Driving Impressions

There are some good reasons for choosing the 5.7L V8 engine over the standard 3.6L V6, but fuel economy isn’t one of them. With the V8, its EPA city/hwy (L/100 km) fuel consumption rating of 18.1/11.8 compares with the V6 engine’s 14.7/10.2 L/100 km. During my urban-heavy driving week, my onboard fuel economy display was showing over 20 L/100 km; this despite the fact that the V8 features MDS (multi displacement system), an automatic cylinder deactivation feature that allows the engine to run on four cylinders under light load. The V8’s poor fuel economy has a lot to do with the need to propel 2,364 kg (5,210 lb) of vehicle body weight.

2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8
2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8
2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8
2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8. Click image to enlarge

On the bright side, with 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque, the V8-powered Grand Cherokee will tow up 3,266 kg (7,200 lb) compared to the V6’s 2,268-kg (5,000-lb) towing capacity. The Grand Cherokee also features a transmission tow/haul mode that alters transmission shift timing to help with acceleration and engine braking when towing a heavy load and Trailer-sway Control, which senses when the following trailer is swaying side to side and makes minute steering adjustments to bring it back into line. This latter feature is very useful when towing long trailers at freeway speeds – there’s nothing scarier than an out-of-control trailer!

In trailer-less use, the V8’s extra power and torque provides satisfying throttle response and quicker acceleration than the V6 while at the same time being a quiet, smooth powerplant that does only 1,600 rpm in sixth gear at a steady 100 km/h on the freeway. The six-speed automatic also comes with a manual shift mode if you’re in the mood. With its fully independent suspension, the Grand Cherokee provides a well-damped and comfortable ride and decent handling, but it can’t help feeling heavy since it is. Modern technology has your back, though: standard safety nannies on all Grand Cherokees include electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, four-wheel discs with ABS that can adapt to rough roads, and a four-wheel brake traction control system. As well, the Grand Cherokee includes a Hill Start Assist to prevent it rolling back on steep hills when the brake is released, and Hill Descent Control which stops it from ‘running away’ when descending very steep hills.

In Canada, all Grand Cherokees come with some form of four-wheel drive, Quadra Trac I in the Laredo E and X, Quadra Trac II or Quadra Drive II in the Limited and Overland, and Quadra on-demand in the SRT. Quadra Trac I is a full-time all-wheel-drive system with a 50/50 front/rear torque split but no transfer case or low range gear. Quadra Trac II adds variable torque distribution, with up to 100 percent to the front or rear wheels, and includes a transfer case with a driver-selectable low range. It also includes Selec-Terrain, a driver-selectable system that adjusts 4WD traction for different on- and off-road conditions. Quadra Drive II is also a full-time all-wheel-drive system that can send 100 percent of torque to either axle, but adds an electronic rear limited slip differential to improve traction even further. Finally, the Quadra on-demand all-wheel-drive system in the SRT is beefed up to handle the extra horsepower and torque demands.

Our Overland test vehicle had the Quadra Drive II system with Selec-Terrain and the optional Quadra-Lift adjustable air suspension. Using a button on the console, the driver can raise or lower the Grand Cherokee to increase ground clearance up to a maximum of 10.7 inches. The air suspension also works in conjunction with the driver-selectable Selec-Terrain to automatically raise and lower the vehicle for the appropriate driving conditions. For example, in Auto mode, the ride height is set at 8.1 inches of clearance while in Sand & Mud mode the clearance is set at 9.4 inches, and in Rock mode, the clearance increases to 10.7 inches. Rock mode can only be activated in low range. At freeway speeds, the suspension automatically lowers to 7.5 inches for better aerodynamics. There’s also a Park mode where the vehicle will move down to 6.6 inches to make it easier to get in and out.

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