Some SUVs are good at handling a rough bush track or an outing down the beach, some are best at school runs and shopping trips. Somewhere over the last couple of decades, SUV has become an all-encompassing tag for all manner of wagons and hatchbacks.
In the confusion of one-label-fits-all, the ridgy-didge four-wheel drives – the likes of Toyota’s LandCruiser with two-speed transfer case, good ground clearance and a decent amount of power and torque for towing, rock climbing and such – were lumped in with SUVs that couldn’t find their way out of a muddy parking lot at the football oval.
Jeep cannot afford to have a dud SUV. As the original mass four-wheel drive manufacturer, and first to offer a civilised four-wheel drive wagon for families, any Grand Cherokee needs to be capable of tackling a decent off-road adventure.
So the current five-door, five-seat wagon, a handsome enough machine, has all today’s tools and technology for tackling all types of terrain.
There’s a two-speed transfer case for the eight-speed automatic gearbox with the low ratios employed by the touch of a centre console button. There’s a set of different drive modes, for the likes of sand, mud and sport needs, these also available with a console switch.
Plus, and this is a bonus in many upmarket four-wheel drives (sorry, SUVs) such as the Grand Cherokee’s Overland model, there’s a switch to lift the Jeep’s body to better avoid dings and dents or lower for easier loading. (And there’s a substantial cargo area out back plus good room for four or five passengers to be loaded.) All these good things and a host of comfort and safety features plus sunroof and fancy 20-imch wheels comes at a cost with this Overland version starting at $98,450.
The cheapest of the current Grand Cherokees starts around $78,000 and should be just as capable off-road, even without that body lift.
The four-model range of fifth-generation, five-seat Grand Cherokees is complemented these days by seven-seat models. All boast a long list of standard gear, from tyre pressure monitoring to excellent camera views when parking to adaptative cruise control to lane monitoring system.
All are powered by the 210kW, 3.6 litre V6 petrol engine; 10 litres per 100km would be a fair average fuel consumption. Plus the Jeeps are covered by a five-year warranty with five -year roadside assistance if serviced by a Jeep dealer.
The towing limit is 2.8 tonne and there’s no diesel engine option this time. Those may be considered drawbacks for some local customers even while Jeep engineers put in in some 60,000km of testing the Grand Cherokee in Australia.
The end result is a competent wagon for all manner of travels. Perhaps it can feel a tad cumbersome around town with some hesitancy to steering input and a little body roll, perhaps the Overland could be a little dear for some.
Yet this latest Grand Cherokee, from base model on, is best appreciated out on open roads, good and bad, or carting the family on an off-road adventure.
After all, this is a fully-qualified Sports Utility Vehicle.