Jeep will reintroduce the Grand Cherokee in India this month and we tell you what the new fifth generation SUV is about and what it’s like to drive.
Fall. That time of year across North America when the trees deliver a feast of colour. Bright yellows, burnt oranges, dark reds and deep purples, all placed against an inky blue sky. The colours are here because the maples, aspens, chestnuts and oaks withdraw the chlorophyll from their leaves and let them ‘fall’ before it snows. This makes for a spectacular backdrop. We are here to drive the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee, an SUV that Jeep India will assemble and reintroduce here this month.
Now in its fifth generation, the new Grand Cherokee has grown and moved forward in several directions. For one, the new car looks bigger. And with its flat new bonnet, long lines and a bigger boot, it looks more grown up as well. In addition, the new Grand Cherokee is built on an all-new platform that makes it easier to integrate all manner of modern tech; stuff like a plug-in hybrid system, multiple screens, connected tech and electronic driver aids. The biggest upgrade, however, is on the inside. The new Grand Cherokee, Jeep says, is now fully kitted out as a luxury car. Yes, that robust, near-indestructible feel has been left intact, but the new Grand Cherokee also comes with an all-new level of fit, finish and material quality.
Jeep Grand Cherokee: interior and features
This is actually something I notice straight off the bat. The upgrade in interior quality, in fact, is so good, I subconsciously run my fingers over the top of the dash, along the leather seats and down the central console. The waterfall-like arrangement of the central screen with the piano black surround is beautifully executed, and I just love how those chunky chrome bits brighten up the cabin. Jeep wasn’t exaggerating; this truly is a huge jump in quality and just what the doctor ordered.
Clearly more upmarket, and built of better materials; the cabin is both very functional and well equipped.
I stop to take some pictures soon after collecting the car; the trees are just too stunning. But once I’m done, I get back to taking a closer look at the cabin. Have to say, the manner in which Jeep’s designers have ‘sculpted’ the dash is really impressive. Particularly appealing is how the wood panel snakes its way across from one door pad to the next, twisting like a fat ribbon. Also adding form is the chrome strip, or ‘wing’, that runs across, while the padded leather sections with contrast double stitching add a plush feel as well.
Inserted into this complex mélange is a proliferation of screens. The instrument panel is a screen; of course, you have the high-def and quick-to-react central 10.1-inch display and the Grand Cherokee also has a unique-for-the-segment passenger display. The latter does practically everything the main screen can manage, and the front passenger can even stream content without disturbing the driver; the screen has a privacy filter that makes it invisible to the driver.
Jeep hasn’t gone all digital, however, and thankfully so. There are still plenty of expensive-looking buttons and switches scattered liberally around the central console. The air-con controls, for example, function via buttons and paddles, you have physical controls for the four-wheel-drive system and there’s an interesting row of buttons that sit atop the central screen.
Flip the mirror and it turns into an adjustable video display.
While quality, design and finish are clearly in luxury SUV territory, some of Jeep’s European rivals do hold on to an advantage in some areas. The gap, however, isn’t particularly large and what its rivals lack is the Jeep’s robust and solid build. That said, some of the plastics lower down on the dash of the Grand Cherokee and around the cabin are a bit ordinary, and the fit and finish inside the elbow box and on the cubby hole in the centre console aren’t great either.
Comfort is good, but a bit more legroom would be nice.
Seat comfort on the front seats is very good. Built for large frames, the seats are big, supportive and cooled. The two-tone finish looks great, and lateral support and visibility are good as well. While it does feel roomier in the back than the earlier Grand Cherokee, the space isn’t massive. The rear bench, however, is placed at a good height, so thigh support is decent, and the big sunroof can brighten up the cabin. You also get manually adjustable blinds, a nice rubberised tray for your phone above the rear vents, and just like it is up front, there are both regular USB sockets and type-Cs – a nice touch.
Also bigger, wider and deeper, is the huge 1,076-litre boot. Primarily done to make room for the third row in the 7-seat L version, it has resulted in the regular car also getting more luggage space. And you also get a spare tyre.
Bootspace is simply massive; you get a spare under the floor.
Jeep Grand Cherokee: exterior design
When it comes to design, the new Grand Cherokee is evolutionary. The bonnet, for example, is flatter and wider, Jeep’s seven-slot grille now sits almost vertically and to give it a more sophisticated look, the LED lamps, both at the front and rear, have been slimmed down and are sunken into block-like form. There are changes in the profile too.
It looks appropriately bulky and large, exactly what customers want from their SUVs.
Around the side, the new Grand Cherokee has a big-boned look, with the shoulder line running flat from nose to tail. The square Jeep wheel arches provide plenty of definition, and towards the rear, the ‘floating’ roofline is well supported with plenty of chrome. But it is the rear that looks particularly sophisticated and upmarket, the slim tail-lamps and flush-mounted rear windscreen working particularly well.
