Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class VS Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Modest steering feel
- So-so warranty
- Pricey servicing
Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Excellent performance from SRT
- Great choice in line-up
- Advanced safety equipment not on all grades
- Cost of servicing is a little high
- Cabin could be more refined
If you’re in the market for a full-size, seven-seat, luxury SUV you’re obviously living life large. Big family, lots of friends, dogs and cats, and heaps of activity - horses, boats, camping?
You’re aiming at a six-figure bullseye between $130,000 and around $150,000. On a three-year novated lease, somewhere around three grand a month.
Mercedes-Benz Australia invited us to experience the car on a launch drive across city, suburban and rural roads.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
Jeep Grand Cherokee
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.
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.
There's the monster high-performance V8 one which can out accelerate and out handle many sports cars; the tough off-road one that can lift itself higher than its rivals with its air suspension; there's posh one, the popular one nearly everybody buys and the rear wheel drive one hardly anybody does.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
Jeep Grand Cherokee7.9/10
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.
As mentioned, the GLS is big; a step up from the already substantial model it replaces. Built with the US market in mind, in fact it’s produced in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, it’s more than five metres long, close to two metres wide, and over 1.8m tall. And there’s more than three metres between the axles, a 60mm wheelbase increase over the previous model.
And despite the size of the canvas, the Benz design team has managed to make the GLS look like a modern Merc. Signature elements include obvious ones like the slatted grille with a couple of three-pointed stars on the nose.
But there’s also, the carefully chiselled twin ‘power dome’ bonnet, scowling LED headlights and vents to aid front brake cooling and smooth aero performance around the front of the car.
The big beast’s off-road intent is highlighted by extensions around the wheelarches, with big optional 22-inch rims sitting underneath. The fact they look right-sized for the car speaks volumes about its scale.
The racy AMG Line package is standard, and a recess and pronounced character line, tightening the lower waistline is a familiar Merc treatment, plus alloy roof rails toughen the look while dialling up practicality.
The rear is relatively simple, borderline generic, with tapered tail-lights offering the only strong whiff of design personality. But believe it or not, thanks to careful detail sculpting of the body, and smoothing underneath the car it boasts a drag figure of Cd 0.32. Outstanding aero performance for a large SUV.
The driver and front passenger are presented with a sweeping dashboard dominated by twin 12.3-inch digital screens, one primarily covering the instruments, and the central screen managing the MBUX media system, including audio, nav, phone integration, car set-up, and more, plus ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control.
The overall feel is simple, and restrained, yet massively confident, with a subtle colour palette, large squared-off elements defined by brushed metal finishes, and an obvious, intense attention to detail, from the haptic controls to the beautifully finished, multi-function steering wheel.
And the standard Burmester audio system includes a two-way in-car communication function that subtly amplifies the driver and front passenger’s voices for those in the third row, and vice versa. Sheer genius.
Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10
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 muscle SUV – 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 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 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.
Space is obviously a critical factor here, and no surprise there’s copious amounts of it inside the GLS.
Front seat passengers enjoy plenty of breathing room, without feeling remote from one another, and there’s lots of storage in the shape of a large lidded box/armrest between the seats, a decent glove box, two big cupholders and jumbo door pockets with room for large bottles.
There’s one data-enabled USB port in the front, two charge-ports in the second row, and four in the third row. Shouldn’t be any complaints about powering mobiles, tablets or games.
The second row feels every millimetre the SUV limo. Simply getting in and out is made easier because an auto lowering function drops the car 25mm when one of the doors is opened.
I was able to sit behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm position with heaps of head and legroom on offer. And there’s an extra 10cm of electrically adjustable travel to play with if those in the third row agree.
The fold-down centre armrest features a lidded storage tray and twin pop-out cupholders. There are netted pockets on the front seatbacks, and again, the door bins are big enough for large drink bottles.
Three adults across the rear is a breeze, there’s climate control ventilation, and a huge glass sunroof is standard. Rather than asking ‘Are we there yet?’ the kids will be disappointed when you arrive!
Then there’s what the Cleary family refers to as ‘the way back seat.’ A pair of third row seats for the lucky kids that get to inhabit their own little world. Getting in and out is relatively civilised thanks to electric slide and tilt for the second row seats, and space is generous. I could sit comfortably, so the kids will be all smiles.
