Bigger, bolder and more premium than its forebear, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L has arrived in SA. We drive the Overland derivative…

Good things take time, as the age-old adage goes. Regarding time, in the near-30-year lifetime spanning five generations of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, it took more than a decade for the US marque to introduce the latest model. And recently, the fifth iteration has finally touched down in South Africa. 

Grand Cherokee L

Available in only “L” guise, the new Grand Cherokee is available in a trio of trim levels, entry-level Limited, mid-tier Overland and range-topping Summit Reserve. A first for a Grand Cherokee is a seven-seat configuration. The Summit Reserve can be specified with six seats, the middle row comprising two captain’s chairs for an added feel of luxury. At the local launch, we sampled the Overland, the model that’s arguably the one to go for. 

Walk towards the Grand Cherokee L, and you’ll first notice how large it is. The WL generation measures a hair more than 5.2 metres in length! The boldly styled bodywork sits on a wheelbase measuring 3 091 mm. Compared to its predecessor, the WK, the box-fresh, seven-seater model is 376 mm longer. (It’s worth noting that the fourth generation was available with only five pews.)

Continuing with the comparison between old and new, the latest iteration sits 3 mm closer to the ground as standard. However, equipped with Jeep’s ‘Quadra Lift’ system, it can be raised from 215 mm to 276 mm. In its tallest setting, the ground clearance is 16 mm more than the previous model’s. 

Grand Cherokee L

The new Grand Cherokee L looks classic Jeep. For its exterior styling, the firm’s designers have taken inspiration from the Wagoneer. Viewed from the front, it’s imposing. The headlamp clusters house LED tech and daytime-running lights. The slim rear lamps are also of the LED variety. The Overland rides on 20-inch alloys. 

However, the interior is arguably the most impressive part of the Grand Cherokee L package, even in mid-spec trim. The Overland’s Nappa leather-upholstered cabin features a trio of screens (four, if you include the head-up display). These are a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10.1-inch touch-enabled infotainment display and a front passenger-side 10.25-inch screen. Viewed from the driver’s side, the latter unit is seemingly disguised thanks to its pixel technology (for the lack of a better word). This touchscreen needs to be viewed from a front point of view. 

The Uconnect infotainment display is crisp. It features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Were you so inclined not to use the several navigation apps available via screen mirroring, the Overland has a built-in sat-nav system. This model (and the Summit Reserve) also features a 19-speaker McIntosh surround-sound system. The base-spec variant features a nine-speaker Alpine unit. Ambient lighting and a panoramic sunroof enhance the interior ambience. A reverse-view camera is also included. 

However large, the Grand Cherokee L’s front seating compartment feels seemingly smaller than what the SUV’s exterior dimensions would suggest. However, headroom is sufficient, thanks to the Jeep’s boxy bodywork. Middle-row head- and legroom seem ample. Jeep says those seated on the rearmost pews are offered headroom of 957 mm. Jeep claims a boot capacity of 436 litres, which can be increased to 1 328 litres and 2 396 litres when stowing away the third- and second-row seats, respectively. 

On top of featuring the ‘Quadra Lift’ suspension set-up and ‘Quadra-Trac II’ 4×4 set-up, the Overland (compared to the Limited) also gains adaptive damping and hill-descent control. The Summit Reserve’s ‘Quadra-Trac II’ system features a rear electronic limited-slip differential. This model also upgrades to 21-inch wheels. 

Speaking of ‘Quadra Lift’, apart from lifting the vehicle’s ground clearance to 276 mm from 215 mm, it can also be lowered to 195 mm in Aero mode. It can further be decreased to 170 mm for fuss-free egress. In its highest setting, the approach, departure and break-over angles are 28.2, 22.6 and 23.6 degrees, respectively. 

Set to Auto mode, we set off. In this setting, torque is split 40:60 between the front and rear axles. Four other driving models are available, Snow, Sand/Mud, Sport, and Rock, each adapting the Grand Cherokee L’s set-up. On the highway, we activated Sport, which distributed torque between the axles in a 20:80 split. Engaging the Snow, Sand/Mud or Rock mode splits torque 50:50. 

Grand Cherokee L

Most driving was done on the highway, where the Grand Cherokee’s Pentastar engine was sufficiently punchy. The 3.6-litre V6 produces 210 kW and 344 Nm of torque, the latter of which is interestingly 3 Nm less than the unit found in the Jeep Gladiator (see pricing here). Some more torque would have been welcomed, though. 

As this is a Jeep, we traded the highway for a (very) unkempt gravel road and lifted the suspension. The route comprises several rocky sections. The Jeep fared well. However, with its 18-inch wheels, we’d argue that the entry-level Limited would be more at home here … and the model of choice if you’re planning on doing some more serious off-roading. A few clunks could be heard. Although boasting several off-road technologies, the Overland and Summit Reserve variants, with their large-diameter wheels, are arguably more suited for the beaten track and well-maintained gravel. It makes for a superb long-distance tourer. 

At a glance

Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland

Good things take time, and Jeep took its time introducing a new Grand Cherokee. However, it is good. As most people won’t necessarily take their more premium 4x4s on a full-scale off-road route, we’d argue that the Overland is the derivative of choice. However, if you plan on going off the beaten path, the Limited, priced at R180 000 less, will be your best bet.

  • Price: R 1 479 900
  • Engine: 3.6 L, V6, petrol
  • Transmission: 8-spd AT
  • Power: 210 kW @ 6 400 r/min
  • Torque: 344 Nm @ 4 000 r/min
  • 0-100 km/h: n/a
  • Top speed: n/a
  • Fuel consumption: 10.6 L/100 km
  • CO2: 243 g/km