Jeep Grand Cherokee: platform and powertrain
Built on a new chassis, with an independent front and rear suspension, aluminium arms and high-spec four-wheel-drive system, the Grand Cherokee is both, a serious off-roader and a luxury car. The car for India will come with steel springs, a permanent four-wheel-drive system, and a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine.
Jeep easter egg, shows history of Grand Cherokee.
Often referred to as the most awarded SUV in history, the Grand Cherokee has always been built using a monocoque. This new one, however, is considerably stiffer than the earlier one, the one Jeep shared with Mercedes (remember Daimler Chrysler?). There’s another reason it is well-suited to India – it comes with a chassis specifically tailored to take a hammering on the toughest, most pothole-ridden roads you can find.
While the SUV you see here is a plug-in hybrid, India will get the 270hp, 2.0 petrol engine without the electric boost. The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is part of Stellantis’ Global Medium Engine family. The direct-injection engine uses a twin-scroll turbocharger mounted directly to the cylinder head. Efficiency is enhanced via the use of electric power steering and an electrically driven air-conditioning compressor, removing these loads from the engine.
The Grand Cherokee combines serious off-road ability with a proper luxury car-like experience.
Further down the line, the 2.0 petrol is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and the car in India will also get a Selec-Terrain system with Auto, Sport, Snow, Mud and Sand modes available. Only the Trail-Rated version gets the Rock setting, and that isn’t coming to India yet. The car in India will run on 20-inch wheels.
To help keep the weight of the SUV down, both the bonnet and the hatch of the Grand Cherokee are finished in aluminium. Also, to save weight, the front axle runs through the sump of the engine, and a new strut brace improves rigidity upfront by a huge 125 percent.
Jeep Grand Cherokee: driving impressions
Back in the driver’s seat, after a long static evaluation, I find initial impressions from behind the wheel are not what I expect. The Grand Cherokee feels surprisingly light on its feet. There’s none of the stodginess you normally have on an SUV of this size. The steering is well-weighted and direct, Jeep engineers have given it a quick ratio, and this allows the Grand Cherokee to change direction effortlessly. The steering even weighs up nicely at higher speeds and stability at speed is also really good. The ride, too, is comfortable. Yes, there is a hint of stiffness at low speed, but the ride on the tall springs, once up to speed, is absorbent. What’s even more impressive is that the Jeep rides flat even over broken sections.
It feels light on its feet and effortless to drive.
There is some amount of body roll in tighter corners. Up in the hills, and especially on faster mountainous roads, I do have to contend with the mass of the SUV. But here too, after a bit, body roll is nicely reined in, and what also helps is that pitching or bobbing is nicely damped. Even the brakes work very effectively. They are well weighted and impart good confidence. That said, there’s an aloofness to the whole driving experience, and driver involvement and connect aren’t very good, and that’s even by SUV standards.
The engine has plenty of urge and performance is good.
With 270hp on tap, there’s a fair amount of punch from the 2.0, four-cylinder engine. Luckily, the plug-in hybrid Grand Cherokee I’m driving allows me to switch off hybrid system entirely, and this lets me experience the engine just as it will be back in India. Once the boost is up, the thrust is actually very good. The engine has a strong midrange you can lean on and as revs build, the power also comes forward in a nice, progressive manner. The engine, however, feels strained and gets loud towards the top end, so it’s best to allow the quick on-the-draw gearbox to shift up early and stay in the punchy midrange. The presence of a big turbo means there is a momentary pause and some turbo lag at lower engine speeds, and this, at times, causes the Jeep to pause and then surge forward.
Selec-Terrain helps configure SUV for different conditions.
While I did manage to take the Grand Cherokee off road – on a steep trail scattered with rocky sections – the Jeep manages it so easily, it has me scratching my head in confusion. And this was without engaging ‘Rock’ mode or allowing for any electric assist. This should come as no surprise, Jeep is deadly serious about off-roading, and the Grand Cherokee actually has three different four-wheel-drive configurations you can choose from in the US!
Jeep Grand Cherokee: expected price
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee is not your regular luxury SUV. It may look, feel and even drive like one, but underneath all that is an SUV with the heart of an off-roader; and that makes it different. Whether you want to explore trails in and around your country house, take long drives into the hinterland or explore desolate and remote parts of our diverse and fabulous country, Jeep’s Grand Cherokee has always been a great combination of a serious off-roader and practical, tough SUV.
The Grand Cherokee is now a luxury SUV with the heart of an off-roader.
Where this new version takes the game forward is in the areas of fit, finish, material quality and features; yes, it’s a proper luxury car now. Sure, other luxury SUVs have a bit of an edge in certain areas and, at an expected price of around Rs 70 lakh-80 lakh, the new Grand Cherokee is unlikely to have a significant price advantage either. Still, what you are likely to get for your money is a luxury SUV with an X factor; and that could be just what the doctor ordered.