Familiar Territory: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee has become familiar territory for many consumers. Eschewing trends, Jeep hasn’t crammed a third row into the midsized chassis. Instead Jeep has concentrated on making the Grand into a premium product. While the lowest trim can still be called affordable, the higher trims are ready to compete directly with two-row SUVS by luxury makers.

Fronted by a model-specific seven-slot grille, there’s no mistaking the Jeep attitude in this vehicle. High ground clearance and a wide stance can’t be hidden by the SUV’s handsome sheet metal and classy trim. Still, it is the flagship of the fleet, and the interior piles on luxuries worthy of its price tag.

The more affordable of the trim packages is the Overland with a power-adjusting steering wheel, a dual-pane sunroof and extended leather upholstery. Summit models achieve a more luxurious status just by adding active noise-canceling technology and expanding the noise-reducing acoustic glass. This one packs on every safety feature, including the self-parking system for perpendicular and parallel spaces. Premium leather with diamond-quilted accents covers the seats.

Performance

Four powertrains offer performance worthy of this vehicle’s size and class. For starters, the 3.6-liter V6 generates 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The alternative diesel V-6 generates only 240 horsepower, but it makes up for that with 420 lb.-ft. of torque. Wedged in between the two, the 5.7-liter V8 generates 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque. At the top of the heap, there’s 6.4-liter V8 with 475 horses under the hood. This SRT edition also kicks out 470 lb.-ft. of torque.

An air suspension is a good idea for this big rig. This optional feature lets the driver choose one of five heights, claiming up to 10.6 inches of ground clearance. With a few modifications, QuadraLift allows for more wheel articulation on Trailhawks.

Safety and Entertainment Features

As you’d expect in a flagship, Jeep is offering all of its crash avoidance features. However, you’ll probably need to step up to the pricey Summit edition to get the whole package. You can get a blind spot monitor and a lane departure warning to help avoid common side-swipe related accidents. The forward collision warning utilizes crash mitigation braking. Adaptive cruise control regulates your set speed to match conditions. Critics complain that these features are oversensitive, decreasing their usefulness. Consumers may complain that there are pieces missing. Other affordable SUVs are offering pedestrian detection, standard on the Toyota Highlander, and/or a 360-degree camera system. The Nissan Murano has a predictive system with its forward collision warning. This allows it to see several car lengths ahead of the Grand Cherokee’s system.

Infotainment can match luxury levels with Jeep’s outstanding infotainment system. Highly praised by tech critics, UConnect comes with an 8.4-inch touch display. There are plenty of apps, including Pandora. The graphics, processing speed, and ease of use are top notch for the affordable class. Unfortunately, the system doesn’t yet offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two dedicated systems quickly becoming essential to dash tech users. You’ll need to upgrade to navigation to pick up HD radio. There’s also a Blu-Ray rear entertainment center available for the kids.

How it Stacks up Against the Competition

The Grand Cherokee earns a spot in many categories, making it necessary to compare it on many fronts. On the affordable side, the Grand Cherokee’s rivals include the Ford Edge and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. These hold their own in terms of quality and value package but don’t seek to match the Grand for upscale living. The Nissan Murano, perhaps the most logical rival, is quite sophisticated and doesn’t pretend that urban dwellers will ever go off-road. SUVs like the Toyota 4Runner try to match Jeep’s trail-rated editions with their own off-roading capability. Of course, the 4Runner doesn’t begin to measure up to the Grand Cherokee’s stylishness. Many of the Grand Cherokee’s rivals offer a third row for around the same price. This includes the closely-related Dodge Durango, the Honda Pilot, and the Ford Explorer.

By adding an official Grand Cherokee Trailhawk edition, Jeep is positioning its flagship to challenge the pricier Range Rover. This SUV matches or surpasses the Grand Cherokee’s abilities on the trail. It’s designed to ford up to three feet of standing water. Obviously its higher price tag also come with luxuries and technologies galore. It also has a high horsepower edition to challenge the SRT.

Jeep’s parent company, Fiat-Chrysler, comes up short in a lot of ratings. Whether you are looking at JD Power or any other industrial monitor, you’ll find that most Jeeps, Dodges, Fiats, and Chryslers are ranked behind other affordable vehicles. This puts the handsome Jeep Grand Cherokee under a cloud, especially when competing with luxury vehicles.

Fuel Economy

Jeep hasn’t put much of an emphasis on fuel economy, leaving the green credentials to its diesel. The 3.6-liter V-6 earns 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. That number would be called average in a three-row vehicle, but it is harder to justify in a two-row SUV. Gas mileage is only 14/22 mpg with the 5.7-liter V-8 or 13/19 mpg with the SRT. The diesel looks much better in comparison, earning 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. That figure drops to 21/28 mpg with the four-wheel drive.

Pros and Cons

The 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee gets big marks for its trail-readiness. The Trailhawk edition has made it more competitive in this area than ever before. It certainly helps it earn the Jeep nameplate. As far as performance is concerned, the Grand holds its ground against many lower-powered rivals. There’s also no denying that the upscale editions are earning admirers and buyers. For those who want luxury and aren’t concerned about prestigious brand names, this Jeep makes sense.

While the four-wheel drive Grand Cherokee gets all five stars in safety testing, the regular Grand continues to earn only four. Most rivals do better. The Ford Edge, for instance, has earned five stars every year since 2015. What’s more, Jeep and related Dodge vehicles are consistently four-star earners, making it appear that the brand itself just doesn’t measure up.

With a $30,000 difference between the entry level Laredo and the top-of-the-line Summit, Grand Cherokees really can serve shoppers from radically different income levels. The second-tier Limited, clad in leather and rich with features, may be the best buy in the bunch.