- Looks far more expensive than it is
- Eight-speed automatics for all
- Ecodiesel's 30-mpg rating, 730-mile range
- The best infotainment features, and the most usable
- A 470-hp, 0.90g Jeep? Yes, please
- What's with that wan little grille?
- Almost every version's over $30k
- HEMI seems somewhat pointless now
- Base Laredo goes without rearview camera, options
The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee offers an engine for everyone, and a feature list as extensive as those found in luxury sedans.
Refinement and capability have always been Grand Cherokee hallmarks. As the model has evolved over the years, it has grown even more plush, all the while retaining most of its off-road prowess. Like just about any off-road-ready vehicle of its kind, it's not likely to actually leave pavement for long, but buyers pay few penalties for the Grand Cherokee's superior abilities.
For 2014, the Grand Cherokee received a turbodiesel engine option, giving it great highway fuel economy and huge cruising range. Changes for the 2015 model year focus on refinements for the top Summit model, as well as a new monochrome Summit California Edition exterior package.
Today's Jeep Grand Cherokee is quite a handsome ute, although we're not in love with the grille update that was visited upon it for 2014. It's an understated version of the brand's seven-slot grille, and a bit too plain in a segment where flash is generally welcomed. The regularity of its SUV shape has been de-blanded in back with LED taillamps, so there's less in common with the X5 and Touareg, and more with the 1992 original. The cabin is richly furnished, with marvelous textures and materials on the pricey models, and great layout and design even on the basic Laredo. It underscores one of the real strengths of Chrysler since time immemorial--the way it can finish a cockpit, given the right budget and time constraints.
Interior space is quite good, and if anything, fit and finish has gotten better. Multiple color schemes and interesting trim options, like open-pore wood, push the Grand Cherokee ever higher into luxury-vehicle terrain, though it doesn't have the third-row seating or funky-flexible interior of some bigger crossovers. It also lacks features like GM's center-front airbag or Ford's rear-seat belt airbags, but it does have hill ascent control, which maintains steady throttle while the Grand Cherokee scrabbles up surfaces a Flex or an Enclave can only dream about.
Three engines are available in the standard Grand Cherokee. Base models use a 3.6-liter V-6, which makes 290 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, with a 25-mpg highway rating. Then there's the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8, which puts out 360 hp and manages 21 mpg on the highway. The most efficient and torque-rich option is the Ecodiesel 3.0-liter V-6, with 420 lb-ft of torque, which achieves up to 30 mpg on the highway and stretches range to 730 miles and offers best-in-class towing of 7,400 pounds. All three engines are backed by an eight-speed automatic, which has a hand in the solid fuel-economy numbers.
The Grand Cherokee also offers an available air suspension, which can improve highway mileage further by lowering at speed.
The on-road-performance-oriented Grand Cherokee SRT features a 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 that now makes 475 hp and a 0-60 mph time of about 4.8 seconds. With launch control and a sporty 70-percent torque split to the rear in Track mode, it's one of the best-handling SUVs we've driven.
The Grand Cherokee still has a fluid feel on pavement, but it's also vastly talented off-road. The most advanced versions can still clamber over boulders and logs with ease, and the new automatic enables a lower crawl ratio that suits the Ecodiesel especially well. The Quadra-Lift air suspension continues, as do the three four-wheel drive systems—Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, and Quadra-Drive II—as well as the Selec-Terrain management system, which automatically caters the powertrain settings for the terrain (Sand, Mud, Auto, Snow, and Rock).
On the infotainment front, the Grand Cherokee stays in front with a choice of Uconnect screens (five-inch or 8.4-inch) and the system's cleaner, simpler interface. Piped-in 3G data adds cloud-based services like voice-to-text and natural-language navigation via voice commands. And the Summit edition includes every feature imaginable, including a 19-speaker, 825-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, including 12-channel amplifier and three subwoofers. At that level, the only option is a Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system--and we'd take iPads and WiFi connectivity in any case.
