The Jeep Grand Cherokee remains a benchmark, if a somewhat dated one, combining luxury with off-road capability. Last redesigned for 2011, the Grand Cherokee is in its fourth generation.
New to the lineup is the 2017 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, fitted with front/rear tow hooks, skid plates, 18-inch off-road tires, and a unique air suspension. 2017 Grand Cherokee Summit and 2017 Grand Cherokee SRT editions get exterior revisions and upgraded leather.
Handsome and capable, the Grand Cherokee comes in six distinct flavors, to serve as a premium family wagon, a wilderness trekker, a hauler of trailers. Each version is capable of tough workhorse duties, and the hot-performing SRT savors racetrack duty.
Four engines are available, starting with a 3.6-liter V6. Developing 295 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, the V6 is equipped with a fuel-saving engine stop/start system.
The optional 5.7-liter V8 produces 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet, capable of towing a class-leading 7,400 pounds.
For efficiency and bountiful torque, the optional turbodiesel 3.0-liter V6 generates 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet. EPA-rated at 30 mpg in highway driving, the diesel promises a range greater than 730 miles.
Each engine drives a responsive 8-speed automatic transmission. An optional air suspension can boost Grand Cherokee highway mileage even further, by lowering at highway speeds.
Ultimate on-road performance is the province of the Grand Cherokee SRT, packing a 6.4-liter V8 that whips up 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration to 60 mph takes just 4.8 seconds. Equipped with launch control, the SRT is one of the top-handling SUVs available.
Rear-drive is standard on most versions, but three four-wheel-drive systems are available and the transmission incorporates a low crawl ratio. Selec-Terrain automatically alters powertrain settings to suit the terrain: Sand, Mud, Snow, Rock, or Automatic.
Grand Cherokees with rear-wheel drive have declined in crash-test scores. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave it a 4-star rating overall, with 3-star for rollover resistance. Four-wheel drive raised the scoring to 5-star overall and 4-star rollover. Testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety produced Good scores, except for Marginal in the tougher small-overlap frontal collision. Grand Cherokees trail some rivals in standard safety equipment. A rearview camera and trailer-sway control are standard. Blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and frontal-crash warning are optional.
The 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo ($30,295) comes with rear-wheel drive, 17-inch wheels, air conditioning, cloth upholstery, keyless entry, a CD player, satellite radio, rearview camera, and parking sensors. Four-wheel drive ($2,300) is available. An off-road option package includes skid plates and Selec-Terrain.
Grand Cherokee Limited ($37,895) gets 18-inch wheels, leather seating with a power front passenger seat, heated front seats, a power tailgate, and remote start. Options include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, navigation, and off-road assistance systems. Four-wheel drive adds $2,000.
Ecodiesel V6 and Hemi V8 engines are optional for Limited models and above.
Grand Cherokee Trailhawk ($42,995) has Quadra-Drive II four-wheel drive, 18-inch off-road tires, red tow hooks, an electronic limited-slip differential, air suspension, Selec-Speed Control, skid plates, and a black leather interior.
Grand Cherokee Overland ($44,695) upgrades with Nappa leather seating with ventilated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, and a leather-trimmed dashboard, 20-inch wheels, navigation. Rear-wheel drive is standard; four-wheel drive ($3,000) includes an air suspension.
Grand Cherokee Summit ($50,395) features distinctive wheel and wood choices; a suede headliner; and 19-speaker, 825-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound audio. Summit models gain parking assist and a trailer-hitch camera view for 2017. Four-wheel drive adds $3,000.
Grand Cherokee SRT ($66,795) has four-wheel drive, leather/suede seats, carbon-fiber interior trim, metallic pedal pads, active noise cancellation, and a leather-trimmed/heated steering wheel. Performance Pages display timers and performance data. Options include a dual-pane sunroof, Luxury package, and SRT Night package. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
With its classic SUV shape, the Grand Cherokee carefully blends traditional with contemporary design. The old workaday look is gone, overtaken by a more pedigreed appearance. Overall, it’s quite handsome, though not everyone praises today’s understated, minimally-chromed grille.
LED taillights and strong detail work help give the rear end a distinctively assertive look. Measured against luxury-brand competitors, it’s quite sophisticated.
Slickly upscale and richly equipped, the cabin on upper-level models features materials and textures that match luxury-brand competitors. Genuine wood trim accents upper-trim dashboards and doors. Even the entry-level Laredo demonstrates excellent layout and design.
Satisfying seats hold five grown-ups, in a roomy interior. Wise use of available space results in adult-size legroom all-around. Big doors open 78 degrees to ease entry/exit.
Except for the Laredo’s short, flat seat bottoms, front occupants get wide, adequately-bolstered cushions. Six-footers can expect ample head clearance.
Three riders fit in back, in reasonable comfort. Reclining seatbacks tilt 12 degrees each way, and back seats flip down using one lever. Cargo volume with seats up totals 36.3 cubic feet.
A console bin holds illuminated audio ports. Uconnect infotainment systems with simple interfaces rank among the best.
Not only does the Grand Cherokee excel in ride comfort, handling ability, and sterling off-road prowess, it’s simply the best-performing Jeep ever. Smooth road manners suggest a crossover, with quick steering responses and a well-controlled ride.
With four powertrains and a choice of four-wheel-drive systems, you can pick the Grand Cherokee that will serve you best. The V6 engine responds strongly, with sufficient low-rpm torque to deal with touchy, demanding off-road conditions. The V6 is rated to tow up to 6,200 pounds.
The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 almost feels like that of a muscular Dodge Charger sedan, including a rousing engine note. For daily driving, though, that appealing V8 doesn’t deliver enough additional energy to justify its gas-mileage penalty.
Although the diesel V6 lacks the punch of the gasoline V8, it delivers the kind of strong low- and mid-range torque needed for towing and off-road assurance. As for the SRT, its 475-horsepower V8 is in a league comparable to European SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne.
Three all-wheel/four-wheel drive systems are available. Basic Quadra-Trac I has a locking differential and 50/50 front/rear power split, but no low range. Quadra-Trac II can split torque variably. Quadra-Drive II adds an electronic limited-slip rear differential.
Some versions earn the Trail Rated designation. An optional air suspension for Limited, Overland and Summit models can raise the Grand Cherokee from 6.4 inches to 11.3 inches above the ground, or lower it to ease entry/exit.
Forward vision is excellent, past a hood that’s shaped to give a helpful sense of front corner positions. Grand Cherokees are generally quiet, but big square mirrors produce some wind noise. The turbodiesel engine is a little loud while idling and at low speed.
Except for the turbodiesel, gas mileage isn’t great. The V6 is EPA-rated at 19/26 mpg City/Highway, or 21 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive lowers the estimate to 18/25 mpg City/Highway. Equipped with cylinder deactivation, the V8 is EPA-rated at 14/22 mpg City/Highway, or 17 mpg Combined. SRT is the guzzler, at 13/19 mpg City/Highway, or 15 mpg Combined. The turbodiesel has been EPA-rated at 22/30 mpg City/Highway, or 25 mpg Combined for rear-drive.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee delivers utility, abundant space for five passengers, and available luxury features.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.