This week we are graced with the presence of a 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland. Since the release of the current-generation Grand Cherokee a couple years ago, I’ve been smitten with its rugged yet elegant sense of style. Incidentally enough, we will be driving the outgoing Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland to the unveiling of the revised 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which we will be able to see first hand at the upcoming North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Let me start off with a bit of background on Jeep itself before I go forward on my review on the specific vehicle at hand. The heritage of the brand dates back too 1945, where the original Jeeps first began to appear on the market. Known for its presence during the war, the Willys MB US Army jeep showed its rugged colors as a tough, durable, and great transport for the troops of the past. The Grand Cherokee specifically, however, was introduced to the general public in 1992 and positioned to become a direct competitor to the Ford Explorer.
It has been awhile since I’ve set foot in a Jeep, the last of which was a 2011 Wrangler Sport that belongs to a close friend. Looking at this Grand Cherokee, my test car being an Overland with the optional 5.7L V8, it is a very pleasant and non-Jeep-like surprise to see a stylish, well-rounded vehicle which not only looks good, but also sounds absolutely incredible. The Cherokee is no newcomer to my mind; it has always been something I have become used to seeing regularly growing up in Georgetown, ON. The last few years, I’ve been waking up to the remote-started growl of my neighbour’s 2010 Grand Cherokee SRT-8.
Although my tester may not be the top of the line Grand Cherokee (though it’s next-best) and does not have that rumble of the 6.1L beast of my neighbor, it does however have the 5.7 V8, which Chrysler stopped calling the “Hemi”. This 5.7 is mated to a 6-speed automatic putting out 360HP at 5,150RPM and 390lb-ft at 4,250RPM. Technicalities be damned; it’s still a Hemi to me. Though the motor’s capabilities are evident by the numbers, the weight of the behemoth does make 360-hp feel a bit sluggish.
Though being an enthusiast at heart, I’ve never really been the biggest advocate for sport-utility vehicles. There’s no denying that I’m passionate about domestic V8s and torque-twisting muscle. In all honesty, all throughout my youth, the only SUV that truly stood out to me based on design and poise was the Grand Cherokee. As a teenager, I loved my principal’s 1993 Grand Cherokee Laredo. I even had a die-cast model of that vehicle. Absolutely badass.
When I first stepped into my Deep Cherry Red Jeep, I couldn’t help but immediately notice the rich-looking brown leather and soft-touch materials on the dash. The seats were very comfortable. Of course given all the cool extra options like Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system, Quadra-Lift™ air suspension, controlled Selec-Terrain™, there’s no doubting that this SUV would be absolutely awesome to take off-roading. While no Rubicon Trail, I did have the opportunity to drive the Grand Cherokee through a little bit of mud. Whether it be mud or snow, this beast tore through anything as if it were a sunny highway in Naples. The off-road package is great except for the one flaw I found personally. The tires seem to lack grip in some occasions even with 4-LO activated. Despite a bit of slippage in the mud, the ground clearance gave me that confidence needed when venturing off the 400-series highways and into any sort of “alternate terrain”.
Back on the road, I couldn’t help but notice the leisurely and solid drive the Grand Cherokee has. As one would assume, the handling is smooth, precise, and simple to commandeer the highway with ease. The dated UConnect™ 730N system with its 6.5″ touch screen still works incredibly well; especially when compared to the likes of Honda’s i-MID and Cadillac’s CUE. It lacks the lag that is more prominent in newer systems.
When reviewing vehicles, I typically dread talking about fuel economy. This time though, I’m surprised I was able to hold it in till now. Tree-huggers and Prius drivers should just move on, because even this owner of a V8 Camaro cannot express in words how much my wallet was aching after my (albeit, enjoyable) time with the Grand Cherokee. My observed consumption was 16.5L/100km in combined driving with a relatively light foot. However, the target demographic of this vehicle shouldn’t really be thinking about the fuel consumption anyhow.
In my eyes, the Grand Cherokee Overland is aimed towards soccer dads. It’s an awesome vehicle for a dad who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Grand Caravan or a Taurus. He’s that guy who wants to light up the tires with 360-hp, and be comfortable on road trips with the family at any time as well. Don’t forget, the Grand Cherokee is one of the IIHS top safety picks for 2013, an added bonus. Then again, “It’s a Jeep Thing”, and after a week with this Overland, I’m starting to get it.