Vehicle Style: Large 4WD SUV
Price: $53,000 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 184kW/570Nm V6 Diesel | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.5 l/100km | tested: 8.9 l/100km
The Laredo 4WD sits right in the middle of Jeep’s 2014 Grand Cherokee range.
It’s the cheapest way into a Grand Cherokee if 4WD and a diesel engine are ‘must haves’, and is $9000 cheaper before on-road costs than the next model in the range; the Limited Diesel 4WD.
The Grand Cherokee has had a bumper year for sales in Australia; breaking into the top-ten on more than one occasion and is easily Jeep’s best-selling car locally with sales up 35 percent on 2013.
A genuine 4WD, the Grand Cherokee has put the frighteners on Toyota's Prado, comfortably outselling the Toyota for most of the year.
Launched midway through 2013, it's a real achiever in the Jeep range. This model, the Laredo 4WD V6 diesel, is certainly not lacking for power and torque, but how good is it?
We put it to the test to find out.
Quality: The 2013 update brought an improved level of interior quality, but exactly how much the Grand Cherokee has improved may surprise some.
Highlights include the seven-inch touchscreen and ‘personalised instrument cluster’, along with the voice recognition system which is a solid performer.
The instrument cluster offers a display screen in place of any central dial, capable of displaying almost all the data a keen driver could possibly want to know or a speedometer as either a numeral or digital ‘dial’.
There are many ‘quirks’ in the Laredo’s interior that may take some getting used to, but any frustrations with the car’s uniqueness should subside reasonably quickly.
Comfort: There’s no shortage of space inside the Grand Cherokee, and the seats are large enough to keep most occupants happy.
They’re comfortable as well, with eight-way power adjustment and four-way power lumbar adjustment in the front.
Some buyers will be relieved to learn the seats are cloaked in cloth rather than leather, they come heated as standard (as does dual-zone climate control).
We found the automatic T-bar shifter a little too close for comfort to the driver’s knee and it's also a little cramped around the pedals (thanks to the left-to-right steering swap).
We unintentionally found - and released - the floor-mounted park brake pedal more than once upon climbing into the Grand Cherokee and this, almost certainly, will take some getting used to for new owners. A driver’s footrest has been omitted to make way for the park brake.
Equipment: As the entry-level Grand Cherokee Diesel, Jeep has trimmed the standard features list a little.
For over $50,000, some might expect parking-sensors, but, while a camera is standard, both front and rear parking sensors are deleted.
Also, the on-screen reversing display does without guiding lines, which are reserved for higher-spec models (and which seems unusual).
Otherwise, the Laredo gets a steering wheel covered in buttons to ensure plenty of controls are within easy reach. And, to make room for more buttons on the front, the volume and audio controls have moved to the back of the wheel (but are still easily operated - once you remember which side controls which function).
There’s also Bluetooth, USB, SD card and auxiliary inputs, proximity key with push-button start, and a single stalk on the left of the steering column which controls both front and rear wipers along with the indicators and high-beam. A sunroof is optional.
A nice bonus is the rechargeable LED torch which is tucked upright, well out of the way to the left of the cargo area and is recharged by the car’s electrics.
Storage: The boot offers 782 litres of storage with rear seatbacks in place and upright, expanding to 1554 litres of flat-floor space with the seats down.
A full-size spare is under the boot floor.
The cup holders are well-sized if perhaps a little snug, but bottle holders are also available in all four doors.
Customers choosing the optional CD player will lose half of their centre console bin, as the player is mounted vertically under the lid, close to the driver.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Once you’re fluent with the ‘rocker’ automatic T-bar shifter, floor-mounted park brake and ‘one stalk for everything’, the Laredo is very much the capable cruiser.
Fuel economy is excellent for a vehicle of this size, and the turbo-diesel V6 has oodles of torque readily available in each of the eight forward gears for quite rapid motoring.
While reasonably spry off the line, it is swift once moving and is an effortless tow vehicle.
For those venturing off road, the selectable 4WD system offers sand, snow, mud, rock or ‘auto’ settings, along with hill-decent control and low-range functions.
Both ‘sport’ and ‘eco’ driving modes are available, but neither alter the Grand Cherokee’s dynamics in a drastic way.
Refinement: The Laredo is quiet and comfortable, and shows its American roots when cruising down the freeway.
Long-haul trips will be a breeze as the Laredo barely stretches its legs; which is to be expected in a large family wagon with 570Nm of torque.
The engine really shines in this department, and those with only a passing interest in cars will struggle to tell it’s a diesel from the soundtrack (or lack thereof).
The ultra-short first gear means that the Laredo can 'jolt' a little coarsely away from the line if you're heavy on the right foot.
From there, the automatic shifts smoothly up and down the range and the car thankfully isn’t searching for ratios with every throttle application.
Ride And Handling: Ride quality, as you would expect in a vehicle of this size, is appealing.
Despite its size, Jeep has masked the Grand Cherokee’s large SUV dimensions well; even on a winding road it doesn't feel at all like an ocean barge.
Handling is more on-par with a family wagon rather than a family SUV, but a smidgen of body roll can be prompted when pushed hard enough.
Braking: There’ll be no popped eyeballs resulting from the Grand Cherokee’s brakes, but they are more than adequate at hauling up the big SUV.
Pad and pedal feel is consistent, while strategic and sensible braking would see the system up to the task of matching Jeep’s 3500kg tow rating.
ANCAP rating: 4/5 Stars - LHD diesel versions of the Grand Cherokee, tested by Euro NCAP scored 29.95 out of 37 points.
Safety features include Electronic Stability Control with Brake Assist and Trailer Sway Control, All-speed Traction Control (ASTC), Electronic Roll Mitigation, Rain Brake Support, Ready Alert Braking, Front airbags, side-curtain airbags, driver knee-bolster airbags and reversing camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: three years, 100,000km with three years roadside assistance.
Service costs: Jeep does not offer capped price servicing. Service costs may vary, so consult your dealer. The Laredo Diesel has 10,000km service intervals.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Jeep has plenty of rivals in the large SUV segment below $70,000, but only a few can match the Grand Cherokee for off-road ability.
The model outsold its nearest rivals last month in the Toyota Prado and Toyota Kluger, but only the Prado can match (or some may argue, exceed) the Grand Cherokee off-road; and the Kluger has no diesel option.
The Prado GX wagon with a diesel engine is only slightly more expensive than the Laredo, and comes with a six-speed manual transmission.
This is both a bonus and a curse, as the Prado automatic increases the price-gap between the GX and the Laredo. There is no manual option in Australia for any Grand Cherokee model.
Others to consider:
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
There’s much to like about the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, including its $53,000 starting price.
The diesel engine is a $5000 stretch over the equivalent petrol-powered model, but is arguably worth the extra money.
Family buyers will love the Laredo’s combination of towing ability, size, performance and economy, while off-road enthusiasts are equally catered for.
Those with no desire to tow or go off-road may be enticed by other large 'soft-roading' SUVs, but the Grand Cherokee has the ability to serve both market segments.
If you’re looking for a mid-range SUV with 4WD and a diesel engine, the Laredo offers strong value-for-money buying.