When I was little I watched a lot of World War Two B&W films at the local cineplex. There was reel after reel of live war footage and in all of it Jeeps were prominently featured. That got me hooked on Jeeps from a young age though it was a while into my adulthood that I actually owned one.
The thing was, they were gas guzzlers. The Cherokee and JK had four-litre V6s and the Grand Cherokee had a V8. They were great off-roading vehicles but even before the gas lines of the Carter years they were a little too fuel rich for my budget. Well, it has been a while since I was a young adult and in that time all three of those Jeep models have had remodel after remodel and the actual company has been owner by various corporate parents.
Some will have cultural resistance towards the way things have gone for Jeep. People forget that Fiat is not inexperienced in making off-road vehicles. Defense contracting is a big part of their business. Fiat also produced the Russian Lada! Fiat has good engineers. There is no reason to believe they can not coordinate with the Chrysler team to bring Jeep enthusiasts cars they want to buy with upgraded tech and new features. BACK TO TOP
And in fact, in the new Jeep Grand Cherokee
It was only in 2010 that a completely reworked Jeep Grand Cherokee was launched. It even had a new platform based on that the latest Mercedes Benz ML, which made sense because Mercedes owned Jeep at that time. What was driven for the purposes of this piece was the 210k/347Nm Pentastar 3.6-litre V6. It had height adjustable air suspension, and an improved terrain selector system uncannily similar to that fitted to latest Range Rover products, and including a fully-automatic setting.
The outside really does look pretty much the same as it did in 2010. The upper grille is shorter in height and the bi-xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps are thinner. There are also LED daytime running lights. There is better ground clearance because the lower front spoiler has been elevated. The foglights stand out more. They have been raised and they have a fascia design inside.
In the back there are new, larger tail lamps with LED lighting, a larger, more aerodynamic rear spoiler, and a re-sculpted tailgate that offers greater visibility. A more pronounced Jeep badge is now found directly on the tailgate between the tail lamps, and dual exhaust tips are standard on the Limited version that was tested.
The interior is pretty slick. The almost-black tinted wood finish on the dash and doors is lux like. There is white hand-stitching in the black leather seat and armrest trim. The center console and the air vents have a trim made of something that does a good job of simulating titanium. It is lux looking without being ostentatious.
The console itself has been redone. The main feature is a new Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen. This gives a wide-ranging array of features, including the very well done satellite navigation. There is Bluetooth connectivity for both phone and iPod, with the excellent sound system feeding nine premium Alpine speakers, including subwoofer, and powered by a 506W digital amplifier. There is a camera in the back bumper so you can see what you are doing when you are in reverse. There is another one in the front bumper. You can even go Star Trek style and speak some of the commands for some of the features. People who enjoy bringing their tunes with them can plug into the sound system using AUX, USB and SD car input jacks for both sets of seats. The air conditioning and radio controls are right below the touchscreen. The knobs and buttons are big and easy to identify.
The leather trimmed steering wheel has three strokes and a paddle shifter on the back. You can choose what you want to see on the instrument panel. It is a 7 inch TFT unit where the user sets up which metrics he or she wishes to have displayed. Perhaps you want turn by turn satellite navigation to be on the display. Or maybe you want the display to show wheel articulation when you are rock crawling. You can check out speed, engine revolutions, fuel, temperature of the engine, the terrain setting and the gear setting if you are in manual mode. It has even got a compass.
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The new ZF eight-speed automatic transmission makes the Jeep Grand Cherokee way more fuel efficient. It also allows the car to have a very low overall crawl ratio of 44.4:1. This is up there with the Toyota LC70 manual or the Land Cruiser Prado manual. That is pretty impressive for a luxury automatic.
It is a very comfortable ride. The rear and front space is plentiful. The seats are form fitting. The seats are heated and both passengers and driver can electrically adjust their seats. The driver gets lumbar support adjustments and memory settings if there is more than one driver. The rear seats fold in a single action to create more trunk space. They are split 60/40 if you just want to put one section down for something like skies. The rear seats can decline or incline 12 degrees forward or backward. The steering column also adjusts tilt and reach electronically. All this means the driver and passengers get a really good seating position. And if you set up the car properly the air suspension will be on its lowest setting when you get in so there won’t be a climb. The tailgate is also electric.
