2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D Overland Diesel 2WD

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2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee
G.R. Whale

Introduction

Jeep Grand Cherokee is the flagship of the brand and for many years was the quintessential SUV. Today, the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee seats a family of five, drives well on road or off and sports classic good looks.

There have been few changes for 2015 following a major refresh for 2014 that included exterior and interior upgrades, an 8-speed automatic transmission, and the addition of a diesel engine.

New for 2015: A new Summit California Edition appearance package is available, along with an optional Argentina Tan leather interior. Active Noise Cancellation is standard on 2015 Grand Cherokee Summit models. Engine output for the 2015 Grand Cherokee SRT has increased to 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque; and there’s a new special-edition Red Vapor version. The other 2015 Grand Cherokee models carry over unchanged from 2014. The last time Grand Cherokee was completely redesigned was for the 2011 model year.

Rear-wheel drive comes standard on most models. Rear-wheel-drive versions account for a small fraction of sales, and we think they miss the point, but of course they do get better fuel economy than the four-wheel-drive versions.

Four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are available, depending on whether the driver needs outstanding capability for rugged terrain or wintry weather, respectively. Four-wheel drive, low-range gearing, and a full-size spare tire, all required for genuine off-road activities, are available and there is a choice of suspensions.

Four engines are available. Chrysler’s 3.6-liter V6 engine is standard and more than sufficient for anything but heavy towing. EPA estimates for the 3.6-liter V6 with 4WD are 17/24 mpg City/Highway.

A 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is available, useful for towing with 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. A Grand Cherokee with the 5.7-liter V8 and four-wheel drive is EPA-rated at 14/20 mpg.

Diesel power is available. With 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, the EcoDiesel engine delivers effortless power for towing or traversing rugged terrian. The EPA estimates for the diesel with four-wheel drive are 21/28 mpg City/Highway. EPA estimates for diesels tend to the pessimistic side, counter to ratings for gasoline and hybrid vehicles, which can be optimistic.

In its current form, Grand Cherokee displays a cleaner, more integrated look than in the past. You can trace some development of the Grand Cherokee back far enough that it paralleled the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, but with the latest electronics it will feel familiar to drivers of other Chrysler products. (The diesel engine hails from VM, part of Chrysler’s Fiat link). If there’s a safety feature you want that isn’t standard, you can often get it as an option.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee competes against a spectrum of vehicles including four-wheel-drives such as the Land Rover LR4, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Toyota 4Runner and Land Cruiser. Rivals also include compact-to-mid-size crossovers and niche models, and to a lesser extent, the big Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition. If you want seven-passenger seating, the closest choice is the Dodge Durango.

SRT is a standalone brand within Chrysler, but we include the Grand Cherokee SRT here because it is essentially a faster Jeep Grand Cherokee for on-road use and it can be purchased at any Jeep dealership. This steroidal performance wagon competes against the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5M and X6M, Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG, and perhaps the Audi SQ5 or Cadillac CTS-V wagon. It’s the fastest, most expensive, thirstiest Grand Cherokee, and the last one you want to use in the same sentence with off-road. It isn’t a rational choice, but we don’t believe choosing a car must be rational. We have irrational vehicles in our own garages and we love them.

Model Lineup

The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes in five versions, all but one with a choice of rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD).

Grand Cherokee Laredo ($29,995) and Laredo AWD ($31,995) come with a 3.6-liter gasoline V6, 8-speed automatic with paddle shifts, cloth seating, fold-flat front passenger seat, dual-zone climate control, 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, fog lamps, 17-inch painted aluminum wheels, automatic headlamps, power heated mirrors, rear wash/wipe, laminated front door glass, floor mats, tilt/telescoping leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, illuminated visor mirrors, body-color trim, trip computer, and 12-volt auxiliary outlets.

Grand Cherokee Laredo E ($31,595) and Laredo E 4WD ($33.595) get an option group that adds five more colors to the palette, along with bright roof rails, SiriusXM radio, power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, plus a slew of extra available options that includes four packages: Security and Convenience, Trailer Towing, All-Weather and Off-Road Adventure I. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charges.)

