Jeep Meridian Review – The Hindu BusinessLine

The SUV for the extended family has become a staple in many brands’ portfolios. The 3-row, 6-7-seater SUV is now in such great demand that many car manufacturers cannot do enough, and long waiting times are common. The news that Jeep falls into this category and that the 3-line version of Compass will be released under an India-exclusive name has been in the news. And yet it is only when I stand next to the Meridian (known as Commander in markets like Brazil) that its size and weight really strike me.

The meridian is huge when you see it from the side. The length seems almost awkward, which makes me wonder if it will be as capable of off-road driving as the compass. The rear overhang is pronounced and a big jump over the 2-row compass. But the approach, departure and departure angles have apparently been carefully calibrated with an eye on providing it with the same legendary skill as a Jeep. The meridian is built with the same genetic material as all jeeps, but this one is intended for transport by the large Indian common family. So, how’s it going? I traveled to Chandigarh last month to get behind the wheel of the Meridian. And I can tell you so much that these pictures do not do justice to what you can do with this cool 3-row SUV.

Jeep Meridian.  Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Jeep Meridian. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh | Photo credit: Bijoy Ghosh

Design and build

Although its other dimensions do not appear to have increased (apart from the extra length), the Meridian has actually grown in proportions all around. The total length is more than a foot more than the compass, and the wheelbase is also up almost half a foot. The height and width of the meridian have also increased by a few inches compared to the compass. The rear overhang is more than the compass, but it’s not too disproportionate. Meridian gets a smelly stance due to its long wheelbase and higher dimensions. The square wheel arches borrowed from the compass and the extra drama in the rear window (instead of the quartz glass in the 2-row compass) provide the Meridian context in the Jeep series.

Jeep Meridian.  Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Jeep Meridian. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh | Photo credit: Bijoy Ghosh

Some of the chrome elements it gets, especially at the front, also highlight Meridian’s elevated position in the hierarchy. The trademark-protected 7-compartment grill on the hood gets chrome details at the top and bottom, and the front fender gets a thick chrome band that cuts into the fog light housing. The 4X4 trim variant that I tested also had a chrome marking for the lower body protection lip. Chrome edge for the top of the window line that runs into the D-pillar is another nice addition that catches the eye because my test mule had the contrasting black roof finish. The 18-inch alloys with double tones look special and have a design with snowflakes. The rear design is more unique to the Meridian with its narrow taillights, the thick chrome trim that connects the two and the reworked rear fender. It also gets an electric tailgate that can be controlled from inside the cabin, and at the tailgate itself.

Jeep Meridian.  Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Jeep Meridian. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh | Photo credit: Bijoy Ghosh

Cottage

A lot of body panels have had to be changed in the Meridian; so it’s not just a compass that has been extended with a little extra space on the back. The increased length is obvious even inside the cabin, with the third row of double seats catching my eye. It is and there are also the biggest changes in the Meridian’s cabin.

The dashboard has been almost completely transferred from the compass. The new 2021 model Compass already contained a significant upgrade and all of these have been included in the Meridian. The center console has some changes, as well as the narrower door panels. The cabin’s color theme is different with the warm brown and black combination that enhances the premium feel of the interior. The sewn leather finish on the dashboard panels and the metallic accents and details that highlight the panels also contribute to the perceived quality of the cabin. The digital instrument cluster and 10-inch infotainment system are borrowed from Compass and display almost the same updated menu options and control buttons. Connectivity is good with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wireless available. Some of the other features include a 360-degree camera with park view screen, a panoramic sunroof with double windows, cordless phone charging and 3-zone air conditioning with a dedicated fan and evaporator for the third row of seats.

Jeep Meridian.  Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Jeep Meridian. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh | Photo credit: Bijoy Ghosh

The seats themselves have a different sewing pattern for the perforated leather upholstery ‘McKinley’. Even in the Compass, the seats were very comfortable, and they continue to be so in the Meridian. The highlight of the cabin is the third row of double seats, but the second row is likely to be used more often. In the Meridian, while the second row seems to have been raised just a bit above the compass, the bench row seats (7-seater configuration) still cannot be moved forward or backward to get more space. The backrest can be folded back and there is a folding and tumbling with the push of a button for easy access to the third row. Together with the wide opening doors, entry and exit are relatively easy, although the raised floor and the comparable low ceiling can make it a bit difficult for adults. The available leg-mounted third-row legroom would also make it more suitable for children only. The luggage compartment in the new Meridian is quite low with the third row in use. Fold down the two seats and the available space for luggage goes up from about two small suitcases or soft bags to about 480 liters of usable space. Meridian is offered in two trim variants – Limited and Limited (O), and with three driveline options for the diesel engine.

