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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist


New Jeep Grand Cherokee L a grand-slam worth taking note of

Longer and wider than before, the Grand Cherokee L now comes with three-rows as standard but as before, only powered by petrol engine.


If the arrival of the Jeep Gladiator in South Africa two months ago felt like an eternity after four years of waiting, the twelve years that span the fourth and fifth generation Jeep Grand Cherokee could be viewed as the same timespan between dial-up internet and fibre.

All Jeep…

Although unveiled last year in the United States as the first completely new Grand Cherokee developed in-house by Jeep since the original ZJ in 1993 – the others including the outgoing WK2 having had input from the long dead DaimlerChrysler – the new WL landing in South Africa last week couldn’t have come at a more important time for the brand and parent company Stellantis.

New Jeep Grand Cherokee L South Africa first drive
At 5 208 mm, the Grand Cherokee L, known internally as WL, is a whopping 380 mm longer than the outgoing WK2.

Aside from once again being Jeep’s flagship model as no plans are currently being made to the bring the higher-up Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer to South Africa, the Grand Cherokee no longer comes with five seats but seven or six as Stellantis will only be marketing the long wheelbase Grand Cherokee L for the time being.

New Jeep Grand Cherokee L South Africa first drive
Overland slots-in between the base Limited and flagship Summit Reserve

With the standard two-row model remaining in the States, the Grand Cherokee L enters territory frequented not only by the Land Rover Discovery, Toyota Land Cruiser 300 and, ironically the Mercedes-Benz GLE, but also more on-road biased multi-seaters in the form of the Volvo XC90, Audi Q7 and even the Hyundai Palisade.

..to an extent

Besides the seating arrangement, the Grand Cherokee L also has a new platform, the Alfa Romeo developed Giorgio, more ground clearance than the WK2 and gains on every dimensional front to the point that it now measures 5 208 mm compared to 4 828 mm.

New Jeep Grand Cherokee L South Africa first drive
At its lowest, the Grand Cherokee L has a ground clearance of 195 mm that automatically lowers to 170 mm in order to aid entry/exit.

Less compact and aggressively styled than the WK2, the Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer-inspired Grand Cherokee L is clear representation of the American adage “bigger as better” as it adopts a much more imposing and sharper appearance unlikely to be confused for anything but something out of the US of A.

New Jeep Grand Cherokee L South Africa first drive
In its most strenuous Off-Road 2 setting, the Quadra-Lift air suspension raises the ground clearance to 277 mm.

Even more striking is interior where the cabin not only feels airy and more expansive than before, but also a more modern and not as cluttered down the centre console.

Size and displacement matters

Neat and logically laid out from an ergonomic perspective, the cabin did present a few foibles on the 247 km launch route from Pretoria to the outskirts of Machadodorp during the local launch.

Jeep Grand Cherokee L South Africa first drive
Interior in a different league to that of the old WK2, but some materials still disappoint.

For South Africa, Stellantis has made the Grand Cherokee L available in three trim levels; Limited, Overland and Summit Reserve with all being powered by the stalwart normally aspirated 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol that produces 210kW/344Nm.

New Jeep Grand Cherokee L South Africa first drive
Selec-Terrain system offers five modes while the gear lever departs in favour of a rotary dial.

Matched to a new rotary-dial eight-speed automatic gearbox, the unit delivers grunt to four wheels with a low range transfer case remaining standard across the range.

American inside and out

At launch, only the Overland was provided and while a sure head-turner on the outside, the initial promise of the interior fell apart as some of the materials felt anything but premium, especially some of the plastics and as well as the clunky plastic wood veneer.

The moaning, however, stops from this point as the interior wins back with the level of comfort, tech and spec presented.

ALSO READ: No more waiting: All-new Jeep Grand Cherokee L priced

Sans the Limited, both the Overland and Summit Reserve come as standard with Jeep’s new 10.1-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system, while all three are privy to a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and twelve USB ports.

Space, yes; tech, hell yeah!

The latter pair also come as standard with an impressive 19-speaker 950-watt McIntosh sound system, a secondary 10.25-inch display on the passenger’s side and a new Heads-Up Display. In fact, the standard specification list is so extensive it would take-up the rest of this article.

Jeep Grand Cherokee L South Africa first drive
19-speaker McIntosh sound system a standard feature on the Overland and Summit Reserve

As much as space wasn’t found lacking on the WK2 Grand Cherokee, the Grand Cherokee L’s supersized dimensions translates not only to acres of second-row head-and-legroom, but surprisingly fair amounts of third row space for young adults at a push.

Jeep Grand Cherokee L South Africa first drive
Al well as being electric, both front seats are heated and ventilated.

The boot itself meanwhile offers-up 436-litres of space, but expands to 1 328-litres with the third row down. Dropping the second though translates to massive cargo hold capable of swallowing 2 396-litres.

Worth noting though that while the Limited and Overland seat seven, the Summit Reserve comes with six seats thanks the middle row being occupied by two captain-style chairs.

On-route

As much as it wins on space, the biggest point of content is the Grand Cherokee L’s engine. Tasked with hauling 2 295 kg, Jeep, somewhat bizarrely, has retuned the unit to produce three kilowatts and nine Newton Metres less than in the WK2.

While small on paper, the added wait translates to a sluggish feel with lots of noise, an aurally pleasing one at that mind you, and not much in the way forward momentum gains.

Jeep Grand Cherokee L South Africa first drive
To go with the space, the second-row chairs are also heated

As the Grand Cherokee L was never designed to accommodate a turbodiesel engine as per Jeep’s move away from oil-burners, and with the Hemi V8 offered in the States soon to disappear, the V6 remains the sole unit for the time being.

Offsetting the engine is the smooth eight-speed ‘box and a fantastically supple ride that fulfils the Jeep’s cruising ability with incredible aplomb. Backing this up further is the level refinement, lack of road or wind noise and a nicely weighted feel to the steering.

Jeep Grand Cherokee L South Africa first drive
With all three-rows up, the boot offers up 434-litres

Traversing the back roads of rural Mpumalanga also allowed us to experience the Jeep’s off-road prowess, which, like the engine, didn’t go 100% smoothly.

With its standard 20-inch wheels, the Overland felt somewhat out of place on the rockier sections, but came alive on the smoother parts that suited it much better.

Jeep Grand Cherokee L South Africa first drive
With the second and third rows down, the boot can accommodate 2 396-litres.

Along with the Limited, it comes with Jeep’s Quadra-Trac II off-road system, but joins the Summit Reserve in benefiting from the Quadra-Lift air suspension that raises the ground clearance to as much as 277 mm.

Standard on all models is the Selec-Terrain system with five modes; Auto, Sport, Snow, Rock and Mud/Sand and in the case of the Summit Reserve, an electronic limited slip differential.

Conclusion

As much as the wait for the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L has been worth it, it finds itself in a tighter spot than ever in spite of the value for money factor that makes it seem like a bargain compared to its rivals.

Jeep Grand Cherokee L South Africa first drive
Grand Cherokee still in name

While the engine presents a problem in a still very much diesel dominated end of the market, its change in segment approach should be taken seriously and with some wariness from the Japanese and Germans.

Price

Standard on all three models is a five-year/120 000 km warranty as well as a five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan.

  • Grand Cherokee L 3.6 Limited – R1 299 900
  • Grand Cherokee L 3.6 Overland – R1 479 900
  • Grand Cherokee L 3.6 Summit Reserve – R1 679 900

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