The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a handsome car all round and the 2018 model is the eighth model year of the Grand Cherokee’s fourth generation. The Grand Cherokee remains true to its roots, even having the 1941 stamp on the steering wheel to remind you how long they have been around. It has a unibody construction meaning the body and frame are considered one unit. Seating for five and a choice of V6, 2 V8’s, including the very fast Trackhawk and a turbo-diesel driving either the rear or all four wheels.
Our tester was a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4WD and when it was delivered I thought it was black, however, on closer inspection it turned out to be what FCA is calling Sangria Metallic Clear-Coat. It looks good. Unfortunately it wasn’t equipped with the turbo diesel which we last tested in 2015, instead it had the V6 with 295 hp and 260 lb-ft through an 8-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is good and will launch the Jeep from 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds but you pay the price at the pump, I averaged 17.4 mpg for the week versus the 23 mpg for the turbo diesel.
Get on the highway and the Jeep Grand Cherokee delivers a smooth ride although it can get a little fidgety over rougher surfaces. Press on into a corner and it will under-steer but it’s all done in a safe and predictable manner. The body does lean in the turns and the steering is somewhat over assisted at higher speeds. The transmission rarely misses a beat, but it can get caught out not wanting to downshift and the lack of torque and the Jeep’s mass can leave you bogged down on occasions, but these are few and far between.
There is some wind roar and tire roar to contend with in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it never really becomes a problem, most of the noise comes from the V6 when pressed hard. Brakes provide good stopping power and were fade free during the test.
Into The Wild
Most Grand Cherokees are sold as 4WD and my Limited tester and higher models have Quadra-Trac II, with a two-speed transfer case that adds a low range, hill-descent control, and Jeep’s Selec-Terrain dial. This gives you various settings such as Auto, Mud/Sand, Rock and Sport. Most of the time I stayed in Auto mode since even though I would be taking it off road I wasn’t expecting any difficult conditions since it is so dry here in Southern California.
About an hour and fifteen minutes’ drive away from downtown San Diego is Los Pinos mountain and sitting at its peak is the Los Pinos Fire Lookout tower at an elevation of 4805 feet. It is 11 miles North of the US/Mexico border close to Lake Morena and the Cleveland National Forest Corral Canyon Off-Highway Vehicle Park. After you leave the paved Buckman Springs Road heading towards the Coral Canyon OHV area, the surface becomes a washboard and slightly rutted DG trail, which the Jeep handles well and irons out all but the worst sections. This is not a challenging trail for the Jeep but it’s a good test of how compliant the suspension is.
Soon the road becomes paved, sort of, it’s riddled with potholes and quite narrow with passing places, but the going is easy. Once you arrive at the OHV parking area you have 4 choices, left takes you to some gnarly off-road sections suitably named Sodbuster, Sidewinder and Tombstone, flagged with a Difficult rating which means (Heavy rock and/or severe ruts. Rocks exceeding hub height frequent. Steep grades to 25 degrees which can be loose or rocky. Body damage possible. Experience needed. Vehicle Modifications helpful). Needless to say, we turned right on the more or less paved, moderately rutted Los Pinos peak road. High clearance is necessary, and the gravel sections require AWD, which the Jeep coped with aplomb.
One you peak the mountain there are several antenna structures and the historic Fire Tower. On the top of the 30-foot steel tower sits a 13 x 13-foot steel box and is the only tower in Cleveland National Forest still staffed by Forest Service employees. The tower has electrical service, running hot and cold water, telephone, bed, kitchen and a shower located in a service building on ground level. Employees typically spend 4 days on and 4 days off from May through October and on a clear day visibility can be up to 150 miles towards the ocean.
Inside the Grand Cherokee the cabin is a very nice place to be, the front seats are supportive, with power, heat and cool functionality. Plastics for the most part are soft feel but the plastics further down the cabin do feel a little bit cheap and scratchy. Overall room for passengers is also pretty good by class standards and the rear cargo area offers 36.3 ft³ and 68.3 ft³ with the seats folder. The UConnect 8.4-inch touchscreen is one of the easier-to-use and quicker-responding systems, is in fact one of my favorite systems to use. Menus are logical, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how to configure quickly. The color touchscreen provides access to a host of entertainment and information including navigation, satellite radio, phone, and an impressive list of smartphone-powered apps including CarPlay and Android Auto.
Our tester came with the optional Luxury Group Package which includes an upgraded sound system with sub-woofer, Automatic High Beams, Leather seats, Dual Pane Panoramic sunroof, The Active Safety group which includes Adaptive Cruise Control and Advanced Brake Assist and a set of 20-inch Tech Gray Aluminum wheels.
A week with a Jeep is always fun particularly when you add in some off-road shenanigans. Considering how many car-based crossovers are out there these days, the Jeep’s off-road abilities do set the Grand Cherokee apart, so in that respect it’s a nice vehicle to spend time in.
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Numbers
|As Tested Price:||$50,170|
|Engine:||3.6 liter V6, 24 valve VVT|
|Power:||295 hp @ 6,400 rpm|
|Torque:||260 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm|
|Transmission:||8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode|
|Zero to 60 mph:||7.1 Sec|
|Curb Weight||5,104 lbs|
|Cargo Capacity:||36.3 ft³, 68.3 ft³ with seat area|
|Zero to 60 mph:||7.1 Sec|
|EPA city/highway/combined:||18/25/21 mpg|
|Our Observed Fuel Economy:||17.4 mpg|
|Pros:||Serious off-road ability, ride quality, nice cabin|
|Cons:||Some hard plastics, thirst for fuel|