By; John Miller
The Jeep Grand Cherokee competes in the mid-size SUV class by offering a broad lineup of 7 trim levels filling the needs of buyers wanting anything from a utilitarian commuter to a high performance, off-road trail capable, adventure wagon. The current generation of Grand Cherokee has been around since 2011 but fights off aging with high tech options, top of the class off-road ability and in the Summit trim class-leading luxury.
The base model Laredo comes well equipped with the 3.6-liter V6 engine( kicking out 295 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It also gets standard 17-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, keyless ignition, and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, and a six-speaker sound system. Things only get better from there.
Our test vehicle was the luxury Summit trim outfitted with Laguna leather, adjustable power seating with heating and cooling. The optional 5.7-liter Hemi engine powered the test car through an 8-speed transmission and Jeeps Quadra-Trac II four-wheel drive. The larger engine carried a $3795 price tag while bringing an additional 70 horsepower and 100 pounds of torque to improve performance and towing capability.
Standard high-tech features in the Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit include; blind spot monitors, full speed emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, parking assist for both parallel and perpendicular spots, and Jeep’s Quadra-Lift Air Suspension. Our test car added the rear seat entertainment with dual screens, the Signature Leather package, the optional 5.7 engine and destination charges for a final total of $67,720. While this is a pricey car, you can get into a Laredo trim level for as little as $31,945 plus destination fees. The combination of 7 trim levels and five special editions make it possible to find the Grand Cherokee built for your needs.
The drive experience in the Summit was excellent. The Quadra-Lift suspension lowers to make entry easier, then adjusts to an aerodynamic ride height for cruising. You can raise the Grand Cherokee a couple of inches for additional ground clearance if needed. Road ripples and jars are well isolated, but this is a 4-wheel drive car and will never be as smooth as a luxury sedan. Cabin noise level is on par with the best sedans as noise dampening glass, active sound canceling and extensive insulation isolate the occupants from the world around them. The 19 speaker sound system provides concert hall quality music to fill the cabin.
The optional V8 engine increased the towing capacity of the Grand Cherokee from 6200 pounds with the V6 to an impressive 7200. That will tow most of our toys to the lake or mountains. When you order the towing package, you also get a full-size spare along with the 7 and 4 pin connectors, a class IV hitch, upgraded cooling, and trailer sway control.
Fuel economy suffers with the V8 engines, going to 14 city and 22 highway on our test car. I averaged about 20 mpg on my week-long test drive. The standard V6 Laredo earns a rating of 19 ciity and 27 highway.
Many argue that a Jeep isn’t a Jeep if it isn’t 4-wheel drive. The Grand Cherokee isn’t only 4-wheel drive but is also Trail Rated in several trim levels. Jeep’s Trail Rated badge is more than a decoration on the fender; according to Jeep, “Trail Rated represents the confidence to take on most any challenge. It’s our commitment to creating endless opportunities for you to discover your limits, and push right past them.”
The Summit 4-wheel drive is Jeep’s Quadra-Trac II system, an electronically controlled, two-speed on-demand transfer case that distributes power where it is needed when it is needed. The Summit comes with all-season tires that you may want to change out for all-terrains if you are going very far off-road.
Jeep Grand Cherokee has been a perennial presence in the SUV market since it’s first appearance as a Cherokee in 1984 changed the industry.
For those not excited by the conventional Jeep Grand Cherokee, but needing the function of an SUV, there is the SRT version sporting 475 horsepower from a 6.2-liter Hemi, or the stunningly powerful Trackhawk edition motivated by the same engine used in the iconic Hellcat, a 6.4-liter, supercharged V8 with 707 horses.
We have reviewed another SUV option from Jeep, the Wrangler Unlimited and you can find that information on our site.
The best way to evaluate a Grand Cherokee is with a test drive. You can find a local dealer and all of the Grand Cherokee options and pricing here.