The Jeep Grand Cherokee is family vehicle that can do more than just carry the kids and their cricket gear.
It’s ready to go off-road, tow a trailer, or, if you buy the right model, attack a racetrack. It exceeds what is expected of a family crossover, and we rate it highly, though we recognize that safety is becoming a problem for this aging vehicle. It gets a 7.7 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The biggest change this year is a loss of rational control. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk takes inspiration—and engines—from Dodge's Hellcat models and hot swaps them into the SUV. It cranks out 707 horsepower and can approach 180 mph. Beefed up brakes, cooling systems, seats, all-wheel-drive system, and transmission help the Trackhawk put its power to the road.
Other changes for 2018 include the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the 8.4-inch version of the Uconnect infotainment system, a new 7.0-inch Uconnect screen on base models instead of a 5.0-inch screen, active noise cancellation for the vehicle through the available Alpine audio system, and a new Sterling Edition package to celebrate the model’s 25th anniversary.
The Grand Cherokee is offered in a variety of models: Laredo, Limited, Overland, Summit, Trailhawk, SRT, and the new Trackhawk. Five engines are offered. They start with a 295-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6. Next up is a 360-hp 5.7-liter V-8. The Grand Cherokee is unique in offering a diesel engine; the 3.0-liter turbodiesel puts out 240 hp and 420 pound-feet of torque. The SRT model gets a 475-hp 6.4-liter V-8, and the Trackhawk has the supercharged V-8. All engines are backed by a fantastic 8-speed automatic.
Fuel economy starts out at a decent 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 21 combined with rear-wheel drive V-6, but the V-8s suffer. The diesel manages 25 mpg combined.
Towing capacity ranges from 6,200 pounds for the V-6 to 7,400 pounds for the diesel. Jeep also offers four four-wheel-drive systems, ranging from basic to advanced. Quadra-Drive II is the top system. It has low-range gearing, a rear limited-slip differential, a Selec-Terrain system that controls the electronics of several vehicle systems to help the vehicle handle any terrain, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, and a low-speed cruise control called Selec-Speed. Jeep also offers a variety of off-road packages and an air suspension that can raise the vehicle to clear off-road obstacles.
The Grand Cherokee is refined, too. It rides and handles well, and its interior is decidedly upscale, especially on higher line models. In fact, we think it competes well with luxury-brand rivals. Jeep makes plenty of amenities standard on higher line models.
Safety is the Grand Cherokee’s biggest issue. It offers some of today’s active safety features, but the aging platform just doesn’t perform well in some of the newer crash tests.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee balances the modern and the traditional with an expert hand. The front end and grille may not be as bold as in the past, but they fit with the whole package in a cohesive manner. It’s not as blue-collar as it has been in the past. Instead, it’s more pedigreed and affluent. We find it on-point inside and out, and rate it a 9 out of 10 for styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Grand Cherokee stands among luxury-brand rivals as a pretty sophisticated work of design. The side view is reminiscent of the BMW X5. The view from the front isn’t quite as assertive as it has been in the past, but it still has the seven-slat grille that is the hallmark of all Jeeps. That grille is a bit thinner and smaller than it used to be, and it’s understated in a segment that likes big and chromey.
At the rear, the LED taillights provide a little attitude, as does a standard rear spoiler. All of that is amplified on the SRT and Trackhawk models.
Inside, the Grand Cherokee’s interior stands out as upscale, rivaling the GLE-Class or Cayenne. Even base versions provide a feeling of warmth and are far from plain. A chunky three-spoke steering wheel is standard. The center stack has logically arranged controls and inoffensive metallic-plastic trim. Base versions upgrade from a 5.0-inch to a 7.0-inch LCD touchscreen for audio this year, while higher-line models get the excellent 8.4-inch screen.
Materials improve as you move up the model ladder, and the Limited, Overland, and Summit models are especially upscale. Real wood adorns the steering wheel, doors, and dash, and asks to be touched. We prefer the warmer, organic trims over those with a lot of brightwork. It looks best in the Summit's organic colors, under the natural light of the panoramic roof.
With five powertrains, multiple four-wheel-drive systems, and refined ride and handling, the Jeep Grand Cherokee offers a model for every need, and no model disappoints for performance, on road or off. Depending on the model you pick, the Grand Cherokee can be an off-road wizard, a racetrack beast, or a pleasant street performer. We give it a 9 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Powertrains and on- and off-road manners
In its base form, the Grand Cherokee’s 3.6-liter V-6 puts out 295 horsepower. It delivers enough torque low in the rev band to deal with the tricky and exact demands off-roading, and it is strong and responsive in the mid-range.
