The Jeep Grand Cherokee was one of the pioneering SUVs 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 get to the more remote campsites.
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. Jeep's strong reputation for off-road prowess is retained thanks in large part to the Grand Cherokee's advanced four-wheel-drive systems.
Current Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the most appealing five-passenger midsize SUVs on the market. Unlike similarly sized crossovers, it stands out with its significant off-roading and towing capabilities.
The Laredo, Limited and Overland are the three main trim levels available. They come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 that sends 290 horsepower through a five-speed automatic. This is a competitive output for the class, but for those planning on towing, there's an optional 5.7-liter V8. It produces 360 hp and allows for a 7,400-pound towing capacity when properly equipped.
Rear-wheel drive is standard on all, but there are three available four-wheel-drive systems. The Quadra-Trac I system is essentially an all-wheel-drive system and only available on the Laredo. Available on all trims, Quadra-Trac II is a four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case, hill descent control and the Selec-Terrain system, which allows drivers to choose from five pre-programmed settings to best handle a given road or trail condition. Quadra-Drive II adds electronic limited-slip differentials for both axles. The Overland further gets a Quadra-Lift air suspension, which varies ride height based on driver input or automatically via Selec-Terrain. A special Trailhawk package is also available for the Laredo that bundles a standardized complement of the Grand Cherokee's off-roading hardware and further adds special wheels, tires and rock-slider rails.
For those with no intention of ever needing that off-roading ability, there's the Grand Cherokee SRT8, which adds 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. It also gets 20-inch forged alloy wheels, an adaptive sport suspension, performance-tuned steering, Brembo brakes and a limited-slip rear differential.
Regardless of the myriad trim, engine and 4X4 choices you can opt for, the current Grand Cherokee's civility is bound to impress. Cabin quality is excellent 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 its size, however, some may wish for more interior room. If this is the case, and you don't mind giving up the Jeep's off-roading potential, Dodge's seven-passenger Durango is mechanically similar.
Read the most recent 2014 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.