2013 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE REVIEW
What’s hot: Eight-speed auto, potent engines, and priced to surprise.
What’s not: Fuel efficiency, the SRT knows thee not; pricey diesel option.
X-Factor: It’s different, not your average SUV, with muscular style and genuine off-road capability.
|Model||Engine||Fuel use listed||Tested|
|Laredo 4x2||210kW/347Nm 3.6 petrol V6||10.1 l/100km||12.7 l/100km|
|Overland 4x4||184kW/520Nm 3.0 diesel V6||7.5 l/100km||10.7 l/100km|
|SRT 4x4||344kW/624Nm 6.4 petrol V8||14.0 l/100km||(not recorded)|
|Note: all models equipped with ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.|
If we ran awards for ‘most improved in class', Jeep’s Grand Cherokee would have figured more than once in the past few years.
The last model was certainly better than nearly everyone expected; one of the stand-out buys in fact in the large SUV sector.
It’s taken four generations, but Jeep’s big SUV has gone from a floppy, flexy lump, to an impressively tight, desirable premium SUV buy: that’s the new 2013 Grand Cherokee.
And it comes with a styling appeal and ‘street presence’ that anyone would be pleased to parade past the neighbours.
Muscular, brash enough but not rudely ostentatious, the new Cherokee also carries a smart feel inside and a very cool eight-speed auto – with paddles at the wheel – as standard across the range.
And here’s the clincher: the new range starts at $45,000 on-road for the Laredo 4X2. That’s modest cashola for a lot of gutsy, well-equipped family wagon.
The new Jeep Grand Cherokee is also, as we discovered, a very decent drive. Whichever wheel in whichever model you choose to plant yourself behind, you’ll find a lot to like in this car.
Certainly nothing amiss here. Right across the range, the interior looks and feels smart.
The stitched dashboard top, neat metal and polished wood feature-trims, and very nice three-spoke wheel set off a robustly built and nicely styled interior.
Tactile surfaces are solid and appealing to the touch, doors and armrests are padded, and wood and metal garnishes fit tightly and look good.
The seats, whether trimmed in leather or fabric, are generously sized and shaped, and both driver and passenger get power eight-way adjustment and heated front seats across the range (plus heated rear seats in mid and up-spec models).
With a reach and rake adjustable wheel, it’s easy to get comfortably set at this workbench. One of the best features, and also standard across the range, is a fully configurable electronic instrument-cluster display.
It looks very classy and is an unexpected touch at the Grand Cherokee’s entry price.
All models also come with a Harman-developed touchscreen ‘Uconnect’ system integrating GPS, voice recognition, Bluetooth, audio and entertainment systems into the one platform.
Rear-view camera is also standard across the range, as is dual-zone climate control.
Safety systems include standard ABS, stability control, traction control, rollover mitigation, and seven airbags including curtain airbags for front and rear.
All models also include hill start assist and descent control, as well as tyre-pressure monitoring, and rain-sensing wipers.
Up-spec models add collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection and adaptive cruise-control.
The 2WD Laredo of course misses out on the Quadra-Trac II 4X4 system featured on all 4WD models (Laredo 4X4 is $46k plus on-roads) as is the switchable ‘selec-terrain’ system.
The up-spec Overland models also come with air-lift suspension (for when stepping over rocks or through deep streams) and electronic limited slip diff (LSD).
ON THE ROAD
Grand Cherokee Laredo 2WD
We began at the wheel of the Laredo 2WD. At $45,000 driveaway, this car is going to attract the keen interest of family buyers.
And they won’t be disappointed by the way it drives and handles. The Pentastar V6 petrol is a smooth well-balanced unit with a respectable 210kW and 347Nm to call on.
It is helped immensely by the eight-speed auto with standard paddle shifters at the wheel. And, with no less than eight ratios to rattle through, it is rarely caught without the right gear underfoot.
That transmission also helps the V6 move the 2.0 tonne heft of this big bus with relative ease. Uphill and down-dale, this is an effortless family wagon.
Jeep claims a 0-100km/h sprint of 8.3 seconds. In the real world, the Laredo 2WD has a brisk turn of speed and has no trouble quickly picking up its skirts when overtaking.
When using the paddles, shifts up and down are sharp, and simply holding the +paddle defaults the transmission back to full-auto when you’ve finished playing with the gears.
Perhaps the most obvious shortcoming to the handling is the soft tune to the front suspension.
There is no argument that the Grand Cherokee is comfortable on road, and a compliant suspension works best on Australian roads, but it needs a stiffer front end for better handling precision. (Perhaps just a bigger stabiliser bar is needed.)
It gets the same suspension tune as US models; but wallows a little and pushes wide in tighter turns, leaning on the outside wheel.
It’s no biggie; with independent coil front suspension (with twin-tube shocks, stabiliser bar and upper and lower control arms) and multi-link rear, the ride is generally nicely settled, if occasionally a little noisy, and free of jarring over broken tarmac.
Brakes too are very good, as is pedal feel. While the SRT gets Brembos front and back; the Laredo and lesser models get 328mm vented discs up front and 320mm vented discs at the rear.
Braked towing capacity is 2.8 tonne.
For this part of the drive, giving things a bit of welly, we returned 12.7 l/100km against the listed 10.1 l/100km.
Grand Cherokee Limited 3.0 CRD
Our time at the wheel of the 3.0 litre V6 turbo diesel was limited to a slippery stint off-road.
