Versatile and handsome, the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee has come into its own as a legitimate SUV leader.
– Montreal, Quebec
Although the Wrangler might be the heart and soul of the Jeep brand, it's hard to deny that the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee plays an important (and profitable) role at the top of the SUV builder's product pyramid. Available with more trim level choices, engine options, and four-wheel drive systems than any other model in the Jeep portfolio, the Grand Cherokee shoulders the family, adventure, and performance responsibilities for a company that is just starting to come into its own as a genuine luxury SUV option for Canadian car buyers.
No matter which version of the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee you order, you'll start out with the same, basic ingredients: five passenger seating, nearly 2,000 litres of total cargo space (with more than half of that available with the rear row occupied), standard four-wheel drive, and genuine off-road capability that you will be hard-pressed to find in rivals from Ford (the Edge), Nissan (the Murano), or Kia (the Sorento).
If you're more interested in quarter mile times than keeping your fuel bill low, then the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT remains a singular choice.
That's strong foundation to build on, but it's the à la carte nature of the Grand Cherokee's options sheet that really sets it apart from other mid-size sport-utility vehicles. The entry-level Quadra-Trac I four-wheel drive system is intended as an always-on traction-adder for dealing with inclement weather and the occasional muddy road to the cottage, but step up to Quadra-Trac II and you'll benefit from low-range gearing, with Quadra-Drive II throwing in an electronic limited-slip differential to boot. An adjustable air-ride suspension (Quadra-Lift) and a track-focused four-wheel drive design (SRT) are also available with the SUV, alongside the Selec-Terrain feature that reconfigures throttle response, traction, stability control, and power distribution front and rear to best match the type of driving faced by drivers.
Under the hood the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee starts out with a capable 3.6-litre V6 that’s been updated to 295 horsepower for the current model year. Jeep's 5.7-litre Hemi V8 remains in the mix (and delivers 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque), while a 3.0-litre, EcoDiesel V6 stands apart from all but the Germans as the only turbodiesel mill in its class. With 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque on tap, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel devastates all when it comes to driving range, boasting a city rating of 11.2 L/100 km and a highway figure of 8.4 L/100 km - both of which it's possible to best in real-world driving. You have to cross the Atlantic to snag similar frugality from a large SUV, with neither the comparable Volkswagen Touareg or the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class offering the same kind of rugged capability (or wallet-friendly pricing) as the Jeep.
It's the à la carte nature of the Grand Cherokee's options sheet that really sets it apart from other mid-size sport-utility vehicles.
If you're more interested in quarter mile times than keeping your fuel bill low, then the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT remains a singular choice amongst traditional SUVs, what with its 6.4-litre V8 engine churning out 475 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Managed by an eight-speed automatic transmission (as with all versions of the Grand Cherokee), and sitting on a surprisingly responsive suspension setup and the only hydraulic steering assist in the bunch, the SRT sacrifices almost no SUV practicality while giving muscle cars one lane over the cold sweats.
Similarly diverse choices present themselves when it comes to how snazzy you want to make the Jeep Grand Cherokee's interior. The base Laredo trim, which starts at just under $44,000, is hardly a consolation prize in terms of features, but the sweet spot of the line-up is the Limited, which introduces the larger, 8.4-inch version of Jeep's Uconnect infotainment system (one of the best in the business), alongside gear such as parking assistance, a power tailgate, heated leather seats, and a heated steering wheel, all for under $52,000. Past that point, Overland and Summit editions of the Grand Cherokee offer upgrades such as Nappa leather, adaptive cruise control, active noise cancelling, and a host of other luxuries, dependent on how wide you're willing to open your wallet (the SRT model is similarly decadent).
Spending more definitely gets you a lot more with the Grand Cherokee.
It's here that Jeep asks buyers to make a difficult choice when it comes time to pay up for a top-tier trim level. There's no doubt in our minds that spending more definitely gets you more with the Grand Cherokee, as the vehicle's quiet quotient and ride comfort advance incrementally as you make your way up the ladder (especially with Quadra-Lift versions of the SUV). Handling is excellent for such a large vehicle, and style-wise, the current-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee strikes a pleasant balance between the off-road character necessary for traditional customers and forward-looking design elements such as well-integrated LED lighting cues and an interior that minimizes plastic as compared to other domestic family haulers.
Still, the lack of brand cachet keeps some premium customers out of Jeep showrooms, which is a boon to brands like the previously-mentioned Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi who have been able to largely ignore the noise that the Grand Cherokee has been making in the mid-size segment. It's also a boost to Canadian buyers seeking to stretch their dollar, as it means a better bargain on an SUV that equals or surpasses its import rivals in several key areas without the sticker shock. Versatile and handsome, the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee has come into its own as a legitimate SUV leader, bridging the gap between more pedestrian people movers and pricier aspirational rides, and giving up none of the off-road capability that has been the backbone of Jeep sales since time immemorial.
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Photos: Benjamin Hunting