Lifestyle Boating & Motoring Jeep Grand Cherokee - More than a Pretty Face
Jeep Grand Cherokee - More than a Pretty Face
Friday, 28 September 2012

 

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Driving the Grand Cherokee couldn’t be easier – there’s plenty of power, more than adequate braking and great visibility to go with the comfortable and well-equipped interior...

The Jeep Grand Cherokee puts some luxury back into a 4WD workhorse – if you don’t mind getting it scratched..

As one of the State’s regular gravel rally competitors, I am conscious that the second most important car you own (the first being the rally car, of course) is the one you use to tow your wicked machine to the next event. Generally our rally events are at least a two-hour drive from Perth and so having a competent (and comfortable) towing vehicle is important.

Competitors usually drive over the course and make ‘pace notes’ so that we can really push the rally car. If the towing car can double as your pace-note car, then you are well sorted.

So the chance to review the Jeep Grand Cherokee was too good to miss. The existing work horse for me is our trusty Toyota Prado, how would the Jeep compare?

Initial impressions are very positive. The Jeep has the modern 4WD appearance in that it seems to be similar to the older models, but on steroids! There is a plethora of functions accessible from the steering wheel,which are more daunting than anything else. But despite my hesitancy and thoughts of ‘how on earth am I going to remember all this?’ it really is very straight forward.

Within half an hour I am starting to feel more confident that I won’t start something unintended. There is a very useful ‘voice recognition’ function for the radio and blue tooth mobile phone device and changing radio stations, using the phone, is relatively simple.

Needless to say there is electronic everything – from moving and positioning seats, moving wing mirrors, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, automatic full beam dip headlights and the list goes on. Hopefully the electronic wizardry is as robust as it is sophisticated.

The automatic rear-view camera when engaging reverse is complemented by the side mirrors gently turning down to allow you to miss those annoying kerbs! A high-intensity torch plugged into the car’s charging circuits is in the passenger side of the boot, which is useful for myriad reasons, great and small. What’s very clear is that the days of tinkering with the car on a Sunday morning are gone unless you have a degree in electrical engineering.

Driving the Grand Cherokee couldn’t be easier – there’s plenty of power, more than adequate braking and great visibility to go with the comfortable and well-equipped interior. Town driving is a breeze, and any open road gives plenty of opportunity to threaten your licence and amass more points!

Civil-Mike-Dr-Apr12Dr Mike CivilOn the gravel roads it is sure-footed and deceptively accomplished. Those annoying corrugations are soaked up with ease and there is no feeling of ‘floating’ on the dirt. There are a number of drive settings for different road/track conditions, but I just plumped for ‘Auto’ and left it to the computer.

The Jeep is a bit on the large size for a ‘medium-sized’ 4WD, but that seems to be the fashion. Unfortunately there was no tow hook, so I didn’t get the chance to drag the Rally Evo 9 around and see how the Jeep performs with a couple of tonnes behind her. Certainly, there is every suggestion of total confidence on that score, particularly given the performance of the brakes. The large discs are clearly visible behind the 18” alloys and pull the car up confidently and smoothly.

There is plenty of space in the boot with a full-sized spare hidden away neatly under the floor but there did not seem to be any facility for putting in an extra row of seats (so I guess that’s one up for the trusty Prado). However, my 183cm son had no problems in the back seat and was pleased (“that’s totally sick!”) to see the USB ports, so that his ever present iPhone could join the party.

Coming back to my unfair comparison: ageing Prado, or brand new Jeep. Certainly the features and comforts would make travelling to the next rally event a lot more pleasant in the Jeep. But the tracks are pretty narrow and rough and while I have every confidence the Jeep would cope with the terrain, I would feel pretty nervous about pushing along through some of that scratchy bush. But perhaps that is just that new car / old car divide.

The Jeep is a little large for a gravel-bashing experience and yet it is very well equipped to be more than just a tarmac cowboy. Now if I can just get the Jeep dealership to put on a tow hook …