Changes for 2015 include the SRT engine's output bump, as well as a Red Vapor package available for the SRT model. The Summit also gets some enhancements, including an Argentine Tan leather option, a new California Edition exterior package, and acoustic glass. Both the Summit and SRT get active noise cancellation that plays through the harman/kardon stereo.
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Grand Cherokee hasn't lost its square shoulders or its bulldog stance, but the grille's nearly devoid of Jeep.
This generation of Grand Cherokee, and last year's enhancements especially, carries the modern look of Jeep while retaining many of the traits that the brand was built on. The only real exception is the front-end styling, specifically the revised grille that showed up last year.
For whatever reason, the Jeep seven-slot grille was toned down for 2014. The new grille is thinner and smaller, with body-color strips replacing the chrome bars that separated each opening. It's understatement in a segment that usually prefers flash, and we can't imagine why Jeep would want to downplay its most iconic design cue.
Otherwise, today's Grand Cherokee is one pretty, sophisticated piece. The details are fine, if the sideview reminds us some, or a lot, of the BMW X5 or VW Touareg. The LED taillights, at least, have more bite now, which addresses the derivative look of the rear end nicely. Rear LED taillights and a spoiler lifted from the SRT edition are standard on all versions, while from the nose and tail, the lower fascias are different, pierced by dual exhausts on most models, including the SRT.
The Grand Cherokee's cabin went from deer blind to Sundance studio back in 2011, and the new stitched-leather dash and ambient lighting are perfect touches for a glamping atmosphere on the top trim levels. Even on the basic versions, there's a chunky three-spoke steering wheel, a usefully arranged center stack of controls capped with inoffensive metallic-plastic trim, and a five-inch LCD touchscreen for audio. On Limiteds, Overlands, and Summits, Jeep applies real wood trim on the dash, doors, and the steering wheel. It begs to be touched, just as the last-generation vehicle's trimmings wanted to be left alone. It's in its best light in Summit's organic coloring, under the natural light of the panoramic roof. This is Chrysler's best interior, and it's fairly amazing in how it feels like an M-Class, which is sort of is, or a Cayenne, which it supersedes in many ways.
For 2015, the top Summit trim gains an available Summit California Edition, which replaces the exterior chrome with satin-finished or painted pieces and goes to a monochrome look for the rockers and bumpers. It's a classier look for the otherwise shouty Summit. The SRT model adds a Red Vapor package, with unique interior trim, a backlit steering-wheel emblem, Radar Red interior accents, and black chrome 20-inch wheels.
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Still talented off-road, still smooth on pavement, the Grand Cherokee has an outstanding lineup of drivetrains, too.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the most well-rounded vehicles on the planet, offering four powertrains, rear-wheel drive or a trio of all-wheel-drive systems, and hardware to keep it capable on-road or off. It's somewhat of a Swiss army knife, going against competitors like the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class, even the prosaic Subaru Outback, by being many different things at once, whether it's a frugal diesel cruiser, an inexpensive family SUV, or a high-powered luxury machine.
The Grand Cherokee's base engine is a 290-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6. With flex-fuel capability and variable valve timing, but without direct injection, it has good power at the wide middle of its powerband, and in the Grand Cherokee it sounds tamer and more refined than in some of the older Chrysler bodies. Maximum towing is rated at 6,200 pounds.
Chrysler's 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 is available. It has the grunt and pull of a Dodge Charger optioned with the same engine and the sweet, musical V-8 engine note to go with the tug. It's aurally superior, but the HEMI's not such a huge improvement in everyday driving that it's necessarily worth the fuel-economy penalty. Towing is up to 7,400 pounds and thanks to the eight-speed automatic, cylinder deactivation, and an "aero" mode on the available air suspension, gas mileage is 20 (AWD) or 22 (RWD) mpg on the highway cycle.
