Jeep's V8-powered Grand Cherokee seems to be stuck in the middle

It's possible there's too much choice in the Grand Cherokee range. Because we can't see where this one fits.
DAMIEN O'CARROLL/FAIRFAX NZ

It's possible there's too much choice in the Grand Cherokee range. Because we can't see where this one fits.

I have always subscribed to the idea that if you want a petrol-V8 Jeep Grand Cherokee, then it is the SRT or nothing. After all, the big 6.4-litre Hemi V8 is an absolute stormer that sounds fantastic and punches out 344kW of power and 624Nm of torque.

If you didn't want that kind of power (for a start, what's wrong with you?) the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol and the excellent 3.0-litre V6 diesel were more than capable of dragging the big ol' Grand Cherokee around at more than respectable rates.

But there is a secret lurking in the Grand Cherokee range that doesn't often get talked about.

Kind of like that creepy uncle with the skin condition and lazy eye who never gets invited to family birthdays, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland you see here is available with a 5.7-litre petrol V8.

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Jeep's Hemi V8 sounds better on paper than it does to the ear.
DAMIEN O'CARROLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Jeep's Hemi V8 sounds better on paper than it does to the ear.

Now, this particular V8 is in an unusual position in the lineup, in that it has slightly more power than the petrol V6 (259kW versus 210kW) and a lot more torque (520Nm versus 347Nm), but still not as much torque as the diesel V6 (180kW and 550Nm). That puts it in a kind of strange middle ground between the two.

The 5.7-litre V8 also lacks much of the aural character that makes up a large part of the V8 ownership experience, something that the SRT has in spades.

So it's strangely muted and refined, doesn't have the torque of the diesel and isn't startlingly more powerful than the V6, so why buy it?

Air suspension and trick 4WD system part of the Overland package.
DAMIEN O'CARROLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Air suspension and trick 4WD system part of the Overland package.

Not sure on that one. One thing I can tell you, however, is that the Overland is well equipped, extraordinarily comfortable and sturdily handsome vehicle that is a pleasure to drive.

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The Overland is the top of the standard Grand Cherokee range (with the SRT topping all) and, as such, comes standard with things like lots of chrome and shiny bits on the outside, 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, heated front and second row seats, leather upholstery, air suspension, an 8.4-inch infotainment system, a dual pane panoramic sunroof, satellite navigation and Jeep's Quadra-Drive II 4WD system.

Jeep's interior quality has continued to improve drastically over the last few years and the Grand Cherokee is a massively comfortable place, with huge armchair-like front seats.

Overland almost top of the Grand Cherokee range, so it's full of luxury gear.
DAMIEN O'CARROLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Overland almost top of the Grand Cherokee range, so it's full of luxury gear.

One thing that American manufacturers do better than anyone else inside a car is providing armrests, window sills and centre consoles that are perfectly at elbow height. You will never find a finer car to cock an elbow in.

On the road the Grand Cherokee Overland is very much an American car as well, with means it is soft, cosseting and doesn't really get into that whole corner thing too much. Particularly with the larger V8 under the bonnet, the Overland is nose heavy and likes a good lean on the outside front tyre through a corner.

But then, it is built for comfort, and it does that magnificently well.

While the V8 is smooth and nicely refined, I still fail to see the point of it. The Grand Cherokee's strengths are its superb comfort, effortless progress and prodigious off road ability, all of which are better suited to the torque of the diesel.

The V8 does it, just not as well as the diesel, and it fails to bring any V8 aural excitement to the package, which means it isn't really even a decent cut-price alternative to the SRT.

I guess if you really hate diesel and want the big torque but can't stretch to, or don't want the SRT (again, what is wrong with you?) there is an argument for the V8. It's just not a very strong one.

 - Stuff

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