By Sam Charlwood, carsales.com.au
For a brand that epitomises the ability to go anywhere, Jeep has never been here before. The American off-road icon steps into a new league – and challenges established luxury brands – with its all-new fifth-generation Grand Cherokee, which arrived in Australia late last year, first with flagship, long-wheelbase, seven-seat L variants.
Five-seat models – simply called Grand Cherokee – are now available too, but it’s the Grand Cherokee L that drives the Jeep brand into uncharted territory, offering a new dimension of luxury, technology, and space without any compromise to its legendary off-road capabilities. But it does come at a price.
So, is it a genuine alternative to popular European luxury SUVs? Let’s jump behind the wheel and find out…
The previous-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee was a polarising vehicle.
It was loved by Jeep aficionados for its off-road capability and lauded by caravaners for its towing ability, but the now superseded model was also plagued by reliability issues and infamously became one of the most recalled vehicles in Australia, with more than 20 separate call-backs during its 11-year tenure.
However, the latest 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L puts those issues in the rear-view mirror.
The iconic American marque is marching forward with the fifth-generation model with the option of seven seats, new tech, new safety and eventually electrification.
At the same time, the newcomer does without diesel or V8 petrol options – and subsequently loses some of its towing ability.
It’s a paradigm shift that also coincides with a bold move upmarket in price, so let’s see whether the new move pays off.
There are plenty of headlines to take in with the new 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L, including price.
Initially available exclusively in seven-seat L configuration, Jeep’s new flagship is priced from $82,750 plus on-roads for the entry-level Night Eagle variant – a $22,300 premium over the most affordable version of the outgoing Grand Cherokee five-seater.
The four-variant Grand Cherokee L range then moves up to $88,750 (plus ORCs) for the mid-range Limited, through the $103,250 (plus ORCs) Overland and topping out at $119,450 (plus ORCs) for the flagship Summit Reserve.
Five seat versions of the Grand Cherokee are offered in Night Eagle ($77,950 plus ORCs), Limited ($83,950 plus ORCs) and Overland ($98,450 plus ORCs) specification.
All versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee line-up will be powered exclusively by an updated 210kW/344Nm 3.6-litre petrol V6 in Australia, following the local axing of V8 and diesel options.
There’s also a plug-in hybrid 4xe powertrain on the horizon, though timing and pricing of that variant is still being finalised before its arrival.
Standard equipment across the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L range includes Uconnect 5 infotainment with navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leather-trimmed and powered/heated front seats with lumbar adjustment and a height-adjustable Power Liftgate.
On the safety front, all grades also feature automatic LED headlights, blind spot monitoring with rear cross path detection, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, active lane management, autonomous emergency braking (with pedestrian and cyclist detection), drowsy driver detection and traffic sign recognition.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee L is yet to be formally crash-tested by ANCAP.
Limited variants add niceties including premium black leather trim, heated front and second row seats, premium audio, a digital rear view mirror and 360-degree camera view.
The Overland version features adjustable air suspension, Nappa leather trim, dual pane panoramic sunroof, a hands-free powered tailgate and more, while the top-shelf Summit Reserve scores quilted leather trim, 12-way electrically adjustable front seats with massage function, Berber wool floor mats, open-pore Waxed Walnut wood trim, a 19-speaker McIntosh audio system, active drive assist with automated parking functionality.
The Grand Cherokee is backed by Jeep’s five-year/100,000km factory warranty, five years’ roadside assist (when serviced by Jeep) and capped-price servicing which costs $399 annually across 12-month/12,000km intervals.
A full-size steel spare wheel is fitted as standard, stowed underneath the car.
Bigger and yet less
Based on an all-new monocoque platform, the new 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L measures a sizeable 5204mm in length and rides on a 3091mm wheelbase.