The costliest regular Grand Cherokee engine is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel six supplied by VM Motori. With 240 horsepower and a major 420 pound-feet of torque, it provides a towing option along with 30-mpg (unladen) highway economy. It has a diesel sewing-machine throb at idle that lets you know what's under the hood--and it's fairly loud from 2500 to 4000 rpm. Still, with a 0-60 mph time close to that of the V-6, towing capacity of 7,400 pounds, and unbelievable tractability off-road, the diesel's a great alternative to either the gas V-8 or V-6, not to mention the substantially more expensive turbodiesels from Germany. It's a $4,500 option on Limited, Overland, and Summit models, which can take some time to recoup.
An excellent eight-speed ZF automatic is standard across the lineup and paired with paddle-shift controls. The paddles are more like short nubs, sticking up above audio buttons mounted on the back of the steering wheel. The smoother operation the gearbox offers over the old five- and six-speed units doesn't just give the Grand Cherokee a more comely attitude, but also plays into the stronger fuel-economy numbers.
The current Grand Cherokee is closely related to the Mercedes M-Class, a result of engineering completed during the old DaimlerChrysler tie-up. The relationship shows up in many ways, all of which make this the best-performing Grand Cherokee ever. The body is stiffer and sounder than ever before, and that enables the steering and the independent steel or electronic air suspensions to do their jobs more precisely than ever. The Grand Cherokee's suspension just gels with the steering to create crossover-like road manners, without the boundy ride and the slow steering responses of the past. With the Limited, Overland, and Summit editions, there’s an available Quadra-Lift air suspension that can raise the Grand Cherokee from 6.4 inches to 11.3 inches off the ground through five modes—great for off-roading, and even more settled on-road. The air suspension can also lower the Jeep all the way for entry and exit, as well as when loading, and it drops the car down on the highway to improve aerodynamics, reducing fuel use.
Most Grand Cherokees come standard with rear-wheel drive, although there are plenty of options for those who want some or all of the off-road ability that Jeep is famous for. It can be ordered with one of three all- or four-wheel-drive systems. The basic Quadra-Trac I has a locking differential in the middle, with power split 50:50 front to rear, but no low range. Quadra-Trac II can split torque variably from front to rear, as traction disappears at either end, up to 100 percent in theory. Quadra-Drive II adds on an electronic limited-slip differential across the rear axle so that the Grand Cherokee can respond even more intelligently to slipping and sliding. You’d want the most extreme choice for the most extreme duties, but the base setup is lightweight, simple, and more than enough traction control for crossover-SUV drivers.
Beyond that, the Grand Cherokee is one of the few vehicles that can be fitted with hardcore off-road talent. Jeep grafts a Selec-Terrain system to both of the "II" systems. Selec-Terrain lets you choose one of five traction-control modes according to driving conditions: Auto, Sand, Mud, Snow, and Rock. (The former Sport mode is selected on the shift lever.) It’s useful stuff—if you don’t already know to take it slow and steady when conditions aren’t perfect. Some versions earn the Trail Rated designation--those with Selec-Terrain and an off-road package--and we've seen how they earn it, scrambling up 200-foot, 55-degree inclines with a Selec-Speed system that puts a steady amount of force into the drivetrain, and controls it in 1-kilometer-per-hour increments. It's brainless off-roading, all granted by smart electronics and anti-lock brakes.
Beyond all comprehension is the Grand Cherokee SRT, an SUV that answers a lot of questions no one is asking--but does it with such passion and conviction, you'll listen every time. It easily compares with the likes of the ML63 and Cayenne, but at a big discount. The 6.4-liter V-8 rips shunts 470 horsepower to all four wheels on a variable basis through an eight-speed paddle-shifted automatic. Chrysler claims a thrilling 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds, and includes launch control so owners can see those numbers, repeatably, on the SRT's Performance Pages screen. That isn't the only impressive number: the quarter-mile's pegged in the mid-13s, top speed hits 160 mph, and 60-0 mph braking cuts things short in just 116 feet. It's true performance art, and extravagant in ways you might never associate with the Jeep name.
