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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE GRAND CHEROKEE VEHICLE The five-passenger Jeep Grand Cherokee represents a more serious type of utility – the kind that might actually see real trail action and towing rather than laps around the shopping mall. Once equipped with all the bells-and-whistles from the Summit trim grade, including a 3-liter EcoDiesel engine that nets up to 30 miles-per-gallon highway driving, this vehicle is undeniable capable and handsome.

I drove a 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the 240-horsepower 3-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine with 420 pound-feet of torque and eight-speed automatic transmission. My test drive also featured the Quadra-Trac II four-wheel drive system with Selec-Terrain and Quadra-Lift air suspension. Available in six trims – the base Laredo, Limited, Overland, Summit, High Altitude and SRT – my Summit model came with the following standard features: eight-way power front seating for driver and passenger; heated and ventilated front seats; heated second-row seats; heated steering wheel; nineteen-speaker Harman Kardon audio system; Bluetooth; Uconnect multi-media system with an eight-inch touchscreen display and backup camera; XM Radio; seven-inch digital instrument cluster; remote start; panoramic sunroof; Bi-Xenon headlights; fog lights; twenty-inch wheels; power liftgate; and LED head and taillights. Total price as described came to $52,595 without options.

The EcoDiesel engine definitely makes the Grand Cherokee a unique choice among a sea of mid-size SUVs with regular gasoline engines that include the Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer, and on the more off-road side, the Toyota 4Runner.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The Grand Cherokee’s exterior emits a welcomed ruggedness many SUVs have lost in their crossover metamorphous. Yet at the Summit level, the cabin is a never-ending experience in quality materials and current technology. Jeep’s own Uconnect system and 8.4-inch touchscreen brings your smartphone to life while second-row passengers will appreciate the heated seats, two USB ports, and if they are tiny kids, the fact the seats belts are easy to buckle into. While the Toyota 4Runner can complete to some extents with its performance, it cannot with the Grand Cherokee’s refined appointments. Options on my model ran the price up another $8k which included the Skid Plate Group ($295); Summit California Edition with unique stain carbon wheels and other exterior body-color features ($995); and the upgraded $5,000 EcoDiesel engine.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2016 Grand Cherokee ratings of “Good” in all areas omitting small overlap front and ease of us with child seat anchors, which both earned just “Marginal.” The vehicle has an overall rating of 5-Stars with The National Highway and Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). Standard safety includes anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and an advanced airbag system. The Summit also included all the modern safety technology you’d want, such as Park Assist, Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection, Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation.

Cost Issues: The prices of the Grand Cherokee range from a base Laredo at $29,995 to the performance-driven SRT at $65,695. A base Toyota 4Runner SR5 4Runner starts at $33,810 with a recent Trail Premium trim test drive reaching $40,445 and a fully loaded Explorer Platinum trim test drive at $54,970.

Activity & Performance Ability: Despite Jeep’s claims it’s a quite engine, start it up and the neighbors will undeniably detect the sound of a diesel. An assortment of four-wheel drive systems and best-in-class towing capability of 7,400 pounds make the Grand Cherokee a versatile choice for those who expect their SUV to be a workhorse with the 3-liter V6 EcoDiesel towing the same amount as the bigger 5.7-lter V8. When shopping, make note the various trims are assigned certain engines and performance equipment so be prepared to accept a particular setup. The four-wheel drive systems are easy to use, with the Selec-Terrain traction management system requiring just a turn of a dial located in the lower center console area. Paired with the Quadra-Lift air suspension system, the Grand Cherokee’s trail-rated status can be felt from sand to snow.

The Green Concern: The 3-liter diesel engine is a great choice at 21-city and 28-highway for a combined 24 miles-per-gallon. The Toyota 4Runner with the 4-liter V6 gets 17-city and 21-highway for a combined 18 miles-per-gallon combined, as do most other competitors with a V6.

Showcasing true utility style in classic seven-slot grille fashion is the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee. If you can swing it, choose the 3-liter EcoDiesel that can tow as much as the V8 but retains 24 miles-per-gallon, although the engine is marketed and sold as an extra $5k option.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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