Port Hope, Ont., is a lovely little town about 100 kilometers east of the Big Smoke, also known as Toronto.
Founded in 1793 by United Empire Loyalists (and briefly called “Toronto” after the War of 1812 – I kid you not), it officially became a city in 1834, and thanks to the efforts of local conservationists, its downtown looks much the same today as it did then.
Which makes it the perfect platform for filming scenes for period television dramas like CBC’s “Murdoch Mysteries,” which has happened.
Port Hope has a lot going for it, besides its architecture. Vincent Massey, the first Canadian-born Governor General, came from there. Farley Mowat, the author and eco-warrior before Greta Thunberg, wrote his best books while living there. And the Ganaraska River, which meanders through town and periodically overflows its banks, is the site of a 10-kilometer riverboat race each spring called “Float Your Fanny Down the Ganny.”
Before newspaper business got serious, a Toronto tradition on race weekends was for editors and reporters to close the press club shortly after midnight Friday and board a chartered school bus for the short hop to Port Hope where the rest of the night would be spent building a float that the Rebels, led by the late columnist Paul Rimstead, hoped to finish them off without a) tipping over or b) sinking completely.
They rarely made it all the way, and annual April bouts of pneumonia were not uncommon.
I was in Port Hope last week to test drive the new 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is already in showrooms but hadn’t yet been given a once-over by Canadian auto writers. We needed a base, so about a dozen of us, including myself, stayed in a place that had started life as a bank in the 1800s but is now called the Hotel Carlyle and Restaurant.
We were hassled by Elise Herman, a member of the family that owns it, and when I asked for a shaker of salt at dinner one night, which is usually a no-no in fine dining houses, she produced one without delay. In fact, when she gave me my bacon and eggs the following morning, she also brought the salt without me asking for it—an attention to detail that deserves to be reported.
But down to business.
The fifth generation of this full-size luxury SUV is a showstopper. It’s gorgeous inside and out. It has two engines – a 3.6-liter V6 (293 hp; 260 lb-ft of torque) and a 5.7-liter V8 (357 hp; 390 lb-ft of torque). With the ability to tow just under 3,000 kg., the V6 is enough engine for almost anyone.
I drove the V8 for the off-road portion of the test and while it performed flawlessly and the car proved capable of going just about anywhere, and through just about anything, I don’t own a cabin in Northern Ontario that would require digging through coot eggs to reach, so there really isn’t much use for it.
And I know a lot of people who own a lot of cars and none of them will drive a beautiful vehicle like this into a forest or through a creek just for the heck of it. I guess it’s good for your peace of mind to know it can work this way – if absolutely necessary, but other than that . . .
Oh, before I forget: both are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
There are seven trims and the price increases accordingly. The entry-level Laredo starts at $51,545 (all trims have a delivery charge of $2,095 and then taxes, license fees and so on); Height starts at $55,040; The Limited, $59,045; Trailhawk, which is the designated off-road trim, $63,645; the Overland, $68,045; the summit, $73,545 and the reserve, $78,040. The 4XE plug-in hybrid version will be available next spring but no pricing is available.
So what do you get for your money?
There are a host of new safety features that are now standard on all Grand Cherokee models, such as active lane keeping. Options such as driver assistance systems and 360-degree surround and night vision cameras are available.
The Trailhawk model has low range Selec-Speed Control (which lets you set the low speed to bulldoze through the muskeg I mentioned earlier), Quadra-Lift air suspension (75mm above normal ride height, for driving over those boulders should you might come across but which can also be used to lower the chassis, making it easier to get in and out of the car), skid plates, red tow hooks and class-exclusive sway bar.
The Summit model has premium comforts and features as standard, including quilted Nappa leather seats, Absolute Oak wood and a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, 16-way adjustable front seats with memory, lumbar and back massage, unique Summit-specific LED fog lights and additional safety features, such as Active Driving Assist, drowsy driver detection and a 360-degree surround camera.
The Summit Reserve adds 21-inch wheels and standard amenities, including a 950-watt, 19-speaker McIntosh sound system. Next-gen technologies include Uconnect 5 with standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, windshield Head-up Display (HUD) and digital rearview mirror (which I don’t like; moving your eyes from the “normal” view of your side mirror to the digital rearview mirror is confusing. Or at least I thought it was).
