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2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Test Drive Review
You want an SUV that can go anywhere at any time. But you need an SUV that’s easy to drive on the daily. Luckily, few models can match the multi-talented 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Americans love SUVs for many reasons. After all, they’re ready to do what we want, when we want, and where we want. Not all SUVs, however, are created equal. Some are great on the pavement but can’t tackle anything more difficult than a 6-inch snowfall. Others are great off the pavement but are terrible tools for daily driving. The 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee is that rare SUV that performs admirably both on and off of the road. But it is flawed nevertheless.
Look and Feel
Although it is a decade old, the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s styling has aged remarkably well. From its classic 7-slot grille and trapezoidal wheel arches to its traditional greenhouse and multitude of aluminum wheel designs, the Grand Cherokee exhibits attention to balance, proportion, and detail.
The Laredo trim kicks things off at $31,945 plus a substantial $1,495 destination charge to get the Jeep from the Detroit factory where it is built to wherever it is that you live. If you want 4-wheel drive (4WD)—which is the point of buying a Grand Cherokee in the first place—you’ll need to lighten your bank account by another $2,000.
Beyond Laredo, the Grand Cherokee is offered in 11 additional trim levels. Some are about style (Altitude), some are about improved off-roading capability (Trailhawk), some are about luxury (Summit), and some are about outrageous performance (Trackhawk). Buy the 707-horsepower Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, add all of the options, and you’ll drive home in a Jeep priced over $100,000.
My test vehicle cost half that. It was the Grand Cherokee Limited X, a new version for 2019 equipped with the performance vented hood from the SRT and Trackhawk trims, revised front and rear bumpers, unique 20-inch wheels with matte-finish paint, and special heritage-pattern leather seats. The test vehicle had 4WD, a full-size spare tire, a 9-speaker Alpine sound system upgrade, and the Advanced Active Safety Group, bringing the grand total to just over $50,000.
Inside, the Limited X’s perforated leather, dark headliner, and gray trim pieces gave the cabin an upscale appearance. Grand Cherokees do, however, come with plenty of hard plastic panels and surfaces. This, combined with a cold-weather squeak from the driver’s door panel, a loose-feeling center console storage lid, and an insubstantial-feeling turn-signal stalk, left me feeling dissatisfied with the interior materials and build quality of my test car.
Most versions of the 2019 Grand Cherokee feature a 3.6-liter V6 engine making 295 horsepower. This is plenty, but if you’d prefer more, you can upgrade to a 360-hp 5.7-liter V8, a 425-hp 6.4-liter V8 in the Grand Cherokee SRT, or the Trackhawk's 707-hp supercharged 6.2-liter V8.
An 8-speed automatic transmission powers the rear wheels. Depending on the trim level, one of three 4WD systems is standard or optional. My Limited X test vehicle had Quadra-Drive II, an active full-time system with a 2-speed transfer case offering electronically activated 4-Lo gearing. This, combined with 8.6 inches of minimum ground clearance, Selec-Terrain driving modes related to surface conditions, and a hill descent control system, meant that—despite its 265/50R20 all-season tires—the Limited X was ready for action.
Even if you don’t have plans to take a Grand Cherokee off-road, I recommend the 4WD system. Without it, this Jeep’s rollover resistance rating is a mediocre 3 stars. With it, you improve your chances of staying rubber side down with a 4-star rating.
The added weight and driveline friction do, however, penalize fuel economy, knocking the city and highway figures down 1 mpg each. The combined driving rating, however, is unchanged at 21 mpg.
Based on my experience, that 21-mpg rating is a figment of someone’s imagination. The Grand Cherokee averaged 18.3 mpg on my testing loop, and a week of city-heavy driving put the Jeep at 17.4 mpg after more than 500 miles of driving. And yes, these figures are for the V6 engine.
On pavement, the Grand Cherokee feels invincible. This SUV pounds holes, bumps, and cracks into submission. You do get bounced around a bit, but that’s part of the fun of driving a real SUV instead of one of those high-riding station wagons (also known as crossovers).
Acceleration is robust, and handling is better than expected. The steering is on the heavy and slow side, but the Grand Cherokee's tight turning radius makes U-turns and parking easy. During testing in the mountains, however, repeated hard use of the Grand Cherokee’s brakes during a long descent rendered them unable to perform a panic stop. So take it easy when going downhill with a full load of people, cargo, or a trailer.
You can solve for this by choosing the SRT or the Trackhawk versions of the Grand Cherokee, which get major braking system upgrades. I spent a couple of days with the Trackhawk prior to getting into the Limited X and was left astounded by what Jeep has done in terms of tuning its 707-hp, Hellcat-powered Grand Cherokee.
