What is it?
An all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee, a new flagship to breath life into the moribund Jeep brand. Based on the next-gen Merc ML platform, which Jeep has put into production ahead of Mercedes, the new Grand Cherokee is longer, wider and roomier than its predecessor. The styling is more contemporary, too, and the interior plastics and design are a welcome higher-grade.
Under the skin is independent suspension — struts at the front and a first for the Grand Cherokee, a rear multi-link axle — combined with air springs. All UK Grand Cherokee’s will get air suspension as standard. There will be a choice of four-wheel drive systems, the simpler Quadra-Trac II featuring a low-range transfer box, the higher-spec Quadra-Drive II featuring an electronic rear limited-slip diff.
New is the dash-mounted Selec-Terrain dial, which apes Land Rover’s Terrain Response system by tailoring the engine, traction, stability control and air suspension to pre-defined programs for sport, snow, auto, sand/mud and rock.
Also new is a 238bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel built by Italian maker VM Motori and part-developed by Fiat Powertrain and featuring MultiJet II common-rail injection. It promises 218g/km and 34mpg and will be the sole UK launch engine in June. The petrol V6 and hemi V8 will be special order-only, although available in right-hand drive.
What’s it like?
A big improvement on the old Grand Cherokee, given the reservation that we’ve only experienced it on snowy Swedish roads not UK tarmac.
The ride in particular is compliant and well-damped, although like many air systems a little jittery over small imperfections.
A big step forward is the well-resolved steering, which is sensibly-weighted and responsive, particularly around the straight ahead. Hopefully this will transfer well to UK roads and driving conditions. Refinement is good, too, with road and tyre noise well suppressed, which makes the Grand Cherokee a comfortable place to chew-up the miles.
Unfortunately the all-important 3.0-litre diesel, wasn’t available for test, instead we sampled the 262bhp 3.6-litre V6 petrol, which is smooth-revving, refined and delivers just about enough performance.
Well-matched to its Chrysler five-speed auto ‘box, it slips between gears smoothly, although an extra cog would help fill the torque gap for more overtaking urge. A six-speed version of this ‘box is coming, but won’t have the capacity to cope with the 406lb ft generated by the diesel, which will stick with the five-speeder.
Off-road the Grand Cherokee copes with slippy conditions very well, thanks to the well-tuned Terrain Select system and incredibly grippy Nokian winter tyres.
We spent a lot of time in the snow program, which locks the torque split at 50:50 and limits starts to second-gear only to stop excessive wheel-spin. What’s impressive is the subtle way it intervenes to prevent a spin, while allowing a little sliding around and driving fun.