The Grand Cherokee has been one of the most popular staples within the Jeep portfolio but the last generation model clearly fell short of meeting the lofty standards expected from a large luxury SUV of its class. Competition is clearly the name of the game and alongside Germans, there is Volvo, Genesis and Lexus which are all attempting to capture the buyer’s attention. Unlike the Wrangler, things are a lot tougher in the bonafide luxury SUV stakes but with the new generation model, Jeep thinks it has carved its own niche with its tough-as-nails image on one hand along with a newfound dollop of prestige.
The new Jeep Grand Cherokee takes a different path and aims to straddle between various segments. In our books, it must be a comfy family luxury SUV first rather than a mudslinging 4×4 though being handy with the rough stuff is a given with the Jeep badge. You get the Grand Cherokee in 5 or 7-seater forms while I drove the 5-seater model which was fitted with larger chrome wheels. There is an instant sense of being a ‘large American SUV’ about the new Grand Cherokee but it isn’t as bland or slab-sided as the last gen model.
The classic Jeep design cues are there but it is a bit more refined with its palette. Kind of wearing a three-piece suit with… hiking boots. The broad shoulders, upright stance and the chiselled lines are all muscle and successfully stand out amongst the crowd.
The interior is arguably even better and a vast improvement over the plasticky cabin of the previous one. The new cabin is classy and gets decked out with large displays including one for the passenger too. The main 10.1-inch screen is slick and easy to use while the quality on offer is pleasing although not quite class best. The passenger screen is a cool feature though and will keep your family entertained on the move.
Another cool feature available on the 7-seater version is that there is a rear-seat monitoring system with a camera on each back row to keep an eye out on the kids or pets at the back. Equipment levels are quite lavish with a digital rearview mirror, a heads-up display, 16-way adjustable seats, ambient lighting, panoramic sunroof, a 19-speaker audio system and more. Another crucial change is that there is a usual suite of driver assistance features like auto emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise etc.
Space on offer with the 5-seater version is adequate but not class-leading while the seats are indeed quite comfy with ample support. Luggage space and storage is also a far cry from its predecessor.
The driving experience mirrors its American roots and feels like a large SUV behind the wheel with a great big V6 pulled up via a lazy eight-speed auto. A turbocharged petrol might be a better accompaniment with the new Cherokee since this naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 feels a bit out of breath when driven hard. It is adept at being a comfortable cruiser with a V8-like burble when provoked although the high kerb weight means you do need to grab this engine by the scruff of its neck to get anywhere quickly.
Body control and overall ride quality is excellent though as it ploughs on despite large wheels and maintains adequate composure when driven hard. Unlike the old Cherokee, the new one handles and feels light enough behind the wheel while still displaying the Jeep-like demeanour when going off-road. The heavy steering is something new for buyers accustomed to lighter ones but as speeds go up, it weighs up perfectly and feels more fun to drive than some of its sanitised rivals.
The new Grand Cherokee isn’t cheap and the engine happens to be the weak link in lacking the punch that you need along with the efficiency of modern turbo motors. That said, it happens to redeem the American charm and the fun-to-drive element of its predecessor along with mixing it with top-notch interiors and loads of tech. It isn’t quite the all-arounder in terms of being a perfect luxury SUV but comes across as a more convincing left-field alternative than before.
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