The Grand Cherokee SRT takes all of the intelligence and all-wheel-drive wizardry, and aims it at the pavement instead. With its own tuning, adaptive air suspension, and a "Selec-Track" powertrain-control system, it welds all that capability into a performance package that rivals the best Euro-utes. It listens to a slew of sensors and inputs and tailors the transmission, all-wheel drive, engine, and suspension using five distinct modes: automatic, Sport, Tow, Track, and Snow. All the while, the SRT is also working in concert with Quadra-Trac to ship torque around--all to one rear wheel if need be--to balance out traction on the 20-inch, 45-series Pirelli all-season run-flats or optional P Zero summer tires. The sacrifice is almost nothing, except cost and some ground clearance. The SRT can tow 7,200 pounds, yet it can still turn in about 0.90g of grip. The only SUV driving experiences that compare to this one come from a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, a Mercedes ML63, or a BMW X5 M--it's flat, sharp, full of raucous engine noises, maybe a little agitated in its Track ride motions, fully tweaked for a great time. Just don't take it off-road.
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Comfort & Quality
The Grand Cherokee's cabin could only get better if it had more seats.
Now riding on a 114.8-inch wheelbase, the Grand Cherokee benefits from a smoother ride than its predecessor, but also has adult-friendly leg room front and back as a result. It also has larger doors that open up 78 degrees, making entry and exit easier than ever.
Trim quality has never been better in the Grand Cherokee. If it's possible, the addition of touchscreens and electronic gauges has made it look more pricey. The new Summit edition patterns its finishes and color choices after nature. It's like the most upscale L.L. Bean or Eddie Bauer edition you've ever seen, with a marked lack of bright finishes and earthy tones like copper and green paired with open-grain, matte-finish wood. In all, the Grand Cherokee is the best vehicle Chrysler builds, in terms of quality feel meeting the class targets.
Wind noise is more noticeable on all but the Ecodiesel model--the Grand Cherokee has big, square mirrors--but the diesel's clatter at idle is a bit loud.
In the front seats, driver and passenger get wide cushions with a fair amount of bolstering. We've found the standard-issue Laredo cloth seats to be pretty flat, with bottom cushions that were a little too short. Even then, with a little adjustment, it wasn't difficult to find a good driving position in the Grand Cherokee. It has very good foot room and a mostly flat floor in front, and even with the available sunroof, still leaves a couple of inches of headroom for six-footers. And the Grand Cherokee's cabin is wide enough to put some distance between those passengers, too--they can make elbow contact on the center console, or rest an arm on the door panel, but it's by choice. The SRT model gets heavily bolstered seats to keep occupants in place.
Small items won't get lost inside this Jeep. There's a console bin ahead of the shift lever that contains all the audio ports--which are ringed in soft light--but there's only just enough room for a small smartphone. The two-level console bin and bottle pockets on doors are useful, but the rest of the door pockets aren't very long or deep.
Three adults have a good shot at sitting in the back seat comfortably, which wasn't the case in the last generation; two will be quite happy, with plenty of room to slouch and fold down the center armrest. The seatbacks recline and tilt 12 degrees in each direction for even better comfort, all the better to enjoy those four additional inches of leg room. This Jeep doesn't have a third-row seat option--for that, you'll have to switch to the Dodge Durango, which shares the Grand Cherokee's architecture, and hopefully not a competitor like the Honda Pilot or Ford Explorer.
You can flip down the rear seats with a single lever, and on some versions the front passenger seat folds flat, too—just in case you need to take a grandfather clock for a ride. All versions of the Grand Cherokee are rated at the same storage space, at 36.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats, with a somewhat high but long cargo floor. The tailgate no longer has flip-up glass, but you can raise the entire liftback by power on all versions (standard from Limited on up); on the ritzy versions, the cargo area gets fine padding and trim bars. Our favorite storage detail: The removable dual bins hiding under the cargo floor, molded to fit around the spare tire.
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Grand Cherokee's crash-test scores aren't quite where they should be.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to do well in tests by the insurance industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It also includes a wide range of standard and available safety equipment, some of which is on the cutting edge.
