In automotive terms, nine years is a lifetime. Yet that’s how old the current Jeep Grand Cherokee is, having gone on sale in the summer of 2010 as a 2011 model. Yet somehow, despite its age, Jeep’s flagship midsize SUV manages to stay desirable in the face of its much more car-like competition.
Unlike most of its crossover competitors, which attract customers in droves who will never go off road but may be looking for something a little sporty and a lot stylish, the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee is designed to appeal to buyers who are looking for a more rugged option. Something that could potentially take them well off the beaten path and far away from civilization, even if they never test it further than a few rutted dirt roads or, even more likely, pothole-strewn highways.
Fortunately, for all the Grand Cherokee’s Trail Rated capabilities off road, it still manages to offer luxurious accommodations inside, particularly in its higher-end trim levels, and a firm but generally comfortable ride. But buyers should indeed be aware that those increased off-road abilities come with some interior space deficiencies and fuel economy penalties on the road, which is where they’ll be driving the Grand Cherokee almost all the time.
What's new for 2020?
Nothing major changes for 2020. The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk gets a new yellow badge and optional 20-inch wheels with a titanium finish and a black and grey leather interior package. The Trackhawk and Limited models gain a standard sunroof, bi-xenon headlamps and LED fog lamps. Overland models get an available dark sienna and black interior while Summit models offer a Light Frost and brown interior finish. The Limited X, pictured above, returns for 2020 after its introduction last year.
What are the interior and in-car technology like?
The Grand Cherokee’s interior is a bit of a mixed bag. In top-level trims like the Summit, it’s swathed in luxurious leather and wood trim, and in SRT and Trackhawk guise, its heavily bolstered seats and track-focused technology package feel like they were borrowed from high-performance Challenger models (because they were). But Grand Cherokee Laredo models at the lower end of the spectrum can feel plasticky and bare – a natural result when the model line is stretched across 12 separate trim levels.
Most Grand Cherokees bought by consumers will fall into the middle of the range. A 7-inch screen featuring Jeep/Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect infotainment system is upgraded to 8.4 inches around the point the vehicle crosses the $40,000 price threshold. This system also includes, and performs well with, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
How big is it?
Size-wise, Jeep’s range-topping SUV is a bit of an odd duck. In terms of interior roominess, it lines up against style-first crossovers like the Chevy Blazer and Nissan Murano. In terms of functionality and likely cross-shoppers, the Toyota 4Runner is a better comparison, and the Grand Cherokee compares favorably with that SUV in headroom, shoulder room and legroom, but its cargo space falls considerably behind the Toyota 4Runner, which also offers optional third row seating.
In the real world, the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee seats four adults in reasonable comfort and has adequate cargo space for that quartet to pack enough stuff for a week away. That said, buyers who plan to take extended road trips and/or put a priority on cargo space might be better served by the 2020 4Runner as well as more spacious crossovers like the new Honda Passport and the three-row Kia Telluride.
- Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
What are the performance and fuel economy?
Performance and economy are all over the map. Most Grand Cherokee models come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 engine hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This base powertrain’s 295 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque feels perfectly adequate for normal daily driving duties. Four-wheel drive is standard on Trailhawk, SRT and Trackhawk models and optional on all others, which come standard with rear-wheel drive.
The EPA rates the V6 Grand Cherokee at 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined. Four-wheel-drive drops the city and highway rating by 1 mpg.
A 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine is a $3,295 option starting with the Limited trim, packaged with standard four-wheel drive. It’s quite a bit more powerful than the V6 with 360 hp and 390 lb-ft, and predictably thirstier, too. The EPA estimates the V8-powered Grand Cherokee will get 14 mpg city, 22 highway, and 17 combined. Most buyers will find the V8’s extra power unnecessary (an exception would be those who tow), but it’s a unique selling point that Jeep’s most popular competitors don’t offer.
