Jeep is credited with creating the modern SUV as we know it. The Grand Cherokee has been a unibody, car-based SUV with a luxurious interior since its first year in production. The latest iteration only builds on this legacy and offers one of the most refined SUVs yet. It’s, first and foremost, a Jeep and handles itself off-road accordingly. Yet it retains a meditative cabin with first-rate components and plenty of usable passenger and cargo space. All that without sacrificing on-road performance. It handles itself well and can keep up with most competitors in acceleration. Think of it as a poor man’s X5, if the X5 could handle the Rubicon.
The Grand Cherokee starts where most of the competition starts, just over thirty grand. For that money, you get a tranquil polished cabin, a capable V6, and the best infotainment system in the business with an integrated rearview camera and parking sensors. Add a few thousand for four wheel drive and you get an SUV that can tackle anything nature throws your way, the same can’t be said for nearly all of the competition. A lone SUV, the Toyota 4Runner, can make a similar claim but its truck-based design, soft suspension, and spartan cabin make it nowhere near as pleasant to daily drive. The Grand Cherokee’s value lies in its versatility, it can handle the daily commute and the great outdoors without sacrificing pleasant driving dynamics and a classy interior. This is why it’s quickly becoming the gold standard of midsize SUVs, you no longer need to compromise.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is available with three different engines. Actually, five but we’ll discuss the other two in our review of the Grand Cherokee SRT. The vast majority are equipped with FCA’s Pentastar 3.6 Liter V6 that generates 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. There’s a 360 horsepower, 390 lb-ft of torque 5.7 Liter Hemi V8 available as an expensive option. Lastly, a 3 Liter turbocharged Dual OverHead Cam 24-valve V6 makes 240 horsepower and an impressive 420 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 revs. All engines are coupled with a ZF 8 speed automatic that can be shifted via steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Acceleration performance will vary based on engine selection, zero to 60 mph comes in just 6.5 seconds with the Hemi V8, 7.1 for the Pentastar, and a tad slower for the EcoDiesel at around 7.3 seconds.
The Trailhawk trim will be about half a second slower due to the Kevlar reinforced all terrain tires. All these numbers are quite respectable but we don’t think the Hemi’s price tag is worth the extra money or loss of fuel economy. If you want a high performance Grand Cherokee, go for the SRT that’s actually tuned for spirited driving. The other Grand Cherokee models posses either steel coil spring or air Quadra Lift air suspension that strikes a commendable balance between firmness and comfort, with well controlled body motion when cornering. There’s not much steering feedback to speak of but that’s typical for many SUVs. The driving dynamics are still quite good for the class, think of the Grand Cherokee as a capable luxury SUV alternative. All engines have excellent towing capability but if we were choosing a Grand Cherokee to tow regularly, we’d opt for the EcoDiesel’s superior torque and fuel economy numbers. It’s a surprisingly quiet and refined powertrain but it can cost up to $5,000 more, which would take several years to recoup in fuel savings. Combined fuel economy is 18 miles per gallon for the gas V6 and 24 mpg for Ecodiesel. If you do lots of highway driving you can save a lot of money with the EcoDiesel’s up to 32 mpg highway(at 65 mph).
All provide generous capability off road but if you want to take on some serious trails, the Trailhawk is your best bet. It features standard skid plates to protect vulnerable parts and the only model available with a two speed transfer case and electronically controlled limited slip differential. Another handy feature is Hill Descent Control, which is basically cruise control off road. It allows you to maintain a constant speed up or downhill without riding the brakes or modulating the gas pedal. It also boasts a higher ground clearance with standard Quadra Lift air suspension and the superior seats from the Grand Cherokee SRT. All 4 wheel drive models receive the Selec Terrain system that allows you to adjust setting based on your driving surface: sport, snow, sand, mud, and rock. Perhaps the only competitor available at a similar price with comparable capability is the Toyota 4Runner but it lacks the road manners and refinement found in the Grand Cherokee. This SUV’s do-it-all design, serene cabin, and impressive performance have helped earn the title of “Most Awarded SUV” and should not be overlooked for your next vehicle purchase.