The IIHS awards the Grand Cherokee its top 'good' rating in all but the new, tougher small-overlap front test, on which it scores a 'marginal' grade. The IIHS also acknowledges the Grand Cherokee's advanced front-crash avoidance tech, which is optional.
The NHTSA has given the Grand Cherokee a four-star overall rating, with four stars for front protection and a five-star rating for side impact protection. Through its mathematical modeling, it gives the rear-drive Grand Cherokee just three stars in rollover testing, a typical rating for SUVs, though the four-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee is rated at four stars.
The airy Grand Cherokee provides drivers with great forward visibility. The hood’s shaped to give a good sense of the front corners, and the very large side mirrors are almost square. The rear-seat headrests almost blot out the view to the rear quarter windows, though.
All the usual airbags and stability-control systems are standard in the Grand Cherokee, as are trailer-sway control, hill-descent control, and hill-start assistance--functions of anti-lock braking and clever programming. Active headrests are standard as well. Bluetooth is standard, but a rearview camera is not offered on the base Grand Cherokee Laredo. It's an option on the Laredo E. On other models, safety options include parking sensors and blind-spot monitors. Adaptive radar cruise control is available, and it's bundled with a front-crash warning system. The Grand Cherokee can also be optioned with automatic high beams, which work quite well in country driving.
Four-wheel-drive Grand Cherokees feature hill-ascent control, which is like off-road cruise control for uphill work, a sort of automatic climbing mode; speed is selected in 1-kilometer-per-hour increments. We crawled up the 55-degree face of a rock outcropping 200 feet, with just a little bit of tire scrub, as the Grand Cherokee Summit diesel simply tugged its way unassisted to the top, set at its lowest 1-kph level.
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Wireless internet, high-definition audio, Nappa leather--it's all available in the Grand Cherokee.
The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee is offered in five distinct trim levels, with many powertrain choices, available all-wheel and four-wheel drive, and as many luxury features than some full-fledged luxury sedans.
Standard equipment on the 2015 Grand Cherokee Laredo includes 17-inch wheels; air conditioning; a tilt/telescope steering wheel; cloth seats; power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; keyless entry; an audio system with an AM/FM/CD player and SiriusXM satellite radio; and rear-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is a $2,000 upgrade--but it is the available option besides color and interior trim. No other options are offered on this version, which seems to be geared toward a low price that gets shoppers into a dealer; they're then likely to spend around $33,000 for a popularly equipped "base" version.
That would be the Laredo E, which adds a power driver's seat as standard equipment, along with the ability to option remote start, a power tailgate, a rearview camera, heated front seats, navigation, up to low-range 4WD, and an off-road package.
Past the Laredo models, the Grand Cherokee pivots from family crossover into high-end hardware. Ascend to the Limited and you'll get 18-inch wheels; leather seating with a power front passenger seat; a power tailgate; remote start; heated front seats; and a rearview camera. Options include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, navigation, and Selec-Speed control for off-roading. The Limited also has a different appearance, with more body-color trim.
The Overland adds 20-inch wheels; LED daytime running lights; navigation; an air suspension on 4WD models; Nappa leather seating with ventilated front seats; a panoramic sunroof; and a leather-trimmed dash. The interior features Overland-embroidered seats, as well.
At the nearly-$50k Summit, you'll be rewarded with almost all of these features as standard equipment, as well as fancy steering headlights; unique wheel and wood choices, including a matte "open-pore" finish; and a sueded headliner. Only a Blu-Ray rear-seat DVD system and a center-console CD changer are options. New for 2015, the Summit includes an active noise-canceling function routed through its harman/kardon audio system. There's also a new Summit California Edition monochrome/satin-trim exterior package, as well as a newly available Argentina Tan leather interior. Summits also get a Berber carpet cargo mat, illuminated "Summit" door sills, and acoustic glass for 2015.