Delving further into unnecessary (but extremely fun) territory is the Grand Cherokee SRT, which comes equipped with a 6.4-liter V8 that spins out 475 hp and 470 lb-ft. It gets EPA ratings of 13 city and 19 highway.
Finally, the truly power hungry can opt for the 2020 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, pictured below. With 707 horses and 645 lb-ft from a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, the all-wheel-drive Trackhawk rockets to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds and can hit a top speed of 180. Remember: this is an SUV, not a sports car, though that line feels a bit blurred in this case.
Properly equipped, the Grand Cherokee can tow as much as 7,200 pounds (or 6,200 pounds for rear-wheel-drive versions).
- 2020 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
What’s it like to drive?
Although it isn’t built atop the guts of a pickup truck, the Jeep rides rougher and handles worse than crossover competitors like the aforementioned Chevy Blazer, Honda Passport and Kia Telluride, but is smoother and offers more luxury than the Toyota 4Runner. Remember, though, that there are many different and highly disparate versions of the Grand Cherokee designed to tempt buyers with off-road or track-day aspirations. We'd recommend trying several to determine which is the best fit for you, paying attention to different wheel sizes, suspensions, engines and four-wheel-drive systems.
Among those versions is the extra off-road-oriented Trailhawk trim, which boasts skid plates for the front suspension, fuel tank, transfer case and underbody, and its Quadra-Lift air suspension system provides up to 10.8 inches of ground clearance to go along with approach, departure and breakover angles that only hardcore trail users will ever appreciate. And in SRT or especially Trackhawk trim, the Grand Cherokee has more power, more roadholding grip and superior braking performance than any other SUV or crossover within $30,000 of its price.
Owners who end up with a middle-grade Grand Cherokee are likely to be happy with its driving dynamics. And those who are looking for something more specialized – be that on or off paved roads – probably already know what they’re getting into.
What more can I read about the Grand Cherokee?
Our first drive of the overpowered Trackhawk, complete with our impressions after some time at the race track.
Our first limited stint behind the wheel of the off-road-oriented Trailhawk.
Video: Off-roading the Lyman Trail in the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
We venture off the beaten path with a camera crew along for the ride.
What features are available, and what’s the price?
As far as 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee trim levels and features are concerned, buckle up; there’s a lot to discuss.
Things start off with the base Laredo 4x2 started at $33,540, including an abnormally high $1,495 destination charge. Four-wheel drive is an extra $2,300. From there, the Laredo E and Upland variants of that base trim add more equipment and still cost less than $40,000. The 2020 Grand Cherokee Limited starts at $39,855, with the Limited X that we mentioned at the outset costing more than $45,000 in two-wheel-drive form.
The Trailhawk adds in all of Jeep’s off-road bits and pieces for $44,955 and comes with four-wheel drive standard.
The Overland essentially turns the Grand Cherokee into a luxury vehicle and starts at $46,295. The full-luxe Summit model (pictured below) starts at $51,995.
The powerful SRT model starts at $68,395 and again comes standard with four-wheel drive. The maxed-out Trackhawk with its 707-hp supercharged engine pegs the needle with a sticker price of $86,900. That’s a big chunk of change for a Jeep, but it’s tens of thousands of dollars less expensive than a BMW X5M or Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
- Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit
Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit
What are the safety equipment and crash ratings?
All Grand Cherokees come standard with blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning. An Active Safety Group (optional on most models but standard starting at the Summit trim) includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and parallel and perpendicular parking assist.
The Grand Cherokee earns an overall score of four out of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It received four stars in frontal impact tests and five stars for side impacts. The rear-wheel-drive version gets three stars for rollover resistance while the four-wheel-drive model gets an extra fourth star.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found room for improvement when it comes to the Grand Cherokee's crash test performance. While it earned top marks in some categories – such as side impact crash tests, and front crash avoidance (when fitted with optional safety equipment) – the Grand Cherokee only managed "Marginal" and "Poor" ratings in the Small Overlap Front test, which simulates a vehicle hitting a static object like a utility pole with only a small part of its front end.