Towards the end of last month, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the all-new SL as the first to be designed from scratch in almost a decade.
More importantly, it is also a turning point for one if not Stuttgart’s most iconic model. For the first time, the development took place on behalf of AMG with comparatively otherwise minimal input from the three-pointed star itself.
The German connection
So how is the new SL at all related to the Jeep Grand Cherokee that we recently tested? To begin with, the current generation, internally known as WK2, premiered as early as 2010, a year before SL, but as a completely redesigned version of the previous WK that went on sale in 2005.
READ ALSO: Brand new five-seater Jeep Grand Cherokee finally revealed
It therefore follows the same approach as the outgoing R231 generation SL which bowed out as a heavily refurbished version of the previous R230 which debuted in 2001. Apart from this comparison, the Grand Cherokee’s Mercedes connection goes further.
At the bottom, WK2 rides on a platform of Benz origin. More specifically, the same architecture that was the basis for the latest M-Class that was transformed into GLE 2015.
This means that the WK2 can in one way or another trace its roots back to the DaimlerChrysler era. This despite the fact that they emerged from the global recession under the auspices of Chrysler LCC, then Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles and ultimately Stellantis.
Tried and tested
Given this rather tumultuous timeline, what failed to diminish was Grand’s popularity. Not only in the United States where it has become a cult icon since it replaced Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer in 1992, but also in South Africa.
The arrival of the superior Overland did not just come as a surprise in itself. This resulted in a few others summarizing why it remains a compelling purchase.
Although its long drive ended earlier this year when Jeep unveiled the all-new WL Grand Cherokee that rides on Alfa Romeo’s Giorgio platform, there is still something appealing in how the World Cup has aged since its introduction.
Up and down to be American
The recipient of a number of life cycle upgrades, some quietly applied and in some cases, not mentioned at all for South Africa, WK2 has, without a doubt, the advantage over WL in the styling department.
Aside from the branded seven-door chrome-rimmed grille, the ominous black paint and mottled chrome 20-inch alloy wheels, it looks more impressive than the softer, blockier lines of the WL expected on South African soil next year.
Americanness of the Grand, however, is most prominent inside. Although spacious and easy to navigate, the level of fit and finish is no threat to its competitors.
Despite the presence of soft plastic on the dashboard, the cheaper variant, in excess, has features on the center console and doors as well as under the false identity of the shiny black piano keys.
Jeep’s attempt to maintain the Grand Premium saw it take advantage of the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment with 7.0 operating system three years ago. Although easy to understand and use, it looks dated against the background of the button-heavy center console surrounded by a nasty black plastic plate.
The most awkward aspect of the interior, however, lies with the outdated Mercedes-era foot-operated handbrake, which becomes an annoyance right from the start. Although welcome, the double-glazed sunroof deprives the rear passenger of height despite the fact that there is plenty of legroom.
Where the Grand Cherokee begins to strike is in the equipment department. Simply put, it has it all. This includes damping and superbly comfortable heated and ventilated electric front seats, a heated steering wheel, a smart 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, electric tailgate and heated rear seats to name just a few.
In addition, Overland has an entertainment system in the rear seat with a pair of dual screens and HDMI sockets integrated in the sides of the front seats. A DVD player is in the center console and a pair of wireless headphones plus a somewhat bulky remote control from the 1990s.
The comprehensive character of the Overland expands to the luggage compartment that holds 782 liters, or with the rear seats down, 1,554 liters. An 18-inch alloy spare part is located under the boot.
No compensation for displacement
Despite all its equipment levels, the Grand Cherokee’s standout is the driving force behind it. Although the often preferred 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine no longer exists, the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 petrol, for lack of a better description, is an absolute gem.
The first engine manufactured by Chrysler LLC after the recession, and one that has become the workhorse into the Stellantis era, the large V6 produces a considerable 213kW / 353Nm. It is delivered in a creamy smooth way to all four wheels via an equally flexible and slim eight-speed automatic transmission.
A match worth enjoying, the engine’s immediate response and soulful burble are matched not only by the transmission, but also the levels of refinement and almost total lack of sound at the national border.
Like a Jeep, the Grand Cherokee will go off-road because it not only comes with the Quadra-Drive II system, but also low range plus Quadra-Lift air suspension that offers a so-called Aero mode for everyday driving. Two terrain settings can increase the ground clearance to a maximum of 272 mm.
It is a selection of hardware limited by the Selec-Terrain system which has five modes; Auto, mud, rock, sand and snow. Although no attempt was made to put these into action, it was impressive that the ride with suspension that easily soaked down bumps and ruts while remaining smooth.
The biggest surprise was fuel consumption. In what can be seen as a huge one-finger greeting to diesel, the Grand noted an astonishingly indicated best of 8.0 l / 100 km after seven days and 583 km.
This despite a weight of 2,188 kg and frequent use of the air conditioning system and seats. In fact, it still had a range of 283 km when it was returned.
Dated is not often associated with surprise, but in the case of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, that’s what happened during its week-long stay.
As much as it shows its age, painful, within the specification level, macho appearance, driveline and off-road ability count too much despite age.
Take into account the price tag R1 029 900, and it becomes clear why the Grand has become such an attractive and delightful left-field offer, without being deterred by its admittedly newer, but also more expensive and less well-equipped rivals.
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