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2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland - Rocky Mountain Review By Dan Poler

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2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee

By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel


Of late, SUV’s have moved away from their traditional go-anywhere, do-anything heritage and become spacious on-road vehicles that happen to adapt well to hauling lots of people and stuff. Not so for the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which offers all of the expected people-and-stuff-moving benefits of SUV’s but has stayed true to its roots by retaining its off-road prowess.

Not much has changed for 2013. On the outside, the design remains true to the 2011 redesign. Up front we find Jeep’s signature 7-slat grille in chrome, and in the back we find the angular, boxy shape that makes the Grand Cherokee so functional for its intended purpose.

The Grand Cherokee comes available in a dizzying array of trims and packages. Our tester was an Overland model, which comes very well equipped with class-exclusive features such as Jeep’s Quadra-Lift adjustable air suspension, Selec-Terrain system, and Quadra-Trac II 4WD system. These various systems work in concert to permit the driver to either select a height for the vehicle (from a low easy-access height to a high off-road profile) or to select particular condition such as mud/snow or sport, which will adjust the vehicle’s height and tune other parameters to presets appropriate for the need. Low-range gearing for 4WD is also provided – somewhat of a dying option amongst SUV’s these days.

Our tester was equipped not with the available monstrous 5.7L V8 but instead with Chrysler’s base 3.6L Pentastar engine. The Pentastar is an interesting engine and proved itself an excellent choice for around-town and highway cruising. It’s torquey and responsive, laying it’s 290 horses down through a 5-speed automatic transmission. We found it to be just a little pokey for highway lane changes, but this concern is more than offset by its 19 MPG combined fuel economy during our time with the Grand Cherokee, and its ability to drink E-85, a nice option to have when gasoline prices rise.

Inside it’s clear that Chrysler benefitted from their collaboration with the Germans, no matter how brief. The cabin is spacious, refined, and quiet, with surprisingly firm seats and generally logical controls – it’s clear that a great deal of usability study and testing went into the engineering of this vehicle, leading to just simple choices like putting the rear liftgate close switch not overhead on the liftgate itself, but on the side wall of the cargo area. The pale green ambient lighting throughout the cabin is gentle and pleasing; at first we thought the amount of ambient lighting would prove distracting – e.g. accents around the cupholders – but its well executed and easy on the eyes. The Overland package adds front seats that are ventilated as well as heated, and a heated wood steering wheel. Unlike other vehicles with both a wood steering wheel and a heated steering wheel, the wood parts are actually heated too – a minor point, no doubt, but very much appreciated when setting out before dawn on a cold December morning.

We did find the navigation / entertainment / telephone system to be somewhat of a chore to work with – as we frequently find with these systems, operations as simple as changing a radio preset require several steps, and the screen is somewhat small; moreover the system just feels somewhat dated. We expect that this will be addressed in a future update, perhaps as seen in the 2013 Ram 1500.

Mother Nature was kind enough to provide some significant snow and ice during our time with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and generally speaking the excellent 4WD and Selec-Terrain system were able to keep us out of any real trouble. The Grand Cherokee handled predictably and well on icy mountain roads, no doubt in part due to the nearly even 51 / 49 front / rear weight distribution. There were a couple of moments of tension as tires started to slip particularly on icy downhill curves, most likely due to the decidedly road-biased Goodyear Fortera tires on which the Grand Cherokee was riding. Those inclined for serious backcountry driving in mud, snow, sand, or rock may wish to consider a different set of shoes for the Grand Cherokee more appropriate to their need.

Our tester came equipped with an option package which provided forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control. Adaptive cruise control is always appreciated for long highway drives and was easy to use. The collision warning, however, was another story – we found the system to be overly sensitive and easily spooked by … well, we’re not certain what, actually. We found a couple stretches of road which were able to fool the system into alerting to an imminent crash when there was not the slightest possibility of one occurring.

Despite minor drawbacks in the forward collision warning and infotainment systems, the Jeep Grand Cherokee represents not only an excellent choice in a midsize SUV, but one of a dying breed truly capable in all conditions and on all surfaces. The Grand Cherokee has made significant strides forward in usability, design, and luxury without compromising the true functionality that ultimately represents what makes a Jeep, a Jeep.


2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland
Base Price: $27,695.00
Price as Tested: $46,015.00
Engine Type: 24-valve VVT
Engine Size: 3.6 Liter
Horsepower: 290
Torque (lb-ft): 260
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length (in): 114.8 / 189.8
Curb Weight: 4,955
Pounds per HP: 19
Fuel Capacity (gal): 24.6
Fuel Requirement: Flex-fuel (unleaded / E15/E30/E85)
Tires: Goodyear Fortera HL 265/50TR20
Brakes, front/rear: Ventilated disc / Solid disc
Suspension, front/rear: Short and long arm / Multi-link
Ground clearance (in): 8.6 (typical; adjustable via Quadra-lift air suspension)
Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG city / highway / observed: 16 / 23 / 19
Towing capacity (lb): 5,000
Base Trim Price: $43,595.00

Options and Charges

Customer Preferred Package 26P: $1,495.00 (Advanced warning / adaptive cruise control; blind spot and cross path detection; adaptive speed control; forward collision warning)

Delivery: $925

Price as tested: $46,015.00