This marks the first foray for me into what traditionally is a big American icon. And when I say big, this thing was huge. Measuring in at just under 5 metres, and with active air suspension to lower the whole car when you park to make getting out a little bit easier, this looks every bit the big American lump you would assume a Jeep Grand Cherokee to be.
But coming in with a price tag of a smidge over £50k, you would be forgiven for thinking that this must surely be more than a big lump with a V6. And thankfully you’d be right.
I wasn’t expecting too much in terms of refinement, luxury or handling ability… but in fairness, this was one of the best cars I’ve driven recently. It handled well, with responsive steering, and a raft of driver aids to assist manoeuvring. The a-pillars where however quite massive. I recall at one junction actually noticing that an entire lane of traffic coming from one spoke of a roundabout had disappeared behind it!
With a car of such a size you’d imagine that parking would be an issue, but in fact it wasn’t. A rear camera, sensors and large wing mirrors actually made this one of the easiest cars I’ve squeezed into a space.
So it handles well, helps the driver out and looks the part – there must be a drawback… well it’s certainly not practicality. Taking it away over the long Easter weekend on a trip to the South coast with family in tow proved that it looks that big for a good reason. Simply put, it is that big. We didn’t scrimp on packing and were able to fit everything in the capacious boot without having to clutter the footwells with extra bits that wouldn’t fit.
But where this car came into its own was on the motorway. Cruise control is expected in this day and age, so no surprises that the Jeep has this. But where it goes that little bit further is in the addition of adaptive cruise control. You set your ‘cruise’ speed and (surprise, surprise) the car will maintain that speed. Where it gets clever is the way in which it uses the tech that’s stuffed inside the front bumper to monitor traffic around you. Someone pulls into your lane, or the car in front slows down and the electronic brain will maintain the safe distance between you, slowing your car with the brake, and then, once the traffic has regained it’s original speed, or the obstructive car has pulled back into its lane it will accelerate for you, taking you back to cruise speed.
On a prolonged journey, this was a godsend. Getting used to it, however was another story. There’s something unnerving, or unnatural even about watching a car in front of you slow down and not putting your foot on the brake. You find your foot hovering as you tense up, waiting for the car to decide to slow down, wondering if you are going to have to take evasive action or fill in the stupidest insurance claim form of all time (“My car should have stopped for me, but didn’t”) but then, it kicks in and slows you down. If needed, to a complete stop. It is bizarre, and as I say, it does take some getting used to, but once you do, it makes a long drive with occasionally screaming, often whinging kids in the back a lot less demanding.
Okay, so it works for a family trip, but is that all it is? A glorified people carrier that once, many iterations ago, would survive off-road?
No. This is still, at its heart, a Jeep, and in the States, Jeep is synonymous with off-road. Some of their newer, smaller offerings may struggle a bit, but not so the Grand Cherokee. Although I wasn’t able to give it a full trial, a little exploration of a local hill proved that with its electronic settings for mud, gravel, sand and snow (okay, I didn’t test all of them) appeared to do their job, monitoring traction and delivering power as needed to cope with potentially treacherous terrain. And the high seating position ensured a good view was maintained, so no complaints there.
So all-in-all, it was incredibly American; doing everything it could to make sure I had a nice day. Dealing with off-road conditions, family life and tantrums being thrown at it, and also assisting where it could with traffic conditions. On a family holiday, it actually became part of the family – helping out and coping with whatever was thrown at it. Including the weather. Which was very British. And very terrible.