What is it?
The new-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee that arrives with some significant responsibility on its muscular shoulders. The fourth-generation model lasted more than decade and during that time Jeep's Australian sales soared but then declined, in part due to repeated recalls of the Grand Cherokee.
While undoubtedly a very capable off-roader, it was held back by its problems and has somewhat tarnished the Grand Cherokee's reputation. So this new model needs to help rebuild the image of both the model and the brand – which is no small task.
Fortunately, this new arrives after Jeep did some soul-searching and realised a change was needed, so while this new model retains many of the same attributes that made the Grand Cherokee popular in the past it also has some key changes to ensure it's a success.
For example, we're testing the five-seat Grand Cherokee Overland variant, which is impressively well-equipped and pushed this SUV into a more premium space in the market.
What's under the bonnet?
One thing that hasn't changed significantly is the engine, with Jeep's 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine still in action. It's a very capable engine, making a healthy 210kW of power and 344Nm of torque, but it does have its drawbacks.
The most significant being its fuel efficiency, with the V6 drinking unleaded at a rate of 9.9-litres per 100km on the combined urban/highway cycle. But if you're spending most of your time in the city and suburbs, based on our experience, you'll likely see returns in the mid-teens.
Still, it's a punchy engine so it makes light work of moving this big SUV and the power delivery is quite linear, and the torque comes in from low down in the rev range, which is what you;ll need if you go off-roading.
How does it handle?
The Grand Cherokee has been improving its on-road manners in recent years and this latest Grand Cherokee takes that a step further. The Overland model we tested was fitted with Jeep's Quadra Lift Air Suspension system with adaptive damping, so it rides comfortably on-road and soaks up the bumps.
The system allows for multiple modes, in combination with the 4×4 Selec-Terrain system, so don't think Jeep has forgotten about its off-road heritage entirely.
The steering is a bit heavier than you'd like for an SUV that's priced in the premium segment of the market but otherwise it's a well-behaved SUV. Driving this latest model it's clear that over the last few generations the Grand Cherokee has evolved from something quite agricultural to a much more refined offering.
Where would you most like to drive it?
Unfortunately our test was limited to paved roads, which fits with its increasing on-road focus, but we'd love to head into the outback in the Grand Cherokee to let it show off its capability in difficult situations.
What's the interior like?
This is unquestionably the area of the Grand Cherokee that has most obviously improved over the previous model. Jeep has taken criticism of its older cabins on-board and lifted the design and quality of the cabin.
While it's not quite on the same level as a Range Rover or Mercedes-Benz, the improvements are obvious as soon as you climb inside. There's good quality Nappa leather on the seats as well as faux woodgrain and metallic inlays that play to the luxury feel. Then there's the rotary shift selector, which has a crystal-like finish, that continues the premium push.
Space is good, with ample room in the rear for adults and if you need more space Jeep is offering a three-row, seven-seat version.
How much does the Jeep Grand Cherokee cost?
The other area of major change for this new-generation Grand Cherokee is the price. One of the reasons the previous model was so popular was its value-for-money offering, with prices for the range starting below $50,000.
But the world has changed a lot in the past decade and this new Grand Cherokee line-up begins from a significant $77,950 for the five-seat Night Eagle variant.
The Overland model we tested here starts from $98,450 before options and on-road costs, so you'll be looking at six-figures. That's a lot of money for a Jeep, regardless of how much nicer the cabin and other features are.
It means the Grand Cherokee finds itself competing with the likes of the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE rather than the Ford Everest and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, and that's another difficult task.
Would I buy one?
This new Grand Cherokee is unquestionably a big step forward from the old model, but mostly in terms of design and finish. The driving experience hasn't evolved enough, particularly the V6 powertrain, to really put it on the same level as its European rivals.
It is slightly more affordable than its direct Audi, BMW and Mercedes competition but $100k is still a lot of money to pay for a Jeep, regardless of how nice it is. But if you're willing to pay that price you will get yourself a spacious and capable off-roader with a comfortable and well-appointed interior, so Jeep should be commended for its efforts to improve with this new generation.