You don’t need a lengthy test drive to know that this Jeep rides like no other in history; you can tell before the end of the road. The chassis feels tight and poised, the suspension compliant and nuanced. You might wonder if you’ve stumbled into a Mercedes by mistake.

And, of course, although only in part, you have. But Jeep is to be congratulated for making the most of its proprietary underpinnings and creating a car with a ride quality you’d need a Discovery to beat. Indeed, its biggest fault is that on larger optional wheels it can stumble into and rattle around in big potholes, leaving hanging in the air the suggestion that on standard 18in rims it would be better still.

When off-roading, entry-level Grand Cherokees suffer from a lack of ground clearance and also a lack of traction

It’s not a bad thing to drive, either, at least by the standards of two-and-a-quarter-tonne SUVs. Despite quite soft springing, the dampers are always on top of the car’s mass, checking the body as it rises over crests or sinks into dips.

On dual-purpose tyres, there’s surprisingly good grip and even, would you credit it, something approaching feel through the steering. There are all-out American sports cars that haven’t cracked that one yet.

In fact, the Jeep Grand Cherokee would make an even stronger showing in this category had it not come substantially unstuck, both literally and figuratively, during some admittedly quite extreme off-roading. Despite featuring a selector control similar to Land Rover’s Terrain Response system – it allows you to tailor the car’s systems to what passes underfoot, be it snow, mud, sand or rock – it runs out of ideas fast when the ground is both slippery and uneven.

Fundamentally, it suffers from two problems. The first is a lack of ground clearance, which can only be fixed by spending extra on the Overland version, which comes with height-adjustable air suspension that puts nearly 7cm of extra space between you and that stomach-churning sound of the car bellying out on whatever you’re trying to cross. Its second issue is simply traction; lacking the ability to manually lock up its differentials in adverse conditions means it runs out of grip earlier than expected.

Of course, if all you’re going to ask of it is to tow a horsebox across a gymkhana field, it will do the job very well. But this is a Jeep, a company with an even longer, more concentrated history of making go-anywhere off-roaders even than Land Rover. So, if you want to buy something that's true to Jeep's traditions, opt for one of the higher-specification models.


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