Everyone in India is familiar with the Jeep badge. For 48 years, right from Independence to 1995, Mahindra and Mahindra made the CJ Series Jeep in different avatars with the Jeep badge making it one of the most recognizable and popular modes of transport in India. Now though, Jeep is all set to make a comeback to India with a range of three new SUVs. Although most people’s visualizations when they think about a ‘Jeep’ in general is a spartan vehicle, the new Jeeps will be far from that. We took the new 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee out for a quick drive to see how the brand has progressed through the years.
The Grand Cherokee is named after the American native Indian tribes that were known for their outdoorsy nature has developed into a completely different animal in its 2013 avatar. For starters, the Grand Cherokee is a spectacular looking vehicle as compared to its earlier generations showing exemplary evolution. The vertically placed 7-slat chrome grille might look familiar to most considering how Mahindra has been using the same design for a long long time. There is a generous serving of chrome on the front of the car with a large and rather well placed chrome accent piece running across the lower half of the front bumper and two handsome air intake ports with chrome linings occupying the top half of the front bumper.
What really captivated us was the sheer attention to detail in the sleek headlamp unit. The horizontally placed headlamps with embedded LED daytime running lamps gives the Grand Cherokee tremendous street presence and character. The headlamp units also come with small engravings that showcase the original Jeep form in them on one side and the words ‘Since 1941’on the other side paying homage to the vehicle that started the off-road trend. Incidentally, Jeep is also credited in making the world’s first luxury offroader, or what later came to be known as the SUV, the Wagoneer, which to some is the father of all modern SUVs the world over.
Coming back to the design elements on the new 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee, although the front of the car demands respect with its well crafted design, the rear of this range topping SUV does seem a little vanilla from the rear end due to its upright stance and large tail lamps. There is even more chrome on tap here though with the large Jeep badge dominating the boot lid. The rear bumper is festooned with two large trapezoidal exhaust tips and a large chrome accent piece dominating the rear bumper from one end to another. What does really stand out though is the sheer size and dimensions of the car amongst other cars on the road. We also like the large 20-inch split-5-spoke chrome wheels which although huge on paper look just about right on this huge SUV. In fact, if one is seriously considering buying the Grand Cherokee, we would beg you to go for the largest set of wheels Jeep as to offer just because this is one of those few cars that can actually pull a gigantic wheel off without looking awkward. The Grand Cherokee is most certainly one of the most brutish SUVs built and will certainly command instant respect wherever one takes it.
On the interior front, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is extremely spacious but somehow lacks that premium touch and feel that the competition has. That said, the acres of wood and leather in the car do feel very good indeed and make up for the lack of visual appeal in other departments. The steering wheel feels premium with its smooth finish and the array of buttons on it can easily bewilder someone. The single stalk behind the steering wheel that controls everything from the headlights to the indicators to the wipers do take time getting used to as well. We were impressed by the huge 8.5 inch touch screen infotainment system in general but were left wanting more by its rather archaic looking interface. That said, we must stress that the audio system in the new Grand Cherokee is possibly one of the best we have heard in a long time and is most certainly a rival for cars two or three times its price.
Where the Jeep Grand Cherokee does score big though are the exceptional seats. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has enough space to seat five people comfortably and the seats appear to be taken right out of a luxurious lounge as compared to the no frills seats of Jeeps of the past. The front seats, as is expected in a car of this class is electrically controlled and the rear seats are spacious with a lot of legroom and shoulder room. The materials used too are extremely well selected giving the Jeep Grand Cherokee a sense of class. That said, the interior could use a bit of spicing up to get the older looking dials and switch up to scratch with the Jeeps competition. A good touch to the Jeep Grand Cherokee is the addition of the remote actuated tail-gate door with a push button close option.
ENGINE, GEARBOX and PERFORMANCE
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is powered by a 3.0 Litre V6 twin-turbo diesel engine that produces 243PS of peak power and 570NM or peak torque. The engine feels extremely responsive and showcases a creamy rev range with power available on demand. Although the Jeep Grand Cherokee weighs in at a heavy 2407kgs, it still feels extremely powerful and showcases exceptional acceleration. The 8-speed ZF gearbox does feel a little slow off the line but quickly catches up. We did experience a tad bit of jerking under slower speeds and in start-stop traffic. Shifting to sports mode though instantly transforms the Jeep Grand Cherokee giving it an edgy feel. In sports mode, the gearbox lets the engine rev to about 4100Rpm giving the large Jeep a bit of extra poke to get rid of any pesky tailgaters.
RIDE AND HANDLING
The Jeep Grand Cherokee features its trademark terrain response system that has an uncanny effect to work exceptionally well making the driver a mere accessory as it goes on to handle any sort of terrain that gets thrown at it. Be it snow, mud, rocks, gravel or the more difficult - streets of Mumbai – the Jeep Grand Cherokee with its Quadra-lift air suspension can tackle everything. Maybe India should have sent one of these to Mars…
As we mentioned earlier, the Jeep Grand Cherokee wears an enormous set of 20inch wheels shod with 265/50 R20 section Continental tyres. These massive wheels and tyres are phenomenal in terms of grip and handling in general. The large wheels though do pose an issue while treading through rougher patches of road and we did manage to get not one but two punctures on undulating and rough road surfaces. Although the Jeep Grand Cherokee runs on huge wheels, the ride is extremely supple due to the air suspension setup. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has most certainly been setup for comfort over performance. What did pleasantly surprise us was the ease with which one could drive this rather large car. The light steering feel that weighed down appropriately as speeds got higher was a real joy. The extremely tight turning radius of the Grand Cherokee making it extremely easy to drive for a car that is almost 5 meters long also impressed us!
Will India take kindly to a Rs 60 lakh Jeep? Will Jeep’s utilitarian image hamper this new fresh image that Chrysler needs to portray? Will the Jeep Grand Cherokee be able to go head to toe with rivals like the established Mercedes M-Class? Only time will tell. What we did love though was how different the Jeep Grand Cherokee felt when compared to its competition. There is no denying that the Jeep Grand Cherokee has something special about it that separates it from the pack and at a price point of about Rs 60-70 Lakh, there might be quite a few takers for it.
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