Where the Grand Cherokee distinguishes itself from the rest of the Jeep lineup is inside the cabin. The abundance of soft-touch materials, wood, and chrome trim adds an upscale vibe worthy of grand denotation. Of course, it only gets better as you move up the trims, with the Summit trim’s quilted leather rivaling significantly more expensive SUVs like the Range Rover Sport or BMW X5 in quality. Lower trims have seats wrapped in fabric, while higher trims are equipped with suede and leather or premium leather covered seating. The Trailhawk model receives exclusive red contrast stitching. The driving position is high and commanding with expansive leg and headroom, sure to suit the needs of most drivers. All trims obtain a leather-wrapped steering wheel with multifunction controls and paddle shifters.
The rear bench isn’t any worse with plenty of room for even three adult passengers, thanks to a mostly flat floor and generous foot room. The rear bench reclines further than any other SUV we’ve tested, great for those long road trips. As far as controls go, the Grand Cherokee boasts top quality buttons and knobs leftover from Mercedes Benz ownership. Higher trims bear a digital and analog gauge cluster combination and either a 5 inch (at minimum) or 8.4 inch Uconnect infotainment system that’s universally celebrated for its simplicity and functionality. The system includes a rearview camera and rear parking sensors standard, which mitigates the somewhat poor rearward visibility. There’s also standard voice command operation, though using commands to call up various songs or artists only works with iPhones.
GPS navigation is available with the 8.4 Uconnect system, as is Uconnect Access which provides popular apps and 3G WiFi for a daily or monthly subscription fee. The standard audio system is a rather lackluster six speaker system. We’d opt for the 9 speaker system with subwoofer at a minimum. A stellar 19 speaker Harmon Kardon sound system with subwoofer and 825-watt amplifier can be had on some higher trim levels. Cargo capacity is mediocre for the midsize class with 36.3 cubes behind the rear row and 68.3 overall. Still, that’s plenty of space to haul whatever you need and access is easiest on Limited and higher trims with a remote-operated power liftgate. From the base Laredo to the Summit trim, you’re sure to find a quiet cabin with quality materials that set a high benchmark for midsize crossovers.
Drive the streets of America and you’re sure to see a Grand Cherokee within a few minutes of driving. There are over a million of the latest generation (WK2) on the road in the US alone. The Grand Cherokee has featured a unibody chassis since its inception, before it was cool, making the nameplate perhaps the longest running “car-based” SUV. The latest generation is no exception and is built on a platform developed by Chrysler and Mercedes Benz during their last few years of partnership. The Mercedes ML and Dodge Durango share this same platform.
In 2014, the model received a mid-cycle “refresh” that changed up the design and added an eight-speed automatic transmission. The result is one of the most stylish midsize SUVs on the market. It straddles the gap between economy and premium, with the highest trims providing legitimate luxury worthy of comparison to the choice marques. At the rear, LED taillamps are standard and are some of the best looking lights around. At the front, Jeep’s trademark seven port grille is sandwiched between quad halogen headlamps or Bi-Xenon HIDs with LED running lamps in higher trims.
Below, there’s fog lights or LED fog lights and one of a few different lower bumper styles. Some have an aggressive appearance, while others, like the one on the Trailhawk, don’t stretch as low to provide better ground clearance for off-roading. Some trims feature black cladding that wraps around to toughen up the SUV’s image, while the highest trims have body-color cladding and/or chrome trim pieces. Whatever form you choose, the Grand Cherokee is a grand looking crossover that we think will age quite gracefully.
Interestingly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration upgraded their 4-star overall safety rating for the 2014 and 2015 Grand Cherokee to 5 stars for 2016 through current (2018) year models despite no major changes to the vehicle. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offers “GOOD” crashworthiness ratings in all but the venerable small overlap front test, which receives a “MARGINAL” rating.
