When the first of the previous-generation Jeep Grand Cherokees arrived at our office for testing in August 2005, one tester wrote in his notes: “I don’t know what they were thinking of.” Five months later, when we named and shamed the worst car we’d driven all year, the Jeep got it without a single dissenting voice.

It was crude, cramped, overpriced and over here. Were its mediocrity not so prejudicial to its creator’s health, it would have been laughable.

But perhaps in time we’ll regard it as its equivalent of the Mk4 Ford Escort, a car so bad that it actually became a force for good, stinging the firm out of its complacency and into action. Ford’s next two cars were the Mondeo and Focus and it has never looked back.

We usually save this bit for the verdict, but there is something you should know now: the current Jeep Grand Cherokee is almost indescribably better than the model it replaced.

A mid-2013 update improved the new Grand Cherokee even further, adding an eight-speed automatic transmission and cosmetic improvements including changes to the lights, grille and rear tailgate.

The question, though, is whether it's good enough to compete with the likes of the Land Rover Discovery. Let's find out.

Top 5 Large SUVs

  • Range Rover Sport
    The new Sport, from a keen driver’s point of view, might just be the best SUV in the world at the moment

    Range Rover Sport

    1
  • The Porsche Cayenne is available as a hybrid for the first time

    Porsche Cayenne

    2
  • BMW X5
    The X5 uses in effect the same platform as the previous generation, but it's been substantially revised

    BMW X5

    3
  • Land Rover Discovery
    The Discovery really is the defining go-anywhere super-utility vehicle

    Land Rover Discovery

    4
  • The Mk2 model, also based on the Porsche Cayenne, is lighter, roomier and more economical than the first

    Volkswagen Touareg

    5

First drives

Videos

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    2 September 2015
    Kia facelifts its Cee'd and drops its six-speed torque converter in favour of a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox in the process. We drive it for the first time
  • First Drive
    1 September 2015
    Kia has developed a better-mannered, more sophisticated Sportage for 2016
  • First Drive
    31 August 2015
    Thought the 3 Series was losing its edge? Well it's back, with a facelifted version that offers improved performance and dynamics. Does it reclaim its top spot after our drive on UK roads?
  • First Drive
    27 August 2015
    BMW gives its flagship 7 Series an extensive overhaul in a bid to tempt buyers of luxury cars away from the Mercedes S-Class, Audi's A8 and the Jaguar XJ
  • First Drive
    26 August 2015
    New Qashqai rival majors on practicality and usability and benefits from a long warranty, but lower-specification versions are the better bet