As we’ve mentioned, Jeep’s enduring Pentastar V6 occupies the engine bay of all three models. Asked why the previous diesel V6 and V8 HEMI engines have been discontinued, Jeep officials claim it is future-proofing the Grand Cherokee L – and ultimately can’t see long-term relevance from either option.
That thinking could shoot Jeep in the foot in the interim, as the V6 dictates a lower braked towing capacity of 2813kg – against the 3.5-tonne rating of its predecessor, and the predominant benchmark of its peers.
It’s worse news for the flagship Summit Reserve model, which has a lower tow rating of 2268kg.
Both Night Eagle and Limited grades come with Jeep’s Quadra-Trac I active four-wheel drive system with single-speed transfer case (no low-range), while the Limited adds Selec-Terrain traction management and the Overland and Summit Reserve add the Quadra-Trac II 4x4 system with two-speed active transfer case plus Quadra Lift air suspension.
None of the initial Grand Cherokee L variants boast lockable differentials – items fitted to the rivalling Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series and Nissan Patrol – while water wading depth is rated at a so-so 530mm.
The previous Jeep Grand Cherokee was clearly an SUV that appealed to a broad audience.
Your correspondent can remember the hysterical antics of the ballistic Grand Cherokee Trackhawk lapping the legendary Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit, the prodigious off-road and towing ability in the GC diesel, as well as its seamless passage during a long road trip.
On face value, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L adopts a narrower, more upmarket skillset – at least until more electrified variants arrive.
Climbing into the mid-range Grand Cherokee L Limited, occupants are treated to a modernised cabin environment replete with digital displays, soft-touch materials, and acres of interior space.
There’s a distinct step up in cabin presentation and materials from the ageing predecessor, with an updated (and quick-thinking) 10.1-inch infotainment system which bears close resemblance to Land Rover’s Pivi Pro unit, plus a matching digital display in the instrument cluster and an assortment of supporting USB-A and USB-C ports.
The centre screen is user-friendly and legible with its layouts and is complemented by steering wheel-mounted buttons and voice functionality to fast-track certain commands.
Elsewhere, the updated dashboard centre fascia feels relatively fussy with its layout, even if the arrangement of buttons and switchgear is intuitive and orderly.
There are a couple of tell-tale oddities to the Jeep’s American origins too: the heated steering wheel button is still located to the left of the touch-screen – a left-hand drive legacy – and the new rotary dial gear selector doesn’t have a shortcut button for park; so, unlike rivalling units, you have to twist it anti-clockwise back to home for ‘P’.
As for vision, the outward view is open and largely unobscured, while cabin space is generous across the first two rows and incidental storage is sound.
The second row, in particular, is generous in its layout, complemented by air vents in the B-pillar and behind the centre console, plus additional USB ports and a 230-volt household power outlet.
The second-row seat is relatively flat, though occupants are treated to soft-touch materials plus integrated sunshades in the door cards.
The middle seats fold and tumble to provide a clean pathway through to the third-row bleachers, which is likewise serviced by separate air vents and USB outlets.
But it is best suited to small kids or short trips with limited knee-room and smaller windows.
The Grand Cherokee L offers three child top-tether points in total – one in the third row, two in the second row – plus two ISOFIX attachment points in the second row.
The boot is long in proportion, though slightly narrow compared with the competitive set on account of wheel-arch intrusions and arm rest/amenities for the third row.
Measuring a claimed 1328 litres with the rearmost seats folded flat, there’s ample boot space for several large suitcases, or a designer pram.
That space extends to 2395 litres with the second row folded flat, or 487 litres with all seats in place – about the same as a small hatchback.
There’s an electric tailgate on the models we tested, but Jeep goes against the grain by placing the button inside the boot instead of the outer lip of the tailgate.
One for all terrains
Our first local foray with the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L is an unashamedly honest one, taking in country roads, an epic mountain pass and trails within the glorious yet undulating Monga National Park in southern NSW.
In short, there’s little hiding in these conditions.
