A little earlier this year we took some of SA’s most popular SUVs to Botswana for a vehicle safari through the Khwai Conservancy. We’ll be posting reviews of all the vehicles that accompanied us over the next couple of weeks. You can read our travel article about the trip here, and you can find all the other vehicle articles under the “Driving Impressions” category.
For years the Jeep Grand Cherokee was okay. Not great, but just okay. But a few years ago Italian automaker Fiat acquired a controlling stake in the then ailing Chrysler Group. Now, thanks to a new focus and some extra cash spent on development, the latest Grand Cherokee is setting a new standard in its class. The legend has effectively been reborn.
“So I assume that is the V8?” asked Owen Chase, from John Chase Safaris. “I watched it last night in the heavy sand here in the camp, and it just powered its way through.”
It’s the 3,6-litre V6 petrol engine, we explained, and it delivers 210 kW of power and 347 Nm of torque. That’s considerably more horses than the 5,7-litre V8 engine that did service in the Grand Cherokee a decade ago.
Form without function doesn’t mean much, but that’s where one of this Grand’s trump cards comes into play: the new eight-speed automatic gearbox. It not only allows for a 45% lower crawl ratio in an off-road environment (44.1:1) but it also reduces fuel consumption, provides smoother shifts and improved performance.
From a 4×4 point of view, the latest Grand Cherokee – which incidentally looks mighty fine too – certainly ticks all the right boxes. It has the transfer case that is combined with Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II 4WD system. It also comes standard with Quadra-Lift Air Suspension. This means you can jack the Grand up or down, depending on the driving conditions, through five height settings.
The Jeep now also comes standard with the Selec-Terrain traction control system. This system changes the engine and other electronics to best suit the prevailing conditions. The driver can select between snow, mud, sand, rock and “automatic”. In the latter mode, the computer makes the call on which setting will work best.
So from a 4×4 point of view, this Jeep certainly has the credentials to again achieve legendary status.
The good news continues on the inside, where the Grand now boasts an air of class and very good quality – traits that were sadly lacking in previous generation Grand Cherokees.
It’s got all the bells and whistles, including leather, a fancy infotainment system and a paddle shifter for the gearbox on the chunky steering wheel.
Noteworthy is the instrument panel in front of the driver. Although it may appear to be an analogue set-up, once you’ve fired up the Jeep, the whole contraption is an LED display. The driver can toggle between several screen options, and it works well.
This trip proved that an American legend has been reborn, following some lean years for the brand. All hail the new Grand Cherokee!