They attribute the lower rating to poor structural rigidity, as intrusions made in the lower interior posed risk of injury to the lower left leg area. Furthermore, the side airbag didn’t provide satisfactory coverage, the head could still make contact with the forward side structure in a similar accident. The advanced driver assistance features, only available on the top two trims to the the tune of $50,000+ dollars, are rated “BASIC” by the IIHS, the lowest possible rating. Our research of NHTSA records and other sources suggests that’s an accurate assessment. There are numerous complaints that the systems don’t function as they should. Some owners complain the autonomous braking system triggered when no accident was imminent, paradoxically increasing the likelihood of the type of accident it’s meant to prevent. If you’re considering shelling out the extra cash for these features, save your money as it may be more trouble than it’s worth. We still think the Grand Cherokee is safe but there are stronger alternatives. If you want a Midsize SUV with top safety scores and accessible, top-rated safety technology, consider the Honda Pilot or Mazda CX-9. Both these SUVs receive a “Top Safety Pick+” designation from the IIHS.
JD Power gives the Grand Cherokee a 2.5 out of 5 predicted reliability rating which is roughly average for the midsize SUV segment. Consumer Reports’ score varies from 1 out of 5 in 2015 to 3 out of 5 for 2018 and acknowledges several known problems with the Grand Cherokee. The Grand Cherokee has perhaps the spottiest NHTSA record of any SUV we’ve researched. The 2014 Grand Cherokee alone is subject to 12 recalls and a mind-boggling 930 complaints. Its record has since improved, like the transmission software that caused the vast majority of the complaints. Though it’s true the frequency of complaints has reduced, the severity of complaints hasn’t. There are several complaints of unintended acceleration, failure to engage park, and complete transmission or engine failure on low mileage Grand Cherokees(<5,000). However, many manufacturers, even ones with top reputations like Toyota and Honda, have comparable failure rates for 2016 and 2017 models. It’s kind of a wash, you may get a trouble-free Grand Cherokee like most of the 200,000+ units sold last year or you may be one of the unlucky 50 owners who experience a major failure in the first few thousand miles.
Since most people will only take the time to complain about something when it goes wrong and seldom extol a hassle-free ownership experience, it’s tough to tell how likely you are to experience problems. The long-term dependability test performed by JD Power places the Grand Cherokee near the bottom of their list for an average of two major repairs in the first three years of ownership. In comparison, top-ranked SUVs from Toyota and Lexus had one major repair performed in the first three years. In the modern SUV market where vehicles are consistently more reliable than years past the line between a reliable and unreliable SUV becomes more and more obscure and arbitrary. Still, if reliability is your top concern and you can’t or won’t deal with occasional dealership stints to reflash the transmission software or replace a recalled part, there are better choices than the Grand Cherokee.
No SUV at the Grand Cherokee’s price can compete with its blend of on and off-road ability. At the price of the highest trim, perhaps the Land Rover Discovery is a potent alternative but it will cost a lot to equip comparably and suffers from a troubling reliability reputation. That leaves competitors whom specialize in either pavement or trails. On the pavement, Nissan Murano starts for some six hundred less than the Grand Cherokee and offers one of the nicest standard interiors in the class. It is equipped with a larger infotainment system, a rearview camera, push button start, and a 3.5 Liter V6 mated to a continuously variable transmission. The Murano can’t compete with the Grand Cherokee’s driving dynamics, it’s sloppy in corners and slow to accelerated. However, it does provide supreme comfort, with a cushy ride and the most comfortable front seats around. In addition, it offers superior reliability and safety ratings and way more features for the money as you move up the trims. Still, we’d rather have a Grand Cherokee than the Murano. It’s just not as versatile and we prefer the Grand Cherokee’s design to outlandish exterior of the Murano. We’d gladly pay the fifteen hundred dollar premium over the Murano SL for the Jeep Altitude which possesses comparable features and adds suede inserts to the leather seating, a heated steering wheel, and Black 20 inch wheels. The SL has a 360 degree camera, 11-speaker sound system with dual subwoofers, blind spot monitoring, and driver drowsiness monitoring that the Jeep lacks. However, we’d sacrifice the tech features for better handling and versatile capability.
