What could be more patriotic than a Jeep? And the brand, now part of Fiat-Chrysler, is celebrating 75 years of Jeepdom, although the test model wasn’t specially adorned.
This was a dark metallic gray Grand Cherokee Limited with 4-wheel-drive, starting at a relatively sane $39,895 and ending up at a luxurious $47,930 after adding one hefty $4,200 option package and three others that were more fiscally conservative.
Jeep lovers love the fact that many models can be taken for serious off-roading. While Wranglers are the primary off-roaders, Jeep is happy to tell you that Grand Cherokees can be too.
This is all handled by a neat dial on the console so it’s easy to dial up the traction your Jeep currently needs. In automatic it was fine on damp Wisconsin roads.
There’s plenty of power too. The base engine is a 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing and a healthy 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The Grand Cherokee will move and a Sport button will amp up the power by holding lower gears longer while also firming the steering effort considerably. Entering a highway the Sport setting is the way to go.
As with many cars now, the Jeep has an automatic stop/start feature that turns the engine off at stoplights and other times where it otherwise might idle. This saves a bit of gas, but this one is particularly rough. However, you can turn the feature off for smoother operation. Speaking of which, the 8-speed automatic tranny standard on the Grand Cherokee is exactly that, smooth.
However, ride, despite the ute’s 114.8-inch wheelbase, is fairly stiff and can jostle riders a bit more than one might assume in a large luxury SUV. You feel the pavement’s expansion joints in town, but highway cruising is a delight.
Jeep now offers a Quadra Lift air suspension system that will increase the already generous 8.6 inches of ground clearance to a rock-solid 10.6 inches. The optional system has five ride heights and may create a more comfortable ride. The test vehicle didn’t have this system.
Handling is typical SUV with a firm feel, thick leather steering wheel and good turn-in to corners. Yet there is a touch of lean at speed when cornering. Braking is fine and the Jeep comes with 18-inch tires.
Inside, the Limited comes with leather seats, black here with white stitching. There’s matte silver trim by the air vents and chrome trim inside that, plus around the console. The Grand Cherokee also has fake black wood on the dash and doors and a muted gold facing on the console and center stack. The chrome does cause some reflection annoyance on sunny days.
The Jeep’s interior does not filter out all the wind noise created by its body. It’s not terrible, but more than in some luxury utes. Yet overall it’s a highly comfortable cockpit with well-formed supportive seats and all the accouterments one would expect at this level.
There are heated front seats and steering wheel, a rear-view camera, rear ParkSense, a power hatch and remote start.
The test unit added the $4,200 Luxury group II package that upgrades the touchscreen from a rather petit 5 inches to 8.4 inches. It also adds a 506-watt amplifier, 9 speakers and a subwoofer so you can crank your music to ear-bleed levels. Other package features include upgraded Bi-Xenon HID headlights with automatic leveling, the panoramic sunroof, perforated seat inserts, ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, a power tilt/telescope wheel and Uconnect, Chrysler’s telematics system.
Yet there’s also a $750 option here that lists the Uconnect and 8.4-inch screen with navigation system, HD radio and SiriusXM Traffic and Travel app. Not sure why you need both packages.
Everything worked well to be sure, and you get big volume and tuning knobs on the radio, a plus when driving while gloved, as folks in northern climes do so regularly. Seems some of these add-ons should already come on a $40 grand ute, but the market determines that.
Other add-ons include a blind-spot and cross-traffic detection system for $595 and an Active safety group with adaptive cruise control with an emergency stop system, forward collision warning and LaneSense to keep you from wandering from your lane. A parallel and perpendicular park assist system is part of this $1,495 package too. I didn’t use it and you shouldn’t have to if you have a driver’s license.
The Grand Cherokee is comfortable for five adults, but there is no third-row seat to accommodate a bigger crowd. The Acura MDX I just tested had one, but it’s costlier. In this price range the Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer offer a third-row seat.
Note that the step up into the Grand Cherokee is fairly high as this has 8.6 inches of ground clearance. Most utes and crossovers are a bit easier to board. Also, because the heated and cooled seats and heated wheel are adjusted via that big touchscreen, they all turn off and do not reset or remember their settings once you turn the ignition off and back on. Funny, heated seats operated by toggles on the console always remember their settings, so seem a better system.
One final gripe, the Jeep’s climate control system comes on quickly to start warming the Jeep, but once it reaches reasonable interior warmth it dials itself back automatically and ceases to give the driver’s feet enough heat on cold drives. I turned the fan speed up two notches each day about two-thirds of the way to work or home just to keep my toes warm.
That said Jeep aficionados have nine trim levels to choose from and a huge price range to consider. A base Laredo (cloth seats and 2-wheel-drive) starts at just $31,290, but still has the strong V6 engine. The Limited with 2-wheel-drive goes for $38,890 and moving all the way to the top-level race-ready SRT with its HEMI V-8 cranking 475 horses, will put the Jeep at $67,790. There are 75th Anniversary models in between that and all models have a $995 delivery fee.
Another V8 also is available, a 5.7-liter number that creates 360 horses. However, the standard V6 really does a fine job.
Diesel fans also can get a 3.0-liter Eco-Diesel that manages up to 30 mpg in 2-wheel-drive trim. It adds about $5 grand to the price tag. Plus it should be noted that diesels need a liquid urea refill every 10,000 miles to keep their emissions in check. That’s a $200-$300 maintenance item, at least.
Serious off-roaders also can choose a Trailhawk model with extra goodies and off-road tires to make it more capable if taken off pavement to bash around the outback.
Predicting here that most Grand Cherokee buyers will prefer the luxury the ute offers to major off-roading ability, so stick with the mid-level models and choose your add-ons wisely if you are on a budget. There are a lot of choices, so choose wisely!
FAST STATS: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Ltd. 4×4
Hits: Plenty of power and five off-road settings, plus panoramic sunroof, power hatch and heated wheel and seats. Comfy supportive seats, big volume/tuning knobs for radio screen. 9 trim levels and new Quadra Lift suspension available.
Misses: Ride is fairly stiff, rough auto stop/start feature, big step to get in and heat is not great to driver’s feet. Heated seats/wheel do not reset automatically after you restart the vehicle.
Made in: Detroit, Mich.
Engine: 3.6-liter VVT V6, 295 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 4,875 lbs.
Length: 189.8 in.
Wheelbase: 114.8 in.
Cargo: 36.3 cu.ft., (68.3 cu.ft. rear seats down)
Tow: 7,400 lbs.
MPG: 18/25 (EPA)
MPG: 19.5 (tested)
Base Price: $39,895
Invoice: $39,588 (includes delivery)
Luxury group II (506-watt amplifier, 8.4-inch touchscreen, 9 speakers w/subwoofer, auto. high beams, auto. headlight leveling, Bi-Xenon HID headlights, dual-pane panoramic sunroof, off-road display cluster, leather seats w/perforated inserts, ventilated front seats, LED headlamps & foglamps, power tilt/telescope steering column, rain-sensing wipers, Uconnect), $4,200
Active safety group (adaptive cruise w/stop, advance brake assist, forward collision warning, LaneSense, parallel and perpendicular park assist), $1,495
Uconnect 8.4 Nav (GPS nav, HD radio, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel), $750
Blind-spot and cross-traffic detection, $595
Test vehicle: $47,930
Sources: Jeep, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage