Well, the reviews are starting to show up in the national papers, and it's looking good
Pricing is VERY keen, up to $15,000 LESS than the previous model!
PLUS!!!! We will be getting the Overland! A first for us in Australia, though the value for money for this is mildly questionable.
Jeep Grand Cherokee in new market
STEPHEN WILLIAMS, The West Australian February 5, 2011, 3:30 pm
The West Australian ©
If you're one of the masses of family buyers who get about in a Ford Territory or Toyota Kluger, the idea of owning a Jeep instead probably hasn't entered your head.
Now it might.
The tough US brand's mid-sized Grand Cherokee used to kick off at $60,000. But, in an amazing piece of trick riding - upping the quality while slashing the price - the new $45,000 tag for the Laredo variant could well lasso some Territory and Kluger sales.
I emphasise "some" because the Jeep doesn't come with a seven-seat option, a wildly popular feature that allows mates or grandparents to join in outings.
It also doesn't have a two-wheel-drive model, a difference that allows the Territory and Kluger to enter the market at about $40,000.
Regardless, there are two compelling reasons - a seriously luxurious spec and extreme off-roading ability - for the Jeep to rustle sales from certain Territory and Kluger buyers.
Even 500 of the Kluger's 13,000 and Territory's 11,500 sales would double the Jeep's current annual total.
Readers should note an all-new Territory is due mid-year, with run-out models likely to be selling below recommended pricing.
American cars have often been flashy outside but a bit trashy inside with too much hard, tacky placky.
But Jeep's interior-quality push shows in the softer materials and excellent finish in even the entry Laredo's cabin.
Add extreme attention to noise insulation and a high specs and you get an entry model with an upmarket ambience.
I love electric seats but they usually cost a lot. In the Laredo, though, heated eight-way adjustable front seats are included.
The rear legroom is good enough for basketballers (100mm more than previously) while the seat backs recline up to 12 degrees. The cargo area has a roomy 780 litres of space.
A favourite feature of mine is "keyless enter and go". With an armful of shopping, a nudge of a finger on the door handle has the vehicle unlocked.
The Laredo's air-conditioning has a relationship-saving device that enables the front occupants to create individual climatic zones. I like it arctic, she likes it torrid, but we could get along in this vehicle.
Taking the strain out of night driving are high-intensity bi-xenon headlamps. On a $45,000 SUV - extremely rare.
The lamps have washers (great for insects and mud) and will automatically dip from high beam if another vehicle approaches. How easy is life getting?
A media centre provides most contemporary needs such as a 16.5cm touch screen, rear-view camera, Bluetooth, voice recognition, a 6700-song hard drive and audio jack.
Extra exterior bling to go with the marvellous grille is provided by 18-inch alloys.
Comprehensive safety equipment includes seven airbags, stability control and brakes that pulsate to clear water.
The Laredo's second rival-beating asset - off-road ability - includes a simple dial that Jeep calls Selec-Terrain and I call Off-Roading For Dummies.
My testing was in Tasmania, which threw up some dastardly off-road challenges. While the Territory and Kluger 4WD models are very capable off-road, only the Jeep has low-range gearing, a must for seriously sticky situations.
The Dummies dial has five settings - snow, sport, auto, sand/mud and rock. On the devilish Tassie tracks, I switched between the latter two.
For me, it was a simple dial-twiddle, but the car had to be good at algorithms, electronically co-ordinating a dozen different powertrain, brake and suspension systems to help it pick its way with ease through the various conditions.
I also deployed hill-descent control to edge goat-like down some precipitous declines.
Though car buyers are less inclined to fork out for options they can't see (eg airbags) than ones they can (eg sunroofs), I recommend the Grand Cherokee's invisible air-suspension system, called Quadra Lift.
At $2500, it takes the price to $47,500 - and you'll struggle to find other air-suspended SUVs within cooee of that tag.
Its myriad benefits include a comfortable ride, more dynamic handling by lowering the vehicle at faster speeds and avoiding off-road obstacles by raising the vehicle by either 33mm or 66mm.
Park mode looks after dicky knees and hips by lowering the Jeep to a car-like 167mm.
The SUV's off-roading ability plus reasonable towing capacity of 2268kg could see it also win buyers from the stellar-selling Toyota Prado (2500kg towing), which starts at $58,404 for an auto.
The Laredo model is powered by a quiet, smooth and strong 210kW 3.6-litre V6 that is well-matched to a five-speed auto. Torque is 347 Newton metres with 90 per cent available between 1600-6000rpm.
The new, high-tech combo delivers a smart 0-100km/h time of 9.1sec. while providing reasonable 11.4L/100km fuel use for a 2200kg vehicle. The range is about 800km.
Handling on tarmac is sure and free of the rock and roll associated with some American cars.
The $55,000 Limited model adds leather trim, memory settings for two drivers, 20-inch alloys, front and rear parking sensors and a premium 506W Alpine audio.
The Laredo or Limited with a 5.7-litre Hemi V8 (14.1L/100km; 3500kg towing) adds $5000.
The pinnacle model, the $69,900 Overland, is a V8-powered, deliciously appointed model with the sort of ultra-high-tech features normally associated with high-end European cars.
The systems include a forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring while other features include a panoramic sunroof, deluxe audio with sat-nav, ventilated seats, heated rear seats, heated woodgrain steering wheel, air suspension and a rear electronic limited-slip differential.
A V6 diesel range will be available mid-year with pricing yet to be announced.
The new Grand Cherokee has the bold presence of a Jeep but not the brash look of the Wrangler models. Its touch of finesses helps get the vehicle over the line as a luxury SUV at a family SUV price.
If you don't need seven seats take a look.
ALL THE DETAILS
Drivetrain: 210kW 3.6-litre petrol V6, five-speed auto
Fuel use: 11.4L/100km
Cargo area: 780 litres
Safety: Seven airbags, ESP
Clearance: 205-271mm; 167mm in Park mode
Cabin: Keyless entry, electric heated front seats, dual-zone air
Driving aids: Bi-xenon auto-dipping headlights, low-range 4WD, simple off-road dial control, rear-view camera
Infotainment: 16.5cm touch screen, Bluetooth, voice recognition, hard-drive, audio jack
Recommended option: Air suspension $2500