Huge change for fan favorite 4WD

Fans of this big four-wheel drive may be disappointed by one change, but there’s still plenty to enjoy in this go-anywhere family car.

Jeep’s new Grand Cherokee L has arrived with good and bad news. The good news is that it’s an imposing, handsome and capable beast with room for seven people to stretch out in luxury. The bad news is that there is no diesel engine for those who enjoy extra torque and superior fuel economy.

The only engine on offer is Jeep’s well-known non-turbo 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine, good for 210 kW and 344 Nm.

The maximum tow weight is 2,813kg, or just 2,268kg for the top-of-the-line Summit Reserve with its trick air suspension. The outgoing Grand Cherokee diesel could tow 3500kg, making it the American dream of a heavy tower.

“I just wonder how many of those really needed three and a half tons; is 2.8 tons not enough?” introduces Jeep Australia director Kevin Flynn. “What lies ahead is plug-in hybrid and we are going to embrace that. The bottom line is that this is a new model, not diesel, and I can pretty much guarantee it will be the same with many other brands in the future.”

Diesel’s public image may be tattered, but 57 percent of old Grand Cherokees sold were oil burners. That leaves a hole. For those looking for more performance and economy – and willing to pay the roughly $100,000 price tag – a five-seat plug-in hybrid Grand Cherokee with 280 kW and 637 Nm will arrive early next year. However, it is only allowed to tow 2800 kg.

Meanwhile, the seven-seater starts at $82,250 plus down the road for the cheapest Night Eagle model, climbing to $87,950 for the Limited and $115,450 for the Summit Reserve.

With a few options, the topper will likely cost $130,000 along the way. Jeep says it is a premium product and priced accordingly.

The Summit Reserve cabin is indeed special. Plush padded leather seats fit in any direction and warm or ventilate your bum and back as you massage them. There’s a panoramic sunroof, pumping 19-speaker McIntosh audio, and open-pored walnut wood finishes that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bentley. Real.

Jeep is charging an additional $5,500 for a pack that includes a head-up display, wireless phone charging, night vision, and a passenger screen.

There were no Night Eagles available for testing, but the mid-spec Limited seems to be the best choice. The interior also exudes class and quality: leather, two-row heated seats, digital instrument panel, 10.1-inch center screen and knurled metal gear selector.

Third row passengers enjoy impressive headroom, while the cavernous second row slides forward for adult-friendly legroom.

You don’t feel third class here either; there are four USBs (of 12 in total), bottle holders and soft-touch armrests. There’s even 487 liters of luggage space with seven seats up – more than you’ll find in a Mazda CX-5.

The trump card of the Grand Cherokee L is that it can go where luxury seven-seat rivals dare not venture. Our test ride featured Aussie wilderness trails with big loose rocks, giant wheel ruts and abrasive hills at the bottom.

Only the Summit Reserve brings low-range 4×4 and fits into its off-road suit without any vulgar rumble. The air suspension is 61mm higher than on road Sport mode and you can choose from five different terrain settings, while the hill descent control keeps things tidy.

You shudder when you plow a $120,000 Jeep with 21-inch alloys and road rubber up a sketchy climb, but this thing is very capable. Its 276mm ground clearance makes it a true off-road hero; lower ranks only have 215mm clearance, so bottom noises are more common. Still, the Limited went wherever the top-tier line-up went – more than most owners would dare to consider – albeit with a little more fuss.

Such hardcore power makes the on-road performance all the more impressive. The Grand Cherokee L sails beautifully in near-silence while feeling secure and planted through turns for a vehicle of its size. Show it bumpy roads with holes and it absorbs hits very well. In terms of comfort, you don’t miss much without the air suspension of the Summit Reserve.

The V6 makes a nice note and feels powerful enough, but lacks the pulling power of a diesel or V8, which is more noticeable when towing. For reference, while cruising we returned 10.2L/100km – almost identical to our return in the V6 diesel-equipped new Toyota LandCruiser.

PRONOUNCEMENT 3.5/5

Beautifully designed, spacious and well equipped, the price and lack of a diesel option can be a challenge.

JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE L VITALS

PRICE From $82,250 plus on the road

WARRANTY/MAINTENANCE 5 years/unlimited km, $1995 for 5 years/60,000 km

SAFETY 8 airbags, automatic emergency braking, lane and blind spot assistant, front and rear cross traffic warning, adaptive cruise control, speed sign recognition

ENGINE 3.6-litre V6 petrol, 210 kW and 344 Nm

THIRST 10.6L/100km

RESERVE Full size

LUGGAGE 487-1328 liters

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