Jeep’s Grand Cherokee seems to get better with age. At one time it was the top selling SUV. But the SUV market has exploded with every carmaker offering one or several models, making the buying choice difficult.
Despite that, the midsize Grand Cherokee remains a top pick with its proven and rugged 4WD system and underpinnings that can negotiate terrain most others would fear to tread.
Offered in Laredo, Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit (tested), hot SRT, and super hot Trackhawk (that is said to do 0-60 in 3.4 seconds).
The Summit we tested was well endowed with a panoramic sunroof and heated/cooled leather front seats that had just the right amount of lateral support. Its vertical stack takes on an ergonomically pleasing “T” design that houses an 8.4-inch touchscreen complete with a host of apps including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity, navigation, text messaging with voice control using UConnect, a radar weather forecast, Harmon-Kardon audio and rearview camera.
Grand Cherokee’s HVAC controls are simple to use with large rotary dials that can be operated with gloved hands. Most selections are displayed on the touchscreen along with man-form air direction and other controls. And the gauge cluster houses a large driver information display.
The Summit model also had Park Assist for assisted parking maneuvers. The only feature missing was a wireless phone charger that uses plug-in outlets on the bottom of the stack.
At the base of the HVAC pod are two driving mode switches for Eco and Sport, the latter provides spirited performance with higher transmission shift points.
If there’s one exceptional trait Jeep’s are noted for it’s their proven 4WD systems, especially their Quadra-Drive II 4WD system that was on the Summit. It offers 4WD Low, Sand, Snow, Mud, Rock and Hill Descent control. To the right of the rotary 4WD mode selector are Up/Down switches for the Quadra-Lift air suspension system that raises the body from 10.5 inches to 12.5 inches for better off-road prowess, especially when combined with the vehicle’s 8.6-inch ground clearance that can handle some tough, rugged terrain. At its lowest setting, step-in is an easy 19 inches that goes to 21 at its highest setting. The system also helps in load leveling and when towing a sizable boat as the Grand Cherokee has a 7,200-pound tow rating.
Back seats are a tad on the firm side but offer decent leg room and spacious head room. Behind them, the cargo area with the seatbacks upright is rated at 36.3 cubic feet that measures 38 inches deep, 45 wide and 31 high. Flip the 60/40s and capacity expands to 68.3 cubic feet for 72 inches of cargo depth. Beneath the cargo floor is a full-size spare tire with three deep bins to stow small items around the spare. Cargo liftover is an easy, thigh-high 29 inches.
Grand Cherokee is offered with four engine choices. A 3.6-liter V6 with 295-hp and 260 lb/ft of torque; a 5.7-liter V8 with 360-hp and 390 lb/ft of torque; a 6.4-liter V8 (on SRT) with 475-hp and 470 lb/ft of torque; and super hot 6.2-liter supercharged V8 (on Trackhawk) with a whopping 707-hp and 645 lb/ft of torque.
Our Summit trim model came with the 5.7L V8 that aside from the sweet sound emanating from the tailpipes, produced exhilarating performance from a standing stop to highway passing situations. When coupled to the standard 8-speed automatic transmission (with paddle shifters), Grand Cherokee earns EPA mileage ratings of 14 city, 22-highway mpg. Not miserly, but considering the Grand Cherokee has a hefty curb weight of 5,258 pounds. But this heft also means a smooth, quiet, controlled ride on premium Pirelli 20-inch tires assisted by coil springs and twin-tube shocks. You’d think you were riding in a high-priced luxury sedan. Road imperfections and tar strips are nicely dampened with harsh ones merely a ripple in the cabin.
As for handling, Grand Cherokee has only a touch of body lean in sharp, tight turns but maintains a planted stance and robust feel. Even without Park Assist, Grand Cherokee parks fairly easily with a turning diameter of 37.1 feet.
Considered a luxury SUV with excellent off-road chops, Grand Cherokee Summit’s base price of $54,995 came standard with a long list of safety features that includes lane departure warning, blind spot and cross path detection, Park Sense rear park assist with stop, full-speed forward collision warning, adaptive cruise with stop and many more. The options list adds a rear entertainment system ($1,995); the 5.7L V8 ($3,795) that includes the Quadra Drive 4WD and Limited Slip rear axle; special Dark Sienna Brown leather ($495) and delivery ($1,495), took the bottom line to $62,775. A premium price for a premium but proven luxury SUV. As owners often say, “It’s a Jeep thing.”
Grand Cherokee also came with impressive safety ratings. It earned a full five stars for an overall score; four for driver frontal crash and five for passenger; five for front/rear seat side crash and four for rollover.
Added to this, it carries a 5 year/60K powertrain warranty and 3/36K basic warranty.