If the arrival of the Jeep Gladiator in South Africa two months ago felt like an eternity after a four-year wait, the twelve years spanning the fourth and fifth generation Jeep Grand Cherokee could be seen as the same period of time between dial-up internet and fiber.
Although it was unveiled last year in the US as the first all-new Grand Cherokee developed in-house by Jeep since the original ZJ in 1993 – the others including the outgoing WK2 had received input from the long-dead DaimlerChrysler – the new WL landed in South Africa last week could not have come at a more important time for the brand and parent company Stellantis.
Aside from once again being Jeep’s flagship model as no plans are currently being made to bring the higher-end Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer to South Africa, the Grand Cherokee will no longer come with five seats but seven or six as Stellantis will only market the long-wheelbase Grand Cherokee L for the occasion.
With the standard two-row model remaining in the US, the Grand Cherokee L enters territory frequented not only by the Land Rover Discovery, Toyota Land Cruiser 300 and, ironically, the Mercedes-Benz GLE, but also more road-oriented multi-seaters. in the form of Volvo XC90, Audi Q7 and also Hyundai Palisade.
In addition to the seating arrangement, the Grand Cherokee L also features a new platform, the Alfa Romeo-developed Giorgio, more ground clearance than the WK2 and increases on every dimensional front to the point that it now measures 5,208mm compared to 4,828mm.
Less compact and aggressively styled than the WK2, the Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer-inspired Grand Cherokee L is a clear representation of the American adage “bigger is better” as it adopts a much more imposing and sharper look that is unlikely to be confused with something other than something else. from the USA by A.
Even more striking is the interior, where the cabin not only feels airy and more expansive than before, but also a more modern and less cluttered center console.
Size and offset matter
Neat and logically laid out from an ergonomic perspective, the cabin showed few weaknesses on the 247km launch route from Pretoria to the outskirts of Machadodorp during the local launch.
For South Africa, Stellantis has made the Grand Cherokee L available in three trim levels; Limited, Overland and Summit Reserve, all of which are powered by the stable, normally aspirated 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol producing 210kW/344Nm.
Mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission with rotary paddles, the unit delivers grunt to four wheels with a low-range gearing standard across the range.
American inside and out
At launch only the Overland was offered and while it was a sure head turner on the outside, the initial promise of the interior fell apart as some of the materials felt anything but premium, particularly some of the plastics and as well as the clunky plastic wood veneer.
However, the moaning stops from this point as the interior wins back with the level of comfort, technology and spec on offer.
READ ALSO: No more waiting: Brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee L priced
Sans the Limited, both the Overland and Summit Reserve come standard with Jeep’s new 10.1-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system, while all three have a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and twelve USB ports.
Space, yes; technology, dammit!
The latter pair also come standard with an impressive 19-speaker 950-watt McIntosh audio system, a secondary 10.25-inch screen on the passenger side and a new Heads-Up Display. In fact, the standard specification list is so extensive that it would take up the rest of this article.
As much as there was no lack of space on the WK2 Grand Cherokee, the Grand Cherokee L’s oversized dimensions translate not only to acres of second-row headroom and legroom, but surprisingly reasonable amounts of third-row room for young adults at a push.
The trunk itself offers 436 liters of space, but expands to 1,328 liters with the third row down. Dropping the other means a massive cargo hold that can swallow 2,396 litres.
Worth noting, however, that while the Limited and Overland have seven seats, the Summit Reserve comes with six seats thanks to the middle row being occupied by two captain’s chairs.
On the way
As much as it wins on space, the biggest content point is the Grand Cherokee L’s engine. Tasked with towing 2,295kg, Jeep has, somewhat bizarrely, retuned the unit to produce three kilowatts and nine Newton meters less than in the WK2.
Although small on paper, the extra wait translates into a sluggish feel with lots of noise, a sonic appeal to you, and not much in the way of forwards.
Since the Grand Cherokee L was never designed to accommodate a turbodiesel engine per Jeep’s shift away from oil burners, and with the Hemi V8 offered in the States soon to disappear, the V6 remains the only unit for now.
Countering the engine is the nimble eight-speed gearbox and a wonderfully smooth ride that fulfills the Jeep’s cruising ability with incredible aplomb. Further supporting this is the level refinement, the lack of road or wind noise and a nicely weighted feel to the steering.
Traversing the back roads of rural Mpumalanga also allowed us to experience the off-road prowess of the Jeep, which, like the engine, was not 100% smooth.
With its stock 20-inch wheels, the Overland felt a bit out of place on the rockier sections, but came to life on the softer sections which suited it much better.
Along with the Limited, it comes with Jeep’s Quadra-Trac II off-road system, but joins the Summit Reserve in benefiting from Quadra-Lift air suspension that raises ground clearance to as much as 277mm.
Standard on all models is the Selec Terrain system with five modes; Auto, Sport, Snow, Rock and Mud/Sand and in the case of the Summit Reserve, an electronic limited slip differential.
As much as the wait for the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L has been worth it, it’s in a tighter spot than ever, despite the value-for-money factor that makes it seem like a bargain compared to its rivals.
While the engine poses a problem in a still very diesel-dominated part of the market, its change in segment strategy should be taken seriously and with some caution from the Japanese and Germans.
Standard on all three models is a five-year/120,000km warranty and a five-year/100,000km maintenance plan.
- Grand Cherokee L 3.6 Limited – SEK 1,299,900
- Grand Cherokee L 3.6 Overland – R1 479 900
- Grand Cherokee L 3.6 Summit Reserve – R1 679 900