We take the (almost) all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee for a test drive to see how it has travelled the rocky road of recession-hit car manufacturing.
Jeep has been through a lot these past three years, and were not just talking about the kind of terrain that would make a yak think twice. With Chapter 11 bankruptcy in America and the subsequent takeover by Fiat, consumer confidence has been dented to such an extent that sales in Europe were a paltry £15,000 in 2010.
Its just as well, then, that theres a new or refreshed four-model range on the way to the UK, headed by this, the Grand Cherokee.
What is it?
Its Jeeps answer to the Range Rover Sport, BMW X5 or VW Touareg, and the good news is that the Grand Cherokee is now in far better shape to try to nick a few buyers from those luminaries.
It has an excellent new 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel the only engine to be offered here from the Italian company VM, but with cylinder heads from Fiat Powertrain; a new look thats still unmistakably Jeep, and an interior that now befits a car costing the thick end of £40,000.
Economy, emissions and on- and off-road
Out of Jeep's three target cars, only the Range Rover has worse economy and CO2 emissions than the Grand Cherokee, but arguably only the Range Rover would dare risk taking it on in a rock-climbing contest. When they say the Jeep's a go-anywhere car, theyre not wrong.
The Grand Cherokees off-road credentials have never really been open to question, though. Its on-road where things often came unglued, but now things are immeasurably better. Its more refined, more composed, quieter and smoother. It even rides well most of the time, in a cushy, occasionally bouncy kind of way.
The weak spot is the woeful, Americanised steering: the self-centering effect is too strong, so it gets quite heavy when turning, without telling you anything about where youre going. The upside of this and of the long suspension travel is to be seen if you go off-roading, because you can be sure the wheels are pointing dead ahead just by releasing your grip on the steering wheel a little.
What Car? says
It's improved so much, youd seriously consider it.