Overall rating: 3/5
Jeep has been making off-road vehicles since 1941, which is probably why the brand name has become the generic term for all vehicles in this class. The luxury SUV is now a class that is taking over from high-end saloons, and buyers are demanding higher levels of quality. The new Grand Cherokee is aiming to attract customers that may want something a little bit different.
In the metal 4/5
The new Jeep Grand Cherokee has had a thorough overall in the aesthetics department and the result is a vehicle that now has a more up-market style, which is to more align with European tastes. Naturally the signature seven-slot grille takes pride of place, although is shorter in height and is braced on either side by new - and far better looking - bi-Xenon headlights. The high-intensity units are also slimmer and come equipped with LED daytime running lights, which are standard across all trim levels. The front end design does somehow give the Grand Cherokee a sleeker (if that's possible) appearance.
Very little has changed along the flanks for the Jeep while at the rear larger tail lamps fitted with LED lighting protrude slightly more than in the past, blending in to the re-sculpted boot-lid, which now is topped with what is claimed to be a more aerodynamic rear spoiler. The dual exhaust tips help complete the solid appearance of the new Grand Cherokee.
Inside, Jeep has done an excellent job in updating the interior both in terms of design and quality. Light floods in through the 'CommandView' dual-pane glass sunroof that extends from the windscreen back to the rear of the vehicle. It is equipped with an electrically powered shade and is standard on the majority of trim levels.
Noticeable improvements from the driving seat include a new three-spoke leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, which in this Summit model features a section of fine wood at its top. Drivers have the option of choosing to use the wheel-mounted paddle shifters should they desire. A newly revised centre console now features an 8.4-inch touchscreen that encompasses most of the controls for radio and media (USB input and SD card slot are included), telephone, climate controls and satnav when chosen as an option.
Seating is quite comfortable and the driver is given a commanding view of the road. Rear passengers will enjoy a high degree of comfort although the back is still designed more for two, rather than three, occupants. Boot space is a useful 782 litres in volume though the high floor level will make loading heavier items that bit more difficult even with the adjustable air suspension set lower.
Driving it 3/5
The headline news with this new Grand Cherokee is the introduction of a new eight-speed automatic gearbox, which offers a far smoother drive on the road. Selecting drive via the neater gear selector allows you the choice of drive or sport modes. The gear changes are a lot smoother than before and are more befitting of a premium SUV like this. Power from the three-litre V6 diesel engine never feels to be lacking and although we wouldn't describe it as urgent, when called upon there is enough performance.
Jeep's Quadra-Lift air suspension delivers quite a supple ride even on some of Sicily's poorer road surfaces, but still is not on par with some of its German rivals when it comes to cornering and driving dynamics. Quick changes of direction and higher speed cornering expose some of the weaker qualities of the air suspension. You do however get a multitude of options for both on and off road while an 'aero mode', which is determined by vehicle speed and lowers the suspension by a further 1.3cm from normal road height in order to optimise performance and fuel economy via improved aerodynamics.
On normal tarmac conditions the Quadra-Drive II four-wheel drive system sends 48 per cent of torque to the front axle and 52 per cent to the rear. In slippery conditions the electronically controlled clutch pack distributes torque automatically based upon driving conditions. A choice of different settings for off-road driving are also available to select and range from soft off-road to sand, snow and rock.
What you get for your money 4/5
Although Irish prices are yet to be confirmed, in terms of trim levels even opting for the mid-range Limited model buyers do get quite a high degree of spec. Unlike some of its often more expensive European rivals, the Jeep tends to offer a good degree of equipment as standard. The Grand Cherokee Summit may be the top of the pile, with the exception of the high-performance SRT version, but you do get a vehicle that now genuinely has that premium feel to it.
The Grand Cherokee now features over sixty safety features including Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop functionality as well as Blind Spot Warning, which illuminates a warning light in the side door mirrors when it detects a vehicle driving in your blind spot.
For audio connoisseurs a new 19-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system is featured on the Summit and SRT models and offer high-definition sound through a specially designed system. It offers '19 High Performance, High Efficiency GreenEdge Loudspeakers in a 7.3 speaker playback architecture including nine tweeters, five mid-range speakers, two mid-woofers and three subwoofers.'
Dynamically the Jeep Grand Cherokee hasn't quite caught up with what some of its rivals can offer for on-road driving, but in terms of equipment it matches them now. Although few owners may do it, the Jeep is still an extremely capable vehicle in off-road driving conditions. It may not have the badge prestige that others do, but for the buyer that wants something that is a little different from the norm, the Grand Cherokee now looks like a better choice.