2012 Grand Cherokee New Car Test Drive
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has very good road manners, five-passenger capacity, more cargo room than its predecessor and, if properly optioned, can be taken off the highway.
Grand Cherokee was thoroughly redesigned for 2011. For 2012, Jeep has made a few notable changes, brought back the SRT8 high-performance model, and added an Overland Summit to the top of the luxury range.
2012 Grand Cherokee models also get changes in packaging and pricing. While the least-expensive version appears about $3,000 less than last year's base model, it isn't really because it doesn't include power seats and other features that were standard for 2011. Every 2012 Grand Cherokee above the base model has seen a price increase.
Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to evolve toward luxury wagon and away from the utility vehicles that made the name famous. Many Grand Cherokee models come with piped leather, and the list of features includes a heated, power tilt-telescope steering column, ventilated front seats, and collision warning system.
Two-wheel drive is standard across the board. Four-wheel drive, low-range gearing, and a full-size spare tire required for genuine off-road activities are optional. And while you can get tow hooks, they're optional on most and chrome plated on the top of the line. A variety of all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive systems and suspension arrangements are available. A 3.6-liter V6 engine is standard and more than sufficient for anything but heavy towing. For that, they offer a 5.7-liter V8. A 5-speed automatic goes with the V6, and mileage has improved slightly for 2012.
The Grand Cherokee interior is stylish and made with high-quality materials. The luxurious Overland Summit model is as stitched-and-piped as any Chrysler and similarly expensive. The 60/40 rear seats recline for comfort, enabling passengers to look up at the sky through the optional panoramic sunroof that extends over both rows of seats; and the front seat folds flat for kayaks or two-by-fours.
The styling of the Grand Cherokee is uptown, with a sloped windshield and backlight, sculpted sides, and clean lines everywhere. The development of the Grand Cherokee goes back far enough that it paralleled the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. If there's a safety feature you want that isn't standard you can probably get it as an option.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee competes against a spectrum of vehicles including four-wheel drives, including the Land Rover LR4, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Toyota 4Runner and Land Cruiser, any number of mid-size crossovers and niche models, and with the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition.
The 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT8 is a street bruiser performance wagon like the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 and X6 and Mercedes-Benz AMG utilities. It's the fastest, most expensive, thirstiest Grand Cherokee, and the last one you want to take to a trail.
The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes in five models, all but one with a choice of two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
Grand Cherokee Laredo ($26,995) comes with cloth seating, fold-flat front passenger seat, dual-zone air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, separate rear glass/hatch open, fog lamps, 17-inch aluminum wheels, auto headlamps, power heated mirrors, rear wash/wipe, laminated front door glass, floor mats, tilt/telescope leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, illuminated visor mirrors, trip computer and 12-volt auxiliary outlets. Laredo is available with all-wheel drive ($28,995).
Laredo options include trailer tow, all-weather, off-road and convenience packages, and a Laredo E group that essentially puts back what was removed from the standards list: keyless entry/start, 8/4-way power front seats, satellite radio and roof rails. The Laredo X ($6,805) upgrades to leather seating and shift knob, dual-zone climate control, heated power front seats, 18-inch aluminum wheels, nine-speaker 506-watt CD/DVD/HDD/MP3 audio, rearview camera, hands-free communication, 115-volt power outlet, and remote starting.
Grand Cherokee Limited 2WD ($36,795) and Limited 4WD ($39,295) go beyond Laredo X with more chrome exterior trim, panoramic sunroof, bi-xenon smartbeam headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, driver memory, heated seats front and rear, 8-way power passenger seat, and rear camera and park sensors. Limited options include V8, Quadra-Drive II 4WD, air suspension or milder off-road package, front sunroof with rear-seat DVD entertainment, power liftgate and tilt/telescope steering wheel, ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control with collision warning, blind-spot monitors, cross-path detection, and two towing packages.
Grand Cherokee Overland ($39,495) comes with air suspension system, real wood trim and leather seating with piping, ventilated front seats, wood and leather power tilt/telescope heated steering wheel with memory, power liftgate, cargo net, navigation with voice-recognition and SIRIUS travel-traffic information, 20-inch aluminum wheels, black mesh grille and trailer tow package. Overland is available with Quadra-Drive II 4WD ($42,995). Options include V8, rear-seat DVD, advanced warning package, and off-road package.
The new Overland Summit ($43,095) and 4WD ($46,595) get a chrome mesh grille, unique paint selection, wheels and stitched saddle and black cabin with black olive wood, chrome tow hooks, and the advanced warning package. Only the V8 and rear DVD system are optional.
Grand Cherokee SRT8 ($54,470) is all-wheel drive and comes with a 470-hp 6.4-liter V8, 5-speed automatic, Brembo brakes, unique steering and suspension, Bilstein adaptive damping, paddle shifters, 295/45ZR20 tires on forged aluminum wheels, SRT specific seats and heated steering wheel, and a one-day track driving SRT experience. (We especially recommend that last bit.) Features roughly mirror a Limited, and options consist of a panoramic sunroof, conventional sunroof with rear DVD, 19-speaker 825-watt Harman Kardon sound system, three-season Pirelli P Zero tires, tow package, and a luxury group (advanced warning package, premium cabin trim and power liftgate).
Safety equipment on all Grand Cherokee models includes electronic stability control with roll mitigation, ABS with brake traction control system, trailer sway control, hill start assist, frontal airbags, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, active head restraints, and tire pressure monitor. Safety options include hill descent control, active cruise control with collision warning, blind-spot monitors and rear cross path detection.
Note: All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices (MSRP), which may change without notice at any time. Prices do not include destination charge.