What is it?
Jeep has over 75 years of experience in building SUVs and the brand explicitly claims that their vehicles clearly inspire a sense of freedom and adventure. If you take a trip down memory lane, you will always come across Jeep owners who confirm that the brand has always gone by the ‘Go Anywhere. Do Anything.’ slogan. After contemplating for four years, Jeep finally rolled into Indian showrooms late last month.
With the Grand Cherokee, it’s primarily the extravagant nose with the seven-slat grille, the uniquely formed HID head lights, and immense chrome splashed all across, that allures. Adding to the visual drama is a towering and conspicuous bonnet line which flows all the way to the rear portion along with the square wheel-wells which indicates to the potent off-road lineage. A substantial quantity of chrome can be seen highlighting the details, however, soon after one appreciates the individuality of the design, you stumble upon the rear section of the car which could easily pass off as just another SUV.
With the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler on the product list for now, Jeep has priced both cars more than what the market anticipated. We drove the diesel Grand Cherokee extensively and here’s the details.
How is it on the inside?
When seated in the driver’s seat, one can’t help but notice the brand’s distinct design cues in this cabin. Some bits like the foot operated parking brake lever and the yacht-style gear lever are unique additions. A huge chunky steering with a large ‘Jeep’ logo adorns the dash which uses black plastic with wooden inserts flowing along the high-set two layered dashboard highlighted with silver accents and superior grade leather trim. For the price, it feels too crude and does not exhibit the finesse displayed by a Volvo XC90 or the Audi Q7, for that matter.
While one notices the compact front windscreen with the high window line, it’s the thick A-pillars which will need some getting used to especially when driving in the city. Even tall passengers will find the wide front seats to be comfortable, and while it offers good contours along with exceptional back and thigh support, we were surprised to also find some lateral support to a welcome degree. Front seat occupants will find a decent amount of cubby space to stash their belongings in the centre console, glove box and door pads.
On the flipside, we felt that the rear knee room and thigh support could improve, and this coupled with the firm rear seat can tend to make the occupants uncomfortable. Nevertheless, three abreast on these ventilated rear seats can be accommodating thanks to the adjustable backrest. There’s also a large sunroof that lights up this dark coloured cabin, and the two foldable screens should be able to entertain the rear seat passengers on those longer journeys. Being a large five-seater has its advantages, and in this case, its boot swallows up to 1025 litres of luggage.
On the features front, the Jeep Cherokee in Summit form gets ventilated front and rear seats, leather trim on the dash and a steering with wooden inserts, auto dimming passenger door mirror, and an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation. There’s also the dual rear screens, pre-set off-road modes, traction control, electronic stability control, hill descent control, and hill start assist.
How does it drive?
Powering the Grand Cherokee is a diesel motor that’s good for 240bhp and 570Nm of torque. This 3-litre V6 mill works closely with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. On the go, when you pedal the throttle in ‘Normal’ mode, it will respond with an eager shove from idle and the motor propels this SUV to gain momentum in a swift and linear manner. One wouldn’t realise the advancement in velocity until you hear the sporty growl, or spot the revs hitting the 4000rpm limiter. Superior insulation is the culprit here!
Lift the foot off the accelerator pedal and the motor immediately upshifts so that the revs are gradually dropped to as low as 1500rpm for effortless long distance driving. However, shift into ‘Sport’ mode and the engine reacts instantly through the rev range to now meet the driver’s throttle expectations by clinging to each gear all the way to the redline. Even if you back off the accelerator pedal in this mode, a lower gear is hung on to, so that the motor can plunge you ahead as soon as you feed an input.
Barring some kick-down situations where the transmission took a bit longer, the gearbox usually carries out most shifts smoothly and quickly.Engineers have equipped this Jeep with a light steering that’s quick off the centre, so basic city driving should be easy. However, this steering requires a number of turns from lock-to-lock and this means one will need to work their arms a bit to conduct tight manoeuvres. On the other hand, while highway driving is a breeze, the steering weighs up much slower at higher speeds.Despite this being mechanically correct, one will need to put in more effort to drive around a bend as the motor just slingshots to top speeds without a sweat, and could catch you unaware.
Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction control system features on the Grand Cherokee, and it provides the driver with five pre-set modes for driving in sand, snow, rock and mud conditions. Jeep’s Quadra-Trac II 4WD systems on-board this SUV also augments the traction considerably.Armed with a stiff suspension setup, the firm damping translates into some vertical movement, and the stiffness can be felt at slower speeds, even while inching across large potholes.One eventually starts going over undulations a bit faster than usual whenever possible, just to counter this.
However, the ride quality improves drastically when speeds rise, and at higher speeds the Grand Cherokee relentlessly flattens most bumps. The only decibel that’s audible in this cabin is the faint noise from the suspension components working away while the vehicle tramples over the undulations our roads tend to offer in spades. Though we noticed that the brakes offer an awesome bite, we would have welcomed more feedback at the end of the pedal travel. Our test car also had a tendency to nose dive under slightly harder braking.
Should I buy one?
Jeep’s introduction of the Grand Cherokee to our Indian market via the CBU route meant that it had to sport an eyebrow raising price tag ranging from Rs 97.8 lakh to Rs 1.08 crore, for the ‘Limited’ and ‘Summit’ variants. Jeep’s task here would be to market their vibrant legacy to an extent where our Indian consumers could eventually warm up to their products. And how well will this fare? It looks like only time will tell.
Where does it fit in?
Pictures: Kapil Angane