Car reviews - Jeep - Grand Cherokee - Summit Platinum
Excellent value for money, versatile and roomy cabin, lusty diesel, superb off-road capability, lavish cabin
Room for improvement
Expensive service costs, light steering affecting on-road manners, hesitant gearbox, archaic foot park brake
19 Aug 2015
By NEIL DOWLING
Price and equipment
Value for money reigns supreme with the Platinum arriving at $78,000 plus on-road costs, slipping between the Overland AWD diesel ($74,000) and the V8 heavyweight SRT8 at $82,000.
It’s a strong argument to go American and that firms up strongly when the Platinum is compared with some European SUVs.
Consider the two Germans (in the comparison section below) that have no dual-range gearbox for getting off the bitumen, a smaller luggage space (seats intact), less convenience and comfort features and cost between $3000 and $9000 more.
There is a perception that the Jeep is a tougher vehicle and better suited to rugged use in Australia, particularly for towing.
Up against the European prestige names of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, the Jeep holds its own in terms of desirability based on the rugged perceptions.
The same may not apply to the Toyota Prado Kakadu that has similar specifications and equivalent off-road prowess.
Both are well matched. Like the Prado, the Platinum gets a suite of convenience gear in the cabin starting with a full-length glass and sunroof, satellite navigation, a clever UConnect connectivity system, leather upholstery, woodgrain trim, surround cameras, high-end audio and two rows of heated seats.
The Jeep’s engine is a beauty and, at 184kW/570Nm and a 7.5 litres per 100 kilometre fuel-use average. It edges out the Prado, however, Toyota is updating the Prado next month and it will feature the new 130kW diesel from the forthcoming HiLux, and a six-speed auto, while fuel use improves from 8.5 to 7.9L/100km.
Then the Jeep goes further. It adds more to the audio with its 19 speakers, 12-channel amplifier and 825-Watts of precision from Harman Kardon and dispels ambient noise with its new-for-2015 active noise cancellation software and acoustic window glass.
It’s what every audiophile dreams of and not only is it within an affordable auditorium, but it works as good as the manufacturer promises.
On the safety front, the Jeep carries a new five-star ANCAP safety rating it was awarded in July – up from four stars – as well as autonomous collision avoidance system, tyre pressure sensor, rollover stability and cornering bi-Xenon headlights.
But it only has five seats while the Prado has seven. Look closer and Prado has a longer service interval and much cheaper service costs.
It becomes an argument of your heart over your head. Against the Mercedes-Benz and the Volkswagen, it may be an easier choice particularly if the owner is predominantly city based.
Size matters. But for some, it’s a shame the Grand Cherokee doesn’t have seven seats because extra seats carries a lot of sales kudos.
What it does have is plenty of room for five. And not only expansive head and legroom, but a very pleasant environment with quality embossed leather upholstery – the heavy leather you’d find in an English armchair – that favours the rear passengers.
The Platinum gets heated and ventilated seats up front and heated for the outside rear. Sit in the back and there’s a centre armrest and ventilation, plus cupholders and bottle holders. There’s even an optional DVD player with two screens. Seriously, you could live there.
There’s more colour in the interior with Jeep relinquishing its hold on matte and gloss black in favour of the dusted alloy look that has inspired the variant’s name.
It is pronounced in the centre console as a surround to the 8.4-inch touchscreen and extending down to form the console between the front seats. The colour enhances Jeep’s longer step into the luxury market and certainly appears more expensive than the comparatively sombre cabin of the Volkswagen.
The broad instrument panel places its primary dials at each end, using a digital information screen in the centre to relay ancillary data – everything from sat-nav route to digital speedo, audio status and telephone connections and contacts.
There is a couple of complaints. That broad centre console isn’t space efficient. It carries only two cupholders, the gear shifter and the Select-Terrain switchgear and has plenty of room for an electric park brake.
Meanwhile, the actual park brake is an ancient foot-operated unit that does its best at fouling your left foot and taking the place of a more useful foot rest. The windscreen pillars are also huge and can easily hide an oncoming vehicle, so driver care is vital.
But even for the driver, the Jeep’s cabin is a spacious area made even more bright and airy thanks to the glass roof with its slide-back sunroof section.
There is a sense that it is a comfortable around-Australia wagon – a feeling reinstated by the lazy thrum of the diesel engine.
For haulers, the electric tail-gate is a big plus, as is the flip-up glass window within its frame.
But the best news is the space. There’s 782 litres of flat, open luggage-eating room here that is bigger than its main rivals.
Fold the split rear seats down (not quite flat) and that expands to 1554 litres, less than the Touareg (1642 litres) and Mercedes GLE (1650 litres).
The difference is that the Jeep isn’t a seven seater but is the only one (except the Prado that carries its spare on the tail gate) with a full-size spare wheel. And a monstrous 265mm-wide 20-inch wheel at that.
Engine and transmission
Jeep offer the Platinum only with the 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel and compared with the petrol options, that’s the perfect engine.
The Italian VM Motori – the Chrysler associate that also makes the 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel used in the Wrangler – unit is strong from idle, runs clean through the rev range and is frugal at a claimed 7.5L/100km.
On test, through sand and gravel tracks, suburbia and country roads, the test vehicle returned an 8.5L/100km average which we consider excellent given the driving conditions and even the fact this is a big, 2.4-tonne machine.
The V6 pumps 184kW at 4000rpm and 570Nm of torque at 2000rpm, with the majority of the torque available from around 1500rpm. And this low-speed output is precisely why the Platinum is so competent at towing, at cruising freeways and trundling through sand and over rock. And why the fuel consumption is so low.
