When I first heard that Jeep Grand Cherokee was picked as the “Premium SUV of the Year” at last year’s illustrious New Straits Times-Maybank Car of the Year Awards, I knew I had to get my hands on it. But that alone was no easy feat as the rest of the nation’s “car boys” were equally eager to see for themselves what the fuss was about.
After all, in the rapidly popular SUV arena occupied by more accustomed European brands as well as the fast growing Asian marques, to hear that this lesser known American car maker had topped its counterparts was indeed an eye-opener.
Let’s start off stating what would undeniably be on almost everyone’s mind when they first hear of its price tag: “At RM439,000 (on-the-road price including insurance for the Grand Cherokee Overland), it’s rather steep.”
I admit that my first impression of its unpretentious exterior and under-fitted interior did not help to ease the apprehension of this premium-class sports utility vehicle. Like many, I had hinged my expectations on its price tag and was guilty of focusing on what I did not see rather than what it could deliver. Yet indeed, deliver this baby did, and in truly grand fashion!
Pumped by an energetic 3.6 litre V6 heart, which delivers 284hp at 6,350 rpm and 347Nm at 4,300rpm, the Grand Cherokee Overland comes out as a genuine American thoroughbred. But it is the effortless 8-speed automatic transmission that allows the driver to truly appreciate the near perfect synergy of performance and handling.
Unlike some of its more prevalent peers that seems to struggle in adjusting their paddle-shift transmission’s ratio to seamlessly fit Malaysian driving conditions, Jeep seemed to have got this right with the Grand Cherokee as it serves up smooth manual shifting usability when quick acceleration is required.
Running surprisingly quiet on two pairs of 20-inch polished wheels, the car emerged sleeker than its stable mates with a smoothed-edged silhouette, aerodynamic spoiler and modern front grille, although the front Bi-xenon headlamps and projector fog lamps could do with a tad more bulk.
However, as said, this is one ride that has all its secret weapons beneath the shell. As I zipped across the North-South Expressway from Kuala Lumpur to Penang in the dark and in the torrential rain, the car’s intense fog lamps and adaptive automatic concentrated headlamps, which self-adjust up to 15 degrees to illuminate the road around corners, were a delight.
It is the informative and meticulous full-colour leather-trimmed instrument panel that kept my fingers busy for extended periods throughout my time behind the wheels. The customisable 7-inch multiview TFT display allows you to view the car’s GPS navigation system, access the entertainment channels, monitor vehicle performance, check your tire pressure, choose the five available traction control system and more importantly, receive visual notifications of safety applications.
Housed within the user-friendly 8.4-inch touchscreen multimedia unit is a comprehensive navigation system tagged with one-step voice destination entry and high-definition nine-speaker audio system and USB/SD slots. Passengers will have no problems with connectivity via the standard iPod mobile device integration and hands-free Bluetooth connectivity and voice command.
For a family trip with the kid’s plethora of provisions and toys, my overflowing golf set, our luggage and not forgetting the missus’ heaps of snacks and dietary needs, the rear cargo area, which provides up to 1,943 litres of storage, was a joy to have. It is no slouch either when it comes to towing as it has a capacity to tow up to 3,267kg of practically anything you want.
The designer’s attention to details is what sets the Grand Cherokee apart. Exceptionally spacious for up to five passengers, its premium-quality soft Nappa leather trimmed seats stays comfortable in both hot and cold weather conditions. If that’s not lux enough for you, then the combo of heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel – yes you read it right – will surely do the trick.
For a touch of “awesomeness”, the car is fitted with an automatic air suspension system that features five vehicle height settings that enables a clearance up to a maximum of 24.7cm higher, as well as automatically lowers the car when speed exceeds 88 km/h, thus increasing vehicle stability.
Oh, amid all these impressive gizmos and features, did I forget to mention that the Jeep Grand Cherokee comes standard with push start button, keyless entry and my personal favourite, a stretched out dual-pane panoramic sunroof?
Keeping you safe
There are over 70 available safety and security features with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, including:
- Advanced, multistage driver and front-passenger airbags
- Supplemental side-curtain airbags
- Side guard door beams
- Front park assist
- Rear back up camera and rear park assist
- Hill start assist
- Electronic stability control
- Electronic roll mitigation
- Anti-lock brake system
- Brake assist
- All-speed traction control