Choose between two wheels or AWD, $43k or $77k
A JEEP that’s not built for the bush? How does that work?
In the case of the latest Grand Cherokee, it’s likely to work very nicely for people who like the idea of a heavyweight off-roader but only really need to battle suburban potholes and the crawl through the school pick-up line.
It also means the best Jeep in living memory gets a starting price that’s more tasty— $43,000 for the 4x2 Laredo— at a time when the rest of the range is going up by $1000 to reflect a major upgrade for the 2014 model year.
Improvements include a smooth new eight-speed automatic gearbox with improved economy, an updated dashboard with giant display screens, and a range of safety systems including adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning.
Inevitably, when everyone is rushing to LED billboards on their nose, the new Grand also gets daytime lights set into a nose with a grille that’s more restrained than before.
‘‘ We had a good product and a good palette to start from. The things we wanted to focus on were fuel economy, and taking Jeep to the next level of interior and exterior opulence— so it’s adding creature comforts on the outside and upgrading the styling on the exterior,’’ says John Mrozowski, head of Jeep development in the USA.
And what about the decision to switch to rear-wheel-drive, for a vehicle that’s best known for its ability to conquer the awesome Rubicon Trail challenge? ‘‘ It’s for people that don’t need that capability. It’s been very popular in the States, especially in the south.’’
The starting 4x2 Laredo is not a stripper that’s been ‘‘ decontented’’ to hit a dollar deal.
Instead, it picks up all the new stuff with the safety systems and the big new infotainment display in the centre of the dash likely to win buyers. There is also improved seat trim and finishing to emphasise the new work.
Prices for the ‘‘ real’ AWD Jeeps, the ones with the classleading tow rating over three tonnes and the bush-beater running gear, now open at $46,000 for the Laredo 4x4 petrol and move through to $71,000 for the 5.7-litre Overland V8.
The SRT flagship, which like the starter car will never hit the rocky road and is more likely to face off against a Porsche Cayenne, now sits at $77,000.
In straight dollar terms, that means a $1000 price rise across the board. That seems strange when most newcomers are now arriving in Australia with lower prices, thanks to the long-term strength of the Aussie dollar, but this time it’s about the extra features and equipment that mean Fiat-Chrysler Australia has to pass on some of the extra cost.
Value, in the case of any heavyweight four-wheel-drive, needs to include running costs. Which is why Jeep has boosted the economy in the new model.
‘‘ It’s about one mile-per-gallon across the board,’’ says Mrozowski, which translates to a thirst as low as 7.5 litres/ 100km in the diesel model, with a 5.4 per cent improvement to 10.4 on the 4x4 V6 and an 8 per cent boost to 13 on the V8.
‘‘ It’s all in the transmission. It’s the ZF eight-speed,’’ says Mrozowski, highlighting the most obvious improvement to the Grand Cherokee.
He goes on to talk about twin TFT screens, with a driver-adjustable display in the gauges and the big new 8.4-inch— no metrics at Jeep — infotainment touch-screen with a system called Uconnect, but the engineer keeps talking about the quietness, smoothness and economy benefits of the new gearbox.
But, crucially, it does not have a stop-start system and that seems like an odd omission.