With all seats upright cargo capacity is enough for a seven-person day trip (355L VDA). Press the button to fold the 50/50 split-fold third row down and your options expand substantially (890L). And with 40/20/40 split-folding second row lowered, transportation of a full, three-ring circus is on the cards (2400L). Overall, more space than the arch enemy BMW X7.
Plus, the ability to lower the car 50mm thanks to the standard air suspension makes life even easier. And one button lowers the second and third rows at the same time.
The spare is a collapsible space-saver, and towing capacity for a braked trailer is 3500kg, with a tow ball weight of up to 140kg. The ESP system also features a trailer stabilisation function that counters oscillation with “braking intervention.”
Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10
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.
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.
Price and features
Aside from the comprehensive suite of safety tech, covered in the Safety section below, the GLS equipment list includes, 21-inch alloy rims, adaptive high beam assist, air suspension, alloy roof rails, AMG body kit, a huge panoramic sliding glass sunroof, privacy glass from the B-pillar back, auto tailgate, keyless entry and start, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, LED headlights, and power closing doors.
The power closing doors are a big plus for parents not wanting to disturb kids nodding off in the car, with the soft-touch function drawing the door in for the last few millimetres to an almost silent close.
Inside there’s ambient lighting (64 colours), strategically placed open pore oak wood trim, 13-speaker/590-watt Burmester surround sound audio, electric folding second and third row seats, a head-up display, ‘Mercedes-Benz’ branded illuminated sills, leather seat upholstery (‘Artico’ faux leather on the dash and doors), multi-adjustable electric seats in the front and second row (memory in the front), electrically adjustable steering column, leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, and five-zone climate control.
The multi-media system is spectacular, incorporating the twin 12.3-inch digital screens, the central media unit managing nav, digital radio, mobile device connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus vehicle tracking. There are also remote vehicle status functions (door locking, valet parking, etc), global search (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Yelp, and Trip Advisor), and a wireless device charging pad.
The basket of goodies can hold its head high in this part of the market, so the value equation stacks up well.
Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10
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.
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.
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.
The Overland gets the Limited's features and adds a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, auto parking, ventilated front seats, plus a wood and leather steering wheel.
The SRT gains the Overland's features and adds a flat-bottomed steering wheel, leather and suede seats, launch control, active noise cancellation and adaptive damping.
Engine & trans
There are two engines on offer. The 3.0-litre (M256) in-line six-cylinder turbo-petrol GLS 450 4Matic, and the 2.9-litre (OM656) in-line six-cylinder turbo-diesel GLS 400 d 4Matic.
The all-alloy, twin-scroll single-turbo petrol engine delivers peak power of 270kW from 5500-6100rpm, and maximum torque of 500Nm across a broad plateau from 1600-4500rpm. It also features a 48-volt electrical system driving the ‘EQ Boost’ set-up, able to deliver an extra 16kW/250Nm for short periods. The integrated starter-generator also enables energy recuperation.
Although the all-alloy, twin-turbo diesel features variable valve lift it gives some ground on power, offering up 243kW between 3600-4000rpm, but torque is a solid whack, with 700Nm on tap from 1200-3000rpm. Worth noting, that to minimise emissions this engine features a “selective catalytic reduction converter” in the exhaust, which brings with it the use of an ‘AdBlue’ reducing agent. The separate AdBlue tank has a capacity of 31.6 litres.
The nine-speed auto transmission is the same in both versions, although the diesel has a slightly lower final drive ratio.
Jeep Grand Cherokee9/10
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 SRT is special – under that nostrilled bonnet there's 6.4 glorious litres of naturally aspirated V8 Hemi making 344kW/624Nm. Jeep has left this one untouched from the previous model, too.
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.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle for the GLS 450 is 9.2L/100km, the more frugal GLS 400 d trimming that to 7.7L/100km. The petrol 450 emits 210g/km of CO2 in the process, the diesel 400d dropping that slightly to 202g/km.
Stop-start is standard, you’re looking at premium unleaded for the 450 GLS, and you’ll need 90 litres of dinosaur juice to full the tank on both models.
