Charge of a hero in khaki
Jeep marks its 75th anniversary — the cost of the heritage paint will make you green
JEEP took to the Flinders Ranges to launch a range of special edition models celebrating its 75th Anniversary.
Most involve purely cosmetic changes — anniversary badges, bronze wheels, leather seats with special embossing and stitching — but the Grand Cherokee version gave a sneak peek at a mid-model update due by the end of the year.
The Grand Cherokee, one of Jeep’s most popular models, has been around a while and faces stiff competition. The revised model has more power, lower fuel consumption, upgraded steering and suspension and an even more muscular look.
The 3.6-litre V6 wouldn’t be our choice, Jeep’s diesels being preferable. The petrol V6 has never had enough grunt (or torque) at the right engine revs to push these weighty offroaders along with ease — as for towing with a manual, forget it.
Engine mods on the Grand Cherokee increase power to 213kW (up just 3kW) but peak torque is the same at 347Nm, delivered from 4300rpm. The eight-speed auto keeps the engine in the sweet spot.
Specific changes were made to the engine’s valve operation for efficiency gains. The exhaust recirculation is now more effectively cooled for lower emissions.
Engine stop-start is fitted for the first time, aiding fuel economy in city driving, while electric power steering puts less of a demand on the engine while improving the general feel in all driving environments.
Aluminium components in the suspension make it lighter and more responsive, a boon in a vehicle like this that can pretty much go anywhere.
The combined effect gives the Grand Cherokee V6 a more refined cabin ambience with more kick when you need it.
The 75th Anniversary packages — also available on Renegade, Cherokee and Wrangler — cost $1500-$3000, with an additional $500 for special “heritage” green paint.
That $500 is a bit cheeky. As Jeep aims to regain sales (tallies are down 43 per cent on last year), this may not be the way to create a sweetener for prospective buyers.
ON AND OFF ROAD
The Grand Cherokee is one tough customer off road and, when you’re finished in the dirt, you can simply drive it out on the tar and scoot homeward.
We took it over extreme rocky tracks, then through bulldust, forded deepish creeks and crawled up steep mountains — all the things you’d expect your Jeep to cover easily. It did, with just a few punctures along the way.
You’d need better than the road-oriented 20-inch rubber if you did this often. The standard tyres were great on the sealed highway as we kept eyes peeled for emus and kangaroos.
The moderate upgrades made the engine a better proposition in all driving conditions — but still not enough to swing us away from the ($7000 more expensive) diesel Grand Cherokee with its 1000km range and stumppulling torque from just off idle.
As a daily drive, the Grand Cherokee 75th is smooth, quiet, capable, easy to drive, luxurious and affordable compared to other makes with lesser offroad credentials.
Despite well-documented reliability issues with Jeeps, we’d take a Grand Cherokee 75th Anniversary model any day, thanks. In Recon Green — if you’re going to make a statement, make it in the right colour — but we’d try to talk the dealer into waiving the $500 sting for it.