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2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Test Drive Review
The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the brand's halo car, offering a long list of options that lets you create exactly the SUV you want to drive.
Look and Feel
Form and Function
The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee keeps its hold as a perennial favorite by offering a capable and comfortable SUV with a wide range of trims and engines to appeal to every buyer. This also makes it appeal to every wallet, with an equally wide range of prices to fit any budget.
Look and Feel
Things start with the base Laredo for $29,995 in its rear-wheel-drive (RWD) guise or $31,995 with 4-wheel drive (4WD) and go all the way up to the super high-end SRT Red Vapor, which is available only with 4WD and comes in at $64,595. In between are six other trims from which to choose.
The base Laredo comes with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that can tow up to 6,200 pounds and is paired with an 8-speed automatic. Options and features are minimal on this base trim, with just dual-zone automatic temperature control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, UConnect 5.0 with voice command and Bluetooth, and keyless entry making the cut.
The Laredo E opens up a stunning number of optional features that add both looks and utility. There’s the Chrome Edition Group, which adds chrome exterior mirrors, a bright pedal kit, chrome tubular side steps, and front and rear door guards. You can also opt for the Exterior Appearance Group, which swaps the chrome steps for black and ditches the chrome mirrors.
The All Weather Capability Group adds key features like an engine-block heater, heated front seats and steering wheel, hill-descent control, Quadra-Trac II 4WD, remote start, Selec-Terrain System, and tow hooks. The 18" Wheel and 8.4" Radio Group adds both of those options along with an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with microphone, roadside assistance, and 911 call.
The options continue with an Off-Road Adventure I Group that adds a multitude of skid plates and a full-size spare along with Quadra-Trac II 4WD, Selec-Terrain, tow hooks, and a Trail Rated badge so everyone knows you mean business.
The Trailer Tow Group IV adds a 7 and 4 pin wiring harness and receiver hitch as well as a full-size spare, and finally, there’s the Security and Convenience Group, which adds a security alarm, power liftgate, and cargo compartment cover. Heated seats and steering wheel also come with that last group, depending on the exact configuration you select.
If it seems like there’s some duplication between the options, you’re right. There is overlap so you can get heated seats, for example, in several different packages rather than only in one. It gives you a wider range of choices, but it can be a bit confusing to put all the pieces together.
Move up to the Altitude, and the Security and Convenience Group as well as heated front seats and a heated steering wheel become standard, as do an 8.4-inch Uconnect screen and power liftgate. Your only options on this trim are a reversing camera and the Trailer Tow Group. It’s unfortunate that the camera isn’t available for those first two trims.
The Limited makes the rear back-up camera, Quadra-Trac II 4WD, and Selec-Terrain system standard and adds 18-inch aluminum wheels or optional 20-inch wheels. Many of the same options on the Laredo E are available on the Limited, with the notable addition of a Luxury Group II that adds a huge list of features including ventilated front seats, 9 amplified speakers with a subwoofer, automatic high-beam headlamp control, Bi-Xenon headlamps, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, and more.This is the trim that steers the Grand Cherokee firmly toward the realm of luxury.
It’s also the start of the trims that are able to tow 7,200 pounds with 4WD or 7,400 pounds with RWD, as an optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine and a 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel enter the mix.
The Overland offers an even more comprehensive off-road package in the Off-Road Adventure II, which includes Quadra-Drive II 4WD, electronic rear limited-slip differential, and Selec-Speed in addition to skid plates and special badging. Comfort features like heated front and rear seats and steering wheel and ventilated front seats are standard.
Approaching the top end of things is the Summit, which takes all the comfort and off-road features and throws them into one fully loaded car. Your only choices here are which of the three engines you’d like and whether you want to add a rear-seat dual-screen DVD player.
Two final trims sit up with the Summit, but with a different focus. The SRT and SRT Red Vapor, which has unique interior trim, are both performance-oriented versions of the Grand Cherokee. In addition to being very well-equipped with lots of features, they get only one engine choice: an SRT 6.4-liter Hemi V8.
This huge range of trims and options means you’re able to get the Grand Cherokee as toned down or tricked out as your budget permits. Jeep is known for its off-road worthiness, but its styling and quality are comparable to that of many luxury cars.
