Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring


WATCH: New Jeep Grand Cherokee lives up to its heritage

The short wheelbase version of iconic SUV is a beast off the road and a comfortable cruise ship on it.


After debuting the first new Jeep Grand Cherokee in 12 years in only long wheelbase configuration last year, parent company Stellantis finally rolled out the standard wheelbase version of the iconic SUV in South Africa.

Watch Jeep Grand Cherokee in action

While the Jeep Grand Cherokee is slightly smaller than the Grand Cherokee L – it features increased off-road angles and drops the third row of seats – the rest stays very much the same. The Grand Cherokee’s design, technology, safety and powertrain are all unchanged from its L sibling.

Similar to the Grand Cherokee L, the Grand Cherokee is also offered in three trim levels; Limited, Overland and the flagship, Summit Reserve. Every standard wheelbase derivative comes in at R20 000 less than the similarly specced L model.

At 2 964 mm, the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s wheelbase is 127 mm shorter than the L, with the overall length decreasing by 292 mm to 4 912 mm. Maximum ground clearance goes up from 215 mm to 276 mm, with wading depth increased from 530 mm to 610 mm.

Greater angles

The shorter overhangs increase the Grand Cherokee’s angles for off-roading. The approach angle goes from 20.5 to 30.1 degrees, the departure angle from 26.6 to 28.4 degrees and the breakover angle from 19.1 to 24.0 degrees.

The Limited is equipped with Quadra Trac I active 4×4 system, with Quadra Trac II standard on the Overland and Summit Reserve. The system’s Selec-Terrain offers five modes: Auto, Sport, Snow, Mud/Sand and Rock.

ALSO READ: End of the road for iconic Jeep Cherokee after almost 50 years

The Quadra Lift Air Suspension features five height settings. The normal ride height is 216 mm, with entry/exit mode lowering it to 170 mm. Aero mode lowers the ground clearance to 195 mm, with the two off-road modes being 256 mm and 276 mm.

Jeep Grand Cherokee exterior
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is every bit as capable off the tarmac as you’d expect it to be. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

Powering the Jeep Grand Cherokee

Powering the Grand Cherokee is Jeep’s tried-and-trusted naturally aspirated 3.6-litre Pentastar petrol engine.

The mill sends 210 kW of power and 344 Nm of torque to all four wheels via eight-speed automatic transmission.

The Jeep badge is synonymous with off-road capability and it goes without saying that the Grand Cherokee certainly lives up to its rich heritage.

Off the beaten track

While most of these cars will probably never be take off the tarmac, The CItizen Motoring was, nonetheless, given a taste of its prowess during a recent launch drive in the Waterberg biosphere in Limpopo.

Fitted with its showroom floor low-profile tyres which weren’t even deflated, the Grand Cherokee hardly broke a sweat. It conquered a little mountain trail with a few river crossings and rocky climbs with great ease.

Old-school Jeep Wrangler off-roaders will probably scoff at the new Grand Cherokee’s 4×4 system’s various modes, the off-road camera and off-road pages’ status bar.

ALSO READ: Jeep bakkie left-field alternative to Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger

Jeep Grand Cherokee interior
The highlight of the cabin is the sound system. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

But the bottom line is that these features make a highly capable vehicle ridiculously easy to manoeuvre.

Back on the tarmac, the Grand Cherokee is a peach, too. Cruising along at 120 km/h, the engine hardly threatens 2 000 rpm and the ride is plush and pleasant. There is always enough power on tap, with the super smooth gearbox a treat.

Best of both worlds

Jeep claims the new Grand Cherokee will sip 9.9 litres per 100km on a combined cycle. We managed to achieve exactly that, sticking to the national speed limit from Pretoria to the Waterberg in Limpopo. It’s not a question of if that number will go up in everyday city traffic, but rather by how much?

While the car comes standard with a list of specifications and safety features just too long to mention, one highlight is the sound system. The Overland and Summit Reserve feature a McIntosh 950-watt, 19-speaker system with a 10-inch subwoofer and 17-channel amplifier. To say the system is sublime would be an understatement.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee offers the best of both worlds. It is well specced, comfortable, spacious, safe and capable off-road.

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