Jeep Meridian review and rating: Jeep Meridian first drive: The ‘deceptive’ family SUV has a wild heart

The Jeep Meridian will be manufactured locally at the company’s plant in Ranjangaon.

It’s been a long time coming for the Jeep Meridian, but the three-row sibling to the Compass has its priorities straight for the spotlight to properly shine on it from all sides. The list of these priorities is mainly based on four basic pillars, pillars that are crucial in determining any large SUV here – looks, space, features and capabilities. And it is on these key pillars that we recently drove the Jeep Meridian in the scenic city of Chandigarh, and beyond.

Here is the first review of the all-new Jeep Meridian SUV:

Jeep Meridian appearance:

The Jeep Meridian is designed far more to impress than to intimidate. And that can be quite refreshing. The SUVs remove visual characteristics common to several large SUVs and instead have geometric lines that meet at each of the corners.

Jeep Meridian dimensions (in mm)
Meridian Fortuner
Length 4,769 4,795
Width 1 858 1 855
Height 1,698 1 835
Ground clearance 203 225

Of course, a Jeep isn’t a Jeep without the trademark seven-slate front grille, but flanking this on either side of the Meridian are sharp LED headlamps and LED DRLs. The full width chrome bar bisects the front bumper and there is a large air dam to enhance the face. The bonnet itself sits safely above but is not obtrusive to the line of sight.

(See also pictures | Jeep Meridian SUV is nice to look at but tough on roads)

The Jeep Meridian has solid road presence without ever trying to look big.

The Jeep Meridian has solid road presence without ever trying to look big.

Alongside, the Meridian sits on 18-inch wheels with a very clever alloy design. The square wheel arches are mammoth but that was to be expected as this vehicle also has to go further than conventional roads. There is a character line that runs all the way from the front wheel arch to the rear door handle while the black skid line below is good too.

The Meridian has large windows, including the rear quarter glass, and settles for subtle chrome additions to enhance its visual appeal.

The Meridian has large windows, including the rear quarter glass, and settles for subtle chrome additions to enhance its visual appeal.

The vehicle’s rear profile benefits immensely from a stylish feature with sleek LED taillight units, a chrome center switch, a gray rear bumper garnish and a high-mounted brake warning light that helps the SUV stand out.

A look at the rear profile of the Jeep Meridian.

A look at the rear profile of the Jeep Meridian.

Jeep Meridian Space:

Perhaps the most defining aspect of a vehicle in this segment is the space offered inside. The Meridian is the first Jeep in India with three-row seating but space and comfort are a bit of a hit and miss here. The third row is obviously the main focus, but unfortunately there is very, very limited space here. While getting in and out is pretty easy thanks to the wide door opening angle and the thumb and fold function at the push of a button on the second row of seats, that’s where the convenience ends. Once the second row seats are locked back into place, there is no escape. The seats are placed high up so that the derriere is almost at the same level as the folded legs. Seat cushioning itself is also quite limited, leaving only recline as the positive takeaway from here.

While getting in and out of the back row of the Jeep Meridian is easy, staying in is a task.

While getting in and out of the back row of the Jeep Meridian is easy, staying in is a task.

But on expected lines, the Meridian cabin pulls itself back as you push forward to the second row. Well-cushioned seats with premium upholstery, large windows, ample support under the thighs, legroom and kneeroom – all pamper the occupants. One shortcoming, however, is that the air vents are located on the back of the center console and the cooling is not as fast or efficient as it could have been if these were mounted on the roof. Apart from this, the second line of the Meridian passes with flying colours.

A look at the second row seats inside the Jeep Meridian.

A look at the second row seats inside the Jeep Meridian.

The best part about the cabin, however, is reserved for the front where a 10.1-inch main infotainment screen is cleverly placed on an even smarter dashboard layout. The high-resolution display is a treat for the eyes and is responsive to the touch. While navigating through the menus can have a learning curve, the display and what it highlights is on par with what you’d expect from a premium SUV like the Meridian.

The dashboard layout and the seats inside the Jeep Meridian are both aesthetic and comfortable.

The dashboard layout and the seats inside the Jeep Meridian are both aesthetic and comfortable.

Jeep Meridian Features:

It’s not just the main display that’s par for the course, but the rather comprehensive list of the Meridian as well.

A closer look at the infotainment screen and driver display inside the Meridian SUV.

