Even though it’s been riding on the same platform since 2011, it always manages to remain not only relevant, but a benchmark in the midsized SUV market. This year, we decided to try a basic 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4×4 to see if stripping out some of the luxurious materials and extra gadgets takes away any of the Grand Cherokee’s charm.
I firmly believe that the Grand Cherokee’s styling makes it one of the best looking vehicles in the FCA lineup, and is one of the key factors in its success. It’s instantly recognizable as a Jeep, carries all the signature Grand Cherokee lines and features, but with a athletic conservatism that makes it feel right in just about any situation. This is mass appeal done right, for rural families, suburban moms, or even city dwellers with a taste for adventure. This is a timeless style that looks great now, and will likely still look great 20 years from now. In keeping up the image, the basic Laredo looks fairly premium with tasteful chrome trim, body coloured handles and mirror caps, and good looking wheels.
It’s not just looks though; a basic Laredo does come with pretty well everything you need to be comfortable. It packs nice heated cloth seats, a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a full customizable seven-inch digital in-cluster driver display, leather wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, LED interior lighting and more. Plus, even the most basic Laredo gets Jeep’s legendary 4×4 system and all the capability you’d expect.
Our tester is stepped up a little bit from the basic Laredo thanks to the North Package. For a mere $3,495 buyers can get Quadra-Trac II 4×4 system with a two-speed transfer case that can shift 100% of the Jeep’s power to the axle with the most traction. The North Package also makes the interior of the Grand Cherokee a little more luxurious with leather faced seats with perforated suede inserts, the larger 8.4-inch touchscreen including a 4G-LTE hotspot, 506-watt Alpine stereo, heated steering wheel and power liftgate. For less than $3,500, the package is a downright bargain.
The interior of the Grand Cherokee is a very pleasant space to be in, it’s refined and comfortable. Materials and features improve the higher you go up the trim hierarchy; but our relatively basic tester was equipped with leather and suede seats, soft touch materials on all high frequency touch points, black cloth headliner, and matte plastics on the dash. At this trim level though, there are some hard plastics to serve as a reminder that you are in a base model.
The space is highly functional with plenty of head and legroom in both rows, and many options for storing daily carry items up front. The rear cargo area is trimmed just as well as the front, and offers plenty of space for just about anything a family would throw in it, and if that’s not enough, not only does the split second row fold flat, but so does the front passenger seat creating an ideal loading floor for longer items like lumber.
While the Grand Cherokee can be had with a range of powerful V8s from the familiar 5.7-liter HEMI and its 360 horsepower, right up to the wild Hellcat-derived 707 horsepower 6.2-liter in the Trackhawk (reviewed here). The Laredo though, comes with the more pedestrian 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which can be found in just about every other FCA product. It has been around long enough that any bugs are worked out and it’s a solid, reliable and efficient engine; exactly what buyers might want in a family hauler.
The Pentastar is good for 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000RPM. It’s adequate, however the lack of any real torque low in the powerband, a trait the 3.6L has become well known for, does get a bit frustrating. On a positive note, it is smooth, quiet, and mechanically simple enough that we expect it to run well for years to come. The engine is paired with the ZF-made eight-speed automatic, which is very well sorted and shifts smoothly to make the best use of the Pentastar’s full RPM range.
While I haven’t returned to my normal commute yet thanks to COVID-19, I know from experience with previous testers that I can expect to see 11.5L/100km in a typical rush hour commute into the city, which is falling behind some competitors at this point. I did however, take this week’s tester on a seven-hour round trip, all highway, from Mississauga to Kingston, Ontario and back. The Jeep easily managed to return an even 10.0L/100km on the highway trip moving with the flow of traffic and using cruise control the majority of the time.
The Grand Cherokee’s underpinnings may be older than most of its competitors, but they remain advantageous. The Jeep rides well, it’s quiet despite the meaty all-terrains on our tester, and the steering is well weighted, predicable and offers decent feedback. It handles with confidence, and feels planted on the highway with very positive on-center steering feel. It’s not as silky smooth as some rivals, but offers a truer SUV driving experience, with a slightly choppier ride and the heavier steering. Still, after over seven hours of highway time in the Grand Cherokee, we stepped out feeling fresh and relaxed.
Of course, what’s a Jeep without capability and aside from its legendary off-road prowess, the Grand Cherokee is also a competent tow rig. Even this V6-powered model is rated to tow 3,500 pounds, and it only goes up from there to over 7,000 pounds if properly equipped. All Grand Cherokee models also get the benefit of a trailer sway control system to help keep your load in line.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is priced right where it needs to be, and if you need any confirmation of that just take a look at the number of them on the road. Its starting price is about $10,000 more than a popular mid-sized crossover, however the Grand Cherokee is much more capable and more premium feeling than anything in that segment. It is however, a fair bit cheaper than a true luxury SUV like a Lexus RX 350 or an Acura MDX (reviewed here), which feel like much more suitable competitors.
A base Laredo starts at $46,745, and you can option out a top-trim Summit for well over $70,000, with a number of unique options and trims in between. Ours got the North Package, money well spent as noted, plus premium lighting ($995) to add bi-xenon headlamps, LED fog lamps and LED running lights. It also got a towing package ($950) adding rear load leveling suspension and a class IV hitch. Our tester also got the ProTech Group which adds lane keep assist, forward collision warning with active braking, and advanced brake assist. Finally, the optional power sunroof ($1,425) brings our as tested price to a comfortable $56,845.
Approaching ten years into this platform, this 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4×4 still remains one of my top picks in the SUV segment. It’s a great balance between a rugged SUV and a luxurious family hauler, and as a result feels right at home in just about any situation. A Laredo optioned with the North Package like our tester for under $50,000 would make the ideal adventure vehicle for just about any Canadian family. Its traditional Jeep style, strong heritage and class leading capabilities mean it’ll be something to be proud of for years to come.