My wife, who loves amenities like lumbar and back massagers, always complains to me about what she calls the lack of passenger comfort in many of the cars and light trucks I borrow from manufacturers to test. She admires many of the features on offer but points out, often correctly, that only the driver can activate some technologies.
Now, even though she wasn’t on this drive, I can tell you she’d really like what’s available for the front passenger in some models of the Grand Cherokee. We are all familiar with the now mandatory two digital screens found in the front seats of almost every car sold in North America. There is the readout panel behind the steering wheel (speed, fuel gauge and etc.) and the center console, where most of the infotainment technology is located.
But some upper models have a third 10-inch digital screen for the front seat passenger to enjoy, independent of the driver. Located in front of the passenger, but tilted so as not to distract the driver, the passenger can download movies from Amazon Fire TV, stream videos, play games, listen to music and get information in case the driver (me) loses us and refuses to stop and ask for directions. She can also control what’s on the two 10-inch screens available to passengers in the second row of seats.
Okay, let’s recap a few things before we go for a ride:
The Grand Cherokee is an all-wheel drive vehicle with three driver aids – Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-trac II and Quadra-Drive II; fuel consumption, combined, comes in at, or fairly close to, 9.1L/100kms; to save on fuel, the V6 has stop-start technology, while the V8 has cylinder deactivation.
the vehicle has 1,067 liters of cargo space and it increases to 2,005 liters with the second row of seats down; one model is a bit longer than the others (the wheelbase is 50mm longer) and you can get a third row of seats there. It’s called the Grand Cherokee L;
the seats and steering wheel can be heated. And there is self-parking technology on board. So Thursday morning I set off in the V6 to find out if everything that had been promised really ticked. The cockpit is comfortable, getting everything adjusted and ready to go (mirrors positioned, etc.) was easy and the ride through town on the road north of the 401 was smooth, all things considered. I say “all things considered” because the roads in small town Ontario (and even big city Ontario. sometimes) can often be on the bumpy side.
I had never driven through the part of Ontario I saw on Thursday and was surprised that it was so hilly. But the scenery was beautiful and every now and then there was a surprise, like the field containing a dozen donkeys. Meanwhile, the car was a joy to drive. The interior was quiet (except when a song I liked came on and I turned up the volume) and there was very little – if any – vibration.
When I stepped on it there was good throttle response and the steering was firm and the handling precise. I hit the brakes and the vehicle stopped, straight as an arrow. I really liked that car – and I’m not alone. It is the most luxurious SUV in its class, the most awarded SUV and the number 1 selling (over seven million) full-size SUV. And just like Ford in 2015, when it took a chance with its all-aluminum body, Jeep has produced this fifth generation with an all-new exterior design and a new interior.
Lunch was in Port Perry at a place called the Piano Café (it was packed). The center resembled that of Port Hope and although I have been to Port Perry several times, this was the first time I had seen it. I know where the boat ramp to Lake Scugog is but not City Hall. Guess. So next time you’re fishing there, pop into the Piano Café for homemade tomato soup and lobster mac’n cheese. You will thank me.
I told you about the off-road part of the test earlier. I still don’t get it but everyone is doing it so there must be a demand. I drove the V8 from Port Perry to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park but, as I mentioned, the V6 is enough for a comfortable ride. But take care of yourself.
Finally, the Jeep Waves customer service program comes standard with all new Grand Cherokee models and includes premium perks like worry-free maintenance (including a bunch of free oil changes), 24-hour roadside assistance and dedicated owner support. Which sounds like a good deal.
To go with a good car.
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Body Style: Full-size luxury SUV
Driving method: Front engine, four-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic transmission.
Engines: 3.6-liter V6 (293 hp; 260 lb-ft of torque) and a 5.7-liter V8 (357 hp; 390 lb-ft of torque)
Fuel Economy: (Standard) combined 9.1L/100 km
Cargo volume: 1,540 litres
Drag rating: V6 – 2,812 kg. V8 – 3,265 kg.
Award: The entry-level Laredo starts at $51,545; the upper end is the $78,040 Summit Reserve (plus delivery fee, licensing, taxes, and so on).