Jeep’s Grand Cherokee has developed a rather large following in the past few years, mainly since the birth of the previous generation SRT 8 model, which sent tree-huggers into a rage and displacement-lovers into crisis mode. Perhaps there’s more to the Grand Cherokee range than a big, loud V8 though, perhaps the diesel model of the line-up is the real champion.
The new Grand Cherokee, launched last year on the local market, has evolved from a square set, hard-edged design to something far more modern, and although still definitely American, it’s taken on a far more European sense of style, with sleeker lines and softer edges. It’s a rather pretty thing, from all angles; featuring the classic Jeep grill fore, and dual exhausts aft, even on the CRD variant on test. The Overland specification added to the style, with 20-inch alloy wheels, body coloured trim, and dual front tow-hooks. It hasn’t lost its rugged appeal though, and it still has all the right bits to do the job properly.
Properly indeed… equipped with permanent all-wheel drive and low-range gearbox, adaptable air suspension, Selec-Terrain® Traction Control System, and plenty torque from the 3.0L turbo-diesel V6 – generating 179kW and 550Nm, driving all 4 wheels through a new ZF-based 8-speed gearbox. The Grand Cherokee proved to be formidable off-road – despite not being anywhere near as rugged as its Wrangler sibling – taking on the toughest of terrains with subtle confidence. The Selec-Terrain system worked smoothly and effectively, transitioning between driving modes without hesitation. The ride height was easily managed thanks to the adaptable air suspension, and the result was nothing short of brilliance, with the Grand Cherokee standing up tall, and truly standing out in the toughest of circumstances. Rock climbing was dealt with effortlessly, and the available diesel torque on offer was enough to move a house, the foundations, and adjacent properties.
Getting muddy in the Grand Cherokee proved to be a fun affair, the large SUV never seemingly in any danger of getting stuck, regardless of how tricky the situation. The mud was particularly fun, as the resulting splatters and splashes seemed the perfect addition to the white paintwork of our test vehicle. But while the Grand Cherokee was highly adept, it did reveal itself to be slightly more tarmac-focused than all the features would suggest. The air-suspension in particular, although brilliant at granting extra ride height, became a bit clunky during off-road excursions, particularly in its highest setting, which often resulted in wince-inducing moments that something had broken, when all was actually perfectly fine.
On the road however, the air suspension was a perfect companion, especially when tackling the assortment of surfaces we’ve come to accept as paved roads. The comfort and ride quality was nothing short of brilliant, and for the most part, highly responsive and supportive, even around bends and corners that would usually yield boat-like response from air-suspended vehicles. Cabin insulation, finishes and quality were premium too, although not quite of Germanic standard, isolating the inhabitants from the goings-on of the outside world in a cabin of luxurious disposition. Equipped with a wide range of luxurious features, such as heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, dual zone climate control, heated steering wheel, electronically adjustable front seats with memory, a full-size sunroof, a Harman Kardon audio system, and the UConnect infotainment system, the Grand Cherokee proved to be a fine companion for all who entered, even recognising the South African accent rather flawlessly when it came to using the voice-command function.
But commanding the controls was a little troublesome, as everything had to be accessed via a series of displays on the large touch-screen, which often became distracting. A slight frustration also arose when I found out the UConnect app isn’t available for the South African market, something which is needed to access the full capability of the UConnect voice recognition system.
Toys and trickery aside, the Grand Cherokee was a great driving machine. Not for the connection you’d expect from a sports car, or the slick ability you’d find in a great executive sedan, but for the effortless manner in which it did everything. From down-the-road shop runs to long highway journeys, the Grand Cherokee was easy to manage in all situations, trundling about with effortless comfort, and managing to feel far smaller than its large dimensions suggested. The 8-speed automatic transmission proved to be a revelation, making the most of the available torque, and flipping through cogs seamlessly; upshifting and downshifting precisely when needed, and enabling the large SUV to feel light on its feet, even in traffic.
The Grand Cherokee even yielded potent performance in Sport mode, lowering the suspension to Aero Ride Height, and gifting the wheels with every ounce of power it could muster. If all this hadn’t endeared me to the Jeep already, the final cherry on top would most definitely have been the fuel economy, which despite more than 100Km of off-road travelling – out of a total 950Km test mileage – remained in the single digits, finishing off at 9.2l/100km. Had the urge and ability not been so strong to go off-roading, a sub-9l/100km figure would have been easily achievable, perfectly rounding off the charm of the Grand Cherokee.
The newest iteration of the Grand Cherokee proved to be charming in all aspects. Not only is it a more-than-capable off-roader, but it perfectly complements its rugged ability with utmost composure and comfort on road, making it a fine dual-purpose companion that is as much at home on the trails as it is on the streets of Sandton. Forget the SRT 8, the CRD Overland is all the Grand Cherokee you’ll ever need.
|No. of Cylinders & Configuration:||
179kW @ 3600RPM
550Nm @ 1800RPM
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Permanent all-wheel Drive
|Price (as tested):||
Author: Roger Biermann