There’s much hope pinned on the new Grand Cherokee.
After a period in the doldrums while Chrysler fought for survival, the Jeep brand is at the start of a steep growth curve and the new incarnation of its flagship SUV is a vital weapon in the fight back to glory.
“We believe we have every opportunity to regain our number two position in 2013 to 2014 in the SUV market,” brand director Nigel Land told AM.
This is why it is pleasing to report, after a day spent hacking around Derbyshire in the Grand Cherokee, that this is a great step forward. It’s built in the US on the same platform that will underpin the next Mercedes-Benz ML-Class and has a state-of-the-art 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine co-developed in Italy by VM Motori and Fiat Powertrain, plus a five-speed automatic gearbox.
That powertrain is almost 20% more efficient than the previous diesel engine, and Jeep claims that the improvement in CO2 emissions represents a saving of £1,220 in current VED taxation over five years.
Another result is smooth and refined progress on-road plus 406lb ft of torque ready for any off-road action.
Hauling itself over rough ground and steep inclines is no issue, using electronic controls to select low ratio and to tailor brake, throttle and suspension settings to different terrains with its Selec-Terrain system. Hill descent control is also standard.
The equine and field sports communities are the prime target.
The Grand Cherokee is well suited to pulling horseboxes and trailers, given its 3.5 tonne braked trailer towing capacity.
In its new guise this SUV won’t look out of place parked between a Land Rover Discovery and Volkswagen Touareg at the horse trials. It’s a stylish, rugged design that will stand out from its rivals, but won’t offend.
Dealers will offer two variants: the Limited and the Overland. Limited features include Alpine premium audio with touch screen display and a 30GB hard drive, keyless entry and start, leather trim and heated seats, 18in alloys, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, reversing camera and a trailer sway control for towing.
The Overland adds sat-nav, a panoramic sunroof, Quadra-lift adjustable air suspension, adaptive cruise control, 20in alloys plus leather covered dashboard and wood interior trim inserts.
With such extensive equipment, this SUV looks good value. Similarly specified European rivals would cost significantly more, although they will have stronger residuals at trade-in.
The Grand Cherokee was previously a poor relation in the premium SUV family. Now, with strong on- and off-road credentials plus a premium feel it deserves due consideration from any buyer seeking a prestige 4x4.