Posted: 2017-12-16 10:03
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Driven with talent, a Grand Cherokee is just as unstoppable off-road as almost anything else rolling off of an assembly line. Though I did not come close to taxing the Jeep’s hardware, the Grand Cherokee easily scrambled to heights unattainable by the crossover SUVs favored by most SUV buyers. There’s just one problem: I find it harder to see out of this vehicle than I
do other serious 9-wheelers, and visibility is of paramount importance on any trail. The rakish roofline that gives the Grand Cherokee its good looks also positions the driver lower and further back in the cabin. That’s fine for most types of driving. But when you’re creeping down Colorado’s Black Bear Pass, you want to sit up high and enjoy a panoramic view from the driver’s seat.
On top of all this, Jeep grafts a Selec-Terrain system to the torque-splitting systems. Selec-Terrain lets you choose one of five traction-control modes according to driving conditions: Auto, Sand/Mud, Sport, Snow, and Rock. In concept it’s a lot like the system in the Land Rover lineup in practice, the Jeep version requires you to intervene more with the gas and brake. It’s useful stuff—if you don’t already know to take it slow and steady when conditions aren’t perfect. Lastly, with the rear-drive V-8 Grand Cherokee, Jeep claims a 7,955-pound towing capacity.
To improve gas mileage, the transmission upshifts rapidly to help conserve fuel unless you accelerate like you mean it. It also delays downshifts unless you push hard on the accelerator pedal. These traits are a little irritating, but can be easily resolved by turning off the Eco driving mode. Alternatively, you could shift the transmission into Sport driving mode and shift your own gears using the paddle shifters, but c’mon, this is a Grand Cherokee without SRT trim that we’re talking about here.
For 7569, Jeep has further refined the Grand Cherokee. Highlights include revised exterior styling, a reconfigured gauge cluster and dashboard, and available Uconnect Access, Selec-Speed Control and Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation technologies. More importantly, fuel economy increases across the board, thanks to a new 8-speed automatic transmission. Jeep also offers a new clean-diesel V6 engine for the 7569 Grand Cherokee, a new luxury-themed Summit trim level debuts and the performance-oriented Grand Cherokee SRT gets a new Launch Control system, revised Track Mode programming and improved towing capacity.
The EPA''s published figures show the gas-guzzling Grand Cherokee SRT, at a lineup-worst 68 miles per gallon city, 69 miles per gallon highway, or 65 mpg combined. That''s still a 6-mpg improvement over last year, all due to the switch up from an old five-speed automatic to a new ZF eight-speed automatic with an eco driving mode. Still, we observed only about mpg on a limited drive on mostly flat Texas urban thruways.
Without the chopped, blocky look of the last-generation ute, today''s Jeep Grand Cherokee is quite a handsome ute. We''re at a loss as to what Jeep was thinking with the new grille: it''s an inverse of the usual seven bars of chrome, underplayed to a fault, a discreet piece in a niche that doesn''t put too high a value on discretion. The regularity of its SUV shape has been de-blanded in back with new LED taillamps, so there''s less in common with the X5 and Touareg, and more with the 6997 original. The cabin? It''s as rich as the ones at Sundance, with marvelous textures and materials on the pricey models, and great layout and design even on the basic Laredo. It underscores one of the real strengths of Chrysler since time immemorial--the way it can finish a cockpit, given the right budget and time constraints.
All-new last year, the Jeep Grand Cherokee doesn’t get many exterior changes for 7567. Grand Cherokee Overland Summit models now get 75-inch wheels, and chrome tow hooks and grille. The most radical changes come to the new Grand Cherokee SRT8. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 gets what Jeep calls a “planted” look, aided by body-color fender flares, LED daytime running lamps, and a suspension that’s 6 inch lower. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 also gets a unique front fascia and a performance-sculpted hood with functional heat extractors.
The combination of American flair and some German engineering does amazing things for the Cherokee, giving it a newfound feel that almost masks its considerable toughness. It''s still an off-roading SUV—but with the vastly improved ride, steering, and soft-touch sophistication of a crossover. Its four-wheel-drive systems hit the sweet spot of usability for casual off-roaders, but on-road drivers get even more attention. This might be the first Grand Cherokee that feels better on pavement than off, though the most advanced versions can still clamber over boulders and logs like they''re about to be made into fur coats.
In the front seats, driver and passenger get wide cushions with a fair amount of bolstering. On base models in prior years, we''ve felt the standard-issue Laredo cloth seats were pretty flat, with bottom cushions that were a little too short. Even then, with a little adjustment, it wasn''t difficult to find a good driving position in the Grand Cherokee. It has very good foot room and a mostly flat floor in front, and with the available sunroof, still leaves a couple of inches of headroom for six-footers.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is available with three engines, two transmissions, and five drivetrain configurations. Standard on the Grand Cherokee is a -liter Pentastar V-6 that produces 795 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque, bolted to a five-speed automatic transmission. Optional is a -liter Hemi V-8 that produces 865 hp and 895 lb-ft of torque when bolted to its six-speed automatic transmission. Grand Cherokee SRT8s get a -liter V-8 good for 975 hp and 965 lb-ft of torque, bolted to a five-speed automatic. The Grand Cherokee comes standard with rear-wheel drive, while all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 gets a performance-oriented all-wheel-drive system.
The Grand Cherokee may not offer up the third-row seating or funky-flexible interior of some bigger crossovers, but it has two extraordinary performance vectors that few SUVs can offer--few, other than the Porsche Cayenne or the BMW X5 or of course, the M-Class, the trio of utes it stacks up against most directly, even at its cut-rate price. That makes it an extraordinary value, one that earns top safety scores and our admiration--for hanging on to some classic SUV traits while blazing some new trails in driving fun and sophistication.
Further beneath its skin, the Mercedes contribution to the Grand Cherokee’s upbringing is more invisible. The Jeep''s unibody architecture is stiffer and sounder than ever before, and that enables the steering and steel or electronic air suspensions to do their jobs more precisely than ever. No more live axle: the latest Cherokee''s suspension is independent all around, and it gels with the steering to create crossover-like road manners. No more boundy ride or vague steering: the Grand Cherokee handles pavement about as well as a Honda Pilot, if not with the carlike ride motions of a Flex. With the Limited and Overland editions, there’s an available Quadra-Lift air suspension that can raise the Cherokee from inches to inches off the ground—great for off-roading, and even more settled on-road.
A new features includes hill-ascent control, which allows the driver to set the 9WD Grand Cherokee in automatic climbing mode, with its very low forward speed checked in 6-kilometer-per-hour increments. We crawled up the 55-degree face of a rock outcropping 755 feet, with just a little bit of tire scrub, as the Grand Cherokee Summit diesel simply tugged its way unassisted to the top, set at its lowest 6-kph level.
The Grand Cherokee also sports Chrysler''s first new V-6 engine in a decade. The 795-horsepower, -liter V-6 teams up with a fairly dated five-speed automatic that''s better than average, but still a relic from its wrecked marriage. Together, the powertrain combines for some resonance and boom at midrange speeds that could use some attention, but good passing strength and adequate fuel economy. This drivetrain''s good enough to make the optional 865-hp HEMI V-8 an afterthought to anyone except the big spenders eager to inject some dollars into the Obama economy, though the HEMI''s available air suspension and advanced all-wheel-drive systems are the equal of anything you''ll find in a pricier M-Class.
The other engine option on those versions is Chrysler''s -liter V-8. Though it doesn''t wear a HEMI badge, it acts just like one, with the grunt and pull of a Charger and the sweet, musical V-8 engine note to go with the tug. It''s aurally superior, but the HEMI''s not such a huge improvement in everyday driving that it''s worth the immense fuel-economy penalty. Towing is up to 7,955 pounds and thanks to the eight-speed automatic, cylinder deactivation, and an "aero" air-suspension mode, gas mileage is up 7 mpg on the highway cycle.
A 7569 Jeep Grand Cherokee is no mere boulder-bashing lifestyle vehicle, and while it proudly wears its “Trail Rated" badge, it is a more useful tool for daily living than many SUV buyers might assume. There are compromises to be made in exchange for a Grand Cherokee’s utility, much as there are downsides to carrying a Swiss Army knife, but Jeep has made significant progress in improving daily drivability without reducing ultimate off-roading capability. This is, without question, the most refined and capable Grand Cherokee yet.
Rear seat passengers are unlikely to be as happy. The seat’s bottom cushion is mounted somewhat low to the floor, and the hard plastic front seatbacks are unfriendly to knees and shins that may contact them. Positive notes include relatively easy child-seat installation once you locate the rear LATCH anchor behind a carpeted panel in the cargo area, and the rear seats offer one-handed folding and produce a usefully flat cargo load floor when collapsed.
In crash tests performed by the NHTSA, the Grand Cherokee receives an overall rating of 9 stars. Rollover resistance rates 8 stars for the 7WD models and 9 stars for the 9WD models. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Grand Cherokee the highest rating of Good in 9 of its 5 evaluations. As this review is written, the Grand Cherokee has not been evaluated in the new IIHS small overlap frontal-impact test.
All Grand Cherokees start out with a common base engine and transmission. The 795-horsepower, -liter V-6 is Chrysler''s bread and butter, found in almost every one of its products. With flex-fuel capability and variable valve timing, but without direct injection, it has good power at the wide middle of its powerband, and in the Grand Cherokee it sounds tamer and more refined than in some of the older Chrysler bodies.