Immediately noticeable at start-up is the refinement and balance of the VM Motori oil-burning V6 under the bonnet. This is a civilised and super-smooth unit; there’s a little clatter when cold, but it barely intrudes inside.
It puts 184Kw and 570Nm under the toe; the important number there is that hefty torque figure.
Mating 570Nm (at 2000rpm) to an eight-speed automatic transmission gives the big Jeep enormous tractability and performance potential.
The 4WD system, which operates with a separate two-speed transfer case, has a range of switchable modes operated from the centre console.
For the lighter part of the drive, we left it in 4WD and ‘auto’ mode – which automatically directs torque between front and rear axles depending on the grip – and had no trouble on the slippery rain-soaked track.
Good ramp-over angles also had us negotiating the ridged berms in the steeper sections (there to prevent erosion) without any scraping from down below.
When the going got steeper and seriously slippery, we switched over to ‘mud’ mode (there is also a crawling ‘rock’ mode) and 4WD low.
Despite being shod in road tyres with a tread that quickly filled with sticky clay, neither the boggy mud-pans nor the slippery climbs posed any difficulty for the big Jeep’s electronic LSD, low-range crawling ability and ‘active torque distribution’.
It wasn’t until we found a really steep section that the soft track and road tyres won the argument. Turning around and coming out, we found the hill-descent control also works very well – you can set the descent speed via the +paddle shift.
It was a short excursion and far from a definitive test, but the sophisticated 4WD system of the Grand Cherokee would certainly seem capable of tackling some pretty marginal heavy-duty off-road tracks and fire trails.
Our drive off-road returned 10.7 l/100km. It wasn’t a long run, but for a big heavy car on a slippery track, that’s kind-of amazing.
Jeep claims 7.5 l/100km combined figure; eminently achievable you would have to think.
It’s also claiming a braked tow rating for the Grand Cherokee CRD of 3.5 tonne and a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.2 seconds – and that’s not half bad either.
Grand Cherokee SRT 6.4 litre Hemi V8
Some things are just plain wrong. Peeling off a 13.30 quarter-mile in a 2.3 tonne 4WD brick is one of them.
But that’s what we managed at the wheel of this square-rigged flying bus at Queensland’s Willowbank Raceway.
We had help. This one, the SRT model with the monster Hemi V8 under the bonnet, comes with ‘launch control’.
That’s also wrong, surely an abomination, in a vehicle of this type. (There is a particular corner in purgatory reserved for engineers who commit such sins of excess.)
But line it up at the drag strip – as we did for two timed runs – and it will disappear down the quarter mile exactly like a 4WD should not.
Launching is simply a matter of pressing the launch control button next to the shifter – foot on the brake, floor the accelerator (which then holds 2000rpm for around three seconds), then slip the left foot sideways.
Do this, and it will hit 100km/h in 4.8 seconds (and your face catches up a second or two after that).
On-road it is also sinfully fast. The 6.4 litre monster under the bonnet is nursing 344kW and 624Nm. That’s no bagatelle; numbers like that can make the girth and weight of a car this size simply vanish.
Few large SUVs will get out of a hole the way the Grand Cherokee SRT bolts.
Floor the pedal, and it’s like jamming a star-picket up a Brahmin Bull. There is an outraged bellow followed by an astonishingly rapid, earthshaking exit from the scene.
Better still, it’s accompanied by an intoxicating deep growl particular to the Hemi V8 that none other can emulate.
If you can bury your more responsible sensibilities, this is a hugely enjoyable car with absolutely bruising performance.
But don’t even think about bringing the SRT home to surprise the family unless you own an oil refinery, or someone else is paying the fuel bills (ah, the joy of the fuel card).
The SRT hates a drink.
You’ll never get a 20.7 l/100k fuel consumption (urban) and 10.1 (highway) past the family exchequer without some serious bare-faced lying.
(BTW: we’ve never jammed a star-picket, not even a felt-tipped pen, up a Brahmin Bull.)
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
No doubt about it, the classy and comfortable 2014 Grand Cherokee is going to win a lot of friends.
The 2WD Laredo, in particular, at $45,000 driveaway is exceptional buying.
While it doesn’t have seven seats, there’s lots of room for the average family, a big square cargo space, an effortless drivetrain and the long-haul comfort suited to a big country.
If you need 4WD, you have to pay more – natch – but even the 4WD range begins at under $50k, on road.
While the Pentastar engine is a very good unit, the pick of the engines - we think – is the 3.0 litre diesel.
It’s quiet and effortlessly strong. It’s a pity really that it carries a $5000 premium – we think that’s a bit steep.
And, if you want something really bonkers, you can bring home the $77k SRT. But you’ll have to sneak it past the more sensible member of the family domicile.
It’s a sledgehammer. More to the point, though heading north of $85k by the time you get it home, it’s something of a performance bargain when you start lining it up with what might loosely be counted its opposition.
So, yes, the new Grand Cherokee range – top to bottom – is a good car made better. Always good buying, now it’s even better.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs except where noted)
- Laredo 4X2 3.6 petrol $43,000 ($45,000 driveaway)
- Laredo 4X4 3.6 petrol $46,000
- Laredo 4X4 3.0 diesel $51,000
- Limited 4X4 3.6 petrol $56,000
- Limited 4X4 3.0 diesel $61,000
- Limited 4X4 5.7 V8 petrol $61,000
- Overland 4X4 3.6 petrol $66,000
- Overland 4X4 3.0 diesel $71,000
- Overland 4X4 5.7 V8 petrol $71,000
- SRT 6.4 Hemi V8 petrol $77,000