Full 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review
What's New for 2013
For 2013, the Jeep Grand Cherokee offers the new Trailhawk edition, and offers new standard features on Overland Summit models.
Automotive comebacks don't get much better than the story of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Just a few years ago, the Grand Cherokee languished among newer SUVs and crossovers as an overweight, over-thristy and unrefined choice. Even its remarkable off-road pedigree couldn't amend for a choppy ride, dated interior and abysmal fuel economy. The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee, on the other hand, represents the model at the peak of its powers.
The current-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee shares components with the Mercedes-Benz M-Class -- a legacy of Jeep's tenure under DaimlerChrysler ownership -- so its premium look and feel isn't a surprise. Drive a Grand Cherokee from the last generation back to back with the current model and the upgrades in cabin quality, performance and overall refinement are dramatic.
Despite the new gloss, the Grand Cherokee still delivers off the highway. The optional adjustable air suspension varies the JGC's ride height from 6.6 inches for easy passenger loading and roof rack access to 10.7 inches for serious trail work. A drive-mode selector ("Selec-Terrain") can also tailor the powertrain and suspension for specific types of terrain.
The Grand Cherokee lineup also features a couple specialty models. The road-burning SRT8 model comes with a monster 470-horsepower V8 and the suspension and brakes to match -- you won't find a quicker crossover SUV for the money. And new for 2013, Jeep adds the Trailhawk edition. Although not nearly as modified as the SRT8, the Trailhawk expands the JGC's off-road abilities with Kevlar-reinforced tires, extra body protection and a standardized complement of the Jeep's off-roading hardware.
Naturally, the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee isn't the only choice around for a midsize SUV. The Toyota 4Runner is the Jeep's closest competitor, and it has plenty of capability for going off-road. The 4Runner also has a stronger V6, though you can't get it with a V8 anymore like you can with the Jeep. For superior passenger-hauling duties, you'd probably do better with something roomier like a Honda Pilot or new Nissan Pathfinder. But for comfortable manners around town, available V8 power and total confidence on winding trails, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is as solid a pick as you'll find in the class.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a five-passenger midsize SUV that comes in three main trim levels: Laredo, Limited and Overland. Each is available with rear-drive or four-wheel-drive drivetrains. The high-performance SRT8 model is four-wheel-drive only.
Standard equipment for the Laredo includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglamps, cruise control, full power accessories, dual-zone air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack.
An optional Laredo E package adds roof rails, keyless ignition/entry, a power eight-way driver seat (with four-way power lumbar) and satellite radio. The Security and Convenience package includes remote engine start, a cargo cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a USB/iPod interface.
The Laredo X package further adds 18-inch wheels, a nine-speaker premium sound system (with satellite radio, digital music storage and touchscreen interface), dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a power front passenger seat and a rearview camera.
Considered an optional package, the new Trailhawk includes much of the above equipment plus four-wheel drive, the air suspension, Kevlar-reinforced tires, rock rail body protection and special exterior trim details.
The Limited gets all the Laredo's optional equipment plus bi-xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, a Garmin navigation system, automatic wipers, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, driver memory functions and heated second-row seats.
The Limited model's options include 20-inch wheels, a power liftgate, a power and heated tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, ventilated front seats and an upgraded navigation system with real-time traffic. Adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and blind spot/rear cross-path detection and a towing package are also available.
The Overland gets most of the Limited's options, plus the adjustable Quadra-Lift air suspension, mesh grille, upgraded leather seating and a heated wood and leather steering wheel.
The Overland Summit package tops it off with additional exterior chrome accents, unique 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, power-folding outside mirrors, headlight washers, choice of black or saddle-colored leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, front parking assist and blind-spot/rear cross-path detection systems.
A rear-seat entertainment system is optional for the Limited, Overland and Overland Summit.
The high-performance SRT8 comes with most of the Overland's luxury features along with an exclusive V8 engine, 20-inch forged aluminum wheels, LED running lights, an adaptive suspension, performance-tuned steering, Brembo brakes, a limited-slip rear differential, paddle shifters, leather/suede sport seats and carbon-fiber cabin accents.
