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Review: Jeep Grand Cherokee

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When it comes to four-wheel drive, the two names that mean more to the enthusiasts than nearly all the other contenders, and in some cases pretenders, put together are our very own Land Rover, and of course Jeep.

It probably goes without saying that both brands have come an awful long way since their humble beginnings and perhaps both are now seen more as luxury brands rather than as the utilitarian work-horses they once were. But, regardless of what you might get told over the bar in your local country pub, by the tweedy-type with the ruddy face and the side-burns, it was the Jeep that inspired Maurice Wilks to come up with the Land Rover, and not the other way around. Legend has it Wilks drew his initial idea in the sand on an Anglesey beach in 1947. Jeep on the other hand has been with us since 1941.

How do I know? Because “Since 1941” is stamped into leather of the steering wheel in the Jeep Grand Cherokee I’ve been driving all week.

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The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been the US brand’s flagship model, delivering both power and comfort (well to a point at least – we’ll get on that later) as well as Jeeps’ legendary off road abilities in abundance since it was first launched in 1992. For 2104 it gets a new look; The trademark seven slot grille is now shorter, and flanked by slimmer HID Bi-Xenon headlamps that have more than a hint of Range Rover about them, the front fog lamps are more pronounced and there’s now LED running lamps too. Further back new rear LED lamps, a revised spoiler and a resculpted tailgate (in this case electrically powered) that helps improve visibility, are all present. The overall effect is a sportier, somehow more elegant – if such terms can be used to describe a 2 and ¼ tonne SUV – design that remains unmistakeably Jeep.

Perhaps the greatest changes have taken place inside. The previous generation Cherokee’s interior was once described by some as a “veritable Tupperware party” but thankfully it’s now a much more sophisticated place. Luxuries such as leather and wood both make an appearance, and the much revised dashboard houses an 8.4” touch screen that uses simple yet excellent graphics to control the heating, sat-nav and entertainment.

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It’s pushing the imagination too far to claim that it challenges the likes of BMW, Audi, or indeed Land-Rover when it comes overall fit and finish, and there’s no option of a third row of seats either, but nevertheless it is hugely capacious (the boot is huge) and surprisingly comfortable. It’s also a lot less blingy and far more understated than the exterior’s imposing hip-hop-video-star looks suggest it might be too.

Fire it up and the 3.0 litre V6 diesel settles into a slightly industrial sounding idle. It’s a lusty, lazy unit, delivering huge amounts of low-down torque – ideal for towing- and regardless of what you demand of it, it never feels overstressed. Once up into 8th gear and with the Cherokee’s air-suspension in its “aerodynamic ride height” setting it feels like it could go on forever. With the less tarmac orientated tyres fitted, the Quadra-trac four-wheel drive system engaged, and with the air suspension raised right up, you could probably plunder any terrain you had a mind to point the Grand Cherokee towards. Sat behind the Jeep’s wheel you really do feel invincible.

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What you don’t feel however is really connected. The Grand Cherokee’s steering is hardly the most communicative of systems and it does feel somewhat vague. The ride is also a point of contention. Whilst I’m in no doubt of this car’s off-road abilities, I’d rather not feel like I was off-road when in fact I’m on it. On all but interstate smooth surfaces The Grand Cherokee rocks and rolls where these days its nearest competition would glide.

It’s nearest competition? Ah, yes, even after all these years it’s inevitable that we still compare Jeep to Land Rover and vice-versa. Think of it like this: For the £48,785 that Jeep will relieve you of for the Grand Cherokee Overland that I sampled, you could bag yourself a very nice Land Rover Discovery instead. Both manufacturers use the same raw ingredients, diesel V6, 8 speed automatic ’box, 4WD etc, etc but then end results are strikingly different.

Its British Beef vs American Muscle: If Jeep and Land Rover were chefs instead of car makers, today’s Land Rover Discovery would be a fillet steak and dauphinois potato, whereas the Grand Cherokee would be a Gourmet Burger and Fries.

If it was my money being spent I’d plump for the steak, nevertheless it’s hard sometimes not develop a taste for the Burger too.

 

Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0 CRD V6 Overland

 

Engine: 2987cc 6Cyl turbo-diesel

Transmission: 8 Speed Auto, four wheel drive.

Power: 247 bhp @ 4000pm

Torque: 420 lbft @ 2000rpm

0-62MPH: 8.2 Sec

Max Speed: 126 mph

CO2: 198g/km

MPG: 37.7 combined

Price: £45,695 (Car driven £48,765)

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