What is it?
Introduced in 2011, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has become one of the firm's prime movers. A five-passenger SUV, it is powered, in the case of our Altitude model, by a 290-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that produces 260 lb-ft of torque.
For those wanting more towing capabilities, or the ability to extend their reach, respectively, a 5.7-liter V8 or a 30 mpg 3.0-liter diesel are available. And if that's not enough, power users can go after the high-octane, high-performance SRT range, complete with its signature 6.4-liter 475-horsepower V8.
In addition to the standard 2WD layout, Jeep has three other options. Our Altitude sampler featured the Quadra-Trac I four-wheel-drive system, which is comprised of a single-speed transfer case for basic all-wheel-drive operation. Quadra-Trac II offers a two-speed transfer case, while a similar, but enhanced Quadra-Trac II with limited slip differential rounds out the field. Rock climbers can also opt for the additional Quadra-Lift package that enables the JGC to be lifted for more off-road ground clearance.
The Grand Cherokee's unibody structure rides on an independent suspension comprised of springs and gas-charged shocks in front, while a multilink kit with coil springs, and twin-tube shocks bring up the rear.
For true off-roading, the Grand Cherokee with 4WD Quadra-Trac I is capable of attacking an approach angle of 26.2-degrees and departure angle of 24-degrees.
Regardless of which drive system a buyer selects, they are all complete with a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission.
As part of the Altitude 23Z package, our charge also featured the Security and Convenience group package that includes a power liftgate, satellite radio, a remote engine starter, 115-volt household plug outlet, and the 8.4-inch touchscreen display Uconnect system, which is Nav-capable, but in the case of our tester, was curiously delivered un-nav-equipped.
What's it up against?
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude counts among its competition, the Ford Edge, Toyota 4Runner, and Nissan Murano as specific competitors, while other vehicles like the GMC Acadia, and Chevrolet Traverse are considered more generalized foes of the JGC.
How's it look?
The Grand Cherokee Altitude is an updated version of one of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles bestsellers. Only this time, FCA designers decided to up the style quotient. If there were such a thing as "murdered-out, lite" we would have to tag our Grand Cherokee Altitude with that kind of attitude. In fact, why isn't it called the Jeep Grand Cherokee Attitude in the first place? Just asking, but think about it.
Part of the Altitude package is the inclusion of blacked-out Jeep and Grand Cherokee badging, body-colored side, grille, and bumper panels, 20-inch glossy black aluminum alloy wheels, gloss black exterior accents and a minimal amount of chrome trim around the greenhouse outline. It's just the thing to show Toyota what a real swagger wagon should look like.
And the inside?
Awash in black leather and suede, with a touch of open pore wood trim across the dashboard, the Grand Cherokee features an interior design that rivals many of its European contemporaries in both features and fit and finish.
A configurable seven-inch display is seen in the gauge binnacle, which can display everything from navigation to audio, and vehicle information. Redundant controls on the steering wheel feature almost everything you would want at your fingertips, although we still haven't warmed to the rear-mounted volume and channel buttons for the audio system that are located where some manufacturers would normally mount their paddle shift levers.
That audio system includes the 8.4-inch Uconnect system with the nine amplified speakers and subwoofer for excellent sound reproduction, for those times when you don't actually care to listen to the normally quiet ride. Our tester also included Uconnect Access with cellular capabilities through Sprint to create a WiFi hot spot inside.
Seating for five included well-bolstered driver and front passenger seats that offered plenty of support for all-day driving. The second row seating for three can be adjusted in a 60:40 split, to be folded forward for more storage space or rearward for a slight recline. Behind the second row, look for 36.3-cubic feet of cargo space. Fold that row forward, and the capacity grows to 68.3 cubic feet.
But does it go?
Power from the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 was plentiful and always on-point after receiving pressure on the skinny pedal. Squeeze it a little too aggressively and you may hear some of its squawking getting into the cabin, but by-and-large, a well-insulated interior managed to keep most road noise at bay. We have heard reports of challenges from the ZF eight-speed transmission, but found it quiet and responsive during our week with the vehicle.
The Grand Cherokee's ride quality was equally impressive. Neither teeth rattling harsh, nor floaty-boaty soft, it displayed a competence seen in the vehicles that ride considerably closer to the ground. Speaking of competence, the V6 is stout enough to realize a zero to 60 mph time of 7.9-seconds, which tends to be quite a feat from a vehicle with a 4,875-pound curb weight.
The EPA says this Grand Cherokee can achieve a rating of 17 city/24 highway with a combined average of 19 mpg, and is capable of towing up to 6,200-pounds.
With all the good, there must be some nits to pick, right? Ours involves the shifter knob, which seems to be a carryover from the days that Daimler owned Chrysler. The knob of the E-shifter works in a non-intuitive fashion, and we would rather see a center mount device that is pushed up to Park and Reverse settings while a downward motion places it into drive and sport modes.
Leftlane's bottom line
The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee looks tough enough to handle most any job short of the Paris to Dakar Rally. But the reality is that most buyers will be stretching their off-roading cred by parking it on the grass at a neighborhood playground. Regardless, it's a great choice for general light-duty 4-wheeling, both off and on the road and as a result, is one of our favorites.
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude 4x4 base price, $31,895. As tested, $40,075.
Customer preferred package 23Z, $5,200; Altitude package, with painted black 20-inch alloy wheels, black headlamp bezels, integrated voice command, body colored cladding, black Jeep badging and other items including Uconnect, Power 8-way driver's seat, 8.4-inch touchscreen display, power liftgate and remote start; Power sunroof, $1,095; Nine-amplified speakers and subwoofer, $495; Parkview Rear back-up camera, $395; Destination fee, $995.
Photos by Mark Elias.