JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE DIESEL REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Luxury SUV
Fuel Economy (claimed): 8.3 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 9.4 l/100km
At launch, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee was only available with two engines: a petrol V6 that was overburdened by the Jeep’s 2.4-tonne kerb weight, and a powerful petrol V8 that sucked more fuel than a 737.
Now there’s a 550Nm turbodiesel V6 in the range. By dropping fuel consumption without compromising torque, the diesel is the ideal powertrain for the Grand Cherokee.
With a monster towing capacity, and sharp pricing, it makes the big Jeep well worth a second look.
Quality: The only significant negatives are the hard plastics on the lower dash and around the centre stack, which feel like they belong in something cheaper.
Otherwise, the Grand Cherokee’s cabin is nicely trimmed with clearly laid out controls and quality switchgear.
Comfort: All seats are well-padded, and the heated front seats are power adjustable. The rear bench is spacious and comfortable, and the outboard seats on the Limited model also score seat heaters.
Headroom and legroom is generally plentiful, although those seated in the outboard rear seats may find the C-pillar a little too close to the head.
One major negative is the foot-operated parking brake’s proximity to the driver’s left leg when in the ‘off’ position. Not only does it intrude into the footwell, but it would surely cause injury in the event of a crash.
Equipment: The Limited’s equipment list is peppered with such luxuries as bi-xenon dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, power folding and heated wing mirrors, front and rear parking sensors power-adjustable front seats (driver’s with two-position memory) and a power-adjustable steering column.
Also standard is dual-zone climate control, cruise control, seat heaters for all seats bar the centre rear, a trip computer, power adjustable front seats, a power adjustable steering column, a nine-speaker audio system with USB/iPod inputs and 30GB hard disk storage, Bluetooth phone integration and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Storage: With the 60/40 split rear seats up, there's a generous 782 litres of cargo space in the boot. The boot lip is flush with the floor, and the rear seatbacks easily fold flat to create a sizable 1554 litre cargo area.
A full size steel spare also lurks beneath the boot floor, and is surrounded by removable storage bins.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Grand Cherokee’s 3.0 litre single-turbo diesel V6 develops 177kW and 550Nm; that’s 30Nm more than the Grand Cherokee’s 5.7 litre petrol V8, and more than enough to whisk the big Jeep’s 2.3-tonne frame effortlessly up to highway speed.
Low-down torque is plentiful, while the V6 revs cleanly with relatively little vibration or clatter. With so much torque though, there’s little point in working the engine hard.
Instead, the turbodiesel V6 does its best work (and is at its most efficient) when being lugged around at less than 2800rpm.
Like its petrol-powered stablemates, the diesel Grand Cherokee is equipped with a five-speed automatic gearbox.
It shifts smoothly and generally had the right gear underfoot, but an extra ratio or two would give the Grand Cherokee some extra flexibility when towing heavy loads.
Impressively, we achieved an average fuel consumption of 9.4 l/100km without any great difficulty. Not bad numbers for such a heavy car.
Refinement: The big tyres provide good on-road compliance with little roar, making the Grand Cherokee a comfortable cruiser on the highway. Noise from the diesel engine is subdued too, aside from some light clatter just above idle.
Suspension: On the standard coil springs (height-adjustable air-suspension is available as an option), the Grand Cherokee’s on-road comfort is quite impressive. Roadholding is good despite the soft damping, although it feels somewhat ponderous when asked to change direction swiftly.
Potholes and expansion gaps are easily absorbed by the tyre’s tall sidewalls, and the cabin is well isolated from corrugations and other road imperfections.
The steering ratio requires a lot of turns lock to lock , which can make parking a chore. The over-assisted power steering also conveys little feedback to the fingertips.
Braking: The pedal is very soft and has quite a bit of travel, but given a decent prod it elicits good performance from the sizable 350mm and 330mm disc brakes.
Off road: The Selec-Terrain system allows the driver to switch between drive modes tailored to sand/mud, rock, snow or tarmac, which alters traction control behaviour to maximise grip.
The standard-equipment Quadra-Trac II system features a dual-range transfer case, while the Quadra-Lift air suspension provides impressive ground clearance. Wheel articulation is also good, even with the suspension at maximum height.
Whether you tow an off-road trailer, caravan or horse float, you’ll likely be more than satisfied with the Grand Cherokee diesel’s 3500kg braked tow capacity - equal to the V8, and a tonne more than the petrol V6.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: Seven airbags (dual front, driver's knee, dual front side and full-length curtain), three-point seatbelts (front pretensioning), active headrests, ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control and traction control are standard.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Service costs: Servicing intervals are set for every 12,000km, with an typical service costing between $470 - $500. The first major service is due at 48,000km, and costs roughly $1250.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Land Rover Discovery 4 TDV6 ($68,490) – The Discovery 4 is a proper 4WD that offers a great deal of capability for its asking price. It may feel slightly smaller and less opulent inside, but its third row of seats mean it can carry more people than the Grand Cherokee.
Its 140kW/440Nm 2.7 litre V6 is also less powerful than the Jeep’s motor, and as a consequence it makes a less-capable tow vehicle (see Discovery reviews)
Volkswagen Touareg 150TDI ($62,990) - Volkswagen’s Touareg has a very impressive eight-speed transmission and a refined 140kW/400Nm 3.0 litre turbodiesel V6. It also handles superbly on tarmac.
The options list is expensive though, and the Jeep bests it for standard equipment. The Jeep’s off-road driveline is also more capable, with the VW missing out on a standard-fit dual range transfer case. (see Touareg reviews)
Toyota Prado GXL diesel ($ 64,404) - The Prado is the least powerful of this bunch (with 127 kW) although its 410Nm 3.0 litre inline four produces 10Nm more torque than the Touareg.
Its maximum tow rating is only 2500kg, a tonne under that of the diesel Jeep. (see Prado reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Thrust without the thirst. That neatly summarises the Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel.
It’s affordable too, and is one of the most (if not THE most) value-packed luxury off-roader on the market today. Even better, it costs no more than the petrol V8 Grand Cherokee, yet delivers more torque while consuming less fuel.
That combination of economy and grunt makes the diesel our pick of the Grand Cherokee range. It is quite reasonably priced compared to its closest rivals and is good buying for those looking for a luxury SUV.