Price and specifications
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel; 184kW @ 4000rpm, 570Nm @ 2000rpm
Transmission and 4WD system: 8-speed auto; dual-range 4WD
Braked tow capacity: 3500kg
Spare tyre: Full-size
Fuel tank: 93 litres
Fuel use (claimed): 7.5L/100km
Fuel use on test: 9.8L/100km
Approach/departure angles: 35.8 degrees (with front lower bumper removed)/29.6 degrees
Ground clearance: 287mm (in fully raised position)
WHAT’S THE DEAL?
The Summit is the flagship version of the Grand Cherokee and the Platinum adds some unique trim elements to further tart it up. It’s loaded with fruit, including sat-nav, leather, electric front seats, active cruise control and 20-inch wheels. There’s also a great 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system and panoramic sunroof.
Unique to the Platinum are various “platinum chrome” finishes, including the alloy wheels, grille inserts, bezels around the tail lights and much of the badging.
The Summit also picks up active noise cancelling speakers and laminated windows to reduce interior noise (it’s quieter but the diesel drone is still a constant companion).
It adds up to $78,000 worth of Grand Cherokee.
The interior is nicely presented and has comfortable seats up front. Jeep’s colour touchscreen display is one of the best in the business, with logical icons and menus that make it easy to dart between functions.
The main negative for the driver is the foot-operated park brake that digs into your left shin on the run; it’s a mild aggravation at best, downright annoying at worst.
Unlike similarly priced rivals such as the Toyota Prado or Mitsubishi Pajero the Grand Chorokee is strictly a five-seater. That reduces its usefulness on the Saturday morning sport run, but it’s fine for those planning to load it up and head into the wilderness, where a sizeable boot and good space for five is on offer.
The Grand is also claimed to tow up to 3.5-tonnes, which is fantastic; it’s easy to understand its popularity with those planning to tow.
ON THE ROAD
There’s plenty to like with the 3.0-litre twin turbo diesel, starting with the hearty 570Nm of torque. It’s a good shove and makes light work of shifting the chunky SUV body, although there’s some turbo lag so it initially feels lethargic before finally unleashing the full 570Nm whack at 2000rpm.
It teams nicely with the eight-speed auto, doing away with unnecessary downchanges but decisively shifting gears as required. The electronic gear selector isn’t always intuitive and if you’re parking or performing delicate off-road manoeuvres it’d pay to double check the readout in the centre console to make sure you’re about to go forwards or backwards.
It’s no car-based SUV in the way it steers – there’s a lack of directness that gives it a waffly, less-than-accurate feel – but it’s responsive enough to be more enlightening than many traditional off-roaders. Cornering, too, is respectable without being outstanding. It’s more relaxed and confident than something like a Land Cruiser, but push too hard into a corner and the limits are soon exposed, with some noticeable leaning and a squeal of rubber.
With standard ground clearance of 221mm and the ability to lower than by 40mm, the Grand Cherokee is relatively easy to get in to.
The Grand Cherokee makes light work of moderate off-road challenges, with its decent ground clearance and solid underbody protection. Adjustable air suspension – independent front and rear - allows you to raise the ground clearance to a towering 287mm.
But it’s the Quadra Drive II traction system that is the Grand’s best off-road asset. Teamed to a limited slip rear diff it makes for great traction up challenging tracks. We had wheels hanging in the air – a product of moderate wheel articulation; one area the Grand Cherokee is let down – and it quickly and efficiently directed torque to the wheels with traction. It was genuinely impressive the way it scampered up a steep, slippery and challenging slope.
Less impressive is the approach angle, which is limited by the lower bumper. It’s removable, but the chances of anyone doing it are slim. With it in place it can more easily snag a rock or steep step, something we did when easing down a hill.
The 20-inch wheels are also a hindrance in rougher terrain; we’ve pinched some sidewalls previously in the outback. But at least there’s a full-sized spare as a backup.
The air suspension can also be noisy, with disconcerting clunking off big suspension movements (typically above 20 or 30km/h).
The Grand’s appeal lies in its sensible (read: not too hulking) size, great towing credentials and decent blend of on- and off-road ability. It doesn’t have the hardware to follow a Prado or Wrangler into the rough stuff, but it has enough electronic smarts and above average on-road manners to make for a great compromise that won’t shy away from some pretty hard going.
Click here to read the full range review of the Jeep Grand Cherokee
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