The Jeep Grand Cherokee was one of the pioneers that ushered in the modern midsize SUV segment in the early 1990s. When it debuted, the Grand Cherokee represented a bigger and better version of Jeep's smaller but still popular Cherokee. The company's designers wanted it to be maneuverable enough for urban duty, roomy enough for family duty, stylish enough to take out on the town and capable enough to tow your toys or shuttle your passengers to a remote campsite without issue.
It would certainly seem that they succeeded. The JGC, as it's commonly referred to, has become one of America's top sellers in the SUV segment. Unlike most other traditional SUVs from domestic automakers, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has always been built using a carlike unibody chassis rather than a body-on-frame design. In general, a unibody chassis provides advantages in terms of on-road handling, easier entry and exit, and safety. Yet Jeep's strong reputation for off-road prowess is retained, thanks in large part to the Grand Cherokee's advanced four-wheel-drive systems. Today's well-rounded JGC continues to be among the most appealing vehicles in its class.
Current Jeep Grand Cherokee
The current Grand Cherokee is offered in four main trim levels: Laredo, Limited, Overland and Summit. The Laredo comes nicely equipped with alloy wheels, dual-zone air-conditioning, Bluetooth and a touchscreen audio system, while the Limited steps up to bigger wheels, a power liftgate, power front seats and premium audio. The fancy Overland includes bi-xenon headlights, a panoramic sunroof, a larger 8.4-inch touchscreen, navigation and leather upholstery. The top-of-the-line Summit throws in adaptive cruise control and a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo.
All four trims come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 that routes 290 horsepower to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This is a competitive output, but there's also an optional 5.7-liter V8 that cranks out 360 hp and allows for a 7,400-pound towing capacity (versus 6,200 pounds for the V6) when properly equipped. If you want to trade some horsepower for better fuel economy, the available turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel-powered V6 engine drops to 240 hp, but it's easily the most fuel-efficient of the three, and its formidable 420 pound-feet of torque enables it to tow just as much as the V8.
There are three available four-wheel-drive systems in addition to the base rear-wheel-drive layout. The Quadra-Trac I system is essentially an all-wheel-drive system and only available on the Laredo. Quadra-Trac II (optional on Laredo, standard on Limited and Overland) is a four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case and hill ascent and descent control. The Summit comes standard with a special version of Quadra-Trac II that includes a rear electronic limited-slip differential; this system is optional on Limited and Overland. Additionally, an adaptive air suspension and the Selec-Terrain system (which allows drivers to choose from five pre-programmed settings to best handle a given road or trail condition) are optional on Limited and standard on the Overland and Summit.
For those with no intention of ever using that off-roading ability, there's the Grand Cherokee SRT8, which injects an ample dose of high-octane insanity to transform this part-time mountain climber into a part-time mountain road carver. A 6.4-liter V8 sends 470 hp through an all-wheel-drive system. The SRT8 also gets 20-inch forged alloy wheels, an adaptive sport suspension, performance-tuned steering, Brembo brakes and a limited-slip rear differential.
With any of these myriad trim, engine and 4WD choices, the current Grand Cherokee's civility is bound to impress. Cabin quality is very good, and overall refinement should surprise anyone who expects a Jeep to be a bit of a rough-edged brute. Ride quality is at once comfortable and composed, while handling is surprisingly confidence-inspiring. Given the JCG's substantial dimensions, however, some may wish for more interior space. If this is the case, and you don't mind giving up most of the Jeep's off-roading potential, Dodge's seven-passenger Durango is mechanically similar.
Read the most recent 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Jeep Grand Cherokee page.
For more on past Jeep Grand Cherokee models, view our Jeep Grand Cherokee history page.