The top-spec Grand Cherokee is almost everything a Jeep should be
THE latest Grand Cherokee is imposing, attractively sculpted. It’s not quite perfect but most people are willing to overlook minor flaws.
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.
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.
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.
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.