"From behind the wheel, the Grand Cherokee represents a huge improvement over its predecessor."
All-American off-road firm Jeep is part of the larger Chrysler organisation, which has been through a turbulent few years. First the company parted ways with Mercedes-Benz, then the recession hit the firm harder than most, but now Chrysler's future is looking a lot more stable under Fiat ownership. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is something of a transition model, as it uses a platform that's shared with the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, but it's powered by a 3.0-litre V6 diesel that was developed by Fiat. There are two trim levels on offer - Limited and Overland - and both are well equipped: If you bought a similarly priced Land Rover Discovery 4, you'd have to spend a lot of money on extras to get it to the same level of equipment. The Grand Cherokee is superb when you head off road, but rivals are better on tarmac.
A high driving position provides a great view of the road ahead, but while the Grand Cherokee is virtually unstoppable off road, it has to give second best to rivals on tarmac. Over long distances the Jeep is compliant and quite relaxing, only when faced with big potholes at speed does the suspension send shocks into the cabin. It's far better than the previous Grand Cherokee and the automatic gearbox is very smooth. A dial on the centre console selects between five off-road modes, and it's so competent that only a Land Rover Defender would see which way it went through the mud and greenery.
Passengers of all sizes will feel comfortable in the Grand Cherokee. All seats offer good support and provide room to move around, while the glass roof provides an airy feel for the cabin. Standard fit air-suspension is very impressive at dealing with road imperfections even with the big wheels and low profile tyres fitted to the Overland range topper. One small downside is engine noise, which is loud at higher speeds and under heavy acceleration.
The Grand Cherokee feels very well made, and is based on durable Mercedes-Benz M-Class running gear. It's yet to be crash tested by Euro NCAP, but the new Grand Cherokee will undoubtedly exceed its predecessor's four-star rating. Cabin materials are a little disappointing for a car in this segment, as some dashboard plastics and switches feel quite low-grade. Range topping Overland models are much better, using plenty of leather and genuine wood trim.
Standard fit reversing cameras are becoming very popular on large SUVs, and it's a welcome addition on the Grand Cherokee. Passengers are well catered for with a very spacious cabin, loads of head and legroom and the huge 782-litre boot is big enough for two Labradors. The tailgate is electrically operated, which is very useful when your hands are full of shopping or heavy bags. It's a big car, though, so parking in tight spaces will be tricky.
Value for money
The Grand Cherokee is competitively priced compared to rivals, especially when you consider the amount of kit you get as standard. Sat-nav, a reversing camera, leather upholstery, air-suspension and keyless entry all make the list - and you'd have to spend a lot on extras to get a rival such as the Land Rover Discovery 4 up to a similar kit level.
The 3.0-litre diesel engine was developed by parent company Fiat, and the official figures claim that it can return 34mpg on the combined cycle. In reality the big SUV will struggle to match that, unless it's only really used for longer motorway journeys. Tailpipe emissions equate to a tax bill of £260 per year, which is quite respectable for a capable off-roader like the Grand Cherokee.