THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Choices! A wide range of Grand Cherokee models and powertrains to suit any choice, and an attention to detail and styling that make the Grand Cherokee a true premium SUV competitor.
- What’s Worst: Still prefer the 3.0-litre diesel but only if it returns as a no-cost option (as it did last year).
What’s Interesting: The Grand Cherokee rules as the Jeep flagship but rumours persist about a possible future Grand Wagoneer, bigger and with three rows of seating.
It’s been almost 25 years since Bob Lutz, the legendary automotive exec, drove the very first Grand Cherokee up the steps at the 1992 Detroit Auto Show, intentionally crashing through a plate glass window for a rather dramatic debut of Jeep’s new flagship vehicle.
Four generations later, the Grand Cherokee has evolved to a pinnacle of blended grit and sophistication, worthy of its premium positioning and touted by FCA Canada as the “Most Awarded SUV ever”.
And the beat goes on with new changes for 2016, designed to keep Jeep competitive in its mid-size five-passenger luxury SUV segment.
RELATED: Land Rover’s Discovery Sport big on space, off-road ability
The Grand Cherokee lineup adds a new acoustic windshield and, inside, a new “polystable” shifter, while the standard paddle-shifters on the steering wheel can now be switched on or off via the centre panel touch screen display.
The Uconnect infotainment/connectivity system, starts with a 5.0-inch touchscreen or comes available with an 8.4-inch touchscreen that has been upgraded with a Drag and Drop menu bar that allows users to personalize their instrument control and app choices.
Siri Eyes Free, a viewable Vehicle User Guide and a Do Not Disturb mode that suppresses incoming calls and texts have also been added.
Trail Rated models equipped with Off-road group packages now come with new 18-inch Goodyear All-Terrain Adventure tires and a new Ivory Tri-coat colour bolsters upscale model palette choices.
But, more significantly, the 2016 Grand Cherokee is the first model in FCA’s lineup to harness the latest version of the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine, revised and tweaked from top to bottom.
New Pentastar technologies include a two-step Variable Valve Lift system, cooled Exhaust-Gas-Recirculation and an upgraded Variable-Valve Timing system that reduces pumping losses and improves combustion. The compression ratio has also been raised from 10.2:1 to 11.3:1, still on regular fuel.
All the above factors contribute to increased torque in the lower rev ranges and a slight power increase (+5 hp), with a new total rating of 295 hp. And, even with thirteen pounds of new added content, engineers managed to trim the overall engine weight by four pounds.
A new Engine Stop/Start system saves fuel by reducing idling, and when you factor in Eco Mode, a new electric power steering system, decreased tire rolling resistance and weight-saving aluminum suspension components, the end result should sum up to a predicted six percent increase in fuel economy.
As tested here, the V6 is rated at 12.8/9.5L/100km (city/hwy). My mixed bag of driving conditions averaged out to an acceptable 11.3L/100km (comb).
You might not really notice the marginal uptick in get-up-and-go but the 3.6-litre V6 pulls well enough to please, channeling power smoothly through the TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic and Select-Terrain traction management modes, and with choices of four different available Jeep all-wheel-drive/four-wheel-drive systems.
Yes, you could opt for significantly more power with the 5.7-litre V8 (360 hp, 390 lb/ft) for an additional$2,400 or the 3.0-litre diesel V6 (240 hp, 420 lb/ft) for $7,145.
But you might want to weigh those power and price choices carefully, especially considering the stock Pentastar V6’s very respectable 2,812 kg (6,200 lb) tow rating, which should provide oomph enough for most of the big boy toys.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee comes in an array of trim level choices – Laredo ($43,395), Limited ($51,695), Overland ($60,495) and Summit ($65,495) with added 75th anniversary packages this year.
Yes, even the base Laredo model lists for more than $40K, but this is the flagship luxury lineup after all. And there are plenty of lesser Jeep models to fit more frugal budgets – Patriot, Compass, Renegade, Cherokee and Wrangler, ranging through starting prices of around $15K-$28K.
ALSO READ: Wrangler Anniversary celebrates 75 years of Jeepness
And frankly, when it comes to the Laredo trim tested here, there’s really nothing “base” about it. Even this most modest Grand Cherokee rides quietly and elegantly with a standard content list that includes proximity keyless entry, power group, dual-zone A/C, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with shift/audio/cruise controls, fog lamps, a 7-inch customizable gauge cluster and Uconnect infotainment with a six-speaker audio system and more.
Granted there’s no added DRL hose pipe LED bling around the headlights, no nav and no leather, just premium cloth seats tastefully done in a Black and Light Beige Frost two-tone treatment, complementing the comfortable five-seater cabin and setting off the handsome True Blue Pearl exterior nicely. But our entry-level Laredo tester has been pimped slightly with bigger 18-inch Satin Silver wheels, the ParkView Rear Back-up Camera, Uconnect 8.4 and an All-Weather Capability Group package with heated seats, heated steering wheel, remote start, upgraded Quadra-Trac II 4WD system and other goodies.
Which seems to be just enough to complete a very nice entry-level Laredo package, proving you don’t have to break the bank, or for that matter smash through a plate glass window, to impress with a new 2016 Grand Cherokee.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X4 2016
BODY STYLE: Mid-size premium SUV.
DRIVE METHOD: Four-wheel drive (Quadra-TracII)
ENGINE: 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 (295 hp, 260 lb/ft)
CARGO: 1028 litres, 1934 litres with rear seat folded flat.
TOWING: 2,812 kg (6,200 lb).
FUEL ECONOMY: 12.8/9.5L/100km (city/hwy); As tested 11.3L/100km (comb)
PRICE: Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X4 MSRP $42,895. As tested $46,635 includes All-Weather Capability Group ($1,495), Uconnect 8.4 ($800), 18-inch Satin Silver aluminum wheels ($695), ParkView Rear Back-up Camera ($750). Destination Charge ($1,745) and other fees not incl.
WEB SITE: www.jeep.ca
Follow Wheels.ca on