The Ecodiesel drivetrain is a $4,500 option and the HEMI V-8 is a $3,195 extra, both available on Limited and above; four-wheel drive is $2,000 on the Limited and $3,000 on the Overland and Summit.
The Grand Cherokee SRT is the halo of the lineup, and the most expensive. It has its own standard features, from luxury touches like leather and suede seats; carbon-fiber interior trim; metallic pedal pads; power tilt/telescope steering; and a leather-trimmed and heated steering wheel. The SRT also includes Performance Pages, which displays different timers and performance data like 0-60 mph times, braking distances, and quarter-mile times, for those places and times that let you exercise the SRT's massive tires and HEMI horsepower. Options on the SRT include a dual-pane sunroof; a luxury package with leather trim and a power tailgate; and a 19-speaker, 825-watt harman/kardon audio system. The SRT gets the same noise cancellation system as the Summit for 2015. SRTs also come with a free day of driving instruction at one of a handful of tracks around the country.
With all of its trailblazing intact, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is also one of the most digitally advanced utility vehicles available, neatly surpassing Ford's offerings with their "Touch" systems--the Flex, Explorer, Edge, and Lincoln MKT and MKX. The Grand Cherokee plugs into the data slipstream via the available Uconnect mobile package, and includes an 8.4-inch LCD touchscreen that controls infotainment and climate systems, in tandem with voice and steering-wheel controls. Sprint 3G data is wired into the car, bringing streaming audio capability, as well as wireless connectivity and in-car hotspot functionality, making it even easier to stream video to portable devices and to passengers needing entertainment. On the Grand Cherokee SRT, the big center screen displays Performance Pages, which lets drivers measure acceleration and grip on their trip, even share the info through the Web with other SRT owners. A 5.0-inch center touch screen display is standard on Laredo and Limited models.
The main takeaway from Uconnect is that it's a bit easier and quicker to learn than Cadillac's CUE or Ford's systems. While it has just as many steering-wheel buttons, it also has a persistent row of virtual buttons--shortcuts to favorite controls--on the center display. The configurable 7-inch gauge display on all models has "hot corners," meaning you can choose which information is placed in the gauges' periphery. On top of all that, it's laid out with clean, pretty, and well-rendered screens. It isn't perfect, though: voice commands are usually understood, but the underlying functions aren't always as rich--it wouldn't accept a city and state as a destination without a street address, for example.
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Jeep's EcoDiesel pushes the fuel-economy boundaries; the HEMI SRT, not so much.
There seems to be an engine to suit any desire in the 2015 Grand Cherokee, from the power-dense SRT model to the Ecodiesel's 30-mpg highway rating. Efficiency depends on which you choose and what you plan to do with it. All versions come with an eight-speed automatic that helps reduce fuel consumption, while the V-8s also include cylinder deactivation.
The basic Grand Cherokee V-6 is rated at 17/25 mpg in rear-drive form, or 17/24 mpg with four-wheel drive. With a HEMI V-8, the figures are for 14/22 mpg (RWD) and 14/20 mpg (4WD). Those numbers are competitive, not with the likes of the Ford Edge or Subaru Outback, but with vehicles like the seven-passenger Ford Flex and the GMC Acadia.
The EPA's published figures show the gas-guzzling Grand Cherokee SRT at a lineup-worst 13 miles per gallon city, 19 miles per gallon highway. We observed only about 12.4 mpg on a limited drive on mostly flat Texas urban thruways.
The Grand Cherokee Ecodiesel bests the rest of the configurations. It's rated at 22/30 mpg for rear-drive models, or at 21/28 mpg with four-wheel drive. It's more efficient than most five-seat crossovers--sometimes by a substantial margin--and its highway rating is closing in on that of gas-fueled compact vehicles like the Ford Escape and Chevy Equinox, which don't have its massive towing or its off-road capability.
It could be the best Jeep of them all, even. With its 730-mile cruising range and tremendous torque, it makes us think twice about the standard V-6 and the $3,195 HEMI V-8, although the diesel's $4,500 premium would take quite a while to make up in fuel savings.