Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep
2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8. Click image to enlarge

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Jeep Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8

The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee that was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in January is generating a lot of excitement because it will be available with a new optional diesel engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, plus some important new safety and technology features. But while it’s a step up from the current GC, it’s essentially a mid-cycle redesign that shares most of its underpinnings with the current Grand Cherokee. After all, it was only two and a half years ago that the Grand Cherokee underwent a major redesign using a platform shared with the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class SUV, a nice piece of German technology that Chrysler obtained while it was still part of DaimlerChrysler.

As we reported in our First Drive and Test Drive reports, the current Grand Cherokee is a comfortable and luxurious SUV that’s equally capable on and off-road, and for the price, seems like a better all-around value than many expensive luxury competitors from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

The 2013 Grand Cherokee lineup starts with the Laredo E ($36,295), Laredo X ($41,495), Limited ($45,595), Overland ($48,595), and the high-performance SRT ($53,945). Those prices are between three and five percent lower than last year and include a $2,500 discount that Jeep is currently offering on 2013 models. I wouldn’t be surprised to see steeper discounts on 2013 models as the 2014s arrive.

All but the SRT (formerly SRT8) come with a standard 290-hp ‘Pentastar’ 3.6L DOHC V6 and a five-speed automatic transmission, while all but the Laredo E and SRT can be had with the optional 360-hp 5.7L OHV V8 and a six-speed automatic. The SRT comes only with the outrageous 470-hp 6.4L OHV V8 Hemi engine mated to a heavy-duty five-speed automatic.

Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep
2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8. Click image to enlarge

Our test vehicle is a well-optioned Grand Cherokee Overland decked out in an attractive combination of Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat paint with a copper brown “New Saddle” leather interior, light burl walnut trim and subtle use of satin steel and chrome trim; it’s really quite a stunning exterior/interior colour combination.

Our tester was also equipped with $5,180 worth of options. The optional 5.7L V8 and six-speed automatic transmission package ($2,150) also includes more robust mechanical bits: a 220-amp alternator, heavy-duty engine cooling, Quadra-Drive II 4WD system, 230 mm rear axle, 3:45 rear axle ratio, electronic limited slip rear differential, Trailer Tow Group 4, heavy duty four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and dual chrome exhaust tips. Our test vehicle also had the Off-Road Adventure II package with Michelin P265/60R18-inch OWL all-season on/off-road tires (replacing the standard 20-inch tires), 18×8-inch aluminum polished wheels, front skid plate, fuel tank skid plate, transfer case skid plate, underbody skid plate, and tow hooks ($500); advanced warning & adaptive cruise control, blind spot and cross path detection, forward collision warning ($1,250); Mopar Chrome Edition Group: chrome tubular side steps, front and rear door entry guards ($1,085); and the deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat ($195).

Add to that a $1,595 Freight charge, a Federal green levy of $1,000, and $100 air conditioning tax, and the as-tested price came to $58,970.

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.

Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep
Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep
Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep
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.

For the most part, the operation of the all-wheel-drive system and the air suspension is invisible to the driver. In Auto mode, the engine, transmission and suspension will automatically adjust to different road conditions without the driver having to do anything. For daily commuting, the Grand Cherokee is comfortable and quiet with a high seating position that offers good visibility except for a rather thick C-pillar. I would recommend getting the optional blind spot warning system that flashes a warning light and a warning sound if the vehicle moves into the path of another vehicle in the blind spot. This feature also includes Cross Path Detection, which warns you of another car crossing behind you as you back up, Adaptive Cruise Control, which automatically maintains a safe following distance to the car in front, and Forward Collision Warning, which flashes a warning light and sounds a warning if the Grand Cherokee is approaching another vehicle too quickly.

Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep
Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep
2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8. Click image to enlarge

Perhaps the most useful safety feature is the rearview camera and rear parking sensors. They’re invaluable for parallel parking or when backing into tight parking spaces. Objects that can’t be seen through the rear window – like high curbs and concrete barriers and poles – can be safely avoided, along with the cost of damaged bodywork.

One complaint I have with the 2013 model hasn’t changed from my observations in 2011: the Grand Cherokee’s power steering feels a little stiff when parking and the steering wheel has an unusually thick rim.

If you’re seriously thinking of going off-road, you should order the Off-Road Adventure Package that replaces the standard 20-inch all-season tires with 18-inch OWL all-season on/off-road tires and includes underbody skid plates for the engine, transfer case, driveline and fuel tank, plus some front tow hooks. Its option price of $500 seems pretty reasonable. In previous off-road tests of the Grand Cherokee, we’ve found that it will do amazing things on impossibly steep and slippery trails, and that Jeep’s claim that it is ‘Trail Rated’ is no idle boast. On the other hand, if you’re not planning on doing any serious off-road driving, why go to the expense of equipping the Grand Cherokee with the Off-Road Package, Quadra Drive II, Selec-Terrain, the air suspension or even the V8 engine? A nicely equipped Grand Cherokee Laredo V6 would do nicely for typical urban/suburban driving and weather conditions and will save you some money on gas. Still, it’s nice to know that Jeep offers these sophisticated off-road technologies in a vehicle that could easily compete with luxury utes costing ten or twenty thousand dollars more.

Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep
2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8. Click image to enlarge

Interior Impressions

The Grand Cherokee Overland’s cabin is almost too upscale for a Jeep – it looks more like a Land Rover or Infiniti. The “New Saddle” leather seats with black piping and an ‘Overland’ crest stitched into the front seatbacks are stylish and comfortable, and both front seats are heated and cooled and feature eight-way power adjustments. The beautiful wood trim across the dash and on the electrically adjustable steering wheel complements the upholstery colour while the instrument panel offers a classy combination of black, satin, and chrome with a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen in the centre. Behind the steering wheel, metal-rimmed illuminated gauges flank a digital trip computer that provides useful information on fuel economy and driving range, among other things. Premium luxury features include a heated power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, driver’s four-way power lumbar adjustment, heated rear seats, remote start, and keyless entry and push-button ignition.

Getting in to the Grand Cherokee, even in Park mode, is a bit of a step up. Our vehicle had the optional step bar – it’s supposed to help passengers get in by providing a lower step – but I found it narrow and difficult to step on, and gets your pant legs dirty when getting out. Better not to order it.

Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep
Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep
2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8. Click image to enlarge

With its tall roof and boxy cabin, the Grand Cherokee’s cabin offers plenty of legroom and headroom and the dual pane panoramic glass sunroof floods the interior with natural light. If it’s too sunny, a power-operated sunscreen slides over both sunroofs to block out the heat.

Among the many standard features in the Grand Cherokee Overland is a premium audio system with CD/DVD/MP3/20-GB music hard drive/ Sirius satellite radio with a free one-year subscription with eight speakers and a subwoofer in the trunk. It also includes the centre touchscreen, a navigation system, and hands-free Bluetooth telephone, but it doesn’t include wireless Bluetooth audio, so look for the 2014 update to remedy that. Portable music devices can be hooked into a USB or auxiliary port on the radio face or in the centre storage box under the armrest.

Automatic climate control with separate driver and passenger temperature controls and a single fan speed control is also standard and it warms up the cabin quickly. I also appreciated the two-step heated and cooled front seats and heated steering wheel (including the wood part).

The Grand Cherokee’s rear hatch is power operated and the cargo area is fully carpeted with metal runners and a plastic bumper protector so you can slide cargo in without scratching anything. While roomy, the trunk has a very high liftover height that makes it difficult to load heavy objects – that’s typical of SUVs with 4WD hardware and spare tires under the cargo floor. But unlike some spares that are exposed to road dust and grime under the trunk floor, the Grand Cherokee’s full-size spare tire and wheel is enclosed and protected from the elements.

Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep Test Drive: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8 car test drives reviews jeep
2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8. Click image to enlarge

Verdict

Properly equipped, the V8-powered Grand Cherokee is a highly capable off-road vehicle that’s also a comfortable and luxurious family vehicle with a good towing capacity. But for those who don’t go off-road or tow a trailer, the V6 Grand Cherokee with fewer options is a less expensive and more economical choice. An even more economical diesel-engined Grand Cherokee is coming for 2014.

Pricing: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8
Base price (Overland): $51,095
Options: $5,180 (5.7L V8 engine with MDS (multi-displacement system) and VVT (variable valve timing), 220-amp alternator, HD engine cooling, Quadra-Drive II 4WD system, 230 mm rear axle, 3:45 rear axle ratio, electronic limited slip rear differential, Trailer Tow Group 4, HD 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, Hill Descent Control, UConnect 730N CD/DVD/MP3/HDD/Navdual bright exhaust tips – $2,150; Off-Road Adventure II package: Michelin P265/60R18-inch OWL all-season on/off-road tires, 18X8 inch aluminum polished wheels, front skid plate, fuel tank skid plate, transfer case skid plate, underbody skid plate, tow hooks – $500; Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat – $195; Advanced warning & adaptive cruise control, blind spot and cross path detection, forward collision warning $1,250; Mopar Chrome Edition Group: chrome tubular side steps, front and rear door entry guards, $1,085)
Federal green levy: $1,000
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,595
Price as tested: $58,970

Competitors
BMW X5
Land Rover LR4
Mercedes-Benz ML-Class
Porsche Cayenne
Toyota 4Runner
Volkswagen Touareg

Crash test results
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).