The Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit plays in the middle of some heavy-hitting segments, but there’s some competition it may find itself unintentionally going up against.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has seen a lot of renewed interest, these days. Hot off the presses is the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, with its 707hp supercharged V8. They’ve retaken the crown of “fastest SUV”, which borrows from the same playbook Ford used with their hot Focus RS (reviewed here): release a smoking-hot variant of an aging model to bring people back into the showroom. The big numbers are surely impressive, but one of the best things about the Grand Cherokee is its flexibility as a well-appointed midsize crossover, to the aforementioned track and drag strip weapon. We’ve spent time with just about every variant of the Grand Cherokee – including ones with the EcoDiesel V6. This time, we’re looking at the most luxurious version: the fully-loaded 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit.
The current-generation Grand Cherokee as we know it has been around a long time: since the 2011 model year. Still loosely based on an old Mercedes-Benz ML-Class platform, it has undergone a lot of updates to keep it fresh and relevant in the premium six-cylinder powered crossover market. At the bottom of the range is the $41,695 Grand Cherokee Laredo, which competes with trucks like the Toyota 4Runner (reviewed here) and the Volkswagen Touareg. As you jump through the various engine configurations (of which there are five), you get to the Summit (pun not intended). Jeep’s goal here is to produce a near-luxury SUV, with gadgets inside and out. The Jeep brand isn’t necessarily synonymous with luxury, but with premium “Natura” quilted leather, heated and ventilated seats, available rear-seat entertainment and available open-pore wood trim, it tries to fill that niche.
As “old” as the Grand Cherokee is, its styling has really allowed it to age gracefully. To these eyes, the Grand Cherokee is the best-looking product in the lineup, and it’s no surprise that they’re trying to stick to that winning formula with the new Compass. It’s not an overly-complicated design, with chunky wheel arches, 20-inch wheels, and a relatively restrained use of chrome all around. The trademark seven-slot front grille provides a nice contrast to the Granite Crystal Metallic on our particular tester. Inside, the corporate Fiat-Chrysler Uconnect infotainment interface makes an appearance. It gets the job done, but doesn’t really stand out in any way. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is expected next year. Fun fact: the mono-stable gear selector seen a few years ago now gives way to a conventional straight-gate selector that makes more sense to just about everybody.
Functionality and versatility still remains a Jeep hallmark, and the Grand Cherokee Summit delivers with a 7200lb/3265kg towing capability, ample room for five, and a generous cargo space behind the second row. One part of the big towing formula is the 5.7L “Hemi” gasoline V8 under the hood. It’s good for 360hp at 5150rpm, and a strong 390lb-ft of torque at 4250rpm. There’s no forced induction, or even direct fuel injection, but the only real fuel saving measure is the Multi-Displacement System (MDS) which will disable four out of eight cylinders under low load. Power is routed through the universally-excellent ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, and an available low-range transfer case (but no locking differentials).
Similar to big V8s in other full-size luxury SUVs (the Lexus LX 570, Infiniti QX80 and Cadillac Escalade come to mind), the V8 under the hood of the Grand Cherokee Summit is lazy – making a lot of torque right off idle. In standard city commuting, you’ll rarely need to exceed 3000rpm to get the hefty 5258lb/2385kg curb weight moving. One difference between the aforementioned luxury SUVs and the Grand Cherokee is its construction; the Jeep utilizes a unibody structure, which tightens up the overall ride quality and body control. The height-adjustable air suspension also not only helps with load leveling (maximum trailer weight is 7200lbs/3300kg), but provides a pillowy ride that lets you soak in the kilometres.
Almost as impressive as the latitude and flexibility of the Grand Cherokee nameplate are the fuel consumption numbers of the various configurations. On the frugal end of the scale, you have the EcoDiesel V6, with can put down some seriously impressive efficiency numbers, and the extreme end of the scale, the Trackhawk’s supercharged V8 will very likely guzzle the 91-octane down at an alarming rate (official figures not released as of this writing). This puts the Grand Cherokee Summit with the 5.7L V8 somewhere in the middle. Rated at 16.6L/100km in the city, and 10.7L/100km on the highway, I ended my week with an indicated average of 14.0L/100km, which is exactly what Natural Resources Canada says you should get. The fuel tank will hold 93L of recommended mid-grade 89-octane fuel.
The well-equipped Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4×4 with the 5.7L V8 starts at $65,995. There are still a few option boxes you can select, which will push the price up, quickly. Our particular tester had nearly every option added. The Granite Crystal Metallic (of which there is a lot of metallic flake), will cost you $195. The skid plate group, which adds protection to the fuel tank, transfer case, and front suspension, is a good deal at $300. The rear entertainment option adds two screens into the backside of the front seats for $2,150. The Platinum Appearance Package ($1,495) adds a number of platinum-coloured parts to the front and rear bumpers, and a satin finish to the wheels. This truck also has the $4,995 Signature Leather-Wrapped interior package, which adds padded leather to the lower portions of the door cards, and premium leather to the seats. All this brings the MSRP to $75,130, plus taxes and additional fees.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit plays in the middle of some heavy-hitting segments, but there’s some competition it may find itself unintentionally going up against. We recently tested the new Land Rover Discovery with the Td6 diesel. It provides big diesel torque, a third-row of seats (good in a pinch), and an available locking rear differential. Even adding a few options to the total, it still manages to stay close to the pricing of the Grand Cherokee Summit, all while providing a more authentic luxury experience from a brand with a different sort of heritage. BMW’s X5 crossover and Mercedes-Benz’s GLE also fall into a similar price range, though you’ll have to choose the gasoline-powered six-cylinder engines and stay modest with the options.
What the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit is about, is providing a high-value luxurious package that isn’t a white/silver/black SUV from Germany. It gives you classically good looks, naturally-aspirated V8 power (and sound), and a well-appointed cabin that ticks most of the right boxes. If it were up to me, I would skip the rear seat entertainment, Platinum Appearance package, and the Signature Leather-Wrapped interior package. These three option packages alone tally up to almost $9,000 of options, which would go a long way in keeping the price of the Grand Cherokee Summit competitive in a red-hot segment. It remains a good truck that can be configured to meet the needs of a populace hungry for crossovers, but also enthusiasts clamoring for maximum track-day performance. There’s something for everybody, here.