Jeep's most expensive and luxurious offering gets slightly revised styling and a new, off-road-ready Trailhawk model for 2017. The Grand Cherokee is a four-door, five-passenger midsize crossover SUV that's offered with rear- or all-wheel drive. Because the Grand Cherokee if an off-road capable SUV, direct competitors are few and include the Porsche Cayenne, Toyota 4Runner and Volkswagen Touareg. Dodge Durango is mechanically similar to Grand Cherokee but is longer and offers seating for seven passengers.
Grand Cherokee is available in five trim levels: Laredo, Limited, Trailhawk, Overland and Summit. All come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 295 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque. Optional on all save the Laredo are either a 5.7-liter V8 with 360 horsepower or a 3.0-liter turbodiesel that makes 240 horsepower. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard with all engines. Towing capacity with the gas V6 is 6200 pounds. The V8 and diesel have a towing capacity if 7400 pounds.
Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, rear-view camera, rear parking sensors and dual-front, front-side, and side -curtain airbags. Available safety features include front parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision mitigation system with automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning and intervention.
The new off-road-themed Trailhawk trim includes 18-inch wheels with off-road tires, four-wheel drive with low-range gearing, adjustable air suspension with increased suspension travel, hill ascent and descent control, electronic limited-slip rear differential, underbody skid plates, trim-specific interior styling and upgraded instrument display with exclusive off-road features.
Prices start as low as $30,295 for the Laredo and climb to $50,395 for the Summit. All models have a $995 destination charge and are built in Detroit, Michigan.
The Grand Cherokee's base V6 engine is an adequate performer. Step on the gas from a standstill and the engine will accelerate Grand Cherokee to 60 mph in about 8 seconds. That's class average and no better. The engine is smooth and works well with the automatic transmission. Those wanting more power can opt for the lusty V8. It's got plenty of gusto and is a better bet if you plan to tow. The diesel V6 is an interesting, but expensive, choice that makes sense if you spend a lot of time on the highway.
The gas V6 is EPA rated at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. V8 models are rated at 14 mpg city and 22 highway and the diesel nets 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. The V6 runs fine on regular-grade gas while the V8 requires mid-grade gasoline for optimal performance. Routine suburban commuting will likely yield about 20 mpg overall, perhaps 24 mpg if your commute includes a fair amount of highway driving.
Properly equipped, Grand Cherokee is an off-road beast and the easiest way to check off the off-road boxes is to get new Trailhawk model. The base four-wheel-drive system, since it doesn't offer a low range, is nothing more than a re-named all-wheel-drive system. Thankfully, it's more than adequate for most driving situations. If you constantly drive off-road or spend a lot of time on slippery roads, best step up to Qudra-Trac II or Quadra-Drive II.
Grand Cherokee sets the standard for on-road ride comfort and off-road prowess, but it also provides a modicum of athleticism when the road gets twisty. The suspension does a good job of filtering out large bumps and maintains its composure on really rough roads. At the same time, it's supple enough to eliminate head toss and bounding.
The steering has a meaty and firm feel. It tracks straight and true on the highway and quickens up at parking speeds. Brakes have good stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal. Wind and road noise are nicely muffled and both gas engines remain smooth and sophisticated in hard acceleration. The diesel emits a bit of clatter at idle and can get buzzy in hard acceleration.
On the inside, the Grand Cherokee is a model of sophistication and refinement. Materials are a cut above others in the class. Gauges are well positioned and easy to read. The center stack boasts a large touch-screen for the UConnect infotainment system. UConnect is easy to use and program, but seems a trifle slow responding to commands when compared to the systems offered by some competitors. Additionally, it does not offer support for Android Auto or Apple Car Play.
Front seats are nicely bolstered and offer great support. Head and leg room are above average and outward visibility is great. Second-row seats are also nicely cushioned. Head and leg room in back are also good, but taller riders might ask for a bit more knee room. A few competitors offer a third seating row, Grand Cherokee does not.
Cargo space comes in at an uninspiring 36.6 cubic feet with the rear seats up. Fold the seat backs flat and that number grows to 68.3 cubic feet. Either way, that's just average for the class. Interior storage is good with lots of open and covered bins throughout.
Apologies to Land Rover, but Jeep's Grand Cherokee sets the standard for off-road-ready luxury SUVs. Not because it's the best in every category, but because it's a great value and extremely competent on and off road. It also doesn't pretend to be a multi-purpose hauler like some three-row competitors. It offers comfortable seating for five and enough cargo space for a weekend's worth of gear. The turbodiesel engine only makes sense if you plan to spend a lot of time on the highway, otherwise, opt for the V6 if you are a car-pooler or get the V8 if you plan to tow.