The Grand off-roader
Unlike most SUVs, there was nothing soft about Jeep’s goanywhere AWD
Jeep, the best-known brand in off-road vehicles, has forged a go-anywhere reputation.
It was on its own during WWII, when there were no other vehicles like it, but now the iconic brand is under siege from rivals for the SUV dollar.
Most brands focus their attention on the smaller, soft end of the SUV market. Jeep maintains its presence in the hard-core arena with the Grand Cherokee.
The WK model arrived in 2011 and was widely welcomed for its ability to go almost anywhere and for its value.
There was plenty to like about the Grand Cherokee. It was a big, attractively styled wagon with that unmistakeable grille.
There was plenty of choice in the range. Engine options were 3.6-litre V6, 5.7-litre V8, 3.0litre V6 turbo diesel and, to top them off, the thundering 6.4litre V8 for anyone wanting to blaze a tyre-smoking trail across the landscape. The base transmission at launch was a five-speed auto, joined later by a six-speed and ultimately an eight-speed self-shifter.
With independent suspension front and rear the Grand Cherokee was warmly praised for its on-road manners, if not its thirst for fuel.
It wouldn‘t be a Jeep if it didn’t have four-wheel drive and the WK was well equipped in that domain with its QuadraTrac II drivetrain that easily handled most road conditions.
For anyone wanting to delve deeper into the bush, the optional Quadra-Drive II came with an electronic limited-slip differential to allocate torque to individual wheels for even greater off-road capability. Each came with switchable Selec-Train traction control, which could be dialled in to suit road conditions.
Inside, there was seating for five, it was comfortable and well kitted out with pretty much every feature you could want.
Jeep has been blighted by quality issues since it was relaunched here in the 1990s. The Grand Cherokee has lots to like but ownership can be a nightmare.
Buying one second-hand demands caution. There is a long list of recalls, so anyone contemplating buying one should check it carefully to ensure all related work has been carried out.
Recall notices covered airbags, brakes, stability control, cruise control, fuel pump ... the list goes on but to get a full rundown, view www.recalls.gov.au.
Armed with that information take the ID number of the car you want to buy to a Jeep dealer and have them check it against factory records to see what has been done, and more importantly what might have been missed.
Even if that all checks out you need to be careful. With the Grand Cherokee’s ability to go bush you need to check for offroad use, or more to the point, off-road abuse. The big wagon will absorb most of what comes its way off-road but still requires a skilled hand at the wheel to get through unscathed.
Look for bashed underbody fittings, suspension, driveline, exhaust etc and think twice about buying any car that looks as if it’s had a hard life. There are plenty out there that have never left the back top.
You need to be prepared for some hefty fuel bills, especially if you go the V8 route.
The turbo diesel, the way to go for better fuel efficiency, is also a better all-round drive.
Geoff Ervin: I have nothing but praise for my 2012 Laredo diesel. To date it’s done 50,000km, towing a 2.5tonne caravan for 20,000km of that. The fuel economy is brilliant around town and on trips with the van on the back. The only problem has been a leak from an airconditioning hose. I am puzzled by the reports of unreliability. I would not hesitate to buy another one.
Ed Callan: I love the turbo diesel. Highway cruising and overtaking are effortless and the economy is great. I’m not so keen on the turbo lag.
Karl Croft: Loved this car at the start — looks, value and fuel economy — then the problems started. There were issues related to poor fit and finish. There were multiple dealer visits for the check engine light.
Paul Moriaty: Nice-looking vehicle and fun to drive but it spends most of its life at the dealer. Check engine light regularly comes on. Not happy.
Laurie Mcleod: I’ve bought four new Grand Cherokees over the past 20 years. My
2011 Overland diesel has lots of gear that can go wrong but not one thing has. I have driven 80,000km, it’s on the second set of tyres but still has the original brake pads. It’s a joy to drive.
Peter Mayo: My Grand Cherokee has done 40,000km, mostly towing a 2.5-tonne caravan, on sealed and gravel roads. It is one of the last of the five-speed automatics and has not given me any problems at all. It replaced a Land Rover Discovery Td5. I find it’s far more comfortable than the Disco and you hardly notice the van on the back. I average about 15.0L/100km with the van on, 7.9L on the highway without the van and about 9.0L locally. I am aware of reliability problems but if mine is any indication I would have no problems in recommending it to anyone.
Good on-road, great off but reliability is of real concern.