Move up to the 360-hp 5.7-liter V-8 and the Grand Cherokee feels like a muscle car like its Dodge Charge sibling, with a rich engine note. However, the fuel economy hit may not be worth the extra power it delivers.
Buyers can also get a diesel engine, which is a dying breed. This 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel engine puts out 240 hp and 420 pound-feet of torque. It doesn't deliver the punch of V-8 and and can't match the V-6's passing power, but it's torque is strong in the low and mid ranges, and that comes in handy for towing and off-roading.
Then Jeep offers two high-performance models. The first is the SRT. It is motivated by a 475-hp 6.4-liter V-8, and it can vary the torque to the front and rear axles. Jeep quotes a 4.8-second 0-60 mph time, and that’s enabled by a launch control mode and the traction of AWD, both of which make that number repeatable. The quarter-mile time is in the mid-13s, the top speed is 160 mph, and the 60-mph braking mark is just 116 feet. Those are all impressive numbers for any vehicle, let alone a 5,104-pound SUV.
The new Grand Cherokee Trackhawk turns things up to 11. It’s a Hellcat Jeep, with the 707-hp supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 from the Dodge Hellcats. The 0-60 mph time is cut to 3.5 seconds, the top speed rises to 180 mph, and the quarter-mile time falls to 11.6 seconds. Those are insane numbers, and they exert a lot of g forces on the driver.
Both the SRT and Trackhawk offer great grip on a track, and the ride quality is softer than the comparable Dodge SRT and Hellcat Chargers and Challengers. These models also compete quite well with rivals from Porsche, BMW M, and Mercedes-AMG, often at much lower prices.
All of models send their power through a smooth-shifting and very responsive 8-speed automatic transmission that can also be shifted through tiny paddles—or we should say nubs—behind the steering wheel.
Any Grand Cherokee delivers an exemplary driving experience. Its steering, handling, and road manners are among the best and most refined in its class. It has the ride of a crossover, not the trucky, bounding ride of a body-on-from SUV. The steering is reasonably quick and precise, rather than slow as it has been in the past.
The Limited, Overland, and Summit models offer the Quadra-Lift air suspension that offers ride heights ranging from 6.4 to 11.3 inches. It can drop the Grand Cherokee for loading or for improved fuel economy during highway driving and raise it for off-roading.
Towing and off-roading
Rear-wheel drive is standard on most models, but Jeep offers four different four-wheel-drive systems. They range from delivering moderate to legendary off-road capability to just trying to put all the possible traction down for the performance models.
The 4WD systems start with Quadra-Trac I, which has a locking center differential. It delivers a 50/50 power split front to rear, but has no low-range gearing so it’s not really made for off-roading. Quadra-Trac II does have a two-speed transfer case for low-range gearing, and it also comes with hill-start assist and hill-descent control. It can split torque variably between the axles when slip is detected at either axle, so 100 percent of the power can go to one axle in theory. On top of that, Quadra-Drive II adds a rear electronic limited-slip differential, so the rear axle can get grip when others can’t.
Quadra-Drive II is the way to go for the most challenging off-road duties, but the Quadra-Trac I will do the job for most drivers who never go off-road and just need the poor-weather traction.
Jeep also adds its Selec-Terrain system to both the Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II systems. It offers Auto, Sand, Mud, Snow, and Rock modes that optimize the electronics of various vehicle systems to provide the best grip over each terrain.
Any version of the Grand Cherokee with the Selec-Terrain system plus an off-road package gets Jeep’s Trail Rated badge.
We’ve seen why these models earn that badge. We’ve scrambled up 200-foot, 55-degree inclines using the Selec-Speed system that acts as an off-roading cruise control, allowing 1-kph increments thanks to a steady amount of force in the drivetrain. The smart electronic controls make for brainless throttle control during off-roading, but you still need to point the vehicle in the right direction.
The Grand Cherokee can tow fairly well, too. The V-6 maxes out at 6,200 pounds, the diesel handles 7,400 pounds, and the 5.7-liter, 6.4, and 6.2-liter V-8s top out at 7,200 pounds.
The 2018 Jeep GC carries five adults and their stuff quite well. It has comfortable seats in both rows, can fit three comfortably in the rear, offers a spacious cargo hold, and on higher-line models, it is appointed as well as any in the class. For those reasons, we rate it a 10 for comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
While the Jeep seats five, its Dodge Durango cousin handles up to seven passengers. Both vehicles use the same 114.8-inch wheelbase, but the Jeep uses its space better where passengers are concerned in the form of better legroom for all occupants, plus easier ingress and egress, thanks to longer doors that swing open as far as 78 degrees.
