The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee might have all but saved Jeep here in South Africa, as besides the venerable Wrangler, things were looking dire. Not surprisingly, Grand Cherokee sales have been strong, between 100 and 200 units per month is great for the Chrysler group locally.
It’s no wonder, seeing as the Grand Cherokee has presence on road, comes with a powerful diesel and wallops the competition when it comes to trim and standard specification. That said there were a few issues with the Grand Cherokee, and with this update they seem to have addressed them all, including a fresh new look.
The interior and exteriorThe exterior is even more macho than it was previously. The Overland 3.6 petrol I had on test had the standard off-road pack with dual chrome tow hitches and LED headlamps – it looked great.
The interior is now more American than ever, adorned with beige Nappa leather, and fake wood trim. There’s heaps of space front and rear, and some stand out specification included in the Overland (Luxury) trim was the heated and cooled seats front AND rear, 3 spoke wood and leather steering wheel with paddles for shifting, heated steering wheel, panoramic roof, fully electric seats, rear view camera and electric rear tailgate.
The info- and entertainmentGripes on the last model were the rather small U-Connect touch screen that handles all navigation, controls and vehicle settings. It’s now been upgraded to a 21cm touch screen with improved layout and functions. It also includes a media hub and plays music from Bluetooth, USB, Aux and SD card. Also, the instrument display in previous model was something from DOS, which has thankfully been chucked out and replaced by a very large colour digital speedo display that now looks like something out of the Star Ship Enterprise.
It’s got a myriad of displays that shows everything from wheel articulation to navigation instructions or multimedia. A vast improvement, but now the rev counter and fuel gauge looks like it came from the original Willis Jeep. That said, the interior is extremely comfortable, luxurious and quiet, with more than enough space in the rear. For those wondering, a full size spare wheel is standard.
The engine and gearboxThe same 3.6litre Pentastar V6 and 5.7litre V8 engines are put to work in the updated model. The 3.6 V6 develops 210kW and 347NM of torque at 4,300RPM. It’s a great unit, but you can feel it hunts around in the gears to get to some torque, which highlights where the V6 is lacking. I achieved just under 13l/100km to Dullstroom and back, including some off-roading, which isn’t bad considering the size of the vehicle.
A huge improvement (praise Jeep) is the fitment of the 8-speed ZF gearbox. Paddles on the steering wheel allow for quick shifts should you want to do it yourself, but otherwise it’s smooth and has done a great job of improving fuel consumption and power output.
In low range, the engine has more than enough power to crawl and conquer obstacles, but I still prefer the low down grunt of the diesel. A diesel is on its way, which would be my pick, considering the fuel consumption of the petrol model and today’s fuel prices.
On road and off-road drive
In town the Quadra-Lift air suspension does a superb job of keeping the Jeep glued to the road. It is not as dynamic as the X5, but definitely a more comfortable ride without being wallowy like the Discovery. The vehicle squats down to reduce drag at highway speeds.
The suspension can be raised to a maximum of 280mm, which keeps the shiny bits from knocking anything off-road. Attack, departure and brake-over angles are impressive if the suspension is fully raised, but the front lip did snag once or twice. Otherwise the suspension thuds and clunks as it makes its way over rocks, which takes some getting used to.
On gravel or dust roads it soaks up the road yet stays well planted. The Grand Cherokee has never suffered off road, thanks to Terrain-Selec, which makes off-roading easy by simply selecting which terrain you are on and the brains of the vehicle do the rest.
The Overland model makes this happen through QuadraDrive II 4 wheel drive system fitted with an electronic limited slip differential. Unlike other ELSD’s the system will engage the diff before slip is detected if it realizes it will need it, which makes for less damage to the environment and ease off-road. It proportions power using a central transfer case.
Practically the system works incredibly well, anticipating where the power should be going better than most other systems, which brake and then send power. My only gripe was the fact that it’s hard to see where the nose ends, where the Prado/Discovery has the all round camera views to see obstacles, the Jeep only has rear, but that is such a small issue.
Safety and TechJeep did not skimp on safety systems with 9 airbags and every electronic system to keep the car on the straight and narrow; too many to mention here. The optional Adaptive Cruise control was fitted which worked a charm at keeping to legal speeds as well as a selected distance from the vehicle in front all the way from Johannesburg to Dullstroom. It made for an exceptionally relaxed drive, and is a must if you’re going to be doing a lot of long distance driving.
It will also audibly warn the driver should the vehicle be about to collide into another vehicle in front. An optional “Advanced Safety” package is available for the Overland, which adds these systems.
The update to the Grand Cherokee has really seen Chrysler listening to the gripes from the last model and updated all of them. Impressive! Considering it being nearly R100K less than anything from the competition, and even more aggressive looks, it’s bound to be even more successful.
For 90% of buyers who will never go off-road it’s an extremely luxurious superbly equipped SUV in town, and off-road it is even more capable than most would ever find out. A MUST drive if you’re looking for an SUV in this segment.
Jeep Grand Cherokee PriceJeep Grand Cherokee 3.6l V6 Overland – 210kW/347NM – R646,990
*3 year/100 000km maintenance plan