Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
jeep grand cherokee limited review

Jeep's latest ads ask SUV buyers to believe that the new Grand Cherokee is a pleasure to drive on-road. It's a stunning example of "the big lie" (people are more likely to believe a massive deception than a little one). If there's one thing that the heavily revised Grand Cherokee does badly– like any two-ton SUV– it's handle on-road. The SUV floats alarmingly over dips and crests, shudders disturbingly over bumps and holes, and leans precipitously through the twisties. I'd no sooner blast a Grand Cherokee around a sharp corner than I'd drive an Enzo on the Rubicon.

Ah, the Rubicon. Also known as the McKinney-Rubicon Springs Road, the unpaved trail runs 12 miles through California's rugged High Sierra Mountains. On the official off-roaders' difficulty scale of one to 10, the boulder-strewn, gully-infested Rubicon rates a 24. (As one veteran mud plugger puts it, the only part of a vehicle that's not likely to break on the Con is the radiator cap.) To qualify as "trail rated", a Jeep product must have enough traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation and water fording to tackle the Rubicon.

Well, maybe not the Rubicon. In fact, the Con would turn a stock Grand Cherokee into scrap sooner than you could say 'I TOLD you we needed bigger tires and a LOT more ground clearance'. Even so, Jeep's trail-rating criteria guarantees that the Cherokee is a seriously capable off-roader.

Yes, but who needs a trail-rated SUV to pick-up the kids from school or brave the supermarket parking lot? Well, um, no one. And while Chrysler PR reports that more Grand Cherokee owners go off-road than drivers of the SUV's "primary competitors" (20% vs. 11% for the Chevy Trailblazer and 7% for the Ford Explorer), there's no getting around the fact the vast majority of Grand Cherokee tires will spend their working life kissing tarmac. You know it. Jeep knows it. And that's why they want you to believe that they've civilized the Grand Cherokee.

As long as you avoid the whole handling issue, it's hard to argue the point. For one thing, the new Grand Cherokee's cabin is as comfortable as the interior of a properly appointed sedan. The upmarket Grand Cherokee Limited combines sturdy, supportive leather with tasteful wood and high-grade plastics. Well-fed adults will still find the rear perches a bit cramped, but at least the legroom no longer threatens deep vein thrombosis. And when you're not head banging to the Boston Acoustics sound system, the Grand Cherokee's build quality provides a suitably hushed atmosphere for intelligent conversation.

Like how the Grand Cherokee's exterior betrays Jeep's desire to join the automotive mainstream. The "box on stilts" look that used to embody and project the Grand Cherokee's utility has been discreetly softened. The new shape is longer, lower and wider, with a steeply raked (not to say rakish) windscreen. The brand's new face– rounded headlights and housings and a deep chin spoiler– exemplifies the move away from Jeep's Army surplus design heritage, towards a more modern, Orvis-like sensibility.

What's more, the Grand Cherokee has an entirely refined powerplant– in a Boeing turbofan kinda way. In fact, the 330-horse, 5.7-liter lump lurking in the engine bay makes the new Limited the scramjet of mid-priced SUV's. OK, zero to sixty in 6.59 seconds isn't exactly sub-orbital. Still, unlike its classmates, the Grand Cherokee can get out of its own way– fast. It leaps off the line so quickly you can feel the rear 17's squirming for traction. At higher speeds, the Hemi-powered Limited loses much of its accelerative aggression, but maintains its ability to cruise without complaint.

Until you come to a corner. Just how bad is the Grand Cherokee's on-road handling? After all, Jeep's engineers have given the new model an independent front suspension, five-link rear suspension, rack and pinion steering, grippy all-season rubber and, should all that fail, ABS and ESP. Let's put it this way: if you drive to live, the Grand Cherokee's bouncy ride and skittish handling aren't dire enough to distract you from your lite rock radio. If, however, you live to drive, perhaps sir or madam would like to consider another, more laterally gifted member of the DCX family?

That is, unless, you're an enthusiast who likes to journey into the great American outback. Then it's yee flipping hah! I caned the Grand Cherokee at my local off-road course and had myself a peak experience. With Quadra Drive II, Jeep's latest four-wheel-drive system, it was point and scoot. Blasting over hill and dale, I discovered that the Jeep Grand Cherokee is to rocks and inclines what a Porsche 911 is to tight corners.

However dubious the Grand Cherokee's on-road manners, you gotta respect its off-road prowess, and Jeep's decision not to abandon their trail rated roots. If the new Grand Cherokee is still better on back roads than paved ones, so be it. There are plenty of SUVs that are mediocre on both. As Roman General Julius Caesar said when leading his troops across the original Rubicon river, 'alea iacta est'. The die is cast.

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  • Wjtinfwb 2 Focus owner, an '03 SVT 3dr. and a '16 ST. Both have been absolutely bulletproof and the '16 is an exceptionally great driving and riding little car. No rattles, squeaks, original brakes at 60k miles and the only replacement part was a new battery in 2019. The SVT was a riot to drive on a good road but a chore in daily commuting, the 2.0 Zetec had to have 5k on the tach to come alive and with the A/C on in Atlanta traffic, it was no fun. But dead nuts reliable in 133k miles and 9 years of ownership. Both had manual transmissions which eliminated the DCT complaint. Find a Focus with a manual if you're looking for a fun, cheap & sturdy car, I think you'll be pleased.
  • ToolGuy Riddle me this: Since Ford knows everything about manufacturing cars, and Mercedes-Benz knows nothing, which vehicle has more torsional rigidity, this 1999 Mustang convertible or a 'comparable' Mercedes convertible? Background information (plus a video from the good-looking Top Gear guy).Extra credit: Did Ford do the convertible conversion or did they outsource it? (And M-B?)
  • Jeff S Unless muscle cars and pony like cars come back in popularity they will continue to disappear. Seems like some commenters are still not aware that pickups, suvs, and crossovers are what is selling. Manufacturers are going to make what sells regardless of who is the President. It is strictly business.
  • Tassos The best way to charge is while your car is parked at work, if your employer lets you charge it for free (some do).After that, it's charging at home.Using chargers on a long trip is not only much more expensive than charging at home, and not only does it take 30 minutes or more vs the 5 mins tops to fill a gas tank, but many times with popular trips (eg LA- las Vegas very popular with others, not with me, I despise Las Vegas and the morons who consider it fun to give their hard earned $ to the casino owners), you should expect far more than the 30 min, as you may need to queue up, possibly for hours, until a damned charger becomes free.
  • ToolGuy What a concept.