Test Drive:2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Philly Murtha | Sep 06, 2016
Jeep's flagship Grand Cherokee SUV was last redone in 2010. For 2017, the second-most popular midsize SUV in the United States will receive mainly cosmetic refreshes on two of its upscale trim levels–Summit and SRT–to refine the 2-row, 5-seat unibody sport utility. One more trim level also will be added. Although the Grand Cherokee won't be fully redesigned until at least 2018, all six current trim levels come standard with a rearview camera and rear park-assist sensors. New for 2017 is the Trailhawk variant, outfitted with Jeep's rugged off-road equipment package.

At the segment level, the Grand Cherokee competes with volume leaders Ford Explorer and the Toyota Highlander, among others. Last year, the Jeep brand sold nearly 196,000 Grand Cherokees, and more than 100,000 Grand Cherokees were delivered in the United States through the first 6 months of 2016, according to sales data collected by J.D. Power.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit front quarter left photoAlso newsworthy, the 2016 Grand Cherokee ranks among the top three models (in a tie with Buick Enclave) in its segment in the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study,SM which surveys new-vehicle buyers/lessees about how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive during the first 90 days.

Recently, I had a chance to learn more about the Jeep Grand Cherokee and its newest trim levels at Fiat Chrysler Automobile's (FCA) Chelsea, MI, proving grounds. My first observation is that the Grand Cherokee is a comfortable riding vehicle, even on bumpy roads. The standard 8-speed automatic transmission shifts so fluently that I didn't notice gear changes, which has been a problem for many 8- and 9-speed automatics. Additionally, the gear selector is relatively easy to use since the design was changed beginning with the 2016 model. Another positive first impression is that the standard V-6 engine seemed to have enough oomph on the road.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit interior photoI learned from Jeep brand managers that the newest premium SRT trim level, which is powered by a high-spirited, 6.4-liter V-8 engine, will be available with bi-Xenon headlights and daytime running lamps, too. It will be updated with a slightly different front fascia, grille, and fog lights. Inside, the focus of the SRT is on luxury, with Natura leather seating and open pore wood trim–available in numerous color combinations. This Grand Cherokee also boasts a towing capacity of 7,400 lbs. and a crawl ratio of 44.1:1.

Altogether, the six trim levels include Laredo, Limited, Overland, Summit, Trailhawk, and the high-end SRT. Three new exterior colors–Diamond Black, Rhino, and Walnut Brown–join the Grand Cherokee spectrum of eight, and there are as many interior color combinations for the cabin. Summit trim, which is the plushest, comes with hand-crafted leather heated seats; suede headliners; copper or chrome trim; and refreshed fascia, fog lamps, and grille. Summit trim also includes standard advanced safety systems such as lane-departure warning, parallel park assist, and a trailer hitch camera.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit rear seat photoIt's good to know that the new Grand Cherokee comes with optional powertrains and three 4-wheel-drive systems. The standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine in the Laredo and Limited produces 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. A 5.7-liter V-8 motor that generates 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque is optional for all trims except the Laredo. The ultimate SRT is powered by a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that pushes out 475 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. All engines are partnered with FCA's ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. In addition, Jeep offers a 3.0-liter Eco-Diesel V-6 that FCA claims will average 30 mpg on the highway and provide an estimated range of 730 miles.

In considering power, it's easy to punch the SRT's accelerator to feel and hear the Hemi kick in. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles claims the SRT version of the 2017 Grand Cherokee can throttle from 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds. This midsize SUV also offers eight driving modes controlled by a switch on the center console. The Grand Cherokee's various trims are available with 70 safety and security features, including the UConnect infotainment system with 8.4-in. touch screen that includes integrated audio, climate, and entertainment controls along with a 7-in. adjustable display cluster.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk center console photoWhen considering Jeep, the new Trailhawk variant can't wait to get muddy with Kevlar-reinforced 18-in. off-road tires. The Trailhawk is set up for enduring the worst and best terrain, featuring Jeep's Quadra-Drive 4x4 system with rear limited-slip differential. Trail-worthy Quadra-Lift air suspension provides dynamics for hill climbs and descents and can be adjusted for snow, sand, mud, or rock with the vehicle's Selec-Terrain traction control system. Skid plates are standard. Inside, the Trailhawk is sporty premium with leather and suede performance seats and red stitching. Black and gun metal finishes accent the cabin.

Likes

The off-road characteristics of the Trailhawk variant give the Grand Cherokee extra DNA. Inside, the Grand Cherokee is no sporty bare bones Wrangler. Instead, it features a comfortable 2-row layout with 36.3 cu. ft. of cargo space. When the second-row seats are folded flat, the cargo area expands to 68.3 cu. ft. Even though it's a midsize SUV with high ground clearance, it's still easy for someone who is short to climb up into the cabin.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk rear quarter right photoDislikes

The base Grand Cherokee Laredo with cloth seats and standard V-6 begins at slightly under $31,000. For well-appointed trims, in leather, with advanced safety systems–dual-pane sunroof, audiophile sound system, and more powerful Hemi V-8 or Eco-Diesel V6–the suggested MSRP moves up from $40,000 to as much as $65,000. Also, the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee is only offered with 2 rows of seats and seating for 5. For families needing more cabin room and 3 rows of seating, the Dodge Durango may be a better alternative. Fuel economy is not a major virtue, either, although powerful engines are available.

Conclusion

Refined good looks on the outside and a well-appointed cabin with premium flare plus smooth ride and handling for commuting and road trips are givens for the Grand Cherokee. It may not be flashy, but on the plus side, the 2017 Grand Cherokee offers Jeep's renowned capability to traverse steep mountain roads, dirt road camp sites, and muddy trails. In some ways, it's an SUV that pleases grownups who may at times want to enjoy adventure and free their inner child.








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