The all-new seven-seater initially plays on its luxury pretentions when pulling away from the kerbside, with light steering, an open glasshouse plus an assortment of outward-facing cameras partly mitigating its mammoth turning circle and bulky proportions.
The L feels stable on-road and its initial bump compliance and cabin insulation are moderate: not quite as refined as other air-suspended models like the Volkswagen Touareg, but not a million miles away, either.
The Grand Cherokee L brakes with adequate force and shifts weight appropriately to the outside wheels upon entering a corner. Compared to its rivals, we’d say the Jeep feels a little more disconnected from the road and more cumbersome between changes in direction.
But all told, body control is admirable, and it feels appropriately surefooted and safe at all times.
That brings us to the engine. Jeep’s Pentastar V6 has been around for yonks and has powered an assortment of different models, including the Gladiator ute launched in 2020.
In the circa-$100,000 Grand Cherokee L, the engine is relatively unfussed in daily conveyance, working well with the eight-speed automatic transmission to get down to business.
The trouble arises when you ask a little more. The V6 becomes quite coarse as it climbs the rev dial, and languid when truly called upon.
It means that overtaking manoeuvres or a change in speed limits often requires the gearbox to kick back two or three ratios for the engine to find its sweet spot.
That’s ultimately what’s required when peak torque doesn’t materialise until 4000rpm.
The resulting fuel use sits at about 12.5L/100km on our first drive, just above the official claim.
The lack of immediacy casts more doubt as to the new Jeep’s towing ability. We’ll reserve full judgement for a proper tow test, but the initial feeling is that it’s going to be a tad underpowered for the caravan crew in V6 form.
With a reduction in towing capacity for the new model, Jeep is keen to spruik its off-road wares, which makes our off-road stint near beautiful Nelligen, NSW, quite an important one.
The Grand Cherokee L initially makes light work of fire trails and moderate obstacles, again offsetting its sheer size with some clever electronic features.
Head-toss over rough terrain feels a little livelier than the benchmark Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series in isolation.
Additionally, there are a few caveats to be mindful of in the Jeep as we begin traversing more arduous terrain.
The first is that only the Overland and flagship Summit Reserve model get low-range four-wheel drive, hill descent control and five-stage height-adjustable air suspension. And no model gets diff locks.
It means the Night Eagle and mid-range Limited tends to struggle over rougher country, despite a minimum 215mm ground clearance and decent approach and departure angles. The solution to the Night Eagle and Limited’s equipment shortcomings is seemingly to approach obstacles (especially hills) with more gusto than you’d expect as a means of getting over them.
Doing so also mitigates the Pentastar V6’s occasional torque hole. The atmo-petrol cannot quite match turbocharged or larger-capacity rivals where immediate grunt is concerned, meaning you need to be a little more discerning with the go-fast pedal; let the engine lag too much and it won’t react quickly enough to get you out of a spot of bother.
Ultimately, the Jeep Grand Cherokee L conquered everything before it across a six-hour off-roading exercise.
The Overland and Summit Reserve models are undoubtedly more superior option off-road, though no model feels up to the capability of dedicated off-road rivals.
The new 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L certainly takes the iconic American marque to new heights – though it’s not all rosy.
You sense the best is yet to come for the full-size Jeep, both in terms of the more affordable five-seat options plus the advent of electrification (which should in turn bring greater off-road ability and towing capacity).
For now, the Jeep Grand Cherokee L isn’t quite sure what it wants to be, lacking the towing and off-road nous to truly match rivals, with not quite enough refinement to truly rival the German triumvirate and with a V6 engine that leaves you wanting a little more.
As they say in the classics, watch this space.
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L at a glance:
Editor’s Rating: 7.5/10
from $82,750 (plus on-road costs)
10.6L/100km (ADR Combined)
3.6-litre V6 petrol
243g/km (ADR Combined)
Disclaimer: Images supplied by Jeep.
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