Grand Cherokee Limited ($36,895) and Limited 4WD ($38,895) upgrade further with leather-trimmed upholstery, more chrome exterior trim, dual exhaust outlets, four heated seats, power passenger seat, heated steering wheel, 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, 115-volt outlet and rear USB ports, remote start, power liftgate, cargo cover, rear camera and park sensors, driver memory system, Selec-Terrain for 4WDs, and a security system. Limited options include the diesel and V8 engines, either of which is required for Quadra-Drive II 4WD or air suspension. Available extras include a front moonroof, a panoramic moonroof, rear-seat DVD entertainment, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, ventilated front seats, bi-xenon smartbeam headlamps, 20-inch wheels, 506-watt 9-speaker stereo, 8.4-inch Uconnect with XM TrafficLink, navigation, air suspension (with 4WD), adaptive cruise control with collision warning, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-path detection, and towing package.

Grand Cherokee Overland ($43,295) and Overland 4WD ($46,295) come with air suspension (on 4WD only), 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 cover and net, navigation with voice-recognition and SiriusXM travel-traffic information, 20-inch aluminum wheels, body-colored fascias with chrome trim, LED running lights, dual-pane moonroof, bi-xenon smartbeam headlamps, power-folding mirrors, chrome tow hooks, 20-inch wheels, full-size spare tire, and 506-watt stereo. Options include the V8 and diesel, tow and off-road packages, a Technology Group that contains adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning, and rear-seat entertainment.

Grand Cherokee Summit ($48,695) and Summit 4WD ($51,695) offer one unique paint selection, chrome mesh grille, headlamps washers, premium 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, 19-speaker 825-watt Harman Kardon sound system, and embroidered leather upholstery. Essentially, everything is standard except for rear-seat entertainment, V8 or diesel engine and 4WD. The new California Edition appearance package ($995) includes body-color lower body trim, mirror caps and door handles; platinum chrome accents on grille, lower fascias and side sills; foglamp bezels; and rear step pad. Satin Carbon painted 20-inch aluminum wheels also are included.

Grand Cherokee SRT ($66,690) has active on-demand 4WD and comes with a 475-hp 6.4-liter V8, 8-speed automatic, unique steering and suspension, Brembo brakes, Bilstein adaptive damping, Pirelli 295/45ZR20 run-flat tires on forged aluminum wheels, SRT-specific seats and heated steering wheel, heated front/rear seats, ventilated front seats, unique spoilers and bumpers, vented hood, black chrome exhausts, and a one-day track driving SRT experience (highly recommended). SRT features split the line between Overland and Summit. Options consist of a full-size spare tire, carbon painted or black chrome split five-spoke wheels, a panoramic moonroof, Sepia cabin color, remote CD player, 19-speaker 825-watt Harman Kardon sound system, three-season Pirelli P-Zero tires, tow package, and engine block heater. The new Red Vapor edition of the SRT ($70,685) gets an option group that includes black chrome wheels, gloss black exterior trim, backlit SRT logo on steering wheel, light black chrome and Radar Red accents, and red-trimmed engine beauty covers.

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, driver’s knee airbag, active head restraints, and tire pressure monitor. Safety options include hill descent control, hill ascent control, rear camera, parking sensors, adaptive 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.

Walkaround

The basic body panels on the Grand Cherokee didn’t change for the 2014 facelift, but body-color trim around the wheels and revised door sills cleaned up the profile view. Front lighting, wheel sizes and styles, and body-end sections vary among the Jeep models.

The shape of the Jeep Grand Cherokee shows you can build a capable-looking utility vehicle without resorting to excessive fender flaring or plastic ramp bumpers. The clearances required for off-highway travel (front, rear and underneath) are good. Note that some of the critical off-highway dimensions Jeep claims are with the front air dam removed, a few-minute job to be undertaken before you hit the nastier terrain.

The front end utilizes two headlight and two foglight designs, with premium models getting LED running lights and turn-following bi-xenon headlamps. With the black plastic trim on the inside edge, we first thought Jeep might have pulled them off the Chrysler 300, but they’re unique to the Grand Cherokee.

Jeep’s trademark grille is seven slots cut into a panel rather than a single grille, with black slats on most models. However, the Summit model’s grille is lined with chrome mesh to mimic Bentley and every other pretender. There’s plenty of chrome on upper trim levels, while the entry model’s simpler appearance looks more appropriate for Jeep’s mission statement. Some have dark tow hooks, the Overland gets chrome, and the Summit has none.

