Road test: Jeep Grand Cherokee S-Limited

Road test: Jeep Grand Cherokee

With a new Grand Cherokee just around the corner, we thought it was time to give the current model a good going over. AOL Cars gets behind the wheel.

What is it?

Jeep's biggest SUV (in the UK at least) – the Grand Cherokee. It might be due a facelift in just a few months, but that's not to say the current model isn't worth a look. We've been handed the keys to the S-Limited special edition model, with sporty gloss black alloys and an aggressive black grille.

What's under the bonnet?

In our model, a 3.0-litre V6 diesel that you'll also find in the Chrysler 300C. It's very smooth indeed, and makes a rather glorious purr-come-roar as you pull away from traffic lights – we liked it very much. In such a large, square-fronted car it does like a drink however – though that's probably to be expected.
What's the spec like?

The S-Limited is very well appointed indeed. Aside from all the sporty bits on the outside, the interior is decked out in leather and alcantara, and seats are heated not only in the front, but the rear too. You'll also find a heated steering wheel for those brisk winter mornings, and a fully-opening panoramic sunroof with a show-off electric blind.

There's a decent Harman-powered stereo too, though unfortunately the interface isn't quite so pleasing. We had a few issues linking our phones to the head unit, and during one trip along the M27 in my care, the Jeep's sat nav seemed to be under the impression that I was actually driving into the Solent. Not quite, Grand Cherokee, not quite.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
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Road test: Jeep Grand Cherokee S-Limited

Any rivals?

Yes and no. The Mercedes M-Class – on which the Grand Cherokee is actually based – springs to mind. We're not convinced it drives any more pleasantly though, and costs considerably more before you even start thinking about the Jeep's extensive kit list. There's the BMW X5 too, which costs more but does pull off the sporty SUV package a bit more consistently.

What's it like to drive?

Exactly as you'd expect. The Grand Cherokee feels absolutely huge – there's no other word for it – and as such it's obviously no toy for a B-road. While it gives a pretty disconnected driving experience, it doesn't roll or flop about quite as much as you might expect, and we reckon it's easier to pilot on the motorway than its Mercedes cousin – particularly when you flick on the adaptive radar cruise control.

That said, the ride is a bit... vague. It floats around, but the big wheels still manage to pick up small bumps and vibration from the road, leading to a slightly fidgety feeling beneath your seat – particularly at motorway speeds.

The AOL Cars Verdict

It's a strange one, the Grand Cherokee. Put it up against something like the X5 and it doesn't come off well, but there's something loveable behind the slightly questionable interior plastics and disconnected handling. Everyone in the office who took it for a spin was won over, either by its looks or the surprisingly seductive engine note, and we were actually quite sad to see it go.

We even liked some of the chintzier bits – the glossy wheels, blacked out bits of trim and cherry red paint all looked the part, and while you could label things like the light-up cup holders a bit tacky, we gave in and loved them instead. After all, there's nothing cooler than seeing your bottle of Evian transformed into an in-car glow stick.

So, on paper the Grand Cherokee might not be at the top of its class, but we enjoyed it all the same. It's a refined, practical cruiser with a beefy image and a reasonable price tag to match. Let's just hope that the upcoming facelift addresses a few of our more prominent niggles.

The knowledge

Model: Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0 S-Limited
Price: £46,485 (as tested)
Engine: 3.0-litre, turbocharged diesel
Power: 237bhp, 550Nm
Max speed: 126mph
0-62mph: 8.2s
MPG: 34.0mpg (combined)
Emissions: 218g/km
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