THE legendary four wheel drive American Jeep helped to win the Second World War and now the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee is winning its sales battle with the Germans, Japanese and British rivals in the premium SUV market because it is such a much improved vehicle writes Bryan Longworth.
For the five seater Grand Cherokee 4x4 which is a far better vehicle after its recent refresh is now in a stronger and more competitive position to take on the likes of the BMW X5, VW Touareg, Toyota Land Cruiser and Land Rover Discovery with cosmetic updates and a new eight speed automatic transmission.
On the outside there is a distinctive new look with a shorter seven slot grille slimmer bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights more pronounced fog lights with larger rear LED tail lamps aerodynamic spoiler and re-sculpted tailgate offering improved visibility.
Under the bonnet there is now an eight speed automatic gearbox which has replaced the previous five speeder and this has really helped to make the imposing Grand Cherokee a more formidable vehicle to compete against the aforementioned rivals with improved fuel consumption and lower emissions.
On test was the top of the range Grand Cherokee Summit with the 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine costing almost ?50,000 which had a very comfortable leather clad interior and luxurious trim with large touch screen for the Harman Kardon audio system, satellite navigation and information display.
The floor of the huge rear load area in the Detroit built Grand Cherokee which is accessed by the powered tailgate covers what is now something of a rarity in new cars - a full size spare wheel for which Jeep deserve praise.
Low ratio gears are available which help to make the vehicle a very effective off roader when the going gets tough and there is also a control on the central console which enables the driver to choose the best driving mode for the conditions being encountered such as sand or snow and the electronic system automatically makes the adjustment to maintain traction.
Statistically the 3.0-litre diesel engine produces 247bhp with a top speed of 126mph and a zero to 62mph time of 8.2 seconds plus a combined fuel consumption of 37.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 198g/km.
On the road the air suspension provided an extremely comfortable ride and the refined Grand Cherokee which looked good with its 20 inch polished aluminium wheels handled as well as a luxury saloon car with the eight speed gearbox providing precise smooth gear changes and there are paddles on the steering wheel for manual gear changing.
I did’nt have the opportunity to take the vehicle off road but I remember driving one of the earlier Grand Cherokees a few years ago along a boulder strewn river bed up a Scottish mountain where it had such good traction and stable suspension I was able to take a call on my mobile phone and drive the car as if it had been on a normal road!
The only feature about the Grand Cherokee I was not very comfortable with was the rather dated foot operated parking brake which was not very user friendly and I am surprised that Jeep did not fit an electronic parking brake considering how high tech the new car is.
The latest Grand Cherokee is a big improvement on the previous model and it should help the company which is now owned by Fiat to increase its sales in this sector and also to restore its brand image in the UK.
My Verdict: The best ever Jeep.
Model: New Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit.
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel.
Output: 247bhp @ 4000rpm.
Transmission: Eight speed automatic.
Top speed: 126mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 8.2 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 37.7mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 198g/km.
Price: ?49,495 on the road.