Price: $74,000 + $6415 (est.) ORC.
Engine: 3.0L turbo-diesel, AWD, 8spd auto
Safety: ESC, seven airbags, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitor.
Jeep has a new Grand Cherokee range, and while all six models benefit from design enhancements, improved safety features and refreshed interiors, not all have the off-road attributes typically associated with the brand.
There’s a two-wheel-drive Laredo from $47,500 plus on-road costs catering to those looking for a durable wagon for basic family duties. Its 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine is shared with the Laredo 4x4 ($52,500) and Limited 4x4 ($62,500), while a 3.0-litre diesel option adds $6500 to the two four-wheel-drive models.
At the other end of the range is the sporting SRT from $91,000. Beyond the swag of luxury features, the SRT has Chrysler’s 6.4-litre Hemi petrol V8, Brembo high-performance brakes and active suspension damping.
Serious off-road focus
It’s in the middle of the range that Jeep has positioned two models, both diesels, focused on serious outback touring – Trailhawk and Overland. The 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine delivers 184kW and a hefty 570Nm, driving through Jeep’s eight-speed automatic transmission. They have a rated towing capacity of 3500kg and electronic trailer sway control, plus a new hitch camera view to monitor trailers and loads on the move.
From $80,000, the Overland leans towards luxury with a Nappa leather trim package and dual-pane panoramic sunroof. It also comes standard with an active safety package including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot and cross-path detection, lane-departure warning, park assist and advanced brake assist.
Our test vehicle, though, is the new Trailhawk, the model described by Jeep as the most off-road-capable Grand Cherokee. Its standard equipment specification includes features focused on track work in lieu of the active safety package. Badged as “Trail Rated” – in Jeep parlance, that means it’s completed the Rubicon Trail, one of America’s most difficult 4WD courses – Trailhawk comes with Jeep’s most advanced Quadra-Drive II 4x4 set-up, which continually shifts drive to the individual wheel with the most traction. Also included is an electronic limited slip rear differential.
Choice of five settings
Unique to Trailhawk in the Grand Cherokee line-up, Quadra-Drive II allows drivers to dial up five settings for improved traction and response on different off-road surfaces, plus it can raise or lower the vehicle using a unique version of the Quadra-Lift air suspension developed specifically for Trailhawk. It provides improved wheel articulation and up to 260mm ground clearance. Trailhawk also comes standard with heavy-duty engine cooling, all-terrain tyres, four underbody skid plates, front recovery hooks and hill ascent as well as hill descent control.
Jeep’s 3.0-litre diesel engine, in particular its strong 570Nm of torque at 2000rpm, underpins good all-round performance and flexibility, despite a hefty 2200kg kerb weight. Performance on and off road is enhanced notably by the eight-speed auto, which complements the low-speed engine torque, providing an appropriate gear for every occasion and slick responsiveness when needed in traffic or on steep roads. For off-road work, the driveline also features low range, providing more gear ratios than any other model when tackling slow bush tracks and difficult rock crawling.
You can never ignore the Jeep’s not inconsiderable unloaded weight during take-off and when braking, but the most surprising aspect of our diesel Jeep’s performance was the fuel economy. The Trailhawk averaged just 8.5L/100km and consistently dipped below 8.0L/100km on the open road, the eight-speed transmission with its free-wheeling characteristic when not under load again proving its worth. A 93-litre fuel tank is another good touring feature.
Trailhawk is most enjoyable and clearly right at home when touring on an open country road. Suspension settings are firm in order to provide suitable body control and yet it still manages to deliver good ride and handling compliance over rough roads. The electric power steering is well weighted and direct, which aids suburban driving, but you can never completely ignore or escape the effects of the vehicle’s bulk in daily commuting.