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"Big box, isn't she?" a passer-by mused as we regarded the Jeep Grand Cherokee I had just parked in the driveway. "What are they like?"
"Good question," I said, "I've only just picked it up. Come back in a week."
I have a funny relationship with Jeep, and it's not really the company's fault. I'm always wary of a car that is so loved by its owners and commands the sort of respect a politician could only dream of. Then I drive one and think, "Actually, this isn't bad. Not bad at all."
I've never before had the opportunity to drive the Grand Cherokee save for a quick pick-up and deliver. My neighbours love theirs to bits, so the time has come to see if Jeep's biggest offering can change my mind again.
|Jeep Grand Cherokee 2017: Limited (4x4)|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Yes. The Grand Cherokee is a cracker of a machine to look at. Jeep fans certainly thought so because the Compass - the company's new mid-sizer to go after CX-5, Tucson etc - is a mini Grand Cherokee. It looks nothing like the almost avant-garde (well, from the front end anyway) plain-old Cherokee.
From the big, bluff front to the slabby sides, the Cherokee oozes macho off-roader credentials. Squared-off wheelarches imply (and facilitate) big wheel travel for rock-hopping madness. The ornamentation is subtle and really, when you drink it in, it's a fine piece of design, remembering the past while looking forward.
It does nothing to hide its bulk, particularly when riding on 20-inch alloys, but that's okay. You don't buy a Jeep for sleek good looks, you buy it for bulk.
Inside isn't quite so convincing. The materials are a bit ho-hum, there are buttons everywhere and the dash layout is a bit odd. Two small dials are crammed around a 7.0-inch display screen, which is admittedly super-clear and easy to use. The dials look cheap and old, though, which is a shame.
Disappointingly, the Limited's interior doesn't fulfil all of the promises the big exterior makes. The cabin isn't significantly bigger than that of the Audi Q5 with which it shared the driveway for a few days. The big transmission tunnel makes the front footwell cramped and there isn't really room for the foot-operated parkbrake, let alone a footrest.
Space in the rear is okay, with a flatter floor than most. owing to the high ride height. Bottom line is, you're not buying a Grand Cherokee for vast interior space - if that's your key indicator, a Honda CR-V or our long-term Subaru Forester will set you right.
The boot, though, might tip the balance - at 782 litres, it's a whopper. Under the floor is a full-sized spare with rather clever plastic bins fitted around the rubber where you can throw tools, rubbish, whatever you don't mind rattling around.
There are a total of four cupholders in the cabin, two for the front and two for the back and a good-sized centre console bin. Rear-seat passengers also score their own air-con vents and two USB ports.
Front clearance is 218mm and the rear 205mm, with a 26-degree approach, 24 degree departure and 19 degree breakover angle. If you need more, you'll need the higher-riding, shallow-bumpered Trailhawk. Wading depth is 508mm.
The $62,000 Limited is a good step up from the Laredo, starting off with 20-inch alloys, 8.4-inch touchscreen with uConnect, sat nav and nine speakers, cruise control, 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, electric heated front seats, heated steering wheel, keyless entry and start, auto headlights and wipers, power tailgate, dark rear tint and dual-zone climate control.
The Uconnect system is an older one and isn't as good as the updated version in the new Compass. It goes without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, has dated graphics and the dried-out desert graphic used as wallpaper makes the screen hard to read. You can probably change it, but I didn't get that far into it.
Our car had premium paint ($650), Jeep Active Safety Group ($3250) and Nappa leather ($950) taking the total to $66,850.
The 2017 Limited uses Chrysler's 3.6-litre V6, which produces 213kW (up 3kW from last year) and 347Nm to shift its not inconsiderable 2.1-tonne heft. Power reaches all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic and will move the Grand to 100km/h from rest in 8.3 seconds.
The Limited, like the Laredo, doesn't come with the hardcore Quadra-Drive all-wheel-drive system (which uses an electronic limited-slip diff) but has the Quadra-Trac traction control system to deal with the rough stuff, as well as a two-speed transfer case, hill descent and hill ascent control. While we didn't take this car off-road, Richard Berry did at the 2017 update launch and had a lot of fun.
The all-wheel-drive Limited has a claimed combined cycle rating of 10.0L/100km but in the real world, with our usual mix of suburban and motorway running, we could only manage 15.2L/100km, despite stop-start.
There is nothing edgy about the Limited. If you want lightning throttle response and a pick-up that will tear your retinas asunder, you'll want the hell-raising, fuel-guzzling Trackhawk. The Limited is an entirely conventional large SUV, going after the Land Cruiser Prado set rather than the Audi Q7 brigade (as if the price wasn't a clue there). It's already an old car but the fundamentals have always been fairly solid, if unspectacular.
The steering is the usual Jeep compromise - not too fast that it's a pain off-road and not so slow that it's an arm-twirling mess on the road. That's fine, that's a Jeep thing. The real issue I had is that you hadn't a clue what was going on underneath the tyres on the tarmac. It's also very woolly, but again, nothing you shouldn't expect from this kind of car. The same goes for everything, it's all soft and compliant from the brake pedal feel to the cornering performance.
I wondered aloud more than once whether the 20-inch alloys are the right wheels for this car. While they really look the business, the ride suffers. Small bumps jitter the body as the unsprung weight of the big wheels combine with what I put down to a stiff initial compression setting on the dampers to make the ride feel firm. Obviously as soon as you throw it at a corner the off-road-friendly softness takes over and the body settles on the springs.
What is irritating is the all-in-one stalk for all controls. Like Mercedes (and this is likely a hangover from when Daimler-Benz owned Chrysler), there is just one stalk behind the wheel and it covers indicators, wipers and lights. It's absurdly complex and while long-term ownership will hopefully ensure it becomes second nature, the point of it being like this is largely lost by the fact that the gear selector is on the floor rather than the Mercedes/Tesla column-mounted shifter. On top of the ergonomic glitch is the flat-out awful positioning of the foot-operated park brake. It left a nice graze on my shin and robs more space from an already-cramped footwell. It's so cramped, in fact, that there's no space for a proper footrest. That will never not be annoying (cue a bunch of rabid commenters disagreeing with me).
5 years / 100,000 km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The Grand Cherokee was awarded five ANCAP safety stars in 2014.
The Grand Cherokee, like the rest of the Jeep range, now luxuriates in what the company hopes is a confidence-inspiring five year/100,000km warranty. Roadside assist continues for as long as you keep taking your car back to Jeep for servicing, which isn't a bad deal, either.
Service intervals are set at 12 months or 12,000km, with pricing capped for the first five services, between $425 and $725.
What would I tell the bystander if he ever comes back? The Grand Cherokee is exactly what it says on the box - a big off-roader you can use to tow and take the family on grand adventures. The Limited is a good bet and with the diesel costing another $5500, it's an easy choice, unless you really need the range or extra torque. Recovering that price differential at the bowser would take a long, long time.
While none of what the Cherokee does is the last word in modern design, that old-school high driving position and proper off-road capability allied with reasonable on-road comfort are what Jeep does well.
|75th Anniversary (4x4)||3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO||$39,000 – 49,830||2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2017 75th Anniversary (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|Blackhawk||3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO||$34,400 – 44,550||2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2017 Blackhawk Pricing and Specs|
|Laredo (4x2)||3.6L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$24,100 – 32,780||2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2017 Laredo (4x2) Pricing and Specs|
|Laredo (4x4)||3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO||$29,900 – 39,160||2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2017 Laredo (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||7|