Test Drive:2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Jeep's flagship Grand Cherokee SUV was last redone in 2010. For 2017, the second-most popular midsize SUV in the United States will receive mainly cosmetic refreshes on two of its upscale trim levels–Summit and SRT–to refine the 2-row, 5-seat unibody sport utility. One more trim level also will be added. Although the Grand Cherokee won't be fully redesigned until at least 2018, all six current trim levels come standard with a rearview camera and rear park-assist sensors. New for 2017 is the Trailhawk variant, outfitted with Jeep's rugged off-road equipment package.
At the segment level, the Grand Cherokee competes with volume leaders Ford Explorer and the Toyota Highlander, among others. Last year, the Jeep brand sold nearly 196,000 Grand Cherokees, and more than 100,000 Grand Cherokees were delivered in the United States through the first 6 months of 2016, according to sales data collected by J.D. Power.
Also newsworthy, the 2016 Grand Cherokee ranks among the top three models (in a tie with Buick Enclave) in its segment in the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study,SM which surveys new-vehicle buyers/lessees about how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive during the first 90 days.
Recently, I had a chance to learn more about the Jeep Grand Cherokee and its newest trim levels at Fiat Chrysler Automobile's (FCA) Chelsea, MI, proving grounds. My first observation is that the Grand Cherokee is a comfortable riding vehicle, even on bumpy roads. The standard 8-speed automatic transmission shifts so fluently that I didn't notice gear changes, which has been a problem for many 8- and 9-speed automatics. Additionally, the gear selector is relatively easy to use since the design was changed beginning with the 2016 model. Another positive first impression is that the standard V-6 engine seemed to have enough oomph on the road.
I learned from Jeep brand managers that the newest premium SRT trim level, which is powered by a high-spirited, 6.4-liter V-8 engine, will be available with bi-Xenon headlights and daytime running lamps, too. It will be updated with a slightly different front fascia, grille, and fog lights. Inside, the focus of the SRT is on luxury, with Natura leather seating and open pore wood trim–available in numerous color combinations. This Grand Cherokee also boasts a towing capacity of 7,400 lbs. and a crawl ratio of 44.1:1.
Altogether, the six trim levels include Laredo, Limited, Overland, Summit, Trailhawk, and the high-end SRT. Three new exterior colors–Diamond Black, Rhino, and Walnut Brown–join the Grand Cherokee spectrum of eight, and there are as many interior color combinations for the cabin. Summit trim, which is the plushest, comes with hand-crafted leather heated seats; suede headliners; copper or chrome trim; and refreshed fascia, fog lamps, and grille. Summit trim also includes standard advanced safety systems such as lane-departure warning, parallel park assist, and a trailer hitch camera.
It's good to know that the new Grand Cherokee comes with optional powertrains and three 4-wheel-drive systems. The standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine in the Laredo and Limited produces 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. A 5.7-liter V-8 motor that generates 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque is optional for all trims except the Laredo. The ultimate SRT is powered by a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that pushes out 475 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. All engines are partnered with FCA's ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. In addition, Jeep offers a 3.0-liter Eco-Diesel V-6 that FCA claims will average 30 mpg on the highway and provide an estimated range of 730 miles.
In considering power, it's easy to punch the SRT's accelerator to feel and hear the Hemi kick in. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles claims the SRT version of the 2017 Grand Cherokee can throttle from 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds. This midsize SUV also offers eight driving modes controlled by a switch on the center console. The Grand Cherokee's various trims are available with 70 safety and security features, including the UConnect infotainment system with 8.4-in. touch screen that includes integrated audio, climate, and entertainment controls along with a 7-in. adjustable display cluster.
When considering Jeep, the new Trailhawk variant can't wait to get muddy with Kevlar-reinforced 18-in. off-road tires. The Trailhawk is set up for enduring the worst and best terrain, featuring Jeep's Quadra-Drive 4x4 system with rear limited-slip differential. Trail-worthy Quadra-Lift air suspension provides dynamics for hill climbs and descents and can be adjusted for snow, sand, mud, or rock with the vehicle's Selec-Terrain traction control system. Skid plates are standard. Inside, the Trailhawk is sporty premium with leather and suede performance seats and red stitching. Black and gun metal finishes accent the cabin.
The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.
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