Full Review: 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo

In brief

Model: 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, $46,800 as tested.

Drivetrain: 3.6L Pentastar VVT V6 with 295HP and 260 ft-lb.

Technology: 8.5” uCconnect touchscreen with Bluetooth, six speaker audio and satellite radio.

Comfort: Tri zone climate control, heated drive and passenger seats, heated steering wheel

Overview

There’s something classic about the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Jeep brand has been the definition of rugged, all terrain capability since 1941. 75 years later and they still have one of the most capable entry level all-wheel drive systems. An option on all Grand Cherokees, the Quadra-Trac system introduces selectable weather and terrain options. Also includes hill descent capabilities, tow, and a rarity in this segment: 4×4 low gear.

Jeep uses the same Pentastar V6 engine which has found its way into nearly every part of the FCA model lineup; with good reason. This 3.6L produces 295 HP and rides very smoothly. An eight speed transmission keeps acceleration in the eco sweet spot, but selectable gears lets you have a little fun every now and then.  Interior trims are on par with competitors at this level, while dash design is simple and practical. Excellent rear cargo space, and 6,200 pounds of towing capacity, round out this capable SUV.

Scores

Performance/Mileage: 7.5/10

Comfort/Ride: 8/10

Practicality: 8.5/10

Entertainment/Technology: 8/10

Reliability: 3/5

Total: 35/45 – 4/5 stars

Performance and mileage

The Pentastar V6 and eight speed combination has become a staple amongst the FCA larger vehicles. With 295 HP on offer with 265 ft-lb of torque, this engine offers excellent power across a wide RPM band. The transmission does a good job of keeping the engine limited to a small and consistent RPM during typical city acceleration. By using all eight gears, the system makes its best attempt at providing the best mileage and power at any moment. Acceleration is brisk, and the Grand Cherokee has punch when pushed. It never felt like the transmission needed to search for gears, though it did occasionally shift a bit rough when cold. As a whole, this is a great all around drivetrain. Towing capacity is a class leading 6,200 pounds, even more if you opt for the bigger 5.7L V8.

All the efforts towards mileage give the Grand Cherokee good city mileage, better than most in the class. FCA reports city mileage of 12.8L/100km, and the Grand Cherokee performed around 12.6L/100km during the test. Overall, the Grand Cherokee posted an average of 10.7L/100km for the duration of the test, driven about 40% city. On the highway, the Grand Cherokee settles into a posted mileage of 9.5L/100km, as near as makes no difference to others in the segment.

Ride and comfort

Probably what came as the biggest surprise from the Grand Cherokee was how it handled ride and comfort. Given the rough, outdoorsman nature of the brand, one does not expect the ride you get from the Grand Cherokee. Even at the entry level, ride was very smooth. Double pane driver and passenger windows were a surprise, and aided in quieting the cabin further. Road noise at highway speed is acceptable, quiet even. Optional low resistance Michelin tires are worth every penny. In addition to fuel mileage gains, they further smooth the ride. Suspension and tires mute rough roads well. The Grand Cherokee is very composed in a variety of road conditions. Transmission shifts are barely noted during city driving, but can be quite aggressive when the driver puts a foot down.

Interior seating is comfortable and simple. Base level seating come with rugged looking cloth materials, but aren’t coarse to the touch. They provide good all-round support and comfort for short and long hauls. Rear bench seating is padded the same as the front, providing good passenger support. Features like heated seats and steering wheel are good for the winter, while tri-zone automatic climate control keeps passengers cool in the summer heat.

Practicality

By losing the third row, the Grand Cherokee does lose a seven or eight passenger option. However, the result is an impressive amount of functional space behind the second row. Hard, tough materials throughout give the Grand Cherokee a feel of durability. Surfaces feel easy to clean. A great rubber mat lines the floor of the trunk, protecting the carpet from hard items and spills. 60/40 split bench seats can be folded down to afford even more space. A good spare wheel sits below the trunk. Jeep has even fitted removable storage bins around the tire. No space is wasted.

Ride height of the Grand Cherokee is a bit higher than some other competitors, a result of its all-terrain system. Entry and exit is slightly hampered by this. Three kids seats can squeeze side to side in the second row for families. Front cup holders provide sufficient space for cups and bottles. Center console space is good. A double level lid keeps loose items like keys separate from larger items in the bin below. Jeep rates the Grand Cherokee at this trim for 6,200 pounds, an impressive number. An optional trailer tow package adds wiring harnesses and sway control.

Entertainment and technology

Expectation for technology in a new vehicle today has become increasingly high. While Jeep offers a decent 5” touchscreen at entry level, the optional 8.4” uConnect system is well worth the money. This version of uConnect isn’t fancy, but it is very functional. Voice to text is well executed, accurate and fairly tolerant of background noise. A simple interface is clean and easy to use. Audio is surprisingly good, given the system is a base level six speaker one. There aren’t as many USB ports in the Grand Cherokee as some other vehicles in its class, but media ports are well placed, easily accessible. Another great piece of technology is the dashboard cluster. A full colour LCD cluster is fully customizable by the driver. The digital speedometer is accurate and well animated. Another unexpected and pleasant surprise.

At this trim, the Grand Cherokee has about the same technology as expected. Cruise control is standard, but advances like lane assist and adaptive cruise control are options on much higher trims.  Where the Grand Cherokee stands above the crowd, however, is the Quadra-Trac all-terrain system. A centrally located dial lets drivers select from a variety of terrain types. It goes way beyond the hill descent control and differential locking in competitors. The system modifies a variety of controls – engine, transmission and traction control – to give the vehicle the best traction in that terrain type. Drivers can even engage in four wheel drive low.

Reliability

The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the fourth in this generation, first introduced in 2014 with the eight speed transmission. Reliability data comes from truedelta.com, a collection of owner surveys for thousands of vehicles. Scores are based on repair trips per 100 vehicles, with small sample size data omitted.

All versions of the 2016 Grand Cherokee have an average of 40 repair trips per 100 vehicles, based on owner data from TrueDelta. Reliability is about average. While there is a significant recall in the news for the Jeep Grand Cherokee, it doesn’t affect the 2016 model. Reliability has improved since the initial release.

Conclusion

The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee is an interesting vehicle, with some surprising elements. It stays true to the Jeep off road heritage with its Quadra Trac all-terrain system. While it doesn’t have the passenger capacity, it does have lots of space inside. With a rugged feeling, durable interior, efficient eight speed transmission, there may just be enough different about the Grand Cherokee to set it apart from its competitors.

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