The new Jeep Grand Cherokee L is coming to Australia this year so to find out what we can expect, we’ve had an early drive in the US.
Jeep has hit some major milestones of late. Only last year it celebrated its 80th birthday, while this year marks 30 years of one of its most iconic models, the Grand Cherokee SUV.
First seen in 1992, the Grand Cherokee has just been rebooted and will arrive in Australia in Q4 this year, a touch later than the Grand Cherokee L which will be here in the first half of 2022.
The Grand Cherokee has always majored on value, offering quality and kit for considerably less cash than its premium rivals. In the US prices start from $37,785 (AUD$51,874), undercutting everything in the Land Rover range, with the much smaller Discovery Sport starting from $43,200 (AUD$59,300) – and to think a top-spec Grand Cherokee back in the nineties was a rival for a Range Rover.
This latest model has grown, too, by almost 100mm in length compared with the previous generation. The extended-wheelbase model is this L, with three rows of seats that’s another 290mm longer than the new standard-length car. The Grand Cherokee L will launch in Australia during the first half of 2022, ahead of the Grand Cherokee.
The Grand Cherokee look is now very different, too, with the shallowest version of the famous Jeep seven-slot grille we’ve seen, flanked by slim LED headlights that are underlined by a discreet chrome strip and with LED daytime running lights sitting as eyebrows above. Subtle chrome elements continue with a strip that runs neatly around the door frames then loops down across the boot and back up along the other side.
It’s a smart evolution of the Jeep look, with the boxy profile recognisably Grand Cherokee, especially with the name of the car still spelt out on the lower door panels with a US flag alongside.
The interior is a similarly smart rethink, with a classy wood panel running from the doors across the dash topped by nicely-stitched leather with more gentle chrome strips to brighten things further – it looks superb.
That extra length pays dividends inside with plenty of room in row two and decent space in the third row of the L model, too. The boot won’t break sweat with a family’s luggage on board, either.
As you’d expect, digital displays dominate the instrument panel, with a frameless 10-inch display in front of the driver and a similarly sized screen taking care of infotainment in the centre. It features the brand’s latest U Connect system, which is both responsive and easy to use with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
The tech story is particularly strong with our Summit model, which features more bells and whistles than most – including a crisp head-up display and even night vision displaying enhanced images on the digital dash and warning drivers of pedestrians or animals that may stray out into the road ahead of you.
Our car also had an excellent 19-speaker audio system from US specialist McIntosh, heated, cooled and massaging seats in the front and back (highly praised for comfort by one Lexus-owning passenger – and Lexus produces some of the most comfortable seats in the car world), and cameras allowing you to keep tabs on whoever’s sitting in the second row. You can even get Amazon’s Fire service on board to stream movies for passengers.
Quality inside is good overall, although some of the plastics below your eye line are a little hard and shiny, including the glovebox. However, our test car had rear doors that rattled to a close – so much so that many passengers opened and shut them again to make sure they were actually closed. Hopefully Australian cars will be better.
When those Australian Grand Cherokee cars arrive, they’ll be powered by the choice of carry-over V6 and V8 petrol engines, as well as a new plug-in hybrid system with a 2.0-litre engine and twin electric motors to deliver 280kW, four-wheel drive and around 40km of electric range. Our L model tested here features the smaller of the two petrol-only engines, a 3.6-litre Pentastar petrol V6 with 216kW and 353Nm of torque.
That might not sound much in the biggest Grand Cherokee of the lot, but for the most part it propels the car perfectly well, only really sounding strained under full throttle.
What is impressive, though, is the overall refinement inside the Jeep – it’s a seriously quiet cruiser. It’s comfy, too, majoring on a plush ride with its air suspension rather than firming things up for a bit more agility. Similarly, the steering is set up more for ease of use than feedback.
Over pretty horrible looking lumps, bumps, holes and ridges the Grand Cherokee L remained composed and carried on its way serenely.
Where that also pays dividends is off-road, and over the mild off-road course in the Arizona desert that we took to, the Grand Cherokee lived up to the expectations you’d have of a Jeep, with a huge amount in reserve.
Again, tech plays its part here with Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, Quadra-Lift air suspension and Selec-Terrain traction management all combining to enable the Grand Cherokee to go further than you would probably ever want to go.
If the Grand Cherokee offers the same sort of value in Australia that it does in the US, it will prove hugely tempting. We were impressed by its comfort in particular, while it shows strongly on the tech front, too.
|Model:||Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit|
|Engine:||3.6-litre V6 petrol|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive|
|On sale:||First-half 2022 (Australia)|