New, new Jeeps take to the hills
NEW LOOK FOR THE OLDEST 4x4: Jeep's Grand Cherokee has had a nose job, a tail tuck and an internal reorganisation and is much the better for it. This is the Overland model. Image: JEEP
Author: Les Stephenson
Jeep has moved its Grand Cherokee range up by several notches and launched the results in South Africa with a round-trip drive from Jozi to the Cathedral Peak area of the Drakensberg
We told you back in February that they were coming.
That gave us close to 850km for the trip, plus a short 4x4 drive up into the mountains – nothing too testing, but enough to show that the GC is still one of the most comfortable ways of crossing rough country. And fuel consumption ran out at about 11 litres/100km for the 3.6-litre model and 14 for the V8 SRT (previous model launched in May 2012 in SA - though we spent most of the trip on freeways.
Jeep claims the title of “oldest 4x4” by far – Land Rover, for instance, only came into being in 1948 – starting with the Willys Jeep Overland prototypes produced for $739 as wartime equipment for the American forces – the ones you always see in Second World War movies.
Chrysler SA’s Richard Sloman said they were known as “the GI’s best friend”. Wheels24 would argue in favour of Durex being deserving of that title, but anyway...
Then came the Jeep CJ – the Civilian Jeep – built from 1945-49 and far less Spartan than those endured by the armed forces. After that things picked up quickly: the Jeepster from 1948-51, a pick-up from 1947 right through to 1965 which was almost as long-lived as the wooden frame-bodied Willy’s Wagon sold from 1946 through to 1965.
Various others followed, morphing through the first auto models and into the body shape of the Cherokee and Grand Cherokees of today – with this the 2014 model the latest and certainly the neatest. The first Grand Cherokee appeared in 1993, taking over from the iconic Wagoneer with the now standard Quadra-Drive 4x4 system being installed from 1999, the year Jeep returned to South Africa after the apartheid years.
“Now,” Sloman said, “we have the most refined Jeep Grand Cherokee yet.” It’s available in three versions – LTD, Overland and the awesome SRT high-performance model with its 6.4-litre V8 Hemi engine as the most-expensive model at R879 990.
The LTD is available for now only as a 3.6-litre petrol V6 at R584 990 with a CRD (diesel) V6 to follow before year-end. The more upmarket Overland comes as a 3.6 V6 and a 5.7-litre V8 Hemi at R646 990 and R679 990 respectively, with the diesel version also to come.
The GC lives in three worlds: it’s a high-riding luxury car, a long-distance grand-tourer with real luggage capacity and if you feel like crossing the Namib one weekend, well, just go for it...
Chrysler South Africa CEO and MD Trent Barcroft explained: “The latest Grand Cherokee is part of a major revision of all Chrysler models. This Cherokee is more than just what some might call ‘a facelift’. I’d rather call it ‘the new, new Jeep Cherokee’.”
Tell us what you think...
Changes, presumably, can also be expected for Jeep’s compact models, the Cherokee, Compass, Patriot and ruff-’n-rugged Wranglers with the automaker hoping it can maintain its position as the world’s No.1 4x4 company. Indeed, sales in South Africa grew by 65% from 2011 through 2013, from 4383 to 7237.
“The Grand Cherokee,” Barcroft added, “is probably the best buy, dollar for dollar, anywhere in the world.” About five-million, he said, had been sold since 1992.
Jeep’s product strategy manager, Scott Seed, condensed the new GC’s changes during a model walkaround. “How did we make it better?” he asked, and went on to answer his own question...
The front has a revised – the still traditionally seven-slotted but somewhat squashed-down – grille with honeycomb filling the gaps (black in the case of the SRT), new less-fussy and slimmer headlights with LED outlines identifying the various models and bi-xenon high-intensity discharge light sources on all models.
The rear of the new Grand Cherokee has also received changes; there are new, larger tail lights with LED lighting, a larger and more aerodynamic rear spoiler, new bumpers and a re-sculpted and power-operated tail door that gives greater visibility. The lower rear facias are now model-specific and dual exhaust tips are now standard on both Limited and Overland models.
The general impression: less flash, more class, not that the Cherokee has ever been much of an exhibitionist.
“The cabin has become even more refined thanks to quality craftsmanship,” Seed added, “ with real wood trim – there’s no plastic – a new three-spoked steering-wheel with paddle gear-shifters and controls for radio, cruise, phone and voice commands on all models as well as an electronic shifter on the transmission tunnel.
“Some models have a large, full-length sun-roof.”
TWO INFO SCREENS
Passenger protection is big on the GC, with more than 60 possible passive and active intervention methods from airbags to anti-lock brakes via cruise-control ‘crash mitigation’ and forward anti-collision radar that uses automatic braking.
The cabin facia on all models has been hugely revised with large central colour info touchscreen displaying audio and satnav and a secondary TFT screen with speedo and odo and a wide choice of ‘customer configurable’ displays controlled from buttons on the steering wheel.
The SRT facia is essentially the same – two screens – but that in front of the driver has many more functions involving performance, braking distances, G-forces – all the stuff you’ll need if you take you SRT on to a track.
Why you would want to race one, I dunno, but you’ll have all the info you need – there’s even a launch control. That should sort the men from the boys in the traffic-lights GP.
An exclusive feature of the SRT model – and a big chunk of the premium price - is a state-of-the-art nineteen-speaker, 825W Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system. I played with it on the 400km return trip to Jozi from KZN and it is truly awesome.
All seats in all models are leather and heatable (the SRT has a fabric/leather combination as an option), the rears folding flat to create an enormous cargo/luggage bay with excellent access through the (electric-lifting and closing) tail door.
There’s a spread of USB ports right through the cabin and – a new thing – the fuel filler has no removable cap and will only accept the correct fuel nozzle – petrol or diesel.
An eight-speed auto gearbox is range-standard, as is an ECO drive mode which invokes the standard ride height to drop by 13mm for extra aero efficiency. The Quadra-Lift air suspension has a full range of 280mm, all controlled by a panel on the transmission tunnel.
That panel is replaced on the SRT by similar buttons but designed to control the driver’s choice of performance.
Find out much more about the 2014 Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee.