After checking out the big seven-seater it’s time to drive the more compact five-pew Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland.
Aptly named this Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland is because we decided to check out one of our old stomping grounds for taking SUVs with genuine offroad ability and couldn’t believe the damage wrought by Cyclone Gabrielle. Suffice to say, we never made it to the “overland” area.
With feet already sodden by the Atmospheric River that hit a fortnight earlier, any big trees exposed to the southerly blast stood little chance; they’d clearly blocked the roads in myriad places, and in between slips had compounded the road damage. And yet a week later, they’d almost all been cleared away so good chainsaw and digger work by the local Rodney Council. A pity things aren’t so straightforward in worse affected areas of the country.
We also happened upon a ford towards the end of the reclaimed road so did a walk through (that would be Tom) to establish the depth and road surface beneath before raising the ride height and splashing our way through. No sweat for the Grand Cherokee Overland which has up to 610mm of wading capability and 287mm of ground clearance.
What’s up with Overland?
Underpinning the latest fifth-gen Grand Cherokee is a unibody construction, making it stiffer and (somewhat) lighter, and the five-seater model on test is the middle of the line-up. Put another way, it is the top model with the naturally aspirated motor. For the first time, the GC is getting a PHEV option, coming later in the year, dubbed the Summit Reserve 4xe, and it will offer an electric range of around 40km thanks to a 17kWh battery pack onboard. Performance will also be a step up on that of the Overland and Night Eagle on account of its 200kW/400Nm 2.0L turbocharged engine mated to a pair of electric motors, the system generating 280kW and 637Nm.
Moreover, where Jeep rates mean fuel use of the Overland at 9.9L/100km (11.0 on rightcar.co.nz) the 4xe manages 3.2L/100km on the test cycle, making it fee neutral. The $112,900 model we drove adds $4428 to the government coffers in the form of a car feebate. And for colours other than white, that’s $2000 extra.
This has the traditional GC look, with the seven-bar grille and square shaped wheel arch flares, but new lights impart a more modern visage, and there’s an impressive list of specification, featuring the Quadra Trac II permanent AWD set-up with a 4L setting and height-adjustable air suspension.
We didn’t have any real need to bother with 4L but nice to have it there if you’re contemplating getting down and dirty. The air suspension almost invariably means a tidy ride too, no matter the surface and that’s the case here.
Back on black top and the ride is especially cushioned, and the cabin is rather hushed as well. Activate the seat massagers up front, the heated seats for four (finished in Nappa leather) and the toasty wheel, and you’re set for cosy cool weather driving.
The adaptive damping helps to minimise roll in turns. In the tight stuff the ESP chimes in if you hit a corner entry with a bit much momentum but you can maintain a reasonable flow with this, the tyres chirping an early warning that enough’s enough. Turn off the lane keeping, a one-button intervention, and the steering is much more interesting. There’s a bit of weight transfer going on but the dynamics are an improvement on the former model. Overland is said to weigh around 2.2 tonnes, and has a braked towing capacity of 2850kg.
Six-pot any good?
As much as anything it’s what is powering the GC Overland that’s a bit different, though you’re probably aware of this given the seven-seaters have featured recently as well. There’s no longer a V8 under the hood but a 210kW/344Nm 3.6L naturally aspirated V6 that for the most part is inaudible within the cabin, unless you’re asking it a big question. And then, thanks in part to its eight-speed auto, it responds with reasonable gusto, though in fairness it’s down lower where it seems more impressive.
For roughly 90 per cent of peak torque is said to be on tap at about 2000rpm, thanks to VVT and lift. Running around town and during most open road work, this pulls nicely from modest engine revs, the auto an able companion.
There are paddle shifters fitted to the Overland but they come in for little use, given that in the Auto drive mode, the gearbox responds well. Plus when going for the shifters your hands sometimes get in the way of the volume and channel selectors at the rear of the wheel.
Sport mode we tried but it holds onto revs too long and downshifts early, neither great for fuel use. Besides, this isn’t really a sport kind of vehicle. We almost never shifted out of Auto mode, though there are certainly plenty of other options available, mainly for when you venture off road.
A powerhouse like the V8 then this isn’t quite. An overtake requires 6.8sec and almost 200m of road while getting to 100 from a standstill is completed in just over 9sec. However, our vehicle threw up an engine light warning, and perhaps wasn’t representative of the norm.
Whatever, it feels more at home when you’re making the most of its midrange torque and the engine is just humming away in the background. Ours made a background ticking noise, evident because the rest of the vehicle is so quiet in operation.
Enough space for five?
Being almost five metres in length this has pretty okay room for five, up slightly on its predecessor. The cabin ambience is made even more atmospheric by the dual panel glass roof, with the front section powered. Access to the luggage bay is by a remote on the ceiling or fob, or you can just wake it up using gesture control. Under the floor is a full spare with a few oddments bins. There are no releases for the seat backs in the luggage compartment. Instead, they’re on the sides of the rear seats.
To close the tailgate, there’s a pushbutton but gesture control is simpler (a kick rather than a swipe).
We like the new interior of the GC, with flash finishings and a rotary gear selector that works well. But the separate HVAC controls are set too low and it’s therefore hard to read the legends. Moreover, the road sign recognition should be in the instrument area, not in the sat nav section of the touchscreen.
It’s nice to have a button for cancelling lane keeping but the one alongside for TC was sticky. And the doors don’t really shut with great authority either. They’re solid enough so they should.
If there’s an elephant in the room regarding the Overland that’s a predictable one being fuel consumption. Rightcar rates it at 11L/100km but good luck achieving that. We found it didn’t seem to make much difference how you drove it, pressing on a little or just gliding on. Figure on something around the 14.3L/100km mark. Which is likely to be about as good as it gets.
And while the needle falls reassuringly slowly towards empty, that’s because the tank holds 87L of fuel. That will set you back over $200 per refill. Yowser at the bowser.
The V8, by the by, isn’t dead overseas but it is here, the V6 the biggest mill available in New Zealand at present. The PHEV can’t really come soon enough.
And there are other big changes in the wind, with Jeep releasing its first full EV in the form of the diminutive Avenger, recently named the European COTY.
Smaller than Renegade, the front driver gets a 115kW/260Nm motor and with a 54kWh battery is said to be good for at least 400km of range. A wall charger can replenish it in just over five hours.
Whether it comes here or not is unclear – it’s initially for Europe – but Jeep is on a major electrification push so you can expect a whole boatload of hybrids soon.
|Model||Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland|
|Clean Car Discount||Fee of $4428|
|Engine||2997cc / V6 / EFI|
|Power/Torque||210kW@6400rpm / 344Nm@4000rpm|
|Drivetrain||8-speed auto / AWD|
|Stability systems||ABS, ESP|
|Safety||AEB, ACC, BSM, LDW,|
RCTA, ALK, AHB
|Tow rating||750kg (2850kg braked)|
|Service intervals||12 months/12,000km|
|ANCAP rating||Not yet rated|