Hard roader

The top-spec Grand Chero­kee is al­most ev­ery­thing a Jeep should be

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Off-road Test - NEIL DOWLING neil.dowling@cars­guide.com.au

THE lat­est Grand Chero­kee is im­pos­ing, at­trac­tively sculpted. It’s not quite per­fect but most peo­ple are will­ing to over­look mi­nor flaws.

VALUE

Among Chryslers and Jeeps, qual­ity is im­prov­ing. It’s now up to aver­age. Where the car lets you down is in the su­per­fi­cial stuff— the coach­work, pre­dom­i­nantly— while the en­gi­neer­ing seems to be in­creas­ingly more durable.

At $65,000 it’s a good price for a very well fit­ted out 4 WD that’s made to go off the bi­tu­men. It’s roomy, tows well, has a heap of safety gear, is rel­a­tively eco­nom­i­cal to run— though it has no capped-price ser­vice pro­gram— and has a style that looks as good on top of a dune as along­side a down­town kerb.

The Over­land is the top-spec model but there may be bet­ter value in a mid-range diesel Limited at $60,000. If you stay with petrol, the V6 is $5000 cheaper and bet­ter value than the op­tional V8.

Be aware that there’s a new model com­ing, with up­grades in­clud­ing a more de­sir­able eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

DE­SIGN

It’s lovely to look at with a chunky body sculpted with neat cham­fers and big wheels stuck hard up at each cor­ner.

The cabin is equally at­trac­tive but falls down on closer in­spec­tion with aver­age dash panel fit and large, cheap-look­ing switchgear. Yes, it’s work­able, it hints at be­ing rugged but could be im­proved.

The foot-op­er­ated park brake is a Chrysler sta­ple and is hard to work in off-road con­di­tions. Beau­ti­ful per­fo­rated leather seats are com­fort­able, have heat­ing for front and back and cool­ing for the front. Elec­tric ad­just­ment— in­clud­ing the tilt/tele­scopic steer­ing wheel— makes it easy to find the per­fect driv­ing po­si­tion.

The heated steer­ing wheel is cool, er, warm­ing. More electrics en­hance the tail­gate — sep­a­rate lift-up glass is handy— and the dual-pane sun­roof. The lib­eral space in the boot and the split-fold rear seats give it typ­i­cal SUV flex­i­bil­ity.

The Over­land is the most ex­pen­sive of the Grand Chero­kee line-up and brings as much lux­ury as a top-spec Chrysler 300 sedan.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Jeep finds an­other use for its 3.6-litre V6 (210kW/347Nm) and cre­ates a wagon with run­ning costs that won’t break the bank. The engine is pow­er­ful on pa­per but the Over­land’s weight curbs most of the en­thu­si­asm.

It’s mated to a five-speed auto turn­ing a two-speed trans­fer case with con­stant all­wheel drive. In this case it’s the up­mar­ket Quadra-Drive II trans­fer case with elec­tronic rear diff and a five-mode Se­lect-Ter­rain dial-up trac­tion pro­gram, much like Land Rover’s Ter­rain Re­sponse.

Elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled air sus­pen­sion changes ground clear­ance from 205mm to a mon­ster 270mm. The Over­land also has a stack of safety gear and a voice-ac­ti­vated me­dia cen­tre with touch screen, sat­nav, 40GB hard drive and 10 speak­ers.

SAFETY

The Over­land’s safety kit is among the most com­pre­hen­sive on the mar­ket — cer­tainly within its $65,000 bracket— but it rates only four stars in crash test­ing.

It has eight airbags, elec­tronic sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol, all-wheel drive, full­size spare, roll mit­i­ga­tion, tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing, blind-spot as­sist, ac­tive cruise con­trol with for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing, park sen­sors front and rear, re­verse cam­era, ac­ci­dent re­sponse (to shut off fuel and un­lock the doors) and rear cross-path de­tec­tion.

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