The Overland is the most off-road-oriented Grand Cherokee. But does it work as a luxury-car too?
Base price: $99,990.
Powertrain and performance: 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6, 184kW/570Nm, 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 7.5 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4828mm long, 1792mm high, 2915mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 782-1558 litres, fuel tank 93 litres, 20-inch alloy wheels on 265/60 tyres.
We like: Performance, chassis and safety technology, luxury equipment levels.
We don’t like: On-road handling lacks finesse, complex layout of dashboard menus.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The Jeep Grand Cherokee has changed a lot over the last five years. In fact, the latest generation was one of the first Chrysler Group products to come under scrutiny from new shareholder (now 100% owner) Fiat, with demands for better build quality and more polished cabin design.
You might think Fiat calling Jeep out on quality is the pot calling the kettle black, but it’s paid off for the Grand: it has the same styling cues and awesome off-road ability the brand is renowned for, but comfort, refinement and – yes – overall quality are eons ahead of previous Grand Cherokee generations.
In that respect, the Overland model represents the best of all worlds. As the name suggests, it’s the ultimate off-road version of the Grand. But it’s also intended to be the most comfortable and luxurious, if not actually the flagship: that honour belongs to the barking mad SRT high-performance model.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? We’ve talked a bit about the Grand Cherokee’s American and Italian family connections, but there’s also a lot of German in this model. The platform is shared with the Mercedes-Benz ML-class (now called GLE, just to make things more confusing), because development of the new generation began during M-B’s ownership of Chrysler.
The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine provides a great blend of monster torque and decent fuel economy. There’s a bit of lag from standstill as the engine spools up and the transmission (upgraded from five to eight gears in the model’s most recent facelift) overcomes the sheer inertia of an SUV American-style, but once up and running it’s all rather effortless.
The Overland has the more off-road-oriented Quadra Drive II transmission and Quadra Lift air suspension (optional on the Limited), with five different ride heights.
Overall, the on-road driving experience is not as seamless as European crossover-style models: the steering and suspension give the impression of having more play at low speed. But that’s true of every other Jeep, including the less rugged Cherokee which is based on a road-car platform, so it’s safe to assume it’s a deliberate strategy. Presumably Jeep customers like their SUVs to feel more than a little truck-like.
The Overland scores on safety compared with the Limited: it gains blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and an excellent adaptive cruise control. Top marks for equipment, but points off for ergonomics: the cruise has a curious duplicate set of controls, one for the standard system and another for the adaptive technology. For what reason we cannot imagine, but if you’re not 100 percent familiar with the car it’s possible to absent-mindedly activate the standard cruise when you wanted the adaptive.
Result: a heart-stopping moment as the car accelerates towards stationary traffic. Just saying.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The Overland has quite a bit of interior equipment over (excuse the pun) and above even the Limited model. It gains Nappa leather upholstery, ventilation to go with the heating on the front seats (the wood/leather-trimmed steering wheel is heated too) and a panoramic glass roof.
The electronic systems in the cabin are excellent. There’s a largely virtual dashboard which can be configured in different ways via a slightly confusing menu, as well as the now-familiar UConnect information and entertainment touch screen, which has worked wonders for everything from Jeep product to the Alfa Romeo Giulietta to the Fiat Ducato van. That’s the advantage of having very different brands share the same parts bin.
Rugged off-roader it may be, but there’s a rather sumptuous feeling to the Overland cabin. The Nappa leather upholstery is supremely soft, there’s more leather (albeit not of the Nappa variety) on the dashboard and doors, a heated steering wheel is a treat any way you look at it and the plastics used in the latest Grand Cherokee range are very impressive.
Love the old-school Overland logos around the car, too: embroidered on the seatbacks and bronze-like badging on the exterior.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The Overland doesn’t skimp on the luxury and safety equipment. That, and the undeniable character of the big Jeep make it an appealing SUV.
Just don’t go expecting a sporty drive. Performance is impressive from the V6 turbo diesel and eight-speed transmission, but the steering and chassis are engineered as much for off-road excellence as they are for on-road comfort. That entails some compromise; but a Grand that feels a bit more utility than sports seems about right.
- Blind spot warning: Yes
- Lane guidance: Yes
- Cruise control: Adaptive with stop and go
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Parking radar: Yes with camera
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Heated/ventilated seats: Front and rear/Front only
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: Yes
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
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