2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Driving Impressions
The Grand Cherokee excels in ride, handling, steering, and off-road prowess. Its smooth road manners make it feel like a crossover that has quick responses and a controlled ride.
With five engines and three four-wheel-drive systems, you can build or choose the Grand Cherokee that works for you. For high performance, both the SRT and Trackhawk offer great grip, impressive handling, and a ride that’s softer than the comparable Dodge SRT and Hellcat Chargers and Challengers. The SRT and Trackhawk hold their own against the best from Porsche, BMW M, and Mercedes-AMG, and they do it for a lot less money.
The V6 engine has strong low-rpm torque to deal with demanding situations, especially off-road conditions. It can tow up to 6200 pounds.
The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 makes the SUV feel almost like the brawny Dodge Charger sedan, including its rousing engine note. But because the V6 is so powerful, we don’t think the V8 is necessary, or worth the penalty in fuel mileage, at 17 Combined mpg for the V8 versus 21 mpg with the V6.
The 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 lacks the punch of the V8, and doesn’t have as much passing power as the gasoline V6, but it has awesome torque for towing and gets 25 mpg. It’s a bit loud while idling and at low speed.
The SRT uses a 6.4-liter V8 making 475 horsepower, and its fantastic handling puts it in the rarified air of the best European SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne. It brakes to a stop from 60 mph in just 116 feet, which is impressive for any vehicle, let alone a 5104-pound SUV.
The new Trackhawk can accelerate from zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds, and does the quarter-mile in 11.6 seconds, stunning times for an SUV. Yet when motoring around neighborhood streets, it’s as docile as any other sport-utility, with little indication of its incredible performance.
Three all-wheel-drive systems are available. Basic Quadra-Trac I has a locking differential and 50/50 front/rear power split, but no low range. It will do the job in snow and mud, but don’t expect it to climb sand dunes.
Quadra-Trac II has the two-speed transfer case that Quadra-Trac I lacks, with an electronic limited-slip rear differential for more traction at the rear wheels. It also comes with hill-start assist and hill-descent control. It can split torque variably from front to rear when slip is detected at either axle, so 100 percent of the power can go to one axle if that’s where all the traction is.
Quadra-Drive II is for the most severe off-roading.
Jeep also adds its Selec-Terrain system to both the Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II systems. It offers Auto, Sand, Mud, Snow, and Rock modes that optimize the electronics of various vehicle systems to provide the best grip over each terrain. Any Grand Cherokee with the Selec-Terrain system and an off-road package gets Jeep’s Trail Rated badge.
We’ve scrambled up a 200-foot climb with a 55-degree incline, using the Selec-Terrain system that controls the speed in increments of one kilometer per hour. The smart electronic controls make for brainless throttle control during off-roading. Although you still have to steer.
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