The transmission is an eight-speed automatic from German manufacturer ZF, the company that also has its nine-speed design in the Jeep Cherokee mid-size SUV.
Together with the V6 diesel, it is the star of the wagon. It has silky upchanges, good ratios and is responsible for much of the impressive fuel economy. But at low speeds, particularly when switching from drive to reverse, it can occasionally get clunky and hesitant.
Select Terrain – a five-mode switch that changes basic drivetrain functions to suit preset tasks – stays in its road mode and will power all wheels with the ability to alter front and rear bias.
The selections include sand, mud and snow, rock and grass and each changes the ride height, the throttle response, gear shift speed and ABS controls to suit the demand of each terrain.
The Quadra Drive II drivetrain system is one of the best on the market. It uses a limited-slip rear differential plus torque-vectoring programs to direct power to the wheel(s) with the most traction. Over rocks, particularly, the system will remove power to a wheel in the air and redirect it to those with traction.
Add to that is the adjustable air suspension that alters ground clearance from 181mm to 287mm. This suspension type inherently has limited wheel articulation in comparison to a live axle, leaf spring arrangement. So much of the off-road work is down to the engine’s low-speed slugging ability and the Quadra Drive II’s ability to allocate the power delivery.
Ride and handling
One of the best features is the ride comfort. Even in the dirt, the big wagon soaks up the bumps and transmits none of the pain or noise to the occupants.
On the road the Jeep will automatically hunker down to its lowest ground clearance to minimise air resistance and maximize fuel economy. There’s even a small “aero” notification of the dash when it happens.
But there’s no denying that this is a big wagon. It is confident though corners with minimal body roll and good grip, but the steering wheel relays little of the road and feels a bit disconnected from the front wheels.
The wheel has a lot of turns lock-to-lock and can make it ponderous to park, though the turning circle is a very acceptable 11.6m diameter.
The latest Grand Cherokee has a uniframe (monocoque) frame like conventional passenger cars and, compared with the previous generation, independent front and rear suspension.
The Platinum also has air suspension with height adjustment. It is adaptive in height relative to speed so, for example, will automatically reduce ground clearance on the highway.
Active Noise Cancelling in the Platinum is responsible for omitting much of the ambient tyre and road noise. It works like noise-cancelling headphones by creating a sound to cancel specific ambient noise.
In the Platinum, it creates a serene cabin and is designed to make occupants enjoy the premium audio. The difference between the Platinum’s interior and that of the Overland was taken to task on this test. Driven back to back, there is a definite reduction in “busy” outside sound in the Platinum. More than a gimmick, then.
Safety and servicing
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Australia has been the last of the major car-makers to look at its service costs. But it may not be the answer buyers expected.
Instead of a capped-price service program adopted by most rivals, FCA has gone for a price menu. It outlines near-future costs to prepare the owner – but it still may come as a bit of a shock.
The Grand Cherokee needs servicing every six months and the first bill will be a rather steep $410.07. Indeed, the cost for servicing the Jeep over three years is currently (for the menu pricing allows for changes) $3219.60.
That compares with the Toyota Prado Kakadu’s three-year service cost of $1320 and the Volkswagen Touareg at $1908.
Jeep has a three-year, 100,000km warranty with three-year roadside assistance.
Glass’s Guide estimates its resale value at 63 per cent, equal to the Volkswagen Touareg and better than even the Toyota Prado Kakadu at 61 per cent.
The Grand Cherokee has a five-star crash rating, seven airbags, electronic brake aids, al-wheel drive and collision avoidance system.
In fact its safety arsenal is pretty comprehensive, adding to the list with trailer sway mitigation, front and rear park sensors with reversing camera, heated and folding mirrors, bi-Xenon headlights with washers and auto dipping function, a tyre pressure sensor and a full-size spare wheel.
Value for money, a captivating body style and a shopping trolley full of features are difficult to ignore. It’s what enforces the Jeep’s already renown off-road capability, towing strength and strong yet economical diesel engine.
The Summit Platinum just adds the extras, pushing it in price up close to the European SUVs but offering a lot more. It’s a superb vehicle but has been hampered by some electrical problems.
The new service program is expensive but the day-to-day fuel costs are acceptable and the resale value has some longer-term comfort.
There’s no doubt the Grand Cherokee is popular. The extra coin for the Platinum appears good value for money but maybe only for a select group of buyers.
Toyota Prado Kakadu from $84,100 plus on-road costs
The ubiquitous Prado faces off against the Jeep in terms of features and off-road capability. The flagship seven-seat Kakadu has a 127kW/410Nm 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel that’s soon due for replacement. It has a five-speed automatic and two-speed reduction transmission and claims 8.5L/100km. Adventurers note the 150-litre fuel tank that gives it s range of more than 2000km. The tow rating is 2500kg brakes and luggage space is 742 litres with the third row collapsed.
Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI from $81,990
The mid-spec off-road five-seat wagon from Volkswagen gets a 180kW/550Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel driving through an eight-speed automatic to all wheels. It claims 7.4L/100km from an 85-litre tank and has a 3500kg tow rating and 580-litre to 1642-litre cargo space.
Mercedes-Benz GLE 250d from $86,900
The entry-level replacement for the ML-Class retains the 150kW/500Nm 2.1-litre turbo-diesel engine but adds a nine-speed automatic. Mercedes claims 6.0L/100km, a towing maximum of 3500kg and the five-seater has the biggest boot space here of 690-1650 litres.
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