Could the Jeep Grand Cherokee be the best value large SUV on the market today? Depending on what you want from an offroader - and as long as that doesn’t include blistering performance -- it has a lot to offer, and competes well with its rivals on price.
Design and interior
The latest rendition of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited sits higher and wider than its predecessor, is more elegant and less boxy, with a more modern, yet blander design. The 7-bar Jeep radiator grill remains as distinctive as ever, bordering on intimidating for smaller vehicles in their rear view mirrors.
The Limited is a big vehicle by any standards measuring in at almost five meters long and 5cm shy of two meters wide. Yet, even though the design is very macho, it still appeals to the ladies - a favourite with my wife and her friends. However, the ride height is just a smidgen above perfect, requiring a stretch on every entry and exit.
Explore the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee range
From the driver’s seat, everything is at hand through the comfortable leather bound steering wheel controls - all major menus including stereo, phone, cruise control and on-board computer. Driving at night is quite the calming experience, with a gentle green glow emanating from various feature points around the cabin.
The seats are super-supportive and comfortable, wrapped in thick leather and double stitched. They are fully electrically manoeuvrable, but the best bit is the electric lumbar support which can be moved vertically and with varying intensity.
“Daddy, it’s got hot seats in the back”, another all-important feature for some - and certainly to my five-year-old son. It goes without saying the fronts are also heated. This really is a super comfortable sofa on wheels.
Safety and security
Four stars are awarded for ANCAP Safety, with front, side, head and knee airbag protection. Really, Jeep should be aiming for five stars with a car at this level. The usual safety features abound: electronic stability control, ABS and forward collision warning, but more importantly, it now comes with a host of new features which didn’t appear to be fitted to our test car, including adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection.
The forward collision warning sensors are slightly too sensitive, frequently alarming when buses and trucks pulled up next to us in traffic - but useful nonetheless. The mirrors are superb and three quarter visibility is excellent for such a large vehicle, but it was let down by the large A-pillars which obscured little old ladies and children at zebra crossings.
Taking the Grand Cherokee Limited for a drive is a lethargic experience, almost so relaxed you could fall asleep on the road. The steering is light yet accurate, but bland and devolved. Luckily the main computer has a host of features to play with, to keep the experience more involving.
Trying to overtake can be frustrating, with a mild depression of the throttle yielding no results. When more aggressive throttling, it takes a full second to respond in “Auto” mode and about half a second in “Sports” mode. It’s akin to pushing your foot into soft custard and hoping for a reaction at the other end. You might get a little sticky, but not a lot more happens.
Remember, the Grand Cherokee Limited is carrying at least 500kg more than the Wrangler Sport powered by the same engine, so it’s no real surprise that it’s quite the slouch. Interestingly, the CRD diesel engine option has phenomenal torque and is able to tow 3,500kg, a huge plus for those wanting to trail a float and two horses or a large caravan.
On our undulating test roads, the cruise control proved close to useless. When set to exactly 60kph, going downhill the speedo managed to reach 75km/h before the lower gear was auto selected to reduce speed, and going uphill it dropped to 55km/h before changing gear to accelerate back to 60km/h. That’s a 20km/h variance in speed at 60km/h - enough to lose your licence. With the active braking feature installed this may now be resolved.
Efficiency is not the petrol Limited’s strong point. Over a week of light cruising and commuting, we managed just 13.9 L/100km compared with the quoted 11.2 L/100km. It’s a big heavy vehicle whichever way you look at it, so if you’re worried about economy get the diesel.
Value and verdict
The Limited is incredible value at a pinch over $60,000 drive away in NSW, coming fully loaded with all the trimmings. I particularly loved the black metallic paint of our test car, with a stunning blue/green fleck which enhanced the deep rich colour and firm stance.
It’s not a “drivers” car, being all about functionality, comfort and elegant understated style - the perfect large family car, commuter or open road cruiser. The daily commute was never more relaxing, like putting your feet up and visiting the spa, letting the heated seats and lumbar support do their work, arriving at your destination fully relaxed and ready to go.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited is the smart man’s Range Rover Sport. Save the extra $50,000 and use it to buy a Wrangler for weekend fun, or a Toyota 86 sports coupé, and still walk away with change.