Jeep Twin Test – Wrangler 2.8 CRD Overland and Grand Cherokee 3.0 CRD V6 Summit
Our petrol head had the chance to test two icons of the SUV world, for a few days each – the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. Which one got the nod….?
Article by Marc Stickley
The Jeep Wrangler is everything you think a jeep should be – like a Tonka Toy on the road. It has cartoon bodywork extensions, chunky tyres and looks as if you could depend on it through an apocalypse, or more likely, the British summer… The Wrangler is not particularly refined, but you definitely get the impression it would keep going in all conditions and all terrains. Inside in Overland spec you get leather seats, heated if you want them, electric everything and displays and infotainment from 1998… the central screen was difficult to navigate, low resolution and clearly optimised for the U S of A, but it did things well enough.
The Wrangler’s roof panels unlock and can be removed, so this five seat SUV can become a fun beach transport, or sun trap. I didn’t get any sun while I tested it, but this is a pretty cool feature. Up front, you get the trademark Jeep grill, as found on the WW2 originals and throughout, reminders that this is where SUVs began – grab rails with “Jeep, since 1941” logos, rubber mats throughout, proper low ratio gearing options and those wheels, barely covered by the mudguards, look like somebody stretched the wheels outwards to give more off-road ability with a squat, almost square stance.
I took the Wrangler on my not very sophisticated off-road test route – country lane turns into up hill farm track, then broken concrete. The are pot holes from hell and recently a new addition – at the far side, as it rejoins the metalled road, a trench has been dug a foot deep and a couple of feet wide to deter squatters from driving up with caravans. The Wrangler took it all in its stride – the softly suspended Jeep soaked up the broken surface, the big diesel engine kept it moving along with no effort. The engine is a 2.8 litre, 4 cylinder diesel, producing 197bhp at 3600rpm and 460Nm (360 lb ft) of torque way down at 1600rpm. It’s that thumping torque that pulls you along on any surface and even allows for fairly steady on road progress – the 5 speed auto doesn’t generally see you revving as high as that peak power point. The Wrangler isn’t designed to be hustled, but it can pick up its skirts and shift on kick-down and goes around the bends well enough – helped by that wide stance. My only niggles (aside from the slightly crude nature of the car overall) were I couldn’t get the infotainment to connect to my phone, the fact it is clearly US orientated and the economy was pretty poor – but it would cross any terrain and be a good, fun companion.
The Grand Cherokee is a little different in ethos. Many moons ago, I owned a 1998 model, which is probably why I recognised the Wrangler’s instruments, green LCDs and all. It was fun, thirsty and pretty competent off road. It had electric and leather everything and if it weren’t for that thirst, I’d have kept it longer (it was mostly used for transporting a wayward hound to and from the forest). This latest model Grand Cherokee is something different. More like a Range Rover than “my” version – basically an elevated estate loaded with goodies and with some off-road credentials. The Summit model I tested is definitely a few steps up the ladder from that 1998 car and the Wrangler I tested before it. More grown up and polished, this is what luxury SUVs are supposed to be like – it doesn’t feel like it’s covering any inadequacies with lavish equipment or shiny chrome. From the outside it looks good – it’s obviously a big car, but it looks purposeful and capable, as well striking the right tone in this market – alongside a Range Rover, or Mercedes GLE, it fits right in.
Step into the cabin (via keyless entry and engine start) and the luxury vibe continues. Leather in all the right places, up front you have power seats, which can be cooled and heated, with heated rear seats too. There’s infotainment from the 21st century, with DAB, satnav and a powerful Harmon Kardon sound system (with 19 speakers no less). Fitted to the test car were rear seat DVD players – a real hit with my kids! The car’s instruments are displayed in a 7 inch TFT screen and display various information along with your standard speedometer and revs. Adaptive cruise control and other safety systems, such as cross lane warnings and blind spot coverage help keep you where you should be on the road.
Of course, the main deal with a car like this is the four wheel drive. You get the Jeep quadratrac 4wd system, with electronic limited slip differential and selectable driving modes. The smooth 3 litre V6 diesel pokes out 247 bhp and a walloping 420 lb ft of torque – which through the 8 speed automatic gearbox means rapid, effortless progress is assured. You get a sport mode and with the flappy paddles, you can make the big Jeep really move. You don’t forget it’s a big car, but it hides its bulk well, you can chuck it through the bends, eat up the straights, then flick on the cruise control and it almost drives itself. I didn’t take the GC across the same off-road route as the Wrangler, because, to be honest, it felt too nice, but I have no doubt it would be competent enough off road. I did load the family up in it though and took it on a long run to the beach – at the end I had to crowbar my wife out of it…the Grand Cherokee became her favourite car ever!
In summary then, two very different Jeeps. The Wrangler is a rugged, honest, dependable off-roader that has enough road manners to make it easy enough to live with. At £36,345 as tested, it’s reasonably priced – you can opt for petrol power and a higher or lower trim for a few thousand each way, but it’s a solid car that does what it says on the tin – Overland, Unlimited. It’s a proper Jeep – where off-roading was invented. The Grand Cherokee is a luxury SUV pitching in a space that is hotly contested and growing in popularity. For £54,140 as tested, it’s significantly cheaper than some of the competition, while possessing most (if not all) of the features you need in a car like this. It’s quick, refined and looks the part. If you want it slightly cheaper, the Overland model is a few thousand less, with a little less equipment. If you want it faster, then opt for the £65,995 SRT model, with a faintly bonkers 6.4 litre V8 petrol engine – 461 bhp and 460 lb ft should give you all the speed you’ll need. With the Jeep GC, you might just stand out from the crowd.