There’s no denying that the three-row SUV space is big. Huge, in fact. A big chunk of the full-size SUV segment is made up of seven-seaters, and the fact that Jeep wasn’t competing there had become a liability.
It’s notable, then, that the all-new Grand Cherokee starts out with this three-row model. There’ll be a two-row version eventually, and indeed an electrified Grand Cherokee (also with two-rows), but Jeep is pulling out all the stops to court the audience that’s actually opening its wallet.
Pricing kicks off at R1 299 900 for the Limited, the Overland is R1 479 900, and the Summit is R1 679 900.
There’s no mistaking it for anything other than a Jeep. From the seven-bar grille, to the high shoulder-line, to the short overhangs and rear-drive proportions, the Grand Cherokee L’s heritage is clear.
Familiarity, though, is no drawback here. I think the new Grand Cherokee L is very much colour dependent: with some hues, the truncated grille segments look a little odd, but with its LED lighting front and rear and the optional blacked-out roof it appears distinctive and crisp among the big SUV competition. Lest you forget what it is, or where it’s made, Jeep makes sure to slap a big name-badge across the doors.
Pride in a good product, though, can’t be argued with. On that level, it’s tough to speak ill of this new Jeep. There is only one engine locally, a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. It’s good for 210 kW and 344 Nm of torque, rated for 2 813 kg of towing, and is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission as standard. Fuel consumption is dependent on your driving style and terrain but for our launch drive it came rated at an average of 13l per 100 km.
There are three all-wheel drive configurations, too: Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, and Quadra-Drive II. Quadra-Trac I has a single-speed active transfer case and can push up to 100-percent of power to the front or rear axles. Quadra-Trac II adds a two-step active transfer case, has improved low-range performance, and is standard on the Overland. Finally, Quadra-Drive II has a two-speed active transfer case and rear electronic limited-slip differential: it’s optional on the Overland, and standard on the Summit.
At the same time, there’s also Jeep Quadra-Lift air suspension, also standard on the Overland. That can adjust the ride height across 277 mm, including dipping the Grand Cherokee L down to make loading and unloading easier.
Jeep is, understandably, keen to prove its new model is no pretender when it comes to the rough stuff. The result was an off-road course longer than any luxury SUV will ever face in typical use: jagged and haphazard rock piles, unruly log piles, and chassis-testing twist fields.
Happily the adventure abilities don’t impair how refined the big Jeep is on normal roads. I spent my time in the Overland mid-range trim, and came away impressed with how refined the Grand Cherokee L feels.
It’s compliant but not squishy, partly down to Jeep’s efforts to keep curb weight about the same as the smaller outgoing model. That same stiffness that leaves the SUV so capable on the off-road course also leaves it stiff and reassuring on the main roads: there’s no body twist to unsettle or leave those in the third row feeling seasick.
The engine sounds distant and muffled; there’s none of the hearty grunt that V6’s typically aim for. Straight-line speed is ample and the refined tuning means there’s minimal body roll come the corners, but even in sport mode the Grand Cherokee L feels focused on comfort.
I suspect that’s the right decision on the part of Jeep’s designers. As, too, was their focus on the interior: this cabin feels a level above anything we’ve seen from the company in memory. Layout, trim choices, and technology all punch above their weight and, indeed, the Grand Cherokee L’s price tag.
For maximum-lavish you’ll want the Summit model, which has double-diamond stitched leather, massage seats, waxed walnut wood accents, a 19-speaker McIntosh audio system, and heating/ventilation for both the first and second rows. Even the more attainable trims, though, feel considered and refined. Jeep’s 8.4 or 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 touchscreens are large and responsive, there’s real metal trim – albeit a little more hard plastic below the interior belt line – and the switchgear strikes a great balance between sturdy and special.
The new infotainment system is a nice improvement. Uconnect has been capable and fast for the last couple of generations, but a little overwhelming in its interface. For this fifth-gen version, Jeep revamped the graphics and made customization easier: you can drag shortcuts to the top bar for persistent access to things like the surround camera, rearrange the home screen with widgets to avoid so much menu-hopping, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto coexist more harmoniously with Uconnect 5 than is the case with most infotainment systems.
The center console screen plays nicely with the standard 10.3-inch digital cluster and optional 10-inch head-up display. You may have to spend a little time setting it all up initially, but the Grand Cherokee L supports multiple driver profiles for easy recall. Sadly there’s no profile sync across Jeep’s cloud, and while the redesigned owners app is faster and looks much improved, you can’t remotely configure the infotainment with it yet.
It’s not just glitter that Jeep gets right, though. The basics, like space and room for cargo, are pitch-perfect too. There are 6- and 7-seat configurations – the former with plush captain’s chairs in the second row – but even those relegated to the third row won’t be too disappointed. Jeep promised it was sized for adults and sure enough that’s the case: at 1.89m my knees weren’t around my chin and my head was still some way from the roof, and those 1.8m+ were similarly accommodated.
Getting in there, too, is straightforward with the tip-and-slide seats. The second and third rows will drop down, of course, including the second-row center console in 6-seat versions, for a big, flat load floor.
As for times when you don’t want to drive, there’s a slight stumble. Adaptive cruise is standard, along with lane management, front and rear parking alerts, blind spot warnings, rear cross path alerts, and forward collision warnings with auto-brake, and you can add on night vision and a 360-degree camera.
Patience in that situation, though, may be tough to muster. Jeep’s first three-row SUV is mighty appealing, not least because it keeps the automaker’s personality while not forcing you to compromise on comfort and day-to-day usability simply so that you can also boast about your off-road capabilities. Where the third-row seating in some rivals can feel like an afterthought, the Grand Cherokee L embraces a family by avoiding the “but why do I have to sit back there?” squabbles.
It’s a shame that Jeep has no plans to make a three-row electrified version, at least at this stage, and the delay in hands-free driver-assistance is frustrating. All the same, there’s much more to like about the 2022 Grand Cherokee L than there is to complain about. Distinctive styling, a flexible and nicely designed cabin, and unarguable off-road credibility help warrant the “Grand” in its name.
You might also like
More from Cars
Mercedes-Benz Vans South Africa aims to introduce electro-mobility solutions quite soon. While Merc is no stranger to electric cars, the …
Earlier this past week Mercedes-Benz Vans and Rivian announced a huge partnership that could result in a whole lot of …
It's hard to believe, but we've only been talking about Toyota's Prospecton Plant for the most part of this year. …