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First Drive: Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.

First Drive: Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Grand Cherokee now boasts better quality and refinement, but the same sense of gratuitous machismo.

   



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| First Drive | Balocco, Italy | Jeep Grand Cherokee |

Overall rating: 3 3 3 3 3

Having committed itself to an alliance with Fiat, Jeep is now intent on tearing back through Europe with a revitalised product line-up, spearheaded by this new Grand Cherokee. But can this old school big boy really mix it up with the new school of 4x4 big boys?

Key Facts

Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: five-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: five-door SUV
Rivals: Volkswagen Touareg, Land Rover Discovery 4, BMW X5
CO2 emissions: 218g/km
Combined economy: 34mpg
Top speed: 149mph
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Power: 238bhp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 406lb.ft at 1,800rpm

In the Metal: 3 3 3 3 3

If there's still a lingering sense of appealing avant-gardism about on-road posh 4x4s by the likes of Porsche and BMW, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is the antithesis. This new one is undoubtedly the classiest yet, but it's still a bold, hard-nosed slab of uncompromising Americana.

Sadly, and despite significant improvement, the cabin is still a Hershey bar to the Land Rover Discovery's Hotel Chocolat interior. Softer to the touch on the upper surfaces, it still can't move Jeep into premium territory - areas like the scratchy glove box door see to that, as do flimsy control dials, and cloth seats on the base spec model we drove. It's positively massive in every area - but so are all these cars.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

It's here that the majority of Jeep's budget has evidently gone, because the Grand Cherokee possesses an almost immaculate ability to melt the miles away. Where a Range Rover can loll about too much at times, and a BMW X5 patter, this drives with a lovely blend of body control and surface mitigating suppleness. Jeep says torsional stiffness is up 146 percent, which must play some part in it.

In addition, the new 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, which benefits from Fiat's MultiJet technology, suppresses distracting noise like a Wimbledon tennis umpire; at idle this is a whisper quiet car, and it doesn't ever get much louder than that. Pick-up is strong and, even though five ratios seem few for a modern auto, it's blip-free and up to task.

And despite things tending to fall apart at the first corner in cars like these (see the new Jeep Compass for details), in the Grand Cherokee that doesn't happen. A slightly exaggerated turn of the wheel is required for tighter turns, but there's a surprisingly small dead area around the straight ahead. Visibility is good, and it's easy to find a comfy driving position.

What you get for your Money: 3 3 3 3 3

Prices have not been set yet because the Jeep Grand Cherokee doesn't go on sale until the summer, but we're told semi-officially that the starting price will be around 38,000. That's bang on target for the above-mentioned rivals, and while the Jeep can't match any of them for quality or ambience, it will probably have a larger standard equipment list. Exact UK specifications aren't yet set.

Despite the new 3.0-litre engine boasting 20 percent better fuel economy with its ten percent power hike, it's still a bit of a gas-guzzler. The CO2 emissions put it in the 580 first-year VED band, and you'll struggle to hit even 30mpg during day-to-day driving.

Worth Noting

Two four-wheel drive systems are available, one called Quadra-Trac II, the other Quadra-Drive II. We can't vouch for the capabilities of either, not having travelled off the asphalt during our test drive, but the latter is designed for those looking to traverse more than a bit of Christmas snow. Both can transfer up to 100 percent of torque to either axle when needed, but Quadra-Drive also utilises a rear Electronic Limited Slip Differential.

Summary

With an improved interior and some genuinely impressive traits, like its ride quality and distinct lack of cabin noise, the Jeep Grand Cherokee can now be considered for reasons other than being a bit different. But overall, this American still has a lot of ground to make up on the Brits and Germans.


Mark Nichol - 21 Apr 2011



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2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.



2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Image by Jeep.
 






 

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