Jeep Grand Cherokee7/10
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.
Merc claims the GLS 450 will sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.2sec, and the 400 d in 6.3sec. Not hanging around for a 2.5 tonne mothership. But the standout is the 400 d’s torque. All 700Nm of it available from just 1200rpm to 3000rpm; right in the mid-range sweet spot.
The nine-speed auto transmission is smooth yet responsive, with paddles on the wheel for manual shifts when you want to pick the ratio. The combination of effortless grunt and the nine-speeder keeping things on the boil is an impressive one.
Suspension is by double wishbones at the front and multi-links at the rear, and while you can feel the weight in cornering, the standard Airmatic air suspension (which does away with steel springs) is superb in terms of ride comfort and body control.
We took a deep breath and pushed enthusiastically through a series of sweeping corners and the fat (285/45 fr - 325/40 rr) Continental ‘PremiumContact 6’ rubber wrapped around our car’s (optional) 22-inch rims gripped hard.
The ‘4Matic’ all-wheel drive system also seamlessly shuffles torque between the front and rear axles (theoretically up to 100 per cent in each direction).
Merc has put extra focus on body rigidity, the tuning of engine and suspension mounts, and sound absorption, and it shows. The GLS 400 d is beautifully refined on the highway. A neat touch is the car automatically lowering 15mm at motorway speeds or when ‘Sport’ mode is selected.
Steering is electromechanically assisted, and Merc says the front suspension geometry has been revised to minimise vibration through the wheel. And yes, feedback is minimal, but unfortunately so is road feel with only a general connection between your hands on the wheel and the front tyres on the bitumen.
When you’re steering a large beast like this, often with something substantial hitched to the back, you want to know braking performance is up to the task, and the GLS’s big ventilated discs all around deliver reassuringly strong stopping power, with nice, progressive pedal feel to boot.
The seats are adjustable six ways to Sunday, but beyond that they’re comfortable and supportive, even over long stints behind the wheel.
We stayed on the bitumen, because, let’s face it, that’s where this car will spend 99.9 per cent of its time, with the exceptions of the boat ramp, a ski weekend or pony club.
For those special occasions the optional ‘Off-road engineering package’ adds a low-range transfer case, inter-axle locking, hill descent control, and under body armour for more serious work.
Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10
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.
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.
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.
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.
At the time of this launch drive the GLS hadn’t been safety assessed by ANCAP, but you could make a small wager, like every penny you have to your name, that it will score a maximum five stars.
The expected active features are there, including ABS, ASR, and ESP, with additional tech including ‘Active Blind-Spot Assist’, ‘Active Brake Assist' (Merc-speak for AEB), active lane keeping and lane change assist, ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Evasive Steering Assist’, ‘Parktronic’ (active parking assist with 360-degre camera), rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign assist, and a tyre pressure warning system.
Then, if all that isn’t enough to avoid an impact the GLS is equipped with nine airbags (front and pelvis side for driver and front passenger, side for outer rear seat occupants, full-length curtain, and a driver’s knee bag), an active bonnet to minimise pedestrian injuries, and the ‘Pre-Safe Plus’ (flashes rear hazards to warn drivers closing too quickly from behind, tightening the belts at the same time, and locking the brakes if the GLS is stationary with a rear impact imminent).
Jeep Grand Cherokee7/10
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. All Grand Cherokees have seven airbags, a reversing camera, trailer sway control, but only the Overland and SRT grades come standard with advanced safety equipment such as AEB and lane departure warning. The equipment can be optioned on all grades from the Limited up.
You'll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX points in the second row.
There's also a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor.
The update has brought two more advanced safety items – blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert but these are only standard on the Overland.
The Mercedes-Benz range is covered by a three year/unlimited km warranty, which, like Audi and BMW continues to lag behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz ‘Road Care’ roadside assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an 'Up-front' or 'Pay-as-you-go' basis.
As a guide, service pricing for the outgoing GLS is set at $2600 per service (up-front) and $3250 (PAYG), a saving of $650 a pop. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase ($3550 and $4900).
Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10
There's also life-time roadside assistance if the vehicle's serviced at a Jeep service centre.
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.