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Jeep Meridian First Drive Review: The Balancing Act!


The Jeep Meridian has a few familiar ingredients and yet, manages to bring something you may not have known you wanted from its segment

When Jeep India confirmed the launch of the Meridian, we were excited for two main reasons. One, like the VW Tiguan AllSpace and Skoda Kodiaq, it’s a monocoque SUV - one that’s based on enthusiast-pleasing Compass, so it should offer near car-like driving dynamics and engagement from behind the wheel. Seconds, it’s a Jeep, so the off-roading credentials are expected to shine beyond what the brochure brags about. 

Is the excitement justified and how does the Meridian deliver on it?

Punish The Punisher

The first draw of the Meridian is something you won’t understand on the showroom floor - its ride quality. Jeep’s offering the punishment-friendly nature you’d traditionally associate with a rugged ladder-frame SUV and the Meridian barges through bumps like a champ, even while riding on big 18-inch alloy wheels. The bonus being that you also don’t have to put up with the lumpy or stiff ride quality heavier set body-on-frame SUVs like the Fortuner tend to have, so the Meridian feels consistently comfortable on smooth or bad roads.

We also took the Meridian through a trail that included challenges like rock crawls, steep and sandy inclines, angular drops and axle breakers. The off-road area was reasonably challenging and enough to keep seasoned off roaders entertained with the Meridian’s electronics work excellently to make off-roading comfortable for amateurs as well. The low-range is a transmission lock (a la Compass Trailhawk) and there isn’t a traditional transfer case but there’s more than enough capability for weekend trailrunners.

Get back on the road and you find it’s a reasonably taught handler as well and feels fun to drive for a car of its size, keeping body roll in check when the roads get curvy. What you may find yourself wanting is a little more oomph from the engine. It uses the same diesel engine as the Compass (170PS/350Nm) and is, of course, heavier. 

Even the throttle tune seems a little more progressive and less urgent vs the Compass, in the interest of drive smoothness, so flooring the throttle won’t make you go wow. The diesel clatter is also apparent, if not intrusive, and the 9-speed automatic transmission can feel a little slow to respond when you’re looking to get a move on quickly at high speeds.

It fares excellently as a daily commuter or a highway mile-muncher though, courtesy the easy maneuverability and how relaxed it is cruising at highway speeds. 

Woo Me

The Meridian feels rich on the inside with a generous use of high quality trim and soft-touch elements. It’s on par with the Compass on this front, so it’s not a level up in that sense but the brown-black interior palette does make it look snazzier.

It’s loaded on the features front as well with highlights including a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 10.2-inch fully-digital instrument cluster, panoramic sunroof and powered front seats with ventilation and memory settings.

Other Features

Dual-zone climate control

Rear AC vents with third-row roof-mounted vents

360-degree camera

6 airbags

Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

Powered tailgate

Wireless phone charger

Wireless Android Auto/Apple CarPlay

Perforated leather upholstery

One-touch tumble forward second-row seats

In the back seat, the Meridian feels roomy with adequate space for a six-footer to sit one behind a driver of the same height, with a special mention for the great underthigh support. However, don’t expect this to feel like a much bigger car than the Compass. It doesn’t feel like a much bigger car inside, particularly when it comes to cabin width. In fact, the second-row seat back height is taller in the Compass (ergo: better back support for larger folks) and the middle-row seat height is taller in the Meridian, costing it a little headroom vs the car it’s based on. 

So, if you’re chauffeur-driven, unless you’d like the more comfort-set ride quality of the Meridian or you really need the bonus of a third-row, the Compass will do just fine. 

Talking Point

And since that third-row is the big talking point, an important and obvious question to address - is it really a 7-seater?

The answer is a bit nuanced. If that last row is for kids or short adults, sure. The headroom back there is actually quite accommodating, there are roof AC vents with blower speed control (and a separate evaporator) and cupholders too, while the seats are recline-adjustable. But it’s not a thoroughbred 7-seater like the Fortuner with the Gloster offering a world of added space and comfort in comparison. The seating position is knees up and there isn’t much footroom ahead to spare either (middle-row isn’t slide adjustable). The one-touch tumble middle-row is helpful but adults will have to bend quite a bit or just sit on the floor and shimmy-out. 

So the last row makes most sense if you want the added practicality of the big boot or perhaps, you’d like to bring a family’s furry friend along for road trips. 

Vanity Matters

Jeep’s managed to deliver a good deal of big brother’s charm on a compressed scale. Viewed head on, the Meridian does look similar to the Compass but from every other angle, it looks like a downsized Jeep Grand Cherokee, especially at the back with that tail light design.

Most of you will be happy about Jeep’s decision to go boxy rather than curvy and the squared-off proportions are complemented with a tasteful use of chrome and an eye-catching design for the 18-inch alloy wheels. Our drive through Punjab made it evident that a lot of people do want their cars BIG, whether or not they need them to be, and while it won’t have the Fortuner or Gloster’s intimidation factor, the Meridian does have strong road presence.

Bottomline

Yes, Jeep has managed to find a good balance in its space, offering enjoyable driving dynamics without feeling delicate and when it has to go off-road, it can put up with a whole lot more than just dirt roads or slush.

It also feels rich on the inside and is loaded on the features front as well. Is it an upgrade vs the Compass? If you own the pre-facelift car, yes, and this can also be considered if you were planning to buy the new Compass and want more practicality or flexibility. If Jeep prices the Meridian right, it can also prove to be a stronger value proposition vs the Fortuner or Gloster, provided you’re ok with the math that this 5+2 does not equal their 7.

The Meridian will be offered in two variants only - Limited and Limited (O), with prices expected to range between Rs 30-35 lakh ex-showroom.

Jeep Meridian Video Review

Jeep Meridian
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