flavours in their model line-up they don't really differ much from each other. Well, Jeep'sGrand Cherokee is a bit different.
First it's made in the United States of America, in Detroit, and that's becoming a rarity these days. Next, the line-up is like a kooky gang of super heroes all with different powers.
We recently went to the Australian launch of the updated Jeep Grand Cherokee where we drove the SRT hi-po beast and the latest member of the super hero family – the tough Trailhawk off-roader.
Jeep Grand Cherokee 2017: Laredo (4x4)
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
New one look like the old one? Yup, the styling changes are almost unnoticeable, but the trademark seven-slot grille is slimmer, the front bumper has a new design and the fog lights use LEDs.
The Grand Cherokee's look is distinctive with its big toothy grille, high waistline and pumped up guards. It's an American muscleSUV – especially the SRT with its nostrilled bonnet, enormous air intakes, blacked-out face and red Brembo brake calipers.
The new Trailhawk rivals the SRT for attention-seeking-but-still-functional bling with its red tow hooks and badging. Look closely and you'll see small profiles of a WW2 Willys MB Jeep on the wheels, which is a cool touch.
The styling changes are almost unnoticeable, but the trademark seven-slot grille is slimmer. (Image credit: Richard Berry)
The SRT will still be competent off-road, but it's more suited to dirt and gravel roads. (Image credit: Richard Berry)
Only the Overland and SRT grades come standard with advanced safety equipment. (Image credit: Richard Berry)
The Grand Cherokee's cabin is comfortable but more functional than stylish, higher grades feel plush with their leather seats and wood trim finishes.
The Grand Cherokee's dimensions reveal all variants apart from the SRT to be 4828mm long and 1943mm wide. The SRT is longer at 4846mm and wider at 1954mm across the hips.
The heights vary depending on the variant with the Laredo and Limited standing 1802mm tall, while the Trailhawk and Overland are 1792mm. The SRT is hunkered down lower at 1749mm.
The SRT will still be competent off-road but its approach angles mean it's more suited to dirt and gravel roads.
The Trailhawk and Overland have an approach angle of 36 degrees, a departure angle of 27 degrees and a breakover angle of 22 degrees. Those trump the angles for the Laredo and Limited which are 26 degrees for approach, 24 for departure and 19 for the breakover.
The SRT will still be competent off-road but its approach angle of 18 degrees, a departure angle of 22, and a breakover angle of 18 means it's more suited to less challenging dirt and gravel roads.
All Grand Cherokees are five seaters. Legroom in the back is just enough… for me. I'm 191cm tall and the only reason I can sit behind my driving position is because of the concave design of the front seatbacks – and that gives me a gap of about 20mm. Headroom is great back there.
Up front there's stacks of head and shoulder room, although the driver's footwell feels a little cramped with the transmission tunnel above the bellhousing seeming to eat into the space.
You'll also find a rechargeable torch in the cargo area which 'clicks' into the boot wall.
There's a decent boot with a capacity of 782 litres and under the floor is a full-sized spare with storage space around it - you'll also find a rechargeable torch in the cargo area which 'clicks' into the boot wall.
Storage throughout the rest of the cabin is good with two cupholders in the fold down centre armrest in the back and another two up front. There's a deep centre console bin and bottle holders in all doors.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
There's the $52,500 petrol Laredo 4x4 (the diesel version is $5500 more); then the popular Limited which lists at $62,500 ($5500 more for the diesel); the diesel-only Trailhawk at $74,000 is a new off-road hero variant; then there's the plusher $80,000 Overland with the same engine, and finally the high performance, petrol-only SRT for $91,000.
The new Trailhawk rivals the SRT for attention-seeking-but-still-functional bling, with its red tow hooks and badging. (Image credit: Richard Berry)
The Trailhawk swaps some kit for Kevlar-reinforced tyres and under-body skid plates. (Image credit: Richard Berry)
After an hour of driving in the Trailhawk, our trip computer was reporting 11.7L/100km. (Image credit: Richard Berry)
All V6 petrol engine variants have increased by $500 over the outgoing model, while the diesels stay the same – apart from the Overland which has risen by $1000. The SRT has also gone up by $1000.
Jeep Australia has confirmed that the range will be joined by the Trackhawk super SUV in late 2017 which will tower over the rest of the line-up in price and performance.
The SRT gains the Overland's features and adds a flat-bottomed steering wheel, leather and suede seats, and launch control.
At the most affordable end of the range the Laredo grade comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.4-inch touchscreen (5.0-inch in the 4x2), 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, power adjustable and heated front seats, proximity unlocking and start button, auto headlights and wipers, and dual-zone climate control.
The Limited grade picks up the Laredo's features and adds 20-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate, leather seats, a nine-speaker Alpine stereo, sat nav, dark-tinted rear glass, heated steering wheel and dual exhaust.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 9/10
The engine line-up for the Grand Cherokee is straightforward. The petrol engines for all but the SRT are an upgraded version of the previous model's 3.6-litre V6 with 3kW more power for a total of 213kW. Torque stays put at 347Nm.
