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HomeLAUNCHEDJEEP GRAND CHEROKEE L

JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE L

When the fourth-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee arrived in South Africa in 2011, the motoring landscape looked vastly different. Then under the hand of US automotive megalith Daimler-Chrysler, the Grand Cherokee had an unprecedented run of success in the decade prior, with the Grand Cherokee accounting for a third of all Jeep sales in SA. The new Grand has all the goods to do this again, as we discovered during the launch drive last month. 

Much has changed in the luxury SUV market since the last Grand Cherokee arrived on local roads. Although the Jeep brand still enjoys much reverence in South Africa, the arrival of more refined competitors to the ageing Grand Cherokee all but knocked it off its perch as one of the top large SUVs in the country.

That is about to change with the arrival of the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee in “L” (extended wheelbase) guise.

WHAT THE L?

Everybody knows Jeep. We know Wrangler, Cherokee, and recently also Gladiator. We know Jeeps as go-anywhere off-roaders with enormous attitudes and even more capability. We don’t necessarily associate the brand with super luxury and refinement. Yes, there have been some suave Grand Cherokees in the past, but not at the level of some uber-sophisticated German rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz GLS, BMW X7, and Audi Q7. 

But that was then.

Now, the Grand Cherokee has evolved into its own. Available in three trim levels: Limited, Overland, and Summit Reserve, the all-new SUV is a luxury cruiser of distinction that puts paid to the idea that American muscle and European-inspired luxury cannot coexist. 

Compared to the market, the Grand Cherokee is as long as its main rivals and wider than all three. It dwarfs other luxo-barges such as the Range Rover and Land Cruiser 300 (if you can believe it) and does so with remarkable grace and plenty of capability.

ELEVATED INTERIOR

With up to seven seats – the range-topping Summit Reserve has six – the Grand Cherokee interior is remarkably good-looking, comfortable, and peppered with high-end tech. 

The standard specification list reads like a novel and includes many options that would be paid for on other cars in its segment. 

A snapshot of some features shows LED lighting at the front (auto-dimming) and rear, with daytime running lights and LED fog lamps. Heated and powered front seats, heated second-row seats, and a heated steering wheel are standard, as is an 8.4” “smart touch” infotainment system and 10” TFT digital dash instrumentation. There are no fewer than four USB ports per row of seats (12 in total), and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto can be accessed wirelessly.

The Limited also sets the tone for functionality and safety, with remote start and keyless entry as standard, along with a rear-view camera and park assist, a powered tailgate, and tyre pressure monitoring. At this level, adaptive cruise control is a must, as is automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, full-speed forward collision warning, and active lane departure warning. If you’re willing to break the bank for these options on another car, you’ll be surprised to learn that they are also standard on all Grand Cherokee models. 

Although we did not get to drive the Limited at launch, we sampled the mid-range Overland, which has all the functionality and features of its sibling and adds heaps of additional value and style. For a start, the front passenger gets their own 10.25″ display with HDMI and USB connectivity. Positioned not to be visible to the driver, the screen can also be paired with Bluetooth-enabled earphones to keep the passenger entertained and the driver focused.

Front seats on the Overland (now Nappa leather) are ventilated, the infotainment system is upgraded to a 10.1” screen and 19-speaker McIntosh premium audio system, and the driver is treated to a windshield head-up display.

At the top end, the Summit Reserve throws all of Jeep’s technical know-how into the mix at a price point that might make you blush if it wasn’t so competitive. 

Adding to the long list of features in the range, R1,679,000 gets you 21” aluminium wheels, acoustic second-row glass, and Summit-exclusive LED fog lamps. The cabin is as sumptuous as it gets, with Palermo and Nappa leather seats, ventilation for the second row, a suede headliner and automatic quad-zone climate control. Level two autonomous driving is standard here, with auto lane-keep assist added to the adaptive cruise control mix, while an electronic limited-slip differential brings the Grand up to date on the handling front.

Perhaps the most significant addition to the Overland and Summit Reserve is the change from the tried-and-tested Quadra-Trac II off-road management system to the newer Quadra-Lift air-suspension system. It’s a proper elevation in capability for the Jeep that improves off-road ability and enhances the overall ride quality, stability, and comfort at higher speeds. Jeep proved this during the launch event that took us from Pretoria to Belfast via both highway and extended gravel driving sections.

At cruising speed, Quadra-Lift lowers the Grand Cherokee’s standard ride height (216 mm) to 196 mm in “Aero Mode” for better aerodynamics and less body roll. For gravel roads, Off-Road 1 mode raises the Jeep to 256 mm and lets you keep a good pace, while Off-Road 2 perches the Grand Cherokee sky-high at 276 mm for navigating trickier terrain. The latter also raises the Jeep’s water fording height to a whopping 610 mm.

The Selec-Terrain off-road management system with its five modes (Auto, Sport, Snow, Mud/Sand, Rock) is standard across the range.

DRIVING THE CHANGE

The 3.6-litre V6 Pentastar normally-aspirated petrol engine is a familiar favourite for Jeep – it does duty in all models at various levels of tune. For the Grand, the engine delivers 210 kW and 344 Nm of torque – enough grunt for most applications. The eight-speed automatic (another firm favourite) sends power to all four wheels in varying degrees and does so responsibly on the fuel consumption front. Jeep claims a combined figure of 10.6-l/100 km, although a likely real-world number of 11.6-l/100 km would also be satisfactory. 

The Grand Cherokee is remarkably responsive and agile for its heft and size, the dual-cylinder air-suspension system adding sophistication to the ride we haven’t experienced in a Jeep product before. 

LAST WORD

The Grand Cherokee is a well-priced dreamy cruiser with sophisticated looks that brings an element of individuality to the top end of the SUV market. It’s a large vehicle by any standard and one that should again return the Jeep brand to the top of the list in its segment.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © JEEP SOUTH AFRICA

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