A closer look at the infotainment screen and driver display inside the Meridian SUV.

The regular fare wireless phone charging station, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, and 360-degree camera work flawlessly. The multi-zone climate control is a bit of a hit and miss, as mentioned above, but the large sunroof above and plenty of storage space all around would certainly make long journeys a comfortable experience.

Jeep Meridian Drive Capabilities:

The Jeep Meridian is as confident on the tarmac as it is well-placed on trails.

The Jeep Meridian is as confident on the tarmac as it is well-placed on trails.

Yes, the Meridian is tailor-made for long journeys, although it might also perform its urban warrior duties with finesse. Powered by a 2-litre multijet diesel engine that produces 170bhp and has 350Nm of torque, the Meridian is a refined SUV with an elegance on road that contrasts with its rugged nature off it. Very deceptive, in a good way of course. And while one can opt for a six-speed manual transmission, we highly recommend the nine-speed AT for its sheer ability to knock off the numbers without batting an eyelid. The gearbox is quite responsive to throttle inputs and while it helps the SUV maintain a steady pace within city limits, it certainly doesn’t hesitate to make its way to triple-digit speed marks.

Jeep Meridian technical specifications
Drive type 4×2 (FWD), 4X4 (AWD)
Transfer 6MT, 9AT
maximum power 170 hp
Max torque 350 Nm
Breaks All discs

This is especially good since the Meridian has no dedicated driving modes and instead settles for off-road only modes.

The Jeep Meridian has good straight-line stability but also in curves, and for an SUV of its dimensions, it moves in with a sense of purpose.

The Jeep Meridian has good straight-line stability but also in curves, and for an SUV of its dimensions, it moves in with a sense of purpose.

But put all these on one side of the pedestal and give only the crown to the independent suspension set up on the Meridian. The tireless workhorse of the vehicle, the suspension system is one of the best you can get in this segment and automatically elevates the Meridian above the rather raw and bouncy Fortuner. This Jeep manages to make mincemeat of broken roads, sails over speed breakers at almost any speed and when it comes to challenging the wilderness, it helps the Meridian push forward with a charismatic air of disdain around it.

The meridian takes on the trails.

The meridian takes on the trails.

It’s true that a Jeep is at home where there is no home, and off the tarmac the Meridian creates its own sanctuary. Don’t be fooled by its sleek visual appeal, the Meridian can be a bad boy in the outbacks. Through our extensive test drive on an off-road track near Chandigarh, the Meridian came out shining and shining through every obstacle. An approach angle of 21.5 degrees helps it dive into whatever may be in front of it and the AWD system keeps the grip going at all times. Even when wading through the water, the Meridian not only managed to push itself forward but did so with perfect ease and without ever making its occupants feel nervous.

The Jeep Meridian moves forward regardless of the size and scope of the obstacles.

The Jeep Meridian moves forward regardless of the size and scope of the obstacles.

Although only a microscopically few buyers really push their vehicles to the off-road limits, the fact that the Meridian stays true to its family name and hits the trails with massive capability is a huge chink for the model.

Jeep Meridian Safety Highlights
Electronic Parking Brake (EPB)
All-speed Traction Control System (TCS)
Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
Hill Start Assist
Six airbags
360-degree camera
Tire pressure monitoring system

Judgment

The Jeep Meridian is a capable entry in the large SUV segment and gets most of its basics right.  Most, not all.

The Jeep Meridian is a capable entry in the large SUV segment and gets most of its basics right. Most, not all.

The success of the Compass means that Jeep India was always ready and eager to explore the three-row premium SUV segment. And since there are only a handful of players in this segment, there is potential to make inroads and gain ground.

Benefits

  • Elegant appearance
  • Extremely capable 4×4 skills
  • Functions
  • Smooth 9-speed AT

Disadvantages

  • Claustrophobic space in the third row
  • Cabin cooling intensity could have been better

The Meridian then comes as a premium offering with a solid alliance between everyday driving comfort and some very impressive off-road capabilities. Bookings for the latest Jeep SUV are open and deliveries are likely to start from the third week of June. We expect Jeep to price the Meridian upwards 35 lakh and if you can ignore the restrictions on the last line, it might be a good option to consider. Is the Fortuner threatened? Well, every champion deserves a champion challenger and that’s what the Meridian could very well be.

First publication date: May 1, 2022, 10:58 AM IST

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