Jeep Grand Cherokee
Marriage of convenience
The previous Grand Cherokee's had to live up to its name. So the top model had to exude power and American tradition. With this new generation, grandeur has made room for a touch of elegance. The American look has been traded for modern lines. Thereby, it is important to note that the different versions also have different outfits. The luxury versions are true SUVs (Sports Utility Vehciles) and look relatively civilised. The "Trailhawk" is a true off-road vehicle where everything is about functionality and adventure.
Jeep is proud of its history, which is why it always refers to classic models. For instance, the basic lines of the dashboard are still those of the first Jeeps, but dressed up with modern luxuries. The designers wanted to use clean lines while exuding opulence. This makes for a forced blend of American and European style. The new era adds a multitude of displays, as even the rear view mirror is a display (but also offers traditional glass).
The space up front is good. The very high seat, the view of the huge bonnet and the substantial space between the seats completely live up to the term "Grand" in "Grand Cherokee". Yet the test car is in fact the "small" version, because in America a "Grand Cherokee L" with an extended wheelbase is available. That extra length mainly benefits rear legroom, which isn't great in the standard Grand Cherokee. With a tall driver in the front, just enough space remains in the back for a tall passenger. For a car of this size, that should be much more than "adequate". The luggage space is huge and can be accessed via an electrically operated tailgate.
The many displays give a modern feeling and the Grand Cherokee offers everything that can be expected from a modern car. However, this Jeep is hardly innovative. The only exception is the collaboration with the highly renowned brand McIntosh for the audio system. The result of this collaboration is remarkable. When typical hi-fi songs (Diana Krall, Rebecca Pidgeon) are played, the sound is impeccable yet unremarkable. With classic rock'n'roll (Rolling Stones), the audio system loosens up like no other, the room seems to expand and the whole car swings!
Two cars were used for this test, a Summit for photos and a Trailhawk for off-roading. In both cars, we noticed that the air conditioning is clearly audible and never stops. In one of cars, the sat nav stopped giving directions, only to suddenly come back to life at a seemingly random moment (with completely different settings).
Engines: plug-in hybrid
In America, the Grand Cherokee is available with a 3.6-litre V6 and 5.7-litre V8 petrol engine. For the European market, it is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder combined with an electric motor. This is a plug-in hybrid that can travel about 50 km all-electric after recharging. In pure electric mode, the Grand Cherokee offers the quietness and agility of an electric car, but not the performance or ability to drive with one pedal.
When the battery is (almost) empty, the electric motor assists the petrol engine. Then it is noticeable that the relatively small petrol engine has to work hard in this large SUV. Any kind of supremacy or reserve is missing, while the engine noise is almost pathetic for such a large car. Moreover: because the petrol engine has to work so hard, consumption is very high. Expect consumption of 12 litres per 100 km when the battery is not charged at every opportunity.
Only when both engines join forces and give it their all, the "Grand Cherokee 4xe" delivers the performance that should be expected from a car like this. And therein lies the big problem: most plug-in hybrids already perform well on one engine and much better when both engines work together. The Grand Cherokee performs well only when both engines join forces.
In practice, there is a big difference between the Trailhawk and the other versions. In the Trailhawk, the engine is more audible. Moreover, the brake pedal has little feel in the Trailhawk, while there is nothing wrong with it in the other versions.
There's also a big difference in handling between the Trailhawk and the other variants. The Trailhawk feels bigger and more powerful and is less comfortable on the open road. The Summit, on the other hand, gives a sense of comfort and security. All variants have decent handling despite their tall build and are stable even in fast or short corners. However, the refinement of a European or Asian SUV is lacking in this Jeep.
This is largely explained by the fact that Grand Cherokee is much more than an SUV. This is a true off-roader, with technology to really go on expeditions. Jeep opts for a mix of mechanical, electronic and pneumatic features. Thanks to air suspension, ground clearance can be increased considerably (and comfort is a lot better on dirt roads!). Thanks to mechanical all-wheel drive and diff-locks, the Grand Cherokee lends itself to long and intense off-road driving. The electronics make that easy. Off-road, the Grand Cherokee communicates well with the driver, who can therefore use the technology to its advantage. If required, the computer can take over most of the work and the Grand Cherokee drives with just as much ease off-road as on the highway.
Does the half-American half-European Jeep Grand Cherokee combine the best of both worlds or is it a compromise? Judging by its looks and equipment, this American icon is more focused on the rest of the world than before.
The handling has always been a compromise, as the Grand Cherokee is much more than an SUV. This is a true off-road vehicle that lends itself to serious off-roading and, to that end, adjustments must be made to the chassis.
To keep the Grand Cherokee affordable, plug-in hybrid propulsion has been chosen in Europe. However, that powertrain is too small for this large off-road vehicle. Therefore, performance is only good when the Grand Cherokee is really provoked and fuel consumption is very high.
Conclusively, therefore, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a marriage of convenience. On paper, the two sides complement each other perfectly, but the love is missing.
- Big and powerful feeling
- Very proficient in the field
- Moderate legroom in the rear
- Very high consumption, despite hybrid
- Lacks the refinement of other large SUVs