Grandiose Chero­kee

Choose be­tween two wheels or AWD, $43k or $77k

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­

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.

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