The front seats are well-bolstered with wide cushions, though the Laredo’s cloth seats are fairly flat with short bottom cushions. The SRT and Trackhawk seats are heavily bolstered and they provide plenty of back support, but they are still wide enough that they will only be snug for larger occupants.
The cabin’s generous width lets both front seat occupants rest their arms on the center console without rubbing elbows. Head room is good, too; even with the sunroof, there is still a couple inches of clearance for 6-footers.
Back seat passengers are well-served, too. Two adults will be happy, thanks in part to a fold-down center armrest, and three can even be comfortable. The seatbacks recline 12 degrees and tilts forward the same amount to aid comfort or expand the cargo space.
Cargo storage and quality
All Grand Cherokees have a healthy 36.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. The cargo floor is a bit high, but it is fairly long. Flipping the rear seats down is a matter of hitting a single lever, and that opens the cargo hold to 68.3 cubic feet. Some versions also have a front passenger seat that folds flat—leaving enough room for a grandfather clock. A power tailgate is standard on Limited and up and available for all versions. Jeep even finishes out the cargo area with padding and trim bars on higher line models.
Small items storage includes a console bin in front of the shifter that contains the audio ports ringed in soft light. Unfortunately, it’s only sized for a smaller (and therefore out of date) smartphone. The center console bin has two levels, and there are bottle holders in the doors, as well as shallow door pockets.
As for materials, the Grand Cherokee distinguishes itself quite well. The Summit’s finishes and colors are based on nature, replacing bright finishes with earthy tones like copper and green teamed with matte-finish open-pore wood. Think of it as the most upscale L.L. Bean or Eddie Bauer edition you’ll ever see.
To go with the high-quality ambience, the Grand Cherokee is also very quiet, and this year it gets active noise cancellation for the available Alpine audio system. The big square mirrors do create some wind noise, though, and the performance models have barbaric engine notes.
All this comes at a relative value. In terms of comfort and quality, the Grand Cherokee outclasses its class rivals and top-end versions approach Range Rover quality at much less cost. The Jeep Grand Cherokee may offer some of the newer active safety features, but its older structure prevents it from scoring well in some of the more recent crash tests. That gives it a fairly low score of 4 out of 10 for safety in our book. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
All Grand Cherokees come with the usual airbags plus a driver’s knee airbag, as well as trailer sway control, hill-start assist, active headrests, and a rearview camera.
Blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts are optional on all but Laredo and standard on Summit and the performance models. Same goes for adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings, and forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking. All of those features are offered in the Jeep Active Safety group, which also includes rain-sensing wipers, and parallel and perpendicular park assist. Also offered are automatic high beams.
In four-wheel-drive Grand Cherokees, Jeep’s Selec-Speed system works with the hill-start assist and hill-descent control systems to act as an automatic climbing and descent mode. It offers controllable speed in 1-kph increments.
The Grand Cherokee with four-wheel drive gets a 5-star rating from NHTSA, but the rear-drive model has a 4-star overall rating and a 3-star rollover resistance score. We dock it points for those two poor scores. The IIHS gives the Grand Cherokee its top rating of “Good” in all tests but the tougher small-overlap front test in which it earn a "Marginal" rating. That result prevents it from Top Safety Pick contention. Its front crash prevention system earns only a “Basic” rating, but its headlights get a decent “Acceptable” rating.
As for sightlines, the Grand Cherokee is airy and affords great forward vision. The driver can see the front corners quite well and the large side mirrors provide a good view to the rear.
The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee is offered in a variety of models, including Laredo, Limited, Overland, Summit, Trailhawk, SRT, and the new Trackhawk. Numerous packages are offered, as are extensive options. We rate the Grand Cherokee an 8 for features based on that variety, as well as its easy-to-use infotainment system, and the fact that it has both diesel and high-performance models. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Grand Cherokee Laredo comes standard with cloth seats; an eight-way power driver’s seat; power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; a tilt/telescope steering wheel; keyless entry; an AM/FM/CD audio system; a rearview camera; parking sensors; and 17-inch alloy wheels. For 2018, the Uconnect infotainment screen grows from 5.0 to 7.0 inches.
Moving beyond Laredo starts to change the Grand Cherokee from a family crossover into a luxury model. The Limited adds leather seating with a power front passenger seat, heated front seats, remote start, and a power tailgate. The 5.7-liter V-8 engine and turbodiesel V-6 become optional on Limited.
