THE diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee could be this summers sleeper; an off-roader with class and value which should attract more than a few appreciative customers.
Other petrol-powered models in the 2011 Grand Cherokee range have already won plaudits for the American wagons new-found style and substance. Here the 3 litre turbo diesel joins the ranks to add another dimension - good fuel economy from a creamy V6 with 550Nm torque from 1800rpm through to 2800rpm.
It's a wagon much anticipated in some quarters, particularly at these prices, 3500kg towing ability and decent on-road dynamics.
Explore the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee range
Price is one of the diesel Grands big selling points with this engine option running from $50,000 for the Laredo through to $69,500 for the top-of-the-tree Overland edition; the same prices as the 5.7l V8 and $5000 over the 3.6l V6 versions. Impressive here is the level of trim and gear, even on the entry-level Laredo. You'd shop these Jeeps against (the dearer) Volkwagen Touareg and, depending on usage, Nissans Pathfinder and the Toyota Prado.
The Grand Cherokee arrives with the option of air suspension with five settings from park to extreme off-road over 104mm plus Selec-Terrain, also with five settings for conditions from highway sprints to rock crawling. Like rival Land Rovers system, Selec-Terrain co-ordinates engine, transmission and electronic driver aids for optimum response to different conditions. And the V6, built by VM Motori, has a number of innovations including Fiats MultiJet injection system for better power, economy plus lower noise and harshness levels over its predecessor.
It's an all-new body here, more exterior sculpting, higher and wider than before and more cabin space while retaining Jeeps seven-slot grille and squared-off wheel arches. It's quite a handsome machine all round, exemplified by the Laredo not looking anything like an entry-level, cut-price model. That premium feel flows through to the cabins where fitment, trim plus standard comfort and convenience features outshine many rivals. Among quibbles is that awkward foot-operated emergency brake and the forward vision is compromised a bit, especially for taller drivers, by that shallow windscreen.
Six airbags, ABS, stability control and active head restraints are de rigueur these days. The Grand Cherokee adds Electronic Roll Mitigation, HID headlights, trailer sway control (part of the stability control system) plus hill descent control and hill start assist for less stress off road.
It's a pretty comfortable, premium driving position behind the Grands steering wheel (aside from that quibble about that emergency brake pedal sitting where one might expect a dead pedal). But it's a stylish and ergonomic set of dials and controls.
From outside the diesel fires with a sweet little growl; inside its all peace and quiet. There's the tiniest hesitation before the V6 gets into stride yet once past 1200rpm it's very willing. It will run in the low 8 litres per 100km down the highway, mid-nines around town and down a lumpy track, more once in full-on four-wheel drive territory.
On the road its quick and comfortable. Initial steering response is slower than say a Touareg, a trade-off for a better wheel feel and control when crawling off-road. And while the Jeep is willing to tackle turns at decent highway speed theres body roll which may upset passengers.
Naturally the Grand Cherokee is a fine off-roader. For the most part Selec-Terrain works well left in Auto, electronics taking care of finding traction. Low-low is decent for an auto machine.
And the diesels torque is always a bonus, whether looking to climb out of rocky gully or looking for extra grunt to keep moving through soft sand. Best to keep that torque under control on loose surfaces, if the electronics take hold engine responses can be quite dull.
This Laredo had the optional air suspension. It's great for smoother track conditions, great for lifting the body in real rough country but a tad disappointing on mid-speed corrugations where the suspension has trouble keeping up with quick changes.
Yet at the end of the day a driver will appreciate this wagon as a quick, comfortable and competent tourer for all manner of road and track conditions.
The diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee for 2011 is a smart machine, a premium off-road wagon with style, substance and a value price tag.