The Jeep Grand Cherokee may seem like the granddaddy of the utility vehicle crowd, but it has only been around in its present guise since 1992; its predecessors, the Grand Wagoneer and Cherokee, date back to the early ’60s.
At the 1992 Detroit auto show, Bob Lutz drove the Grand Cherokee up the steps and through a plate glass window, thus introducing Jeep’s new flagship to the assembled global media. We were all caught off guard by this unique entry which, of course, was the intention.
More than a quarter century later, the fourth-generation Grand Cherokee continues to top the extensive Jeep line, slugging it out in the tough mid-size utility segment. And, doing rather well, holding down the second or third spot in that sales race.
The Jeep name, of course, is synonymous with off-road prowess. But I sincerely doubt anyone who paid for this vehicle out of their own pocket would come anywhere near testing its limits. The knowledge that it can do amazing things in the rough is enough to comfort those who bought it for reputation and peace of mind when the snow flies or they need to get to the vacation spot down a muddy road. The second or third owner might get appreciate its abilities without concern for scratches, dents or dings.
Like its competitors, the Grand Cherokee is a four-door, five-passenger family vehicle. They have replaced the minivan in most households. This Jeep comes in eight trim levels with base prices spanning the $38,500 to $70,000. There is also a $102,000 version. More on that in a minute.
The Grand Cherokee is available with four different engines: 295-horsepower, 3.6-litre V6; 390-horsepower, 5.7-litre V8; 475-horsepower 6.4-litre V8 and a ridiculous, supercharged 6.2-litre V8 belting out 707 horsepower. That last one is a limited edition model, with appropriate mechanical upgrades.
All are coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission, which passes power to all four wheels. There are several four-wheel-drive systems and electronic terrain management. It can tow up to 7,200 pounds.
The $68,000 tester I spent a couple of weeks with, got no further off road than the shoulder. Instead it spent the entire time in the company of similar luxury utility vehicles — on the road, suburban streets and mall parking lots. There were plenty of other Grand Cherokees in evidence, reflecting its popularity, all but a very few, were shiny, and had families aboard. The only sullied ones I saw were many years old. Most were sitting high on modified suspensions and off-road rubber that would maximize the ability to use the low-gear “rock mode.”
I’ve driven various Jeep products over the years, in tough conditions designed to show off their abilities. I have no doubt in my mind that nothing anywhere near this size, and price, is more capable off-road than the Grand Cherokee. But it would be a shame to risk scratching that gorgeous “Granite Crystal Metallic Clear Coat” paint or sully the “Indigo/Ski Grey interior with “Premium Laguna Leather” seats.
Instead, I enjoyed the comfortable highway ride and power available from the HEMI V8. Not so enjoyable was the thirst — double digits regardless of conditions. There is some lean evident when pushed hard on an off-ramp or tight corner, but that is to be expected from such a tall and heavy vehicle.
This is a pleasantly refined vehicle with ride qualities and noise levels expected at this price.
The tester was in Summit trim, placing it near the top of the range in appearance and content.
One of the options on the test vehicle was a $1,500 appearance package that provides platinum-coloured front and rear fascia, sills and mouldings.
In these surroundings, the seven-slot signature Jeep grill and optional 20-inch satin carbon wheels resulted in a stand-out look.
Inside, everything is high-end, from content to materials, fit and finish. At this point on the trim/price ladder the wish list is complete.
The latest version of FCA’s Uconnect infotainment system has a 21-cm screen and provision for Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. blind-spot monitoring with rear cross path detection is now standard equipment.
There was no attempt to provide a third row of seats. As a result, there is plenty of head and legroom in the second for two big adults, three less comfortably.
The cargo space is suitably accommodating. The second-row seats fold flat for more room.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to offer a nice blend of family-friendly accommodations and great off-road chops.
- Model: 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit
- Engine: 5.7-litre, V8, 360 horsepower, 390 lb.-ft. of torque, mid-grade fuel recommended
- Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
- NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 12.7/9.6
- Length: 4,822 mm
- Width: 2,154 mm
- Wheelbase: 2,914 mm
- Weight: 2,385 kg
- Price: $56,689 base, $68,224 as tested, plus freight
- Competition: Chevrolet Tahoe, Dodge Durango, Ford Edge, GMC Yukon, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner, VW Tiguan
- Standard equipment: 12-way power driver’s seat, dual-pane panoramic sunroof, Uconnect infotainment system with navigation and 17-cm colour touchscreen, 115-volt outlet, heated steering wheel, power liftgate, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, parallel and perpendicular park assist, active noise control, adaptive cruise control with full stop, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist
- Options on test vehicle: 5.7-litre HEMI V8 with Quadra Drive II, $2,650; granite crystal metallic paint, $245; Premium Plus appearance group, 20-inch satin carbon wheels, platinum front and rear fascia, sills, grill, mouldings, $1,495; dual screen rear seat DVD player ($2,150); leather interior package, $4,995