Powertrains and Performance
Except for the SRT8, every 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes standard with Chrysler's 3.6-liter V6 good for 290 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard. Fuel economy with four-wheel drive is an estimated 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. In Edmunds testing, a 4WD Overland V6 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9 seconds -- about a second or two slower than some rival V6 SUVs.
The optional 5.7-liter V8 produces 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque and comes matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. With 4WD it is rated at 13/20/15 mpg. In our testing a 4WD Overland V8 did the 0-60 drill in 8.2 seconds. Properly equipped, the JGC can tow 7,400 pounds.
Rear-wheel drive is standard and three different optional four-wheel-drive systems are available. Quadra-Trac I is available only on Laredo models and essentially functions as full-time all-wheel drive. Limited, Overland and Trailhawk V8 models get Quadra-Trac II standard, which includes a two-speed transfer case, hill descent control and the Selec-Terrain system. The latter feature allows drivers to choose from five pre-programmed settings that best suit road or trail conditions. Quadra-Trac II is optional on Laredo models.
Limited, Overland and Trailhawk V8 models can also opt for Quadra-Drive II, which adds electronic limited-slip differentials on both axles to the Quadra-Trac II system. Optional on the Limited and standard on the Trailhawk and Overland models is the Quadra-Lift air suspension, which varies ride height based on driver input or automatically via Selec-Terrain.
The Grand Cherokee SRT8 packs a 6.4-liter V8 with 470 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. All that thrust is sent to all four wheels via a beefed-up five-speed automatic. In Edmunds testing, an SRT8 blasted to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds. That kind of performance in a heavy SUV doesn't come without considerable cost at the pump, as indicated by EPA fuel economy ratings of 12/18/14.
The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. In Edmunds brake testing, the Overland V6 stopped from 60 mph in 125 feet, a good result for this segment. The SRT8, thanks to its high-performance tires, made the same stop in an impressive 112 feet.
In government crash testing, the Grand Cherokee earned an overall rating of four stars out of a possible five, with four stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side crash protection. In testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Grand Cherokee received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof-strength crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
With a cleanly styled dash, tight seams and panel fitment and high-quality materials from door to dash, the Jeep Grand Cherokee's cabin keeps pace with the best in class. Front seats are comfortable and supportive whether covering long stretches on- or off-road. The aggressive bolstering in the SRT8 and Trailhawk models is especially suited for high-performance and rugged trail riding, respectively.
Backseat passengers should be pretty comfortable, and the Grand Cherokee offers up considerably more rear legroom than the Toyota 4Runner. Behind the rear seats is 35 cubic feet of cargo space, while folding the seats flat yields about 69 cubic feet -- about the same as a Ford Edge but less than an Explorer or Pilot. The front passenger seat also folds flat for additional flexibility.
The navigation system works OK, but feels a little clumsy and dated when measured against the cleaner, more user-friendly systems from Ford, GM and others.
On the road, the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee's suspension offers a compliant ride that will comfort through many hours of commuting or road-tripping. It basically rides and handles like any other modern crossover, an impressive feat considering its ample off-road ability.
Once off-road, the Grand Cherokee is pure Jeep, offering generous ground clearance, advanced four-wheel drive, low-speed stability and climbing power. Apart from extreme tricks like axle locking and disconnecting sway bars available on the Jeep Wrangler, the Grand Cherokee can pretty much match its counterpart on even the most challenging trails.
Most folks will find enough power in the V6's spirited and smooth delivery and its five-speed automatic transmission. Those needing extra grunt or towing capacity won't go wrong with the V8, although its fuel thirst will certainly add up. And for an SUV, the SRT8 is otherworldly. With blistering acceleration and strong braking, it can surprise more than a few sports car drivers. It does have a fairly stiff ride, however, limiting its desirability as a daily-use vehicle.