The Trailhawk and Overland have Jeep's 'Quadra-Drive II' 4WD system which makes them more capable off-road then the Laredo and Limited with their 'Quadra-Trac II' permanent 4WD.
The major difference between the 4WD systems being that Quadra-Drive II has an electronic slip differential while the other uses traction control and braking to counter slippage. The SRT has the 'Quadra-Trac Active On-Demand' 4WD system.
But wait – the 4WD petrol Laredo's official figure is 10.0L/100km, same with the petrol Limited. New to the V6 petrol is a stop-start system which would be super-helpful in achieving that figure.
Look closely and you'll see small profiles of a WW2 Willys MB Jeep on the wheels. (Image credit: Richard Berry)
The diesel Laredo, which is 4WD, has a claimed combined fuel consumption number of 7.5L/100km. Ditto for the diesel Limited, Trailhawk and Overland.
After an hour of driving in the Trailhawk on highways and country roads our trip computer was reporting 11.7L/100km.
The SRT likes a drink. The V8 petrol engine has a claimed combined figure of 14.0L/100km and that's why the SRT didn't make it into the top five most fuel efficient SUVs list.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
The Trailhawk and the SRT were the only variants available to test drive at the launch of the updated model.
The program was pretty intensive with an off-road leg, a stint at a racetrack and plenty of road driving in between.
There's a decent boot with a capacity of 782 litres. (Image credit: Richard Berry)
The hilly off-road course we took the Trailhawks through wasn't the most challenging, but the rain changed that a bit making the grassy slopes and clay ruts as slippery as ice.
With the Trailhawk in low range and on its highest air suspension setting giving us 260mm of ground clearance we wriggled our way through the off-road course fairly easily. There were some steeper sections which required a bit of brute force and momentum to combat slippery clay and gravity but the Jeeps soldiered through without any dramas, and plenty of hilarious fun.
The Trailhawk's Kevlar-reinforced tyres weren't needed on this soft stuff, but there are thousands of kays of tyre-killing tracks with rocks like spear heads lying in wait all over Australia where they'd be handy.
Grand Cherokees all have a unibody construction, so if you're looking for more of a hardcore off roader in the Jeep range then the body-on-frame Wrangler may be a better bet.
That naturally aspirated V8 Hemi is a lazy beast that seems to take it's time to wind up.
The Trailhawk comes with Jeep's 'Off-Road Pages' app which allows you to monitor suspension, traction and Hill Ascent Control speed.
The unibody construction gives the Grand Cherokee a more car-like ride and on the road the Trailhawk was comfortable and composed, although that air suspension is a little floaty.
At 100km/h the Trailhawk lowers itself for better aerodynamics, but there was a decent amount of body roll when pushing hard through corners… unlike the SRT.
The SRT's suspension is set up for higher performance with Bilstein adaptive dampers and hollow stabiliser bars front and rear. Sport and Track modes firm the suspension for better handling along with making the throttle more responsive.
I've driven the SRT on racetracks and the road before, but some quick laps around New Zealand's Pukekohe Park circuit brought back the grin that only 2.4 tonnes of metal seeming to defy all the laws of physics can induce.
There's also a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor. (Image credit: Richard Berry)
That naturally aspirated V8 Hemi is a lazy beast that seems to take it's time to wind up rather than deliver the same brutal kick of the twin-turbo V8 in a Mercedes-AMG GLE63, still 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.9sec is quick. What it lacks in spontaneity it makes up for in theatrics – the gurgle at idle is delicious and it gets angrier the more you kick it in the guts.
The launch control function in the SRT is foolproof, too. Just press the button which looks like a dragstrip 'Christmas tree' on the centre console, place your left foot on the brake and plant your right foot on accelerator – release the brake and enjoy the jump to hyperspace… well, almost.
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / 100,000 km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 7/10
There's also life-time roadside assistance if the vehicle's serviced at a Jeep service centre.
Servicing is recommended annually or every 12,000km for the 3.6-litre engine variants and is capped at $425 for the first, then $625 for the next, $425, then $725 for the fifth year.
For the 3.0-litre diesel servicing is recommended annually or every 20,000km and capped at $665 for the first, $1095 for the second, then $665, then $1195 and at five years it'll be $665.
Not many SUV brands out there have ranges offering a variety of vehicles as wide as the Grand Cherokee line-up. These are comfortable, good looking, and in nearly all cases, capable off-roaders – particularly the Trailhawk.
The sweet spot of the range is the Limited. It's excellent value, and there's no wonder it's so popular. The SRT is also hard to go past if you're after more of a sledgehammer – at almost $10,000 under 100K it's bang-for-your-buck that can't be beaten.
Is the Jeep Grand Cherokee the best large SUV under $100k? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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