It’s no secret that SUVs and crossovers are the dominant force in today’s automotive market. Since the global economic downturn ticked back up starting in 2010, so too have SUV sales. According to automotive forecasting firm LMC, SUV’s are expected to make up to 35% of all passenger vehicle sales this year, and up to 50% in the US by the year 2020.
One of the dominant vehicles in the mid-size SUV segment has been the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which currently sits in third place in overall US SUV sales just behind the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Explorer.
But with sport utility vehicles commanding higher prices and thus greater profits for automakers, the SUV segment is a very crowded marketplace. Every larger auto manufacturer has at least one SUV in their lineup, while the North American carmakers typically have several different sizes to entice buyers.
Jeep doesn’t fall into that trap. If you want a mid-size, you have the Grand Cherokee, while the smaller Cherokee sits in the compact segment.
What Jeep does offer is a number of different trims to meet the needs of every type of SUV buyer. For the gearheads, the Grand Cherokee comes in SRT or Trackhawk guises that allow a 5,000 lb runaway utility vehicle achieve zero to sixty times that would impress most sports car owners. For the luxury-minded, the Summit or Overland trims provide a modicum of power and a touch of European refinement without the flash of a Mercedes or BMW. And for the soccer moms and nine-to-fivers, the Laredo and Limited trims provide a great vehicle for a great price.
No matter what Grand Cherokee you choose, all but the very highest of trims start with the same engine: the tried, tested, and true 3.6-L Pentastar V6. With 295 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, the Grand Cherokee typically has no trouble hauling whatever you ask of it with max towing rated at 6,200 lbs.
Power is routed through an 8-speed automatic transmission which efficiently puts pour to the road. Ensuring that fuel is only burned when absolutely necessary, the Grand Cherokee’s engine received stop/start and cylinder deactivation, helping both 2-wheel and 4-wheel-drive versions achieve a combined fuel economy of 21 mpg.
If 295 horses aren’t enough, available on the Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, and Summit trims is the same 5.7-L V8 that powers the Ram 1500 and provides 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. This engine only comes with 4WD and provides a max towing capacity of 7,200 lbs.
For those that demand maximum power on all their rides, there’s the Grand Cherokee SRT and Trackhawk. On the SRT, you’ll find a 6.4-L HEMI V8 with 475 hp and 470 lb-ft. Jeep even provides performance statistics on this version, revealing a 0-60 time of just 4.3 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 12.8 seconds. Top speed is 160 mph.
But it’s the Trackhawk that gets the most notoriety as one of the fastest SUVs in the world. Powered by the same 6.2-L supercharged V8 as the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, it has 707 hp pushing it to 60 mph from a standstill in 3.5 seconds. Quarter-mile times are measured in the mid-11-seconds range, with a top speed of 180 mph.
Very few SUVs can manage performance like that. Most are smart enough not to try, but some people just need their SUV to have the same performance as a runaway freight train.
Let’s not forget there’s also a 3.0-L EcoDiesel option, also sourced from Ram, that provides a reasonable 240 horses and an impressive 420 lb-ft of torque. This option is available on the Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, and Summit trims.
For the off-road minded Cherokees such as the Trailhawk, Overland, and Summit, a Selec-Terrain traction control allows the driver to select between 5 different terrains: Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud, and Rock. This tells the Quadra-Lift Air suspension system to either rise up or hunkers down depending on the terrain selected.
The SRT and Trackhawk both receive adaptive damping suspension for maximum performance, while trims Altitude and below are just meant for regular road driving.
For 2019, all Cherokees get a now standard suite of safety features including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross path detection. Upgrading to include automatic parallel parking, forward collision, and adaptive cruise control will be an optional extra on the Limited and above trims, or comes standard on the Summit.
New 8.4-inch infotainments are also standard on most Cherokee trims, while the base-level Laredo gets the old 7.0-inch. All Cherokees now get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with 2 USB ports and 6-speaker audio that can be upgraded to a 9-speaker Bose sound system or a 19-speaker Harman Kardon premium system on the Summit.
Perhaps the best feature of the Grand Cherokee is the list of standard comfort features. On the Limited and above trim, you get an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated steering wheel, heated first and second-row seats, 8-way adjustable power seat, heated side mirrors, power liftgate, automatic headlights, and remote start with keyless entry.
For the more premium Overland and above trims, you get auto-dimming side mirrors, LED daytime running lights, and automatic windshield wipers.
No matter what your price, there’s a Grand Cherokee for you. The cheapest 2019 Laredo 2WD trim comes in at just $31,695, while a luxurious Summit 4x4 comes in at $52,040. The Trackhawk begins at $86,650, and can easily be pushed close to $100,000 once fully kitted out.
Meanwhile, the Ford Explorer starts at $32,365, while the Toyota Highlander starts at $31,330. The Toyota comes with 3-zone climate control compared to the Grand Cherokee's dual-zone, while the Ford has available lane-keeping, a foot-activated power liftgate, and a more powerful 3.5-L EcoBoost V6 engine than the Pentastar.
And yet, neither of those vehicles quite has the same refinement as the Grand Cherokee. Perhaps it’s the fact the Grand Cherokee has been with Jeep since the modern SUV emerged in the early ‘90s. Perhaps each generation has improved upon the last to the point where the Grand Cherokee is now nearly as iconic as the old Willys Jeep.
Either way, we expect the Jeep Grand Cherokee to be around for many more decades to come.