At the other end, all Grand Cherokees have LED-ring taillights that echo the headlights, with clear-lens signals and backup lights that actually help the camera view. Rear lighting is very good; the bumper scuff panels vary in color, and some models have a nicely integrated cover for the tow hitch.

The hatch is easy to open, powered on higher trim levels but more of an advantage for those who can’t reach it when open. or as a convenience, than in effort saved. The manual version is easy, too. The glass in the hatch does not open separately as on some utilities. Laredos run a single exhaust outlet while the other models get two, regardless of engine.

The bodywork between the wheels, below the door sills, is stamped No Step at the rear edge, as it looks an inviting place to stand for roof loading. Better to put a foot on the rear tire, on the door scuff plates, or the rear bumper cover.

Everything below the glass on an SRT looks at least a little bit different from that of the other Grand Cherokee models. Side sills are more aggressive and fenders filled better by 10-inch-wide forged alloy wheels (and those filled with big brakes). The lights have darkened housings, the front running lights are strips in the bumper, and the chin spoiler is more prominent. A bulging hood has dual air outlets to release heat, and you’ll see the hot air wafting out while sitting at a traffic light. At the back, a larger hatch spoiler and big black chrome exhaust barrels back up the SRT badge.

Interior

The interior has arguably become the most important part of a Grand Cherokee. It’s become first and foremost a wagon or sedan replacement, with off-road adventure a secondary concern. That is a wee conundrum, since the best 4WD equipment comes only with the posh heated leather upholstery, but that’s the market.

Hefty price differences across the model range mean a base Laredo will neither look nor feel like a top-line Summit inside, but the Laredo has the same five-passenger seating and cargo space. More important, the materials and finishes in the Laredo seem better suited to Jeepin’ and don’t have the disparity between the Summit’s suede-like headliner, stitched dashboard, natural-finish wood, perforated leather and plastic panels on the doors and console sides.

After hours in both, we found no appreciable difference in comfort between Laredo cloth and Summit leather upholstery. The Laredo’s cloth absorbed temperature extremes almost as well as the Summit’s seat heating/cooling. Space is more than adequate, while headroom remains sufficient with either moonroof.

The split-fold rear seats offer slightly less room, but anyone under six feet should fit comfortably. Many of them recline slightly, some are heated, and some have power points and dual USB ports.

Ahead of the driver is a dog-bone shaped instrument panel with conventional rev-counter on one side and fuel level/coolant temperature on the other. Between is a 7-inch configurable display for speed and a host of lesser data. The sole drawback to a digital representation of an analog speedometer is minor needle ratcheting, like a quartz watch’s second hand only faster, as it rises and falls. Virtually everything in this display is controlled by steering-wheel switches, or redundant from the central infotainment screen.

The 8-speed’s shifter is like an inverted putter-head on the left of the console. It requires a more delicate touch than the old gated unit, and the lighted icons are not easy to see in daylight. So, it’s better to look at the dashboard display.

To choose amongst the forward gears, there are shift paddles: little levers atop the horizontal spokes on the steering wheel. This isn’t a new concept, but it’s joined by audio controls on the back sides of the same spokes. So more than once, we changed volume or station when we really wanted a gear change.

The LED lighting in the cabin works well, to erase the yellow harshness of the old days. An optional giant dual-pane panoramic sunroof opens wide to the sky. If installed, you can see the stars, perhaps better than you can see out the windows or through the rearview mirror. The generous windshield pillars, sloped backlight and rear headrests pinch the space for visibility.

The location and operation of things on the center stack, such as the electronic switchbank and HVAC controls, is all good. Chrysler’s Uconnect systems, big touch-screen and voice control work quite well. As a bonus, you can engage seat and steering wheel heaters before ΓÇ£OKΓÇ¥-ing the distracted-driver warnings.

An SRT comes with most luxuries and features standard (may as well get the 19-speaker sound system because it weighs less than the standard stereo). However, it gets unique, thick-bolster front seats, a really hefty steering wheel (oar-thick on the bottom half), different graphics and finishes, and the displays offer more information catered to the enthusiast driver.

Cargo space is rated at 36 cubic feet with rear seats up and 68 with them folded; add a bit more for longer items over the fold-flat front seat. That’s about par for the midsize SUV class, but it’s also within a cubic foot of a Ford Escape and smaller than a Honda CR-V, demonstrating that mid-size SUVs don’t necessarily have more room than compact SUVs.

