It is without question that one of the darkest days in the history of Chrysler was when they were forced to their knees in front of the US Congress, begging for a hand out or face bankruptcy. During this time, Chrysler had to make a case for itself-in other words, give Congress a reason why they should be saved, and a key factor was future products. Chrysler was broke, and instead of an auto show and a highly choreographed, flashy intro, a Powerpoint presentation showed a new Grand Cherokee was in development. No booming techno music, cocktails and appetizers. Just a request for a loan.
Chrysler got the loan, and ownership from Fiat. The Grand Cherokee is the first all-new Jeep, post bail-out. Now, the Grand Cherokee has always been a successful car for Jeep, but always compromised. Buyers loved the rugged looks, legendary reputation for off-road ability, but had to put up with so-so interiors and unremarkable on-road manners. Does the new Grand Cherokee maintain what it built its name on and address its past weaknesses? Read on…
Jeep Grand Cherokees have traditionally been well-styled vehicles, but the last generation with its hard edges and lack of character left me cold. Fortunately, the Grand Cherokee has ditched its ‘Men’s Warehouse’ duds for Brooks Brothers. Make no mistake, the Grand Cherokee is one classy ride, showing a level of refinement that simply outdoes any Jeep of the past. Yet it loses none of its inherit ‘Jeepness’. Jeep designers deserve a round of applause for crafting a Grand Cherokee that would please most Jeep diehards, yet adds an air of sophistication that is bound to lure buyers from other luxury SUV’s to seek a closer look.
A long time Achille’s heel of past Jeep Grand Cherokee’s has been an interior that seemed to lag years behind its competition, beset with sub-standard materials and lackluster build quality. With the new Grand Cherokee, forget all of what you thought of Jeep interiors of the past.Ã‚Â There is an attention to detail that is unrivaled to any Jeep of yore. Instead, you are ensconced in a leather and wood lined interior devoid of hard plastics, exposed screws and massive panel gaps. The transformation of the interior from past Grand Cherokees is staggering. Finally, the Grand Cherokee is a no excuses luxury SUV.
The Grand Cherokee is available with a choice of two or four wheel drive, as well as V-6 and V-8 models. The base 3.6L V-6 is rated at 290hp, and is paired with a five-speed automatic. The EPA figures you should get 18 MPG in combined city/highway driving. The V-8 is optional-the 5.7L V-8 is good for 360hp, and is paired to a six-speed automatic. For fuel economy, expect 15 MPG combined city/highway. As for towing, the V-6 can handle up to 5,000 lbs, while the V-8 can haul 7,200 lbs. The Garage had the opportunity to sample both V-6 and V-8 Grand Cherokees this year. Realistically, the V-6 offers enough oomph to do the job for what most buyers will ask of the Grand Cherokee. I suspect this engine could squeeze out better mileage if paired to a six-speed automatic. As for the V-8, it attacks highway on-ramps with authority, and passing is a breeze. You won’t go wrong with either engine.
I spent a week with the V-6 Grand Cherokee, and a short stay with the V-8 model. As a testament to the Jeep, consider the following. At this year’s IMPA Test Days, the V-8 Grand Cherokee I drove home in had spent all day navigating a difficult off-road course meant to showcase its off-road abilities. When the keys were handed to me, the mud-splattered wheel wells showed this car was put through its paces. After two days of hard driving on road and on a race track, the Grand Cherokee proved to be a delightful, coddling isolation chamber from New York’s Catskill Mountains to my home in Connecticut.Ã‚Â The uncanny ability for incredible off-road prowess, coupled with a luxurious cabin was once the sole domain of the Range Rover. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has now attained the same credibility.
I’ll temper that by saying both Grand Cherokees I sampled were top-spec Overland models. In other words, they were loaded to the hilt. Our 2011 V-6 car had a base price of $41,120USD, the optional Inferno Red Crystal paint, option package with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and Off-Road Adventure Package brought the tally to $43,845, including delivery. Our 2012 test car starts at $42,995, but with the Off-Road Adventure Package and V-8 brought the tab to $47,010, including delivery.
With the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, one of America’s most respected brands offers a full-size SUV that no longer needs to make excuses for itself. Now a fully-realized vehicle, the Grand Cherokee stands at the top of its class. And definitely a positive sign for what we can expect from future Jeeps.