The new Jeep Grand Cherokee Larado satrts from $45,000 drive-away.
The new Jeep Grand Cherokee Larado satrts from $45,000 drive-away.

Road test: Jeep Grand Cherokee inspires urban adventures

NOWADAYS they are called "urban adventurers".

That's a nice way of saying pretend off-roader. Sports utility vehicles are all the rage, but while many buyers like the look and space, facing the beaten track doesn't offer the same appeal.

That also explains why we went "glamping" (that's luxury camping on a grand scale) for the launch of a new Jeep Grand Cherokee line-up which now includes a two-wheel drive variant.

Yep, our glamping experience included tents which were raised over the ground with lovely wooden floor boards, king size beds and five-star bathroom facilities just a few steps away.

And like our refined digs, the new Grand Cherokee walks a similar line. You get the best of the SUV world without the need to forsake life's luxuries from $45,000 drive-away.

The Laredo 4x2 heads a 10-vehicle line-up which includes a 3.0-litre turbo diesel and a range-topping 6.4-litre V8 in the fire-breathing SRT.

Comfort

Plastics have been a friend of Jeeps in years gone by, but this new generation has taken a leap forward in materials and finishes.

The layout and design is the same as the previous model which was released in 2011, but a new instrument cluster and touch-screen for the stereo and other key functions have been introduced.

Intuitive and intelligent, the new additions have sexed-up the cabin. There is now an enhanced feeling of quality and luxury.

Leading the charge is the brilliant new instrument cluster. The driver can flick between a large digital or traditional looking speedometer, or even configure it to personal tastes with various gauges and information

The Grand Cherokees also have a slick stubby-looking shifter which Jeep calls a T-handle, a thick and burly leather-wrapped steering wheel along with leather trim on the doors.

Base model Laredos have cloth trim which looks like it could cope with family batterings. The leather trim on the up-spec models feels top-notch, but the most sumptuous and supportive comes in the athletic SRT derivative.

Five adults can be carried without issue with generous leg and knee room for those in the second row.

On the road

Under the Grand Cherokee skin lies some prestigious architecture. It shares underpinnings with the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, thanks to Chrysler's previous relationship with Daimler.

Silky smooth and polished, the ride is quiet with an air of composure.

We sampled the range over varying terrains and testing conditions, and the 4x2 Larado was a shining star.

The base model rear-wheel drive handled everything from difficult descents to slippery muddy tracks and water crossings - more in one day than your run-of-the-mill urban adventurer would tackle in a lifetime.

It's also quiet and responsive - happy to work up to the 6500rpm redline with reasonable acceleration response.

Yet those wanting all-round performance and better fuel efficiency would be best suited to the diesel. Not as quiet and refined as the petrol at low speeds, the oil-burner offers stronger mid-range response and is also handier for when you want to steer off the bitumen.

Four-wheel drive models have the Quadra-Trac II system which has been tweaked. Drivers can now choose between snow, sand, auto, mud and rock via a centre console dial, and there is also a handy hill descent function.

All this technology really makes off-roading simple and even novice drivers can face difficult terrain with ease.

Air suspension is standard on Overland models and an option with Laredo and Limited models. This offers 10.6cm of suspension travel, which rises more than 28cm at its highest point when hard-core off-roading and down to 18.2cm for when you want to fit into those low concrete car parks.

All models have a new eight-speed automatic transmission which has helped reduce fuel consumption (down by 5% on petrol models and 10% with the diesel). It's a very good box, with timely shifts and we never found it hunting for the right cog.

Each model sampled performed admirably on and off the road, our criticisms were the steering could lack feel on occasions while the only stalk houses too many functions, including front and rear windscreen wipers as well as controlling the indicators.

What do you get?

Strong equipment levels mean the Laredo doesn't feel like entry-level model. Standard gear includes keyless entry with push button start, 18-inch chrome wheels, U-Connect computer system with 21cm colour screen (12.7cm on 4x2 models), Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, cruise control, dual zone air con as well as a reversing camera.

Limited variants get leather trim, powered tailgate, heated pews in the first and second rows, 20-inch aluminium wheels and an Alpine stereo.

Overland models are opulent, with posher internal glossy wood finishes, air suspension, Nappa leather trim and massive dual-pane sunroof.

The SRT is the sports model purely for road-going, its stand-out features are a flat-bottom sports steering wheel and sports seats, 20-inch polished alloys and a range of flashy external gear.

Running costs

The base model V6 petrol has an official figure of just above 10 litres for every 100km. Expect that to be closer to 12 in the real world.

Diesel models are the thriftiest with average consumption of 7.5 litres.

Anyone worried about efficiency need not even look at the V8s which don't return anything less than 13L/100km.

Jeep is yet to introduce capped price servicing, but the hierarchy has it on the discussion agenda.

Practicality

It's simple to see why the Grand Cherokee has been selling at 3.5 times the rate as its previous model since 2011. Families can appreciate the elbow room with excellent cabin space.

The two rear seats fold and when combined with a useful boot area deliver a handy cargo space.

There are twin cup holders in the console, while each door can cater for a bottle.

Funky factor

From the outside the new line-up can be spotted via new bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights, along with different wheels designs.

There are also larger tail lamps with LED lighting, a bigger rear spoiler, new bumpers and a re-sculpted tailgate. Dual exhaust tips are now standard on Limited and Overland models.

Most importantly the seven-slot grille remains proud, although the Grand Cherokee has a more regal appeal compared to its hardcore off-road siblings.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Details: Five-door two or four-wheel drive large sports utility vehicle.

Engines: 3.6-litre V6 petrol generating maximum power of 210kW @ 6350rpm and peak torque of 347Nm @ 4300rpm; 3.0-litre turbo diesel 184kW @ 4000rpm and 570Nm @ 2000rpm; 5.7-litre V8 petrol 259kW @ 5200rpm and 520Nm 4200rpm; 6.4-litre V8 petrol 344kW @ 6250rpm and 624Nm @ 4100rpm.

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.

Consumption: 3.6-litre - 4x2 10.1 litres/100km, 4x4 10.4L/100km; 3.0-litre 7.5L/100km; 5.7-litre 13L/100km; 6.4-litre 14L/100km.

CO2: 3.6-litre 4x2 237g/km, 4x4 244g/km; 3.0-litre 198g/km; 5.7-litre 304g/km; 6.4-litre 327g/km.

What matters most

The good stuff: Quiet and composed ride on varying surfaces, groovy looking driver display that can be customised.

What we'd like to see: Less busy stalk (maybe one each for indicator and wipers), more steering feel, capped price servicing.

Warranty and servicing: Three year/100,000km warranty. Petrol models every six months and 12,000km, diesel every six months or 10,000km.

What they cost

Laredo 4x2 $43,000

Laredo 4x4 $46,000

Laredo 4x4 TD $51,000

Limited $56,000

Limited TD $61,000

Limited V8 $61,000

Overland $66,000

Overland T/D $71,000

Overland V8 $71,000

SRT $77,000

Plus on-roads.



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