The Overland gets nappa leather seating with embroidered and ventilated front seats, a leather-trimmed dash, a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, the 8.4-inch version of Uconnect that adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto this year, navigation, a 506-watt Alpine sound system with nine speakers that adds active noise cancellation for 2018, LED daytime running lights, a panoramic sunroof, an air suspension on four-wheel-drive models, and 20-inch wheels. The Overland also comes with Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system that adjusts various vehicle systems to handle different types of terrain. The Summit and Trailhawk also have this system.
The Summit comes in at around $50,000, but you get steering-linked headlights, open-pore wood trim, a suede headliner, an 825-watt Harmon Kardon audio system with 19 speakers, parking assist, a trailer-hitch camera view, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-path detection, and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.
The Trailhawk is more off-road oriented. It gets an air suspension with additional suspension travel, red tow hooks, Selec-Speed Control that works like cruise control at very low speed for off-roading, 18-inch off-road tires, skid plates, and a black leather interior. Otherwise, it’s outfitted like a Laredo.
The Grand Cherokee SRT balances luxury with performance. It gets leather and suede sport seats, a leather-trimmed heated steering wheel, the nine-speaker Alpine sound system with active noise cancellation, the power tilt/telescope steering wheel, carbon-fiber interior trim, metal pedals, SRT Performance Pages with all sorts of timers and performance information, Bilstein adaptive dampers, 15-inch Brembo brake discs with 6-piston calipers up front and 13.8-inch Brembo discs with 4-piston calipers in the rear, 20-inch wheels, and Selec-Trac on-demand all-wheel drive.
On top of the SRT’s equipment, the Trackhawk adds suede and nappa leather performance seats, 15.75-inch front brake discs, more intakes for cooling, and the massive 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine.
The Limited is offered with the new Sterling edition to celebrate the Grand Cherokee’s 25th anniversary. It comes with platinum chrome finish on the badges, lower fascia applique, grille rings, roof rails, and fog lamp bezels. It also gets platinum tow hooks, a 25th Anniversary badge, and 20-inch wheels. Inside, it has a leather-trimmed instrument panel and center console, unique perforated seats with decorative stitching, the nine-speaker Alpine audio system with active noise cancellation, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-path detection.
Options over and above the equipment of the top models include a Blu-ray rear-seat entertainment system and a trailering package with self-leveling rear air suspension, heavy-duty engine cooling, a Class IV hitch receiver, four- and seven-pin wiring harnesses, and a full-size spare tire.
The Grand Cherokee’s infotainment technology is better than most. It features an 8.4-inch LCD touchscreen (Laredo and Limited get a 7.0-inch screen) that controls infotainment and climate systems, in tandem with voice and steering-wheel controls. Data connectivity is wired into the vehicle, bringing streaming audio capability, as well as wireless connectivity and in-car hotspot capability.
Uconnect is easier to use and quicker to learn than just about any system on the market. While it has several steering-wheel buttons, and numerous icons on its screen, it’s laid out in a clean and simple manner, the controls usually only take one step, and the screens are well-rendered. It isn't perfect, though, as voice commands aren’t always understood and it doesn’t have as much functionality as some higher end systems.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee’s fuel economy starts out at decent and falls off precipitously from there as the power goes up for the V-8, SRT, and the new Trackhawk models. Still, we base our score on the volume model, which is the V-6, and that earns it a 6 out of a possible 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
With that 3.6-liter V-6, the EPA rates the Grand Cherokee at 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 21 combined with rear-wheel drive or 18/25/21 mpg with all-wheel drive. The 5.7-liter V-8 comes standard with AWD and is rated at 14/22/17 mpg.
The SRT model features a 6.4-liter V-8, and it falls even lower 13/19/15 mpg, according to the EPA. On the road, we’ve seen worse. Those ratings are despite standard cylinder deactivation for the V-8s.
Then there’s the new Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. It's rated at 11/17/13 mpg by the EPA, which is a surprise that they've even bothered with it at all.
There is a bright light, though, Jeep said it would bring back the diesel-powered Grand Cherokee, which was the most efficient last year. It was pulled from sale last year and isn't yet available this year. Officials from Jeep have said that it will go on sale after federal regulators have finished testing. The EPA hasn't rated the diesel for 2018, but Jeep’s 2017 ratings were 22/30/25 mpg with rear-wheel drive and 21/28/24 mpg with 4WD and it has a range of up to 730 miles.
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