Jeep Meridian.  Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Jeep Meridian. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh | Photo credit: Bijoy Ghosh

Performance

Jeep Meridian is offered with only one engine option; and it’s a diesel. While other 3-row SUVs lower in the size and price segments offer petrol engines, Meridian’s size and weight mean that diesel torque at lower speeds and better usability at lower speeds is the right choice. Still, it will lack a gasoline engine; the compass’s 1.4-liter turbo petrol may not have been enough for the Meridian. So, what the new 3-row jeep gets is the same 2-liter multijet II turbocharged diesel grinder from Compass and in the same condition. The engine delivers the same 170 hp peak power and 350 Nm of top torque. The driveline includes the 6-speed manual or the 9-speed automatic transmission for the 4X2 version, and the top-trimmed Meridian Limited 4X4 variant (four-wheel drive) is only available with automatic transmission.

The 4X2 Meridian automatic transmission was the one I was driving on the highway that led up to the off-road section that had been curated by Jeep engineers and officials. On the hour-long intense terrain, I switched to 4X4 Meridian Limited. The calibration and mapping of the 9-speed automatic transmission has been adjusted to provide a more measured performance. The same driveline in the Compass feels a little faster. Engine noise levels are better retained in the passenger compartment at higher speeds. There is not much change between the compass and the meridian in slow city speed characteristics. On the highway, the Meridian feels even more complex and steady with the longer wheelbase that contributes to the balance. The extra weight of 100 kg does not impair Meridian’s performance on the road. Behind the wheel, I also did not feel the effect of its size and footprint. The meridian really comes into its own when it steps out of the asphalt.

The terrain course was a mixture of kutcha tracks in forest terrain, steep rocky climbs, a simulated river bed and some wheel tracks that had been cut into the ground. I approach the paths with the feeling that the Meridian should be good. But it’s still surprising to see how it climbs up and down the rocky, slippery slopes and performs the crazy sloping wheel section sections. In fact, I did some of the slippery sections in 4X2 mode and others without even selecting specific settings. There are four terrain settings to choose from, including an automatic “Select-Terrain”. The others are snow, sand and mud. It also gets the entire suite of terrain aids as a downhill control, which was also offered with Compass. Handling characteristics on and off the road are brilliant with independent suspension equipped with hydraulic return stop and frequency-selective damping. Together, they contribute to a ride that is steady yet comfortable.

Jeep Meridian.  Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Jeep Meridian. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh | Photo credit: Bijoy Ghosh

Conclusion

Jeep Meridian is in the same size class as Mahindra XUV 700, Toyota Fortuner, MG Gloster, Ford Endeavor and VW Tiguan AllSpace. In terms of its terrain skills, it shares the same incredible Jeep DNA and it was very clear from the experience I had up in the hills surrounding Chandigarh. The meridian adds to Jeep’s portfolio of vehicles that are India-focused and accessible to a wider audience. But it is difficult to assess how many potential Compass customers may want the extra row of seats. It is quite possible that many of them may appreciate and want the extra storage space in Meridian’s boot. And while most, if not all, Jeep customers will hardly use the Meridian’s legendary 4X4 capabilities, it helps to know that it can conquer the unexplored and, if necessary, even forge the flooded street in the neighborhood.

Jeep Meridian. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh | Photo credit: Bijoy Ghosh

Compared to some of the other 3-row SUVs, the Meridian misses out on ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) features such as lane change warning, adaptive cruise control, etc (standard cruise control is offered). It also does not offer any significant upgrade inside the cabin compared to the compass. So, the real USP is just the third line and that may be a good enough reason to choose Meridian. “After all, a family that sits together holds together.”

I expect prices to range from 30 lakh to 35 lakh.

published on

11 May 2022

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