Reviews

2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Walk Around



The basic body panels on the Grand Cherokee didn’t change for the 2014 facelift, but body-color trim around the wheels and revised door sills cleaned up the profile view. Front lighting, wheel sizes and styles, and body-end sections vary among the Jeep models.

The shape of the Jeep Grand Cherokee shows you can build a capable-looking utility vehicle without resorting to excessive fender flaring or plastic ramp bumpers. The clearances required for off-highway travel (front, rear and underneath) are good. Note that some of the critical off-highway dimensions Jeep claims are with the front air dam removed, a few-minute job to be undertaken before you hit the nastier terrain.

The front end utilizes two headlight and two foglight designs, with premium models getting LED running lights and turn-following bi-xenon headlamps. With the black plastic trim on the inside edge, we first thought Jeep might have pulled them off the Chrysler 300, but they’re unique to the Grand Cherokee.

Jeep’s trademark grille is seven slots cut into a panel rather than a single grille, with black slats on most models. However, the Summit model’s grille is lined with chrome mesh to mimic Bentley and every other pretender. There’s plenty of chrome on upper trim levels, while the entry model’s simpler appearance looks more appropriate for Jeep’s mission statement. Some have dark tow hooks, the Overland gets chrome, and the Summit has none.

At the other end, all Grand Cherokees have LED-ring taillights that echo the headlights, with clear-lens signals and backup lights that actually help the camera view. Rear lighting is very good; the bumper scuff panels vary in color, and some models have a nicely integrated cover for the tow hitch.

The hatch is easy to open, powered on higher trim levels but more of an advantage for those who can’t reach it when open. or as a convenience, than in effort saved. The manual version is easy, too. The glass in the hatch does not open separately as on some utilities. Laredos run a single exhaust outlet while the other models get two, regardless of engine.

The bodywork between the wheels, below the door sills, is stamped No Step at the rear edge, as it looks an inviting place to stand for roof loading. Better to put a foot on the rear tire, on the door scuff plates, or the rear bumper cover.

Everything below the glass on an SRT looks at least a little bit different from that of the other Grand Cherokee models. Side sills are more aggressive and fenders filled better by 10-inch-wide forged alloy wheels (and those filled with big brakes). The lights have darkened housings, the front running lights are strips in the bumper, and the chin spoiler is more prominent. A bulging hood has dual air outlets to release heat, and you’ll see the hot air wafting out while sitting at a traffic light. At the back, a larger hatch spoiler and big black chrome exhaust barrels back up the SRT badge.

Interior

The interior has arguably become the most important part of a Grand Cherokee. It’s become first and foremost a wagon or sedan replacement, with off-road adventure a secondary concern. That is a wee conundrum, since the best 4WD equipment comes only with the posh heated leather upholstery, but that’s the market.

Hefty price differences across the model range mean a base Laredo will neither look nor feel like a top-line Summit inside, but the Laredo has the same five-passenger seating and cargo space. More important, the materials and finishes in the Laredo seem better suited to Jeepin’ and don’t have the disparity between the Summit’s suede-like headliner, stitched dashboard, natural-finish wood, perforated leather and plastic panels on the doors and console sides.

After hours in both, we found no appreciable difference in comfort between Laredo cloth and Summit leather upholstery. The Laredo’s cloth absorbed temperature extremes almost as well as the Summit’s seat heating/cooling. Space is more than adequate, while headroom remains sufficient with either moonroof.

The split-fold rear seats offer slightly less room, but anyone under six feet should fit comfortably. Many of them recline slightly, some are heated, and some have power points and dual USB ports.

Ahead of the driver is a dog-bone shaped instrument panel with conventional rev-counter on one side and fuel level/coolant temperature on the other. Between is a 7-inch configurable display for speed and a host of lesser data. The sole drawback to a digital representation of an analog speedometer is minor needle ratcheting, like a quartz watch’s second hand only faster, as it rises and falls. Virtually everything in this display is controlled by steering-wheel switches, or redundant from the central infotainment screen.

The 8-speed’s shifter is like an inverted putter-head on the left of the console. It requires a more delicate touch than the old gated unit, and the lighted icons are not easy to see in daylight. So, it’s better to look at the dashboard display.

To choose amongst the forward gears, there are shift paddles: little levers atop the horizontal spokes on the steering wheel. This isn’t a new concept, but it’s joined by audio controls on the back sides of the same spokes. So more than once, we changed volume or station when we really wanted a gear change.

The LED lighting in the cabin works well, to erase the yellow harshness of the old days. An optional giant dual-pane panoramic sunroof opens wide to the sky. If installed, you can see the stars, perhaps better than you can see out the windows or through the rearview mirror. The generous windshield pillars, sloped backlight and rear headrests pinch the space for visibility.

The location and operation of things on the center stack, such as the electronic switchbank and HVAC controls, is all good. Chrysler’s Uconnect systems, big touch-screen and voice control work quite well. As a bonus, you can engage seat and steering wheel heaters before “OKâ€�-ing the distracted-driver warnings.

An SRT comes with most luxuries and features standard (may as well get the 19-speaker sound system because it weighs less than the standard stereo). However, it gets unique, thick-bolster front seats, a really hefty steering wheel (oar-thick on the bottom half), different graphics and finishes, and the displays offer more information catered to the enthusiast driver.

Cargo space is rated at 36 cubic feet with rear seats up and 68 with them folded; add a bit more for longer items over the fold-flat front seat. That’s about par for the midsize SUV class, but it’s also within a cubic foot of a Ford Escape and smaller than a Honda CR-V, demonstrating that mid-size SUVs don’t necessarily have more room than compact SUVs.

There’s an abundance of storage pockets and bins, including two bins under the cargo floor surrounding the spare tire. That spare may be a temporary-use model or full-size, but you won’t have to lie in the snow or mud to get it out.

* The advertised price does not include sales tax, vehicle registration fees, other fees required by law, finance charges and any documentation charges.

* Images, prices, and options shown, including vehicle color, trim, options, pricing and other specifications are subject to availability, incentive offerings, current pricing and credit worthiness.

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