That added performance comes at a cost, of course. The Trackhawk starts at $88,395, and the one I tested averaged 13.1 mpg. But it was truly a logic- and physics-defying vehicle, and I mean that in the best of ways.
Form and Function
As a 5-passenger midsize SUV, the Jeep Grand Cherokee feels roomy enough for a family. My test vehicle’s power-adjustable and heated front seats were comfortable, and the surfaces you’re most likely to contact are either soft or shaped in ways that should eliminate discomfort.
Backseat occupants with long legs, however, will not like the Grand Cherokee’s hard plastic front-seatback panels. They're painful, especially down low, where they’re most likely to contact a rear passenger’s shins. Otherwise, passengers sit high with good thigh support, and my test vehicle included air conditioning vents, dual USB ports, and a 115-volt power outlet.
Storage space is not as generous as you might expect, given the Grand Cherokee’s adventuring capabilities. Aside from the center console storage bin and dashboard, you’ve got cup holders, a small covered tray forward of the shifter, and rather insubstantial door-panel bins. Jeep does, however, provide thoughtful shopping-bag hooks on the front-seatback panels.
Cargo space is on the stingy side, too, though it is usefully shaped. Behind the rear seat, the Grand Cherokee supplies 36.3 cubic feet of trunk volume. Fold the 60/40-split folding rear seats flat, and you can fit up to 68.3 cubic feet of cargo into this Jeep.
Standard equipment for the Grand Cherokee Laredo includes a touchscreen infotainment system with a 7-inch display.
Available as an option for the Laredo trim, and standard for all other Grand Cherokees, a new version of Jeep’s Uconnect technology provides a more sophisticated appearance, improved graphics, and faster response to inputs. It includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, voice-recognition technology, and a navigation system.
Pairing my iPhone XS to Bluetooth was no trouble at all, and it was easy to make and receive calls. The voice recognition system is excellent, finding local dining favorites, gas stations, and other points of interest without trouble. Programming my home address required specific voice prompts to get started, but the system had no trouble recognizing my Spanish street name and plotting a route home.
My test car had a 9-speaker Alpine premium audio system that sounded good. Higher-priced versions of the Grand Cherokee are available with an outstanding 19-speaker Harman Kardon system. The Trackhawk test vehicle had this setup, and it absolutely rocked.
Although the Grand Cherokee’s underlying design and engineering are old, it offers modern driver-assistance and collision-avoidance technologies. From standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert to available semi-autonomous parallel and perpendicular parking assistance, you’re unlikely to want for more.
My test vehicle had the Advanced Active Safety Group package, which installs the parking-assist system as well as adaptive cruise control with full stop, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and rain-sensing wipers. These features worked as advertised, and in subtle enough fashion that a driver is likely to keep them engaged.
That’s good, because the worst thing about the 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee—even more than its lousy gas mileage—is how it protects occupants in a collision.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives this SUV a Marginal rating for small-overlap frontal-impact protection for the driver and an even worse Poor rating for small-overlap frontal-impact protection for the front passenger. Add the unimpressive 3-star rollover resistance rating issued to rear-drive Grand Cherokees by the federal government, and you’ve got one of the least-safe SUVs on sale today.
A Grand Cherokee’s cost-effectiveness correlates directly to the version you buy.
Choose a Laredo with 4WD, the Laredo E and X Packages, and the All-Weather Trail Rated Package, and you’ve got a go-anywhere and do-anything SUV with extra frills for less than $41,000.
Half of the Grand Cherokee's trim levels feature MSRPs between $40,000 and $50,000. Among this group, CarGurus recommends the new-for-2019 Limited X variant, which best represents where value, style, equipment, and capability intersect within the Grand Cherokee lineup.
Beyond the mid-priced sextuplet of Grand Cherokees, a luxurious Summit with 4WD, a V8 engine, and ultra-premium leather costs more than $65,000. And then, of course, you’ve got the SRT and Trackhawk.
Personally, I think the Grand Cherokee makes the most convincing argument for itself when it wears a window sticker of less than $50,000. Furthermore, the value in the Grand Cherokee largely resides in its off-roading capabilities, which makes the rear-drive models nothing more than price leaders.
No matter which version you’re considering, though, you need to carefully consider the Grand Cherokee’s crash-test ratings. Most SUVs will protect you better in a collision, so why take the gamble? After all, anyone who’s been to Las Vegas knows that gambling isn’t a cost-effective solution to anything.
And don’t forget that a Grand Cherokee, even with the V6 engine, quaffs fuel like Sinatra did martinis. While gambling. In Vegas.
Christian Wardlaw has nearly two decades of experience reviewing cars, and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, Autobytel, and J.D. Power and Associates. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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