The off-road challenger to the Grand Cherokee’s crown is the Toyota 4Runner. Legendary for its capability and reliability, the 4Runner is a force to be reckoned with. No one will deny that it’s one of the most reliable vehicles ever produced but its aging truck-based design makes it a dinosaur among modern crossovers. The 4Runner starts about $5,000 dollars more than the Grand Cherokee but will definitely make up for it with significantly slower depreciation. Like the Grand Cherokee, you’ll have to select the off-road oriented trims for trail rated chops but all models will handle the worst most will ever throw at it. The TRD Off-Road is more accessible than the Grand Cherokee TrailHawk at $37,335. In all honesty, it’s probably more capable than the Jeep, it has steeper departure angles, a higher ground clearance, a locking differential, and sturdier suspension with better wheel articulation. However, we’re talking about things that only make a difference on the craziest trails. The tradeoff isn’t worth it when you take the 4Runner onto paved roads. The suspension is bouncy and the truck handles ponderously. It’s slow and gets worse fuel economy. It has none of the refinement the Grand CHerokee flaunts. If you’re buying an off-road toy to complement your fleet of vehicles, the 4Runner is a better buy. If you are buying one SUV to use for all your needs, you’ll be much more satisfied with the Grand Cherokee.
The Grand Cherokee Laredo starts at $30,395 and $32,695 for the 4x4 version. It’s equipped with a 3.6 Liter 24-valve V6 with variable valve timing and engine stop start function paired with the ubiquitous ZF 8-speed transmission with heater. There’s a standard dual battery system that is comprised of a 650 amp maintenance free AGM battery and a 130 amp auxiliary battery, powered by a 160 amp alternator.
This system allows the Grand Cherokee to safely utilize electric power steering, an engine oil cooler, 4 channel Anti-lock Braking System, and Sport Mode without overtaxing the SUV’s electrical system. Inside, cloth low-back buckets seat front passengers and both the 60/40 fabric trimmed rear bench and front passenger seat fold flat for optimal storage capacity. Other useful interior attributes are the front and rear row 12-volt power outlets, air filtering dual zone climate control system, cargo trim panel with storage net, electronic vehicle information center, exterior temperature display, compass display, full-length floor console, leather-wrapped shift knob, leather-wrapped steering wheel, luxury floor mats with logo, overhead console, passenger assist handles, power accessory delay, steering wheel mounted shift levers, steering wheel mounted audio controls, tilt and telescopic steering column, variable intermittent windshield wipers, interior LED lamps, illuminated cup holders, illuminated entry, removable rechargeable interior light, and sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors. A 5 inch standard Uconnect infotainment system includes 6 audio speakers, integrated voice command with Bluetooth, SD card reader, auxiliary jack, and USB port. There’s also a 7 inch LCD instrument cluster with tachometer. The Grand Cherokee Laredo rides on 17 inch by 8 inch aluminum wheels with P245/70R17 BSW on and off-road tires compatible with the tire pressure monitoring display. Quad halogen bezel finished headlamps and premium fog lights light the road ahead, while LED rear tail lamps indicate your turns and stops. Other exterior features include a power locking capless fuel filler, power heated exterior mirrors, integrated liftgate rear spoiler, ParkSense rear park assist with stop, rear window wiper washer with defroster, tinted front door glass, tinted windshield glass, acoustic windshield, black claddings, and rear privacy glass. Safety traits are advanced multistage front airbags, cruise control, driver inflatable knee bolster airbag, electronic stability control, enhanced accident response system, hill start assist, Keyless Enter N Go, Lock On Sync Tire Pressure Sensor, ParkView rear back-up camera, Rain Brake Support, Ready Alert Braking, remote proximity keyless entry, Sentry Key theft deterrent system, supplemental side-curtain airbags, traction control, and trailer sway damping.
