Heels on Wheels- 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review
HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel
INTRO TO THE JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE VEHICLE
Thanks to satisfying and significant improvements to the last model year, this five-passenger mid-size SUV is once again a sound contender for consumers expecting an authentic off-road experience paired to a highly refined interior.
I drove a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the 290-horsepower 3.6-liter Dual Overhead Cam V6 engine and variable value timing, coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission and Quadra-Trac II four-wheel drive system. Available in Laredo, Laredo X, Altitude, Limited, Overland, Overland Summit and SRT8 trims, my Limited test drive came with the following standard equipment: heated front and second row seats; power front seating; dual-zone climate control; leather upholstery; rear parking sensors; dual-pane panoramic moonroof; Bluetooth; 5.5-inch navigation display; six-speaker audio system with XM Radio; fog lamps; and eighteen-inch wheels. Base price as describe is $39,295. And upgrade Media Center with voice-command navigation, rear DVD entertainment system and destination charge brought my test drive price to $42,080.
For 2012, the Grand Cherokee sees a small fuel economy improvement and adds the Overland trim and an all-new 6.4-liter HEMI V8 engine. Main competitors are abundant, with the Toyota 4Runner and Ford Explorer matching the same degree of interior quality, legendary performance, and lifeline.
HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA
Stylish But Comfortable Results: Not too keen on Jeep interiors of the past for a poor use of space, the Grand Cherokee now features a balanced cabin design with my Limited drive complimented by two-toned, high-quality leather and wood trim interior materials. However, the graphics on the touch-screen navigation and audio system display are shamefully archaic – Jeep needs to complete better here with the high-resolution connectivity systems Ford and Toyota are producing. Rear passengers will appreciate access to climate controls and heated seats, along with the optional DVD entertainment system.
Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee ratings of “Good” in all crash test areas, making it a Top Safety Pick. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the vehicle an overall 4-Star rating. Standard safety equipment includes Quadra-Trac II four-wheel drive, Selec-Terrain System, Hill-descent Control, Hill-start Assist, ParkSense Rear Park Assist, Electronic Stability Control, LATCH, and a comprehensive airbag system.
Cost Issues: The base Laredo 4x4 begins at $29,195 with the SRT8 trim coming in at more than two times the cost at $61,610 – a fully loaded 2012 Land Rover LR4 is $60,175. If you can’t stomach the price, you can step down to something with less interior fanfare like the 2012 Nissan Xterra in the performance-minded Pro-4X trim at $30,720.
Activity & Performance Ability: On highway, the Jeep is smooth, soundless and stable – quite a refined and pleasurable SUV ride. Yet with a five-speed automatic transmission, the Cherokee does exhibit noticeable gear-shift hesitations during incline acceleration or quicker slowdowns. The Selec-Terrain four-wheel drive system uses lower console dials. Like any Jeep, the vehicle has generous ground clearance and instant grip for rocky climbs.
The Green Concern: Fuel economy results with the 3.6-liter V6 engine are 16 miles-per-gallon city and 23 highway with four-wheel drive – I recorded a combined 18.5 during my weeklong test drive. The HEMI features an all-new active valve exhaust system with an estimated 13 percent improvement in highway fuel efficiency – but all that banter doesn’t hide dismal numbers of 12-city and 18-highway for a combined 14 miles-per-gallon.
FINAL PARTING WORDS
The 2012 Jeep Cherokee boasts a perfectly executed interior with all the modern amenities, paired to a spectrum of performance and grade choices for tailored adventures as mild as a trip down the highway or as intense as Tahoe’s Fordyce Trail.
©2012 Katrina Ramser