Our motoring correspondent Charles Rangeley-Wilson tries out the Jeep Grand Cherokee and comes away impressed.
Lest you forget, the legend ‘Since 1941’ is embossed at the bottom of the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee’s leather-strapped steering wheel, reminding you of a seven-year seniority over Land Rover, whose prototype was inspired by the Willys Jeep and built on a Jeep chassis, too. To cap it all, the alpha of all SUVs was born when Willys Jeep strapped a station-wagon body onto an agricultural 4×4, the same year the Land Rover was launched – Jeep was there first and don’t you forget it.
However, heritage can be a curate’s egg if it also gives you ageing technology or a blind-spot to the competition. Jeep’s 2005 edition of the Grand Cherokee (voted that year’s worst car by one motoring journal) suggested the company had been asleep on watch for some time. A 2013 update was miles better, but Jeep still had a long way to go to ensure the 2018 model would stand out in a now very crowded and competent SUV paddock.
Happily, it has made up the lost ground and in a distinctly ‘Jeep’ kind of way. I keep citing Land Rover because, to me, the Grand Cherokee’s blend of luxury and off-road utility, its hefty chassis and boulevard-to-plough suspension sets it apart from the more street-oriented Germans. The urbane Discovery might be an alternative to the racier Germans, but the Grand Cherokee seems mostly an alternative to the Discovery, as well as to the Japanese options, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Mitsubishi Outlander.
In terms of specification for cash, it’s also a keen rival. The Grand Cherokee I drove had air-conditioned seats (rather nice in the present heatwave), xenon swivel-eyed lights (as good at illuminating the corners as any I’ve tried), leather all over the place and Alcantara headlining, plus acoustic glass and noise cancellation.
The latter two made a quiet ride even quieter, allowing me to enjoy to the full the concert-hall Harmon Kardon sound system. In Liberace white and with quilted stitching, the Cherokee is more Vegas than Tisbury, but is, nevertheless, a pleasant and capacious place to lounge or drive. And yes, the rear seats tilt: a feature that means a lot to tall passengers.
On the move, the Cherokee is at peace with its heft. The steering is pleasantly weighted and accurate, the ride smooth, pliant and a genuine rival to the silky Discovery. Tyres with decent sidewalls and a convincingly dual-purpose tread pattern, as well as height-adjustable air-suspension that enables 3in more ground clearance, all suggest the Jeep is actually designed to venture off the tarmac once in a while, to pull horseboxes, boat trailers and things one might file under the U in SUV. To think of it!
Jeep’s own Selec-Terrain is a nod to Land Rover’s Terrain Response and offers a multitude of off-road settings, including low ratio, snow, sand and rock: each of which monkeys around with traction bias and ride height in varying ways.
Caveats? The V6 engine was a tad more rhythm-section than I’d have liked – probably a result of the quietness of everything else – and the auto-transmission a bit lurchy stop-starting in traffic.
Neither were deal breakers. If you are thinking about a new Disco, you should probably look at the Grand Cherokee as well. There’s a lot of bang for the buck to be had with the large American.
On the road
Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 3.0 Multijet-II V6
Priced from £55,980 (£61,180 as driven)
Combined fuel consumption 40mpg
Top speed 126mph
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