Charge of a hero in khaki

Jeep marks its 75th an­niver­sary — the cost of the her­itage paint will make you green

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - PETER BARN­WELL peter.barn­well@news.com.au

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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