Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Take 5

Following the introduction of the brand-new Grand Cherokee seven-seater in August last year, Jeep have added a five-seater to the mix. According to LIANA REINERS it’s everything a premium SUV should be, and then some!

Most everyone knows what food envy is, but have you ever heard of launch envy? That’s when you’re jealous of your work colleague who gets to attend the launch of a great new product from an iconic brand, and you’re stuck behind your laptop because you’re on deadline. The launch in question was that of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee seven-seater and I was far from amused that I couldn’t go.

But to quote Alanis Morrisette, life has a funny way of helping you out… So, lo and behold, guess who got to attend the launch of the five-seater of the Grand Cherokee? Yes, yay me! After all, it is the same thing… only shorter and with two seats less.

This is because Grand Cherokee is built on an all-new architecture that allows for two different wheelbases and lengths. While the two-row Grand Cherokee and three-row Grand Cherokee L share the same overall width of 2 149mm, the five-seater has a 2 964mm wheelbase compared with the Grand Cherokee L’s 3 090mm. In overall length the five-seater measures 4 912mm compared to its big bro’s 5 204mm.

A bit of background

The first generation of the Grand Cherokee was introduced in 1992, in rather spectacular fashion I might add. The first production model was driven through the glass front door of Cobo Hall in Detroit, signifying its status as a breakthrough premium SUV. Since then, it has become somewhat of an icon and has notched up over seven million global sales.

The current model is the fifth generation and was launched in South Africa last year, setting a new industry benchmark in most comfort, safety, and capability categories. It quickly became synonymous with upscale design and uncompromised capability. Even before it arrived here, though, it was common knowledge that it featured an all-new architecture, all-new exterior design, and all-new interior and numerous first-to-market technologies. In fact, it was hailed as the most technologically advanced and 4×4-capable Jeep Grand Cherokee yet. Hence my excitement to drive it.

So, why was there so much hoo-hah around the launch of the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee? Simply put, it’s because this Grand Cherokee is more Grand Cherokee than Grand Cherokee has ever been! It offers more 4×4 capability, more technology, more space and versatility, more innovation, more luxury, and more luxury than ever before.

Legendary 4×4 capability

The Grand Cherokee is bestowed with great off-road credentials, courtesy of the Quadra-Trac II 4×4 system. The system features an active transfer case to improve traction by moving torque to work with the wheel with the most grip.

At the same time, the Quadra-Lift air suspension, now with electronic semi-active damping, has five height settings. The system automatically adjusts the shock tuning to changing road conditions for enhanced comfort, stability and control, or may be controlled manually with console controls, and features five height settings for optimum ride performance. As a result, the Grand Cherokee has up to 276mm of ground clearance.

The Selec-Terrain traction management system also deserves a mention. It electronically coordinates 4×4 torque split, braking and handling, steering and suspension systems, throttle control, transmission shift, transfer case, traction control, stability control, anti-lock braking system (ABS) and steering feel. There are five terrain modes (Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow and Mud/ Sand) to provide the best possible calibrations for any given driving scenario.

Here’s a nifty feature. The Grand Cherokee 4×4 offers front axle disconnect. What this means is that if the vehicle senses that road conditions do not require all-wheel drive, the front-axle disconnects and automatically places the vehicle in two-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive automatically re-engages when the vehicle senses it is needed.

During the launch we visited a 4×4 course which I like to call ‘Broken Back Mountain’. Every so often manufacturers will take us on ‘wannabee’ 4×4 routes that require very little concentration, skill and capability. Not this time. It was rough! There was a lot of water. It was steep. It was rocky. And it was narrow. No worries for the Grand Cherokee. I would like to say that it was because of my stellar driving skills that I seamlessly completed the course, but I fear it had a lot to do with the Jeep’s off-road prowess.

Then there’s the engine

The new Grand Cherokee range is powered by the all-aluminium 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine, rated at 210kW and 344Nm of torque. Lauded for its power and refinement, the 60-degree angle between the Pentastar V6’s cylinder banks make it inherently smooth running.

And boy, is it smooth! On our launch route, we drove from Gauteng through the Limpopo province, on highways, byways and dirt roads that seemed to go on forever. The Jeep never missed a beat.

VVT with dual-independent cam phasing enables better fuel efficiency across a wide torque band in the Pentastar V6. Nearly 90 percent of the engine’s peak torque is available from 1 800rpm to 6 400rpm – an important consideration when towing. The 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine is rated for a towing capacity of up to 2 813kg.

The TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission is also a thing of beauty, enhancing fuel economy and delivering smooth gear changes. The widespread gear ratios help to keep the engine rpm in the best range for the task, while on-the-fly shift-map changing enables the transmission to quickly adjust its shift strategy to match the driver’s demands based on inputs, such as engine torque changes, hill detection, temperature and longitudinal and lateral acceleration.

Looking the part

I’m not going to go into too much detail on exterior styling… you can judge for yourself. I will, however, mention a few key features.

It features a slim and sculpted body and a few modern touches befitting its luxury SUV status. At the same time, a lowered and tapered roof improves aerodynamic performance and efficiency without sacrificing cargo space. This is complemented by a lowered beltline and expansive glass areas, which allow more light into the cabin and increase visibility. A wider and larger seven-slot grille and new front fascia conceal a long-range radar and other advanced technology features. An elongated, level set hood and bold stance impart a robust image, while the aerodynamic body style allows for design flexibility, improved fit and finish. The new active grille shutters, front wheel spats, air curtains, hood aero flick, lowered roof line and rear vertical-pillar spoilers improve on-road performance and fuel efficiency.

A widened track (increased by 36mm) provides great handling and manoeuvrability and there are three-wheel options with signature Jeep geometry and up to 21-inch diameter wheels available.

A great new cabin

The interior of the Grand Cherokee smacks of comfort and luxury, featuring handcrafted materials and modern amenities. It is well laid out and all controls are intuitively placed and easy to use.

The front panel houses slim HVAC vents, a realigned centre stack for greater driver accessibility and 10.1-inch digital screens (digital cluster and touchscreen radio), as well as a 10.25-inch front passenger interactive display. This is a first for this segment and a really cool feature.

The seats are super comfy, with both front seats boasting 16-way adjustment with lumbar support and a memory function. Heated/vented seats are available in the first two rows and higher-specced versions even offer seat back massage for the driver and front passenger.

There are plenty of nooks and crannies to store things in and the front bin can hold two wireless devices and has a wireless charger. Oh, and of course there is a massive digital screen housing the infotainment system that is both innovative and intuitive (see the side bar for more on this).

To recap

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is every bit as good as the marketing material makes it out to be. It’s attractive, very comfortable and retains the brand’s legendary off-road capabilities. And the fact that it is now also available in the five-seat configuration means that it should find favour with more potential buyers.

Model line-up & pricing

• Grand Cherokee Limited 3.6L 4×4 8AT: R1 329 900

• Grand Cherokee Overland 3.6L 4×4 8AT: R1 539 900

• Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 3.6L 4×4 8AT: R1 735 900

*All Jeep Grand Cherokee models come with a 5-year/ 100 000km warranty and a 5-year/100000km maintenance plan as standard.

Focus on Safety AND SECURITY

The state-of-the-art Jeep Grand Cherokee boasts more than 110 advanced safety and security features, including innovative applications of technologies that refine the connection between the driver, the vehicle and the road. Standard safety features across the line-up include:

• Full-Speed Collision Warning with Active Braking and Pedestrian/Cyclist Detection

• Rear Cross Path Detection

• Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop/Go

• Active Lane Management

• LaneSense Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist

• Advanced Brake Assist

• Blind-spot Monitoring

• ParkView rear back-up camera

• ParkSense rear park assist sensors with stop

• Switch-activated electric park brake

• Tyre-pressure monitoring

• Night Vision Camera with pedestrian and animal detection

• Intersection Collision Assist

• Drowsy Driver Detection system

• Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist

• Traffic Sign Recognition

• 360-degree surround view camera system with front and rear washers

High ON TECH

The fifth-generation Grand Cherokee is packed to the brim with more technology features than ever before in its history. This includes:

• Uconnect 5, which offers up to three 10.1-inch and two 10.25-inch digital displays in the cabin and an intuitive user experience for all occupants.

• A front passenger screen that offers co-pilot assistance with navigation, camera viewing and visual entertainment.

• Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

• A new digital rear-view mirror.

• A new full-colour, 10-inch windscreen head-up display (HUD).

• A new wireless charging pad in the front centre console.

• Greater connectivity with two Bluetooth-enabled phones able to be paired simultaneously.

• Tom-Tom navigation with predictive search and natural speech.

• A McIntosh audio system with 19 custom-designed speakers (including a 10-inch subwoofer), 950 watts of power and a 17-channel amplifier. Jeep is currently the only automotive manufacturer in the world to carry a McIntosh sound system.

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