The Washington Times-Herald

July 26, 2013

Jeep Grand Cherokee infused with Daimler's refinements

By Len Ingrassia
CNHI News Service

— Relationships can sprout all sorts of results, good and bad. Sometimes when they do not work out, positive things can still happen. Such is the case with the recent business relationship and break-up of Daimler Chrysler.

Cultural differences and bullheadedness on both sides of the pond resulted in a nearly 10-year rocky road between Stuttgart and Detroit that began in 1998.

In the end, Daimler, who bought Chrysler for $40 billion, sold 80 percent of its share in 2007 to an American private equity firm for $6 billion. It was not a good investment for Stuttgart. Fiat is the current owner.

However, during the tumultuous years there was a sharing of ideas, and components, namely from Mercedes-Benz ML to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Benz components infused new energy into the struggling Grand Cherokee struggling model.

The mid-sized SUV took on interior and structural refinements that resulted in a complete makeover for the Grand Cherokee in 2011. The fourth generation model shares the Benz design traits while retaining its off-road credentials, making it as comfortable at a mall parking lot as it is careening over boulders.

With room for five, the mid-size SUV is available in three models:  Laredo, Limited and Overland. For 2013, there are also two off-the-wall models: a tire-screeching SRT8 V8 with 470 horsepower, and a Trailhawk, that, as the name implies, adds off-road body armor and Kevlar-reinforced tires to further the off-road experience.

Jeep’s off road abilities are well known by consumers. However, if you have not seen the new Grand Cherokee, it is worth a look at your local dealer. Interior refinements place this car in a class well above competitors’ Pathfinder and 4Runner.

Open its four doors and you will see generous seating for five and upscale interior trim from door sill to dashboard. The Laredo 4x4 I drove for a week included premium leather, driver/passenger lumbar support and eight-way adjustable front seats.

A standard V6 provides ample power to move the SUV along highways in a vault-like quiet manner. For such a large SUV, the Jeep handles the zero to 60 mph sprint in 8.3 seconds, about average for its class. If speed is of greater importance to you than fuel economy, then the aforementioned SRT8 will move you along to 60 in just 5.1 seconds.

Cargo space is generous, with 35 cubic feet available behind the rear seats and just under 70 cubic feet with rear seats folded. In addition, the passenger seat will fold flat for greater flexibility.

The list of standard equipment is lengthy and includes stability and traction control, 4-wheel ABS, front side and side curtain airbags, dual zone climate control, six-speaker sound system, tilt and telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic headlamps, fog lights, cruise control and full power accessories.

While the base price for a Laredo is attractive at under $30,000, available option packages quickly move the price upward to the $40,000 mark and beyond, and that is what may drive consumers in another direction.

Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at editor@ptd.net.