Here’s some reading on a well-publicized recall surrounding the electronic shifter on some Grand Cherokee models, which may cause the vehicle to roll away after drivers exit, and in many cases (according to owners) because the driver hasn’t operated the shifter properly and engaged Park as per instructions in the owner’s manual. And here’s some more reading on other potential transmission problems, centering around the gear shifter, and programming of the gearbox itself.
As a general rule, avoid a model with the QuadraLift air suspension. Some owners have reported issues and system failure. Others have not. But in your writer’s weekly research of used vehicles over more than a decade, I’ve never found an air-suspension equipped vehicle that didn’t cause headaches at some point as it ages. Here’s some more reading. If you’re set on a model with the air suspension, budget for any extended warranty coverage that covers the system, and be double-sure to have the system checked out by a technician ahead of your purchase. Note that even a small leak in the air suspension system, possibly caused by a loose fitting, can cause added strain on the air compressor, wearing that component out more quickly, and resulting in a snowball effect to the issues. Corrupt software, which controls the air suspension system, can cause problems and accelerated compressor wear, too.
Two other notes:
First, beware of models running non-factory wheels, tires, engine or driveline components, and especially suspension components. These can, in some cases, cause issues and accelerated part wear, and are best avoided by the average shopper.
Second, note that though Grand Cherokee is not a model noted for top reliability and low running or repair costs, many owners say they’d purchase their Grand Cherokee again, according to this owner forum thread. For every owner reporting a problem online, hundreds of owners aren’t reporting that their Grand Cherokee performed perfectly on a given day. Translation? Online owner-reported reliability may be skewed, and your best defense, in any case, is a full pre-purchase inspection and extended warranty, if you’re set on this model.
The Verdict: For maximum peace of mind, a Hemi-powered Grand Cherokee without the air suspension is likely the safest bet. If you’re set on a Grand Cherokee, budget for a full pre-purchase inspection at a Jeep service centre, and be sure to have all major components, electronics systems, and software, checked by a trained technician ahead of your purchase. Add any extended warranty available for further confidence and protection from potentially-pricey repairs.
Here’s a hefty list of recalls.
Crash Test Results
IIHS: Top Safety Pick (2013)
NHTSA: 5-STAR (2015)