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Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo & Overland V6 - Driven

A couple of years back Jeep gave its extremely popular Grand Cherokee range a make-over. From the outside, the changes were few, and fairly subtle – the new style headlights being the most obvious – and it’s still good looking for its type. With it came immense sales success for the model.

Along with the “I bought a Jeep” advertising campaign which has been an enormous success, Grand Cherokee sales have increased in leaps and bounds with the current shape. The up-to-2013 model was a decent vehicle, but not class-leading. There were several versions to choose from, all well-equipped, but (with the exception of the powerful SRT8) the driving experience was nothing to write home about.

However, if you were moving out of a similar-sized Toyota Hi-Lux, Mitsubishi Triton or one of the myriad twin-cab utes with a chassis, the Jeep was enormously better.

With the latest version, Jeep has given us far more than a warm-over. Inside, the dashboard and centre console have come in for improvements, both functionally and stylistically. Clever electronic instruments are well thought out and up to the minute.

To drive, the improvements are harder to measure, but certainly obvious. Especially the new 2-wheel-drive Laredo model, with its 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 and 8-speed auto was actually a pleasure to drive. Almost sporty. The acceleration was surprising – in a good way. It’s got a good turn of useful speed. If this is a base model, it’s not too shabby. Sure, it misses out on the big-screen at the top of the console, sat-nav, AWD, the neat 4WD controller on the console and a swag of luxury items, but it never felt basic.

All versions have an excellent new ZF 8-speed automatic transmission with a tiny little electronic gear selector on the console. While the selector isn’t brilliant, the transmission is. Jeep claims better economy and performance with the new transmission.

The Laredo still boasts 18-inch alloy wheels, touchscreen, heated power seats, rear view camera, tyre pressure monitors, Bluetooth connectivity and stylish daytime running lamps. At $45,000 driveaway, Jeep is offering a pretty attractive package.

I also drove the upmarket Overland, with a 3-litre turbodiesel engine, which was less pleasurable mainly due to the more slovenly engine. Though it was more luxuriously equipped... The large format, customer-configurable display allows drivers to personal settings and graphics. Detailed vehicle information ranging from a large digital speed readout, navigation details, the Selec-Terrain and Quadra-Lift system and more are integrated into the system. Neat stuff and easy to use.

The Overland gives you the Selec-Terrain traction control system, with five different condition modes. Traction is also enhanced through the Quadra-Trac II or optional Quadra-Drive II 4WD systems. Also, the Quadra-Lift air suspension features five height settings.

Inside the Overland has a higher level of trim, with details such as the wood section of steering wheel and Overland badges on the seats. The seats are ventilated for heating, the dash, door trims and centre armrest are upholstered in leather. Blind spot and forward collision monitoring are also fitted to the Overland, as is adaptive cruise control.

Small item stowing capacity in the cabin is light-on. Interior quality is vastly improved over Jeeps of a decade ago, but it’s still no Range Rover.

An area of criticism would be the headlights, which don’t seem powerful enough on high beam. The Overland has the automatic dipping function which can be as frustrating as it can be useful. Many car makers are adopting this questionable technology.

You can order a Laredo with 4x4. All models are available with the diesel engine option or 3.0-litre petrol V6, and the mid-range Limited and Overland have the option of the stonking SRT 5.7-litre Hemi V8 – providing a 0-100km/h time of just 4.8 seconds.

A whole lot of small changes have brought great overall improvement to the Grand Cherokee. An owner won’t be embarrassed to have “Bought a Jeep”.


VITAL STATISTICS
Laredo 4x2 V6 petrol/Overland 4x4 V6 diesel
Engine: 3.6-litre V6 petrol/3-litre V6 turbodiesel
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rwd/4WD
Power: 270/184kW
Torque: 347/570Nm
Performance: 0-100km/h 6.6/7.8 seconds
Price: $45,000 driveaway/$71,000 at time of review
Text & photos - Paul Blank (copyright)