The interior, especially on higher trims, is downright sumptuous, with lots of leather and accent stitching. Seats are comfortable and supportive, and as a great big SUV, the Grand Cherokee offers plenty of room for everyone, no matter where you sit or your size.
The folks at Jeep know how to design an interior, and this is shown off in the Grand Cherokee, with color combinations and material choices that work together beautifully. You might be able to take this out in the mud, but you’d be perfectly fine taking it out for a night on the town, too.
The Grand Cherokee's exterior looks are bold, but with enough finesse that nothing comes off as tacky. The signature Jeep seven-slot grille that was updated last year is there, but without so much chrome that it's blinding in the sun. LED tail lamps in back add a little dose of pizzazz and style and differentiate this Jeep SUV from competitors in the segment.
There are four engine choices for the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, starting with a 3.0-liter Pentastar V6. This engine offers 290 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque while achieving 17 mpg city/24 highway for 4WD models. There’s also a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 with 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque that rates an attractive 21/28 with 4WD.
Even more power can be had from a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque and a rating of 14/20 with 4WD models and, in a class by itself, the SRT. The monster SRT 6.4-liter Hemi V8 has 475 hp. Fuel efficiency for the SRT is 13/19, so that’s definitely not the choice when fuel economy is any kind of consideration.
My test vehicle came with the 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel and all that impressive torque. People tend to either love or hate diesels. Most who won’t drive them have an outdated impression of what a diesel is all about and don’t want a dirty, smelly, noisy thing that sounds like a tractor trailer in the driveway. This engine will disabuse you of those notions very quickly.
The only hint that this is a diesel is that it's slightly louder than comparable gas engines. That noise is really a factor only outside the car, as once you take a seat, the interior is well-insulated enough that you’ll all but forget you’re in a diesel. This is a well-mannered engine that could turn any gas-loving driver to the diesel side.
Especially appealing is all that torque, which made this car accelerate like vehicles half its size. There’s often a sense with large vehicles that you won’t be able to move that bulk as fast as you want in heavy traffic, but the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s EcoDiesel was incredibly responsive.
Towing capacity ranges from 6,200 to 7,400 pounds depending on the exact trim you choose, but either way, you have a vehicle that’s plenty capable of towing a decent load. It’s also a great SUV if you want to attempt to get stuck on some back road, although actually getting stuck would take some work with all the available off-road options.
Quadra-Trac I features a locking differential in the middle and a 50/50 power split front to rear. Quadra-Trac II splits torque variably from front to rear depending on traction. Quadra-Drive II adds an electronic limited-slip differential across the rear axle for even better handling on slick terrain. You can go as hardcore or as laid-back as you choose.
There’s also a Selec-Terrain feature that lets you further adjust your drive between Auto, Sand, Mud, Snow, and Rock. Whether you’re just plowing through snowy highways on the way home from the office or climbing up a muddy dirt road on a weekend getaway, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has got you covered.
During the time I had this vehicle, New England was practically buried in snow, so I really got a chance to see just how it would handle when conditions were bad. I tried out the Snow mode, but even with a good 10 inches of snow covering unplowed roads, the Jeep was fine even in Auto. It’s just that good.
Form and Function
There are some fine interiors coming from Jeep these days, and the Grand Cherokee is no exception. It also manages to do something that’s very difficult by keeping true to the rugged, off-road pedigree of the brand while providing comfort and a level of luxury.
It does this by using quality materials and by working very hard not to get fussy. The Summit is a higher trim and features embroidered seats with the Summit badge, lighted door sills and leather everywhere you look, but the muted finishes keep it from being too much.
This is balanced by buttons and knobs that are chunky and easy to grab even with gloves on your hands. There are two-tone trims, so it’s not just chrome everywhere, adding a more outdoorsy vibe. Pebbled leather is used, along with smooth leather to keep things casual. It walks the line between off-road and luxury SUV without any trouble.
The Grand Cherokee offers lots of room with no chance of rear passengers being pressed for space, but no third row is available despite its impressive size. Seats are comfortable and supportive all around, and the addition of a rear DVD player in the Summit means kids will be entertained even on long road trips. The center armrest in back also has cupholders to keep spills to a minimum.
The center armrest up front houses the DVD player, which leaves just a little space for storage, but not much. More storage can be found in the doors, and if cargo is a priority, fold the rear seats, and you'll increase cargo space from 36.3 to 68.3 cubic feet of room to hold your stuff. There’s also a retracting cover for the cargo compartment, so no one will be tempted by what they may see through the windows.
