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Heels on Wheels- 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review

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2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

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.


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.

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