An automotive icon that just also happens to be one of the most common rental SUVs.
Car Class: Standard SUV/SFAR
Availability: All major rental car agencies
Alternatives: Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Nissan Murano
|Drive off||Walk away|
|Off road capability||Dated design (from 2009)|
|Compliant ride||Excessive height|
|Quiet cabin||Lack of active safety features|
As Jeep’s flagship offering, the Grand Cherokee has always been America’s answer to the iconic Range Rover. With a compelling blend of luxury and off-road capability, the Grand Cherokee has been the vehicle of choice for many suburbia families since its introduction in 1992. Now, more than 15 years later, the Grand Cherokee has entered its 4th generation with minimal changes to the original formula. This week, we take on the mountain roads of Alberta with the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited to see how it performs in its natural habitat.
With 4 engine choices, the Grand Cherokee offers something for every driver. The base and most common engine on rental Grand Cherokees is the corporate 3.6L Pentastar V6 that propels most FCA products. In this application, the motor produces 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Renters looking for more power can look for the 5.7L Hemi V8, which makes 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. We have only spotted a handful of Grand Cherokees with the uplevel engine on rental lots. Other options include the fire-breathing SRT Hemi and Trackhawk supercharged Hemi V8s. Don’t expect to find those on your next rental though.
Regardless of engine option, all Grand Cherokees make use of an 8-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration can best described as adequate with the base engine. There is enough power for most get up and go situations but it never feels effortless. Thankfully, unlike the 9-speed transmissions in other FCA vehicles, the 8-speed shifts smoothly and is barely perceptible even under hard acceleration. Over our week of mostly highway driving in the Canadian Rockies, we averaged a respectable 9.9L/100km, which is impressive given the elevations that we had to climb. Official estimates for the Grand Cherokee with the base engine are 9.6L/100km on the highway and 12.7L/100km in the city.
Despite wearing large 20-inch wheels, our rental exhibited a very compliant ride. Kudos to the tires, which absorb most bumps and imperfections without any drama. Even major potholes are reduced to mere vibrations. However, once the going gets twisty, the Grand Cherokee starts to show its weakness compared to other more athletic alternatives. Owing to the tall ride height, substantial body roll is present when making spirited maneuvers (e.g. underestimating the curvature of an off-ramp). Befitting its luxury aspirations, the cabin of the Grand Cherokee remains hushed under most driving conditions, with only a hint of engine and road noise under heavy throttle application and high speeds respectively.
On the visibility front, the tall ride height of the Grand Cherokee pays huge dividends, affording drivers with an expansive view of the road ahead. The view of the sides and rear are also decent with a large side windows and a standard back-up camera providing an extra piece of mind when reversing. However, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are not equipped on our model.
Comfort and Convenience
As the one-up trim from the base Laredo, the Limited has a substantial list of standard equipment including a 8.4-inch Uconnect 4 infotainment display with Apple Carplay, Android Auto, navigation and 4 USB ports, dual zone automatic climate control, power lift-gate, proximity key with push button start, leather upholstery with heated 12-way power front seats with 2 person driver memory, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, sunroof and household power outlet. Regrettably, active safety features including automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist are only available in packages which are not equipped on most rental Grand Cherokees. Given the benefits of these safety systems, we believe they should be standard on all trim levels.
Sitting at the top of the Jeep totem pole, the Grand Cherokee’s interior is adorned in soft touch materials for the upper dash and door panels. Harder plastics are found around the lower parts of the interior, which is expected given the vehicle’s off-road mission and easy-to-clean nature of hard plastics. While not Nappa or perforated (found in models equipped with the luxury package), the standard leather seats on the Limited trim feels soft to the touch and the 12-way adjustability allows drivers of different stature to get comfortable. We especially like the 4-way adjustment for the front headrests, which provided just the right amount of neck support during our long drives on the Trans Canada Highway.
During the abnormally cold week that we had the vehicle, we really appreciated the standard heated seats in both rows and heated steering wheel. Unlike other vehicles, these heated elements warmed up in no time, providing immediate relief to our freezing body parts.
Ease of Use
Like all other FCA products, infotainment duties on the Grand Cherokee are handled by Uconnect. Available in both 7 and 8.4-inch guises, our rental is equipped with the upgraded 8.4-inch system with built-in Garmin navigation. Touch response is by far the best in its class with no lags experienced at anytime during our use. However, we did notice that the navigation system can sometimes be slow to boot up. In an effort to reduce button clutter, Uconnect employs a row of configurable shortcut touch buttons on the bottom of the screen that is always visible. While we like the level of customization available, we wished there were hard buttons for the heated seats and steering wheel. For families on the go, the Limited trims are equipped with 4 USB ports and a household power outlet, which is more than enough to keep everyone’s devices powered on longer road trips.
The gauge cluster comprises of a physical tachometer, fuel and temperature gauge. Everything else is displayed in a 7-inch display that cycles between several menus including trip, fuel economy and auxiliary information. Thanks to the screen’s size, all the texts are legible at a glance. However, unlike the main infotainment screen, not much customization is available, what you see is what you get. Navigation through the menus are done using buttons on the chunky steering wheel, which also houses buttons for the cruise controls. Not unlike other FCA vehicles (including the 300S we had earlier), volume and tuning controls are identical switches on each side behind the steering wheel. Fortunately, the 2019 Grand Cherokee has reverted to a traditional PRNDL shifter with a manual shift. Simple and easy-to-use, they are a vast improvement over the frustrating joystick-style shifter from previous model years.
As a mid-size SUV, the Grand Cherokee is substantially bigger on the outside than compact SUVs such as the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. However, it does not have much of an advantage to the aforementioned vehicles when it comes to interior space due to the less space efficient rear-wheel drive architecture. That said, there is still adequate room for 4 adults of average height. Taller passengers may find legroom in the second row to be tight, however. With a relatively wide body, 3 should fit in the rear without too much trouble. Furthermore, the rear seats can be also reclined to provide more comfort on longer trips.
With just around 36.3 cubic feet of trunk space with the rear seats in place, cargo room falls behind its alternatives. However, we do recognize that part of the space has been taken up by the full-size spare tire, which is a rare convenience in the era of donut spares and fix-o-flat kits. Nonetheless, there is still adequate space for a week worth of luggage for 4.
As an automotive icon that just also happens to be one of the most common rental SUVs, the Jeep Grand Cherokee exudes a unique blend of style, practicality and luxury wrapped in an iconic body. For anyone looking to go off the beaten track in style, we highly recommend picking the Grand Cherokee over the other vehicles in its rental class. While no one is likely to take notice while you drive by, many will appreciate the brand and nameplate’s rich heritage.
Avis/Budget: All of the Grand Cherokees with Avis/Budget are of the Limited trim with the optional 20-inch wheels. However, some vehicles are equipped with the Luxury Group II package that includes a panoramic sunroof, bi-xenon headlights, ventilated Nappa leather seats, rain sensing wipers and automatic high beams. Spot one by the LED accented headlights and large glass roof.
Enterprise/National/Alamo: Grand Cherokees here come in various different trims and packages from the base Laredo to the off-road focused Trailhawk. Try to at least secure a Limited or Trailhawk trim as the base version does not come with leather seats or sunroof.
Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty: Compared to the other rental agencies, Grand Cherokees with Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty are a relatively uncommon sight. That said, we have spotted mostly Limited trims with the 20-inch wheels.