Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0 CRD V6 Overland27 | 06 | 2011Scotcars rating

    Can the new Jeep Grand Cherokee mix it with the best SUVs on the market? We find out


    Think of rough and tough off-roading and two words spring to mind. Well, three words actually. The first two are 'Land' and 'Rover', and the third is Jeep. To be precise, it’s probably the other way round. Jeep is the name uppermost in most people’s minds, not least because it’s been around since 1945 and is now the generic name for anything – other than a tractor – which can go over the roughest of terrain. I’ve heard people refer to a “Suzuki Jeep” and a “Toyota Jeep” when they actually mean a Vitara and a RAV4, which admittedly don’t have the same ring to them.

    I started to jump up and shout at the radio in June 2007 when I heard the reports that two terrorists had tried to set off a bomb in their ‘Jeep’ at Glasgow Airport, only to discover later that it was in fact an elderly Jeep Cherokee they had used to ram the terminal’s doors. That’s not the kind of publicity any car company wants and it came at the same time as a troubled period in the company’s history during an unhappy marriage between American parent company Chrysler and the German Daimler Corporation.

    After their divorce, Chrysler and Jeep suffered from a form of post-marital depression until eventually starting a relationship in 2009 with the Italian giant Fiat. It sounds like the plot of a second rate romantic novel, but instead it’s a reflection of the tough world of the automotive industry. The end result is that Jeep and Chrysler are now living together harmoniously with Fiat to compete on a global scale.

    Here in the UK, one of the best moves the company has made is to scale down its range of vehicles from what had become a confused maze of brands and models. The decision to bring the Dodge brand – and some of its questionable models — to the UK has now rightly been abandoned and both the Jeep and Chrysler model ranges have been trimmed down to a sensible scale.

    For Jeep that now means the basic Wrangler, the Compass and the very latest, the new Grand Cherokee, which ironically is based on a platform shared with their estranged partner Daimler and which will feature in yet-to-be-launched Mercedes models.  

    On the road

    The old Grand Cherokee was past its sell-by date. It had outdated technology, it was far too heavy on the juice, it didn’t take account of the crucial CO2 issue and was basically well past it. So the new one has a lot to do and the engineers and designers have worked hard to bring this vehicle right up to date. Its ruggedness and go-anywhere ability is without question.

    I drove it over a challenging off-road course (watch the Jeep Grand Cherokee in action offroad) next to the Castle Donington racetrack and calling on all the technology to hand – electronic low ratio gears, hill descent etc – it was effortless through deep ruts, scary climbs and drops and gravity-defying slopes. Even with everything turned off and relying on normal gear settings and in standard automatic Drive mode, the vehicle still took on everything without a murmur.

    What was even more impressive was that the vehicle I was driving had just an hour earlier been effortlessly tramping up the M1 and was still on the same tyres, which by this time were considerably muddier. The Quadra-Lift air suspension in the Overland version is very handy to lower the ride height for better economy on the motorway or raising it to improve clearance when on the rough stuff.

    The new vehicle is wider, longer and with an extended wheelbase over the previous model but it’s also 21mm lower which improves the look and handling. Its appearance is less rugged than before and at certain angles there is a resemblance to its Audi Q7 and VW Touareg competitors, but it holds onto the distinctive Jeep grille at the front. 

    Comfort & Safety

    The interior layout and design has been brought right up to date, although it still has a distinctly Stateside feel, which many Jeepsters love while non-enthusiasts absolutely hate. Parts of the dash in the test car looked as if they were coated in the same imitation steel they make cheap Japanese cameras out of … and it’s not nice. There’s a lot of real wood and leather, and the heated and ventilated seats are very comfortable. It is a big vehicle with 11% more space inside the cargo area and that’s easier to get into thanks to the powered tailgate.

    So it’s all good news then? Well, not quite. Although everything’s new and it’s brimming with the latest technology, it still feels a little behind in the timeline of the competition. It’s hard to define, but whether it’s the size of the machine, the larger-than-necessary American styling or the less-than-impressive economy or CO2 figures, it doesn’t have the sense of something brand new.

    And then there’s the price. You do get a lot for your money and the people at Jeep say an equivalent level of specification in the main competitors would cost several thousand pounds more, but 37 grand — the entry price for the Grand Cherokee range — is still a lot of money as a starting price … and there’s plenty of choice in the market.     

    Should you buy one?

    You’re either a Jeep person or you’re not. You’ll either love it or hate it.

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    Alan Douglas

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £43,995 / £43,995
    Engine / Power: 2987cc V6 / 237bhp
    How fast?: 0-62mph 8.2 secs,  Max 126mph
    How big/heavy?: H1764mm W1943mm L4822mm / 2272kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: Combined 34mpg / CO2 218g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: 41/Band K£245
    Alternatives: BMW X5; Audi Q7; Range Rover Sport; VW Touareg

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