There’s an abundance of storage pockets and bins, including two bins under the cargo floor surrounding the spare tire. That spare may be a temporary-use model or full-size, but you won’t have to lie in the snow or mud to get it out.

Driving Impressions

The 8-speed automatic transmission works well. More gears make it easier for the engines to work at the most efficient speeds and improve acceleration performance. At a mild pace, calls for downshifts are quicker and less jarring, and at cruising speeds it just lopes along. Gear changes are quick and seamless; most drivers won’t realize how often it shifts.

The 3.6-liter V6 is a fully competitive engine. It favors revs and horsepower over torque, which is not ideal for heavy rolling stock but not an issue with eight forward gears. Unless you plan on towing, the 3.6-liter gets the job done. Remember, semi-trucks were making do with 290 horsepower and lots of gears when Jeep was discovering round fenders. EPA estimates for the 3.6-liter V6 with 4WD are 17/24 mpg City/Highway.

The 5.7-liter V8 adds a muscular exhaust note, 70 horsepower, and 130 pound-feet of torque. Top tow rating is 7400 pounds, roughly a ton more than we’d put behind something this size, and EPA mileage is 14/22 mpg (14/20 mpg with 4WD).

The diesel is the way to have fuel economy and towing grunt when needed; you’d need a spreadsheet (with fun-to-drive, towing performance, highway range and other objective columns) to find the payoff point for the $4,500 option. This modern clean diesel delivers 240 horsepower but 420 pound-feet of torque, more than 2000 rpm lower on the tachometer than the gas engines. At 75 mph in top gear it is at near peak torque and just goes, whereas the others would need a drop (or 3) in gear. The diesel is hardly noisier than some gasoline engines, doesn’t smoke, and gets the Jeep moving briskly with ease. The EPA estimates 22/30 mpg City/Highway (21/28 mpg with 4WD) for the diesel.

Though heavy, the Grand Cherokee chassis is quite rigid, a key benefit to its feel of overall quality. When you combine a rigid chassis with a well-executed independent suspension, the result is a vehicle that feels much like the German triumvirate it competes with. Three tons of people and car are not ideal for swift directional changes, but the Jeep goes where you point it, soaks up bumps big and small, and delivers a comfortable, worry-free drive.

Apart from the SRT, our favorite Grand Cherokee to drive on paved roads was a 2WD Laredo with E pack and some options. It’s more than 800 pounds lighter than the tubbiest Grand Cherokee, with a lower percentage of weight on the front end, and its 18-inch tires are more compliant.

Worth noting: Every high-end example we saw on 20-inch wheels wore Goodyear Fortera tires, while every lower-trim Grand Cherokee on 18-inch wheels had longer-wearing, higher-rated, more-expensive Michelin Latitude tires. We also find that many people buy a 4WD for the snow, but none of these are snow/winter tires. A set of proper winter tires on a 2WD Grand Cherokee will stop and turn better, and often climb as well, in snow and ice than a 4WD on its standard tires. Of course, the optimum winter setup would be a Grand Cherokee 4WD with snow tires. That would be a very good wintry weather setup, indeed.

A short┬átrail course demonstrated that┬áthe current Grand Cherokee will go where any previous Grand Cherokee would, unless it can’t squeeze between the trees or boulders. Few owners will do this in a $50,000 bling-mobile and fewer yet will remove┬áthe front air dam┬áto do this. But if you pop for Quadra-Drive II and the air suspension, fewer than a dozen┬áother utilities on the market will likely be able to┬ácover the same ground.

Driving off-highway is easier with the current Grand Cherokee than with any previous version, thanks to a 44-percent better crawl ratio (axle ratio x low-range ratio x first-gear ratio), because of the 8-speed that enthusiasts will appreciate. Also helpful, on V8 models, is Hill Ascent that controls climbing speed just as Hill Descent controls downhill progress. With its massive low-rpm torque, the diesel doesn’t need anything more than a steady, light throttle foot to climb.

An important point to note is that the air suspension and low-range four-wheel drive are not available on the base all-wheel-drive model; plan on spending a lot more for that level of trail ability. The all-wheel-drive system on base models is meant for mild off-road use and inclement weather; low-range gearing is available as an option on Laredo E, but standard on the diesel and V8.