As far as we can tell the “Laredo E” trim only adds bright side roof rails and a power 8-way driver seat with power 4-way lumbar adjustment. It allows you to access significantly more options and packages but a $2,400 dollar premium for these two features alone seems unreasonable.
The $36,395 Altitude trim adds Black leather seats with suede inserts, heated front seats, a 115-volt auxiliary power outlet, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a heated steering wheel, a universal garage door opener, a power liftgate, Black headlamp bezel finish, black tail lamps lenses, Gloss Black fascia applique, a bright single exhaust tip, a 1 year SiriusXM subscription, an 8.4 inch Uconnect touchscreen display, roadside assistance and emergency notification system, Uconnect Access, 20 inch by 8 inch Gloss Black aluminum wheels with 265/50R20 All Season LRR tires, a cargo compartment cover, a security alarm, and a remote start system. The 4x4 model starts at $38,695 with the same additions.
The Limited trim provides a sturdier 180 amp alternator, 8-way power front seats with memory function and power lumbar support, heated second row seats, leather-trimmed seating, driver’s auto dimming exterior mirror, premium door trim panels, dual charging USB ports, Uconnect 5.0, 18 inch by 8 inch Gray aluminum wheels with 265/60R18 BSW All Season All Terrain tires, bright door handles, Bright grille, Bright side roof rails, chrome exterior mirrors, integrated mirror turn signals, Selec-Terrain system, and Hill Descent Control for $39,995 in 4x4 form or $37,995 for 4x2.
The Trailhawk is only available in 4x4 form for $43,095 and receives exclusive equipment like a 230mm rear axle, a heavy duty engine cooling system, Trailhawk embossed leather and suede seating with ventilation, interior red stitching accents, off-road display in digital cluster, 18 inch by 8 inch off road aluminum wheels with off-road tires, front suspension skid plate, fuel tank shield, transfer case skid plate, underbody skid plate, Red tow hooks, and an electronic rear limited slip differential. Other features are auto dimming exterior mirrors, 506 watt 9 speaker audio system with subwoofer, Uconnect 8.4, telematics system, full size steel spare wheel, Quadra-Lift Air Suspension, and inclusion of the towing group.
The $44,795 Overland trim builds on the Limited with leather-trimmed perforated seats with Edge Welting, front seat ventilation, auto dimming exterior mirrors, cargo net, leather-wrapped instrument panel and armrest, luxury door trim panel, power tilt and telescoping steering column, wood and leather wrapped steering wheel, under seat lighting, 506 watt amplified 9 speaker audio system with subwoofer, GPS Navigation, HD Radio, 5 year SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link services, Uconnect 8.4 Nav, 20 inch by 8 inch Tech Gray aluminum wheels, automatic headlamp leveling system with automatic high beam control, Bi-Xenon HID headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, LED fog lamps, dual-pane panoramic sunroof, exterior mirrors with courtesy lamps, polished dual exhaust tips, power folding mirrors, rain sensitive windshield wipers, and cargo compartment cover. The 4x4 Overland is $47, 795 and installs Quadra-Lift Air Suspension.
The Summit begins at $53,495 for 4x4 or $50,495 for 4x2. This trim provides Advanced Brake Assist, exclusive leather-trimmed seating with ventilated front seats, an Active Noise Control System, illuminated sill plates, a 19 speaker Harmon Kardon sound system with subwoofer and 825-watt amplifier, 20 inch by 8 inch fully polished aluminum wheels with 265/50R20 All Season Performance tires, body-color grille with chrome inserts, premium LED fog lamps, headlamp washer, premium accent cladding, rear sunscreen acoustic laminate glass, adaptive cruise control with stop, blind spot monitoring, cross path detection, full speed forward collision warning plus, LaneSense lane departure warning plus, and Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist. The 4x4 model upgrades to the Quadra-Trac II 4WD system and allows for the addition of skid plates.