With ten different Grand Cherokee models on offer, it's not surprising this off-road mid-size SUV leaves buyers with questions. Mostly about which one is the right model for them. While it's true that the Jeep Grand Cherokee is ideal for off-roading, it's also true that the majority of buyers are looking for a dependable road vehicle that will give them their money's worth on the highway as much as it will in the middle of the desert. Because let's face it, we've got another few years before global warming turns the entire world into an uninhabitable terraforming accident. So we might as well make sure we can pick the kids up, right? So how do you know if the Jeep Grand Cherokee is right for you?
What’s the difference between all of those models?
Although the Grand Cherokee is the luxury option in the brand's SUV range, the models vary pretty substantially in their features and feel. The Jeep comes in the following models, in order of luxury features Laredo, Altitude, Limited, Overland, Summit and SRT. All come with a standard 3.6 liter Pentastar 6V 24-Valve VVT engine but all except for the SRT offer optional upgrades to a 5.7-liter HEMI V8, or a 3.0 V6 turbo diesel. The SRT offers an upgrade to a 6.4 liter V8 475 hp, for those of you worried about not being able to drive an SUV like its a Mazda Miata. The Laredo is the basic model and comes with 17" alloy wheels, hill start assist, and a U-connect in-car communication system with Bluetooth, but not much else in the way of bells and whistles. An upgrade to the next class of Laredo (the Laredo E) or better yet, the Altitude, comes with heated front seats and steering wheel, 20" black alloy wheels and a remote start. The Limited takes these features a step further and is also the first class with available Quadra Trac II or Selec-Terrain System, which substantially improve the ride quality of the Grand Cherokee. The features increase with the price tag, and for a fully loaded SRT, you should expect to find yourself north of $70,000.
Is it worth the hefty price tag to upgrade all the way to the SRT?
Well, that all depends on the class of SUV you're looking to buy, what you intend to do with it, and how much you want to impress your friends and neighbors. The SRT has struggled with an identity crisis in past years, with an engine packed full of power and speed but lacking in the interior refinements that luxury car buyers tend to require. After this year's facelift, however, the SRT is chock full of bells and whistles and rivals any luxury SUV on the market. Plus, they've still got the trump card of all of that classic Jeep power and durability, making this the car that you'll want to drive to make it clear that you're more than a weekend warrior. The SRT manages 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, and the HEMI absolutely roars, yet noise canceling cabin features keep that luxury feel inside the car. With the built-in Quadra-Trac Active 4WD system, the car feels as luxurious as a Range Rover or Mercedes high-performance vehicle, but even it's fully loaded versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT come in at tens of thousands less. In short, if you're one of the lucky few who has paid down most of your student loans and you want a car that will deliver absolute performance with plenty of curb appeal, the SRT might be right up your alley.
Am I going to have any hope of fuel economy?
Look, no SUV is ever going to be a Toyota Camry, but a few of the versions of the Grand Cherokee are admirable on fuel consumption. Going for the fully loaded SRT means blasting down highways at a paltry 14 mpg, which won't do much for your wallet (but then again, think of how much money you saved by not getting a Range Rover!) The V8 options don't fare much better: the 5.7 V8 gets a combined 17/25/20 2WD and 17/24/19 4WD, while the 6.4 V8 gives you an even harder to justify to your priest 14/22/17 2WD and 14/20/16 4WD. However, the 3.6 V6 versions don't do as terribly, and the 3.0 Diesel registers at 30 mpg in 2WD and buyer comments have it up in the mid 30's on the highway. There's also an Eco mode for diesel which lowers the suspension at speed and can reportedly bring those numbers up to 40 mpg. As diesel engines do tend to deliver a little more punch, fuel-conscious buyers might want to consider this as an option when making their final decisions. Or, you know, start looking at a new model Camry.
I’ve heard some horror stories about safety. Is it safe?
The tragic death of actor Anton Yelchin at the hands of a Grand Cherokee made international headlines when a freak rollaway accident pinned him behind the car, and indeed a recall was underway when the actor was killed (he received a recall notice at his home a week after his death). While maintaining that they were not responsible for Yelchin's death in a suit filed by the actor's parents, Jeep has taken significant steps to improve the safety rating of the vehicles, and it shows in their most recent crash test ratings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates it 4 out of 5 stars, and most authorities give it a good score, though it scores marginally on the difficult small overlap front test. All in all, it's loaded with passenger safety features and offers better than average sight lines for drivers, which indicates that the very serious safety features that led to those tragic rollaways were given notice by FCA and that they've taken encouraging steps to rectify any problems. The NHTSA also rates it high on the reliability scale, meaning that recalls, if they happen, are dispatched promptly and with satisfactory steps taken by the company to replace faulty parts or processes.
I was thinking of a Porsche Cayenne. Why should I get the Grand Cherokee instead?
Jeep has long been the standard bearer in off-road capability, and with the upgrades of its models to meet the luxury features of other SUV's it's now a solid contender with the Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg, and Mercedes-Benz ML. While it's true that the Grand Cherokee doesn't have the same luxury car label of the Porsche or Benz (to say nothing of the Range Rover) it holds its own pretty well against the more established car makers in terms of a features, and it does so at a considerably lower price than the fully loaded models of any of the aforementioned, which can easily run upwards of $100,000. Plus, while the Cayenne has outstanding speed and performance, the SRT has unparalleled off-road capabilities, which is nothing to sniff at when you're in the market for a versatile SUV. Indeed, the Cayenne's star quality is somewhat dimmed by the introduction of the new model Grand Cherokee, a diamond that seems to have finally shed its rough skin.