Selec-Terrain electronically coordinates powertrain, braking and suspension systems, including throttle control, transmission shifts, transfer case, traction control, and electronic stability control. What this means is that anyone following a spotter’s steering instructions can drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee over extremely rugged off-road courses. The computers will do it all.

The SRT uses a 391 cubic-inch V8 like that in the Challenger 392 and other rear-drive SRT sedans. With 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, a crisp-shifting automatic, full-time all-wheel drive and foot-wide sticky tires, it moves swiftly. Jeep didn’t claim any big improvement in 0-60 time, but even without a timer, you can tell those extra gears made it quicker. Acceleration lifts the bow and braking brings nosedive, both tradeoffs for the solid roll control to keep the big, 5200-pound box stable. Don’t even think of driving it off-road.

Virtually every component that affects performance, be it bodywork, cabin pieces, electronic or mechanical, is addressed by SRT, resulting in a package that isn’t overpowered, underbraked or unable to use its power. On the contrary, the SRT likes to be pitched into a turn where it takes a set and you simply stand on the gas and let the all-wheel drive sort out the traction; the dynamics are impressive at this price. Like BMW’s X5M, Mercedes’s ML63 AMG and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, the Grand Cherokee SRT proves a utility vehicle can make good time on the pavement.

The Grand Cherokee gets adaptive dampers from Bilstein. That means a choice of Touring comfort, which is fine even for unknown winding road, and Sport, in which things are buttoned up tighter.

Of course, the SRT carries penalties typical of super-sport utility vehicles. Gas mileage is usually closer to the EPA city rating of 13 mpg, and the tires, easily used up making a heavy truck work like a sports car, run around $475 each.

Summary

The Jeep Grand Cherokee boasts a capable chassis, comfortable interior that’s utility useful or fashion friendly, and some of the most efficient powertrains in its class. It offers the off-road capability that mid-size SUVs should deliver, along with substantial towing capability. The SRT puts the Germans on notice that there are super-ute alternatives, and this one costs $20,000 to $40,000 less. A Laredo E Off-Road is the most Jeep and the one we want most.

G.R. Whale filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drives of all versions of the Grand Cherokee near Austin, Texas.

Model as tested
Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4WD ($50,995)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Detroit, Michigan
Destination charge
995
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
29,995
Price as tested
56,990
Options as tested
EcoDiesel engine ($4,500)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo ($29,995), Laredo 4WD ($31,995); Laredo E ($31,595), Laredo E 4WD ($33,595); Altitude ($36,290), Altitude 4WD ($38,290): Limited ($36,895), Limited 4WD ($38,895); Overland ($43,295), Overland 4WD ($46,295); Summit ($48,695), Summit 4WD ($51,695); SRT ($66,695), SRT Red Vapor ($70,685)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual-stage frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, driver knee airbag, tire pressure monitor, ABS with EBD, electronic stability control
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
3.0-liter DOHC V6 turbodiesel
Transmissions
8-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
leather embroidered upholstery, dual-zone climate control, genuine wood trim, power heated folding mirrors/seats/liftgate/tilt-and-telescope heated steering wheel, driver memory system, heated seats front and rear, ventilated front seats, panoramic moonroof, 20-inch wheels, 115-volt outlet and rear USB ports, Selec-Terrain, security system, bi-xenon smartbeam headlamps with washers, polished aluminum 20-inch wheels, 19-speaker 825-watt Harman Kardon sound system, Dinamica headliner, 8.4-inch Uconnect Access via Mobile, navigation with voice-recognition and XM travel/traffic info, cargo cover, adaptive cruise control with collision warning, blind-spot monitors, rear camera and park sensors, cross-path detection, and towing package

Engine & Transmission
Engine
3.0-liter DOHC V6 turbodiesel
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
240 @ 3600
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
21/28
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/disc with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist
Suspension, front
independent, coil springs, antiroll bar
Tires
265/50R20
Suspension, rear
independent, multi-link, coil springs

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
39.9/57.0/40.3
Head/hip/leg room, rear
39.2/56.2/38.6

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
68.3
Wheelbase
114.8
Length/width/height
189.8/76.5/69.3
Turning circle
37.1
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
7200
Track, front/rear
63.9/64.1
Ground clearance
N/A
Curb weight
5374

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