Chrysler’s Uconnect system is featured in the 2015 Grand Cherokee, and it's one of the more intuitive infotainment systems available. Options are indicated with icons that are easy to find, so you won’t often find yourself digging through menu after menu just to change a setting or access a feature.
The base system comes with a 5-inch touchscreen with AM/FM/Bluetooth functionality and voice command with Bluetooth. Optional in lower trims and standard in higher trims is an 8.4-inch screen that adds Sirius XM, HD Radio, and Navigation along with 1 year of SiriusXM radio. You’ll also get 1- or 5-year subscriptions to SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link in higher trim levels.
The base sound system features 6 speakers, while higher trims get the benefit of either 9 amplified speakers with a subwoofer or a 19-speaker Harman Kardon system with subwoofer. Those higher trims also get dual USB charging ports, an optional single-disc CD player, remote USB port and SD card slots, and even an optional rear-seat dual-screen Blu-Ray/DVD player.
The higher your trim level, the more technology features come standard and the more high-end the options. Sprint 3G data is hardwired into the Grand Cherokee, so devices can wirelessly connect to the car’s hotspot. This makes streaming audio and video to phones, tablets, and laptops easy and lets the kids amuse themselves on long trips. It also lets grown-ups stay connected and get work done no matter where they roam.
Despite the vast array of features, this truly is a clean, easy system to use. It comes back to the icons on the center display with a row at the bottom of the screen that never changes. You don’t have to constantly go back to a main menu to reorient yourself, because that row includes everything you need.
There's no shortage of safety features that help during both everyday and off-road driving in the Grand Cherokee. Many features are standard even for base trims, but the highest trims are more fully featured.
Standard in every Grand Cherokee is a 3-point center rear seatbelt, active head restraints, advanced multistage front airbags, driver inflatable knee-bolster airbags, supplemental side curtain and front seat-mounted airbags, and electronic stability control. There’s also 4-wheel traction control, rain brake support, ready alert braking, and trailer sway control.
That long list is standard, but it grows to include features like a security alarm, rear back-up camera, front and rear park assist, hill-descent control, blind-spot and cross-path detection, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, and electronic rear limited-slip differential on higher trims. The back-up camera comes in only a few trims, so if you want this increasingly standard safety feature, you'll have to go with a fancier version of the car, which is disappointing.
Driving the Grand Cherokee gives you a sense of being very much in control, even with such a large vehicle. It's stable even in high winds while on the highway, and having to make sudden turns to avoid obstacles does not cause it to sway or suddenly feel top heavy. Steering is responsive and solid at all times.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the car an overall 5 stars with every category earning a 5-star rating except for rollover, which earned 4 stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gives high marks with its highest rating of Good in all categories except for Small Overlap Front, which received only a Marginal rating.
You can get into the base Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo for just under $30K, but if you want any features, you’re jumping over that mark and going up a trim to the Laredo E. Pricing increases quickly as you move up the trims, but not without justification.
There are an astounding number of options for this SUV, and once you spend some time figuring it all out and determining which features matter to you, you can find a version of the Grand Cherokee that’s perfect. It’s not going to be an inexpensive car, but you’re going to get exactly what you want for a price far less than you'd pay for comparable vehicles.
You could look at a Land Rover LR4, but you’re going to pay a lot more for the privilege of having that badge. You could pay less and go for an Explorer, but you’re going to lose the off-road prowess that you’ve got with the Jeep.
The range of available engines includes the stellar 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 which will get you 21/28 in a 4WD vehicle. This is the option to choose if you’re concerned about fuel efficiency, plan to do a lot of towing, or do any long-distance driving. Even with gas prices down, the fuel economy of this engine is impressive. My week of primarily city driving in snowy, terrible conditions had this engine averaging 21.2 mpg, which was better than expected.
Warranty coverage includes a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, 3-year/36,000-mile basic limited warranty, and 5 years/100,000 miles of roadside assistance.
Nicole Wakelin has had a passion for cars ever since she went for a ride in a bright red Ferrari as a teenager. She writes reviews and covers everything cars for Boldride, Bestride and AutomotiveITNews, as well as blogging at SheBuysCars, GeekMom, and TotalFanGirl.
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