Trunk space is 1,554 liters when the rear seats are down. The trunk even has a storage unit with a rechargeable flashlight and grocery hooks on either side. The spare tire compartment has removable dual storage bins for secure storage of muddy gear or other items.
The Grand Cherokee 2013 has 63 advanced safety and security features. The most important safety feature on the new Grand Cherokee is Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation. What this does is warn you of an impending crash and readies the brakes if necessary. Selec-Speed Control programs the vehicle for climbing and descending steep grades.
The safety features are on the cusp of what we can expect with self-driving cars. Adaptive speed control lets the car sense when you are catching up to the vehicle in front of you and slows you down to the same speed until you are ready to overtake. Stability control encompasses traction control, rollover avoidance and trailer sway control. Passenger safety features include front row active head restraints, full-length side-curtain air bags and seat-mounted side thorax air bags.
For convenience the key fob unlocks the door when you are within a certain number of feet of the car. The vehicle can be started by push button.
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The Pentastar 210kW/347Nm 3.6-litre V6 gives excellent acceleration off the line for the big Grand Cherokee, ably assisted by the smooth-shifting eight-speed automotatic, which always seems to be in the right place in the power band.
However, sometimes it was a bit slow to react coming out of hard corners, especially after braking hard going in, a problem often encountered as gearboxes are made more simplistic to account for slow-on-the-uptake drivers.
The 3.6 Limited has an electric-hydraulic power steering system, and this was generally quick on the uptake, not quite as vague as some pure electric systems. The same is not true for the handling on tight and twisting roads. This was with the terrain setting on Auto. The ride was super smooth though, with bumps generally getting ironed out. Now Sport Mode is a different story. Everything about the ride is more stiff in Sport mode. There was tighter steering response, faster throttle response and better shifting response. Plus the suspension height lessens in Sport Mode which also improves handling. It was a pleasure driving in Sport Mode.
Once on gravel the low range was selected with the left-hand push button on he control center right by the gear shift lever. This allows the terrain control selector to be used. For the majority of the test it was in Auto. This meant the car itself decided which traction control, steering, brake and gearbox settings would be used for each hazard.
The Limited model is fitted with the latest Quadra-Trac II’s two-speed transfer case which uses input from a variety of sensors to determine tire slip and takes corrective action. The system also senses quick movements in the throttle form a stop and maximizes traction before wheel spin occurs. If it does, though, as much as 100 percent of available torque is instantly routed to the axle with the most traction.
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However, the large knob in the middle of the control panel also allows drivers to choose between four more off-road settings, which in turn electronically coordinate up to 12 different powertrain braking and suspension systems (when air suspension is fitted), including throttle control, transmission shift, transfer case, hill descent control and Select-Speed Control.
The other settings are Sand, Mud, Snow and Rock. The first three adapt the traction control system to cope with the various surface conditions and limit wheelspin. However, the Rock setting goes a few stages farther.
First, it automatically lifts the bodywork to its maximum height of 278mm. At the same time, it changes the transfer case, differentials and throttle settings to provide low-speed control so drivers can inch their way over big obstacles without crunching the bodywork or getting hooked.
You can also choose your own ride height, with a low Park setting for getting in and out, Normal for driving on smooth roads, giving 221mm of ground clearance, and two off-road settings which lift it to maximum in two equal stages.
There’s also an Eco setting which drops the suspension 15mm, but only operates above 83km/h.
Even with the prodigious suspension travel, though, we still managed to cock a rear wheel high in the air on one short descent off-road, although at no stage did we lose traction, despite being on road-oriented low profile tires.
An interesting experience, and proof that Jeep is determined to continue getting better, and adapting to modern technology without leaving its off-road roots behind.
This review is was originally featured in New Zealand 4WD Magazine.
Article by CJ Bantam
CJ Bantam is a freelance writer for a variety of publishers in the off-road scene. He enjoys writing about trucks, Jeeps and SUVs as well as fishing and other outdoor activities. Youc an check CJ out on Google+.