The 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee – now available with Trailhawk badging and all that it confers – is what it has been for decades. It’s a beefy wagon, moderately priced, not particularly fuel efficient, but more capable off-road than any non-Jeep SUVs aside from the Land Rover/Range Rover line. It’s also quite luxurious and comfortable on pavement. But it’s the Grand Cherokee’s ability to leave the pavement that sets it apart from practically everything in its class.
No wonder the Grand Cherokee continues to sell well in what has been a down year for Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep brand. With overall Jeep sales down 15 percent as of March 1, sales of the Grand Cherokee have risen 11 percent.
We test-drove a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4, base-priced at $43,095. The Trailhawk badge denotes maximum off-road capability, and this car has it: an air suspension that can increase its ground clearance to 10.8 inches; multiple drive settings, each designed for different terrain; low-range gearing; tow hooks; underbody and transfer-case skid plates; fuel-tank skid-plate shields; and hill ascent and descent control. Available engines range from a 3.6-liter, 295-horsepower V-6 like the one in our test car; a choice of two powerful Hemi V-8 power plants; and a torquey 3.0-liter diesel. All Grand Cherokees are equipped with 8-speed automatic transmissions.
We grudgingly kept our Grand Cherokee on pavement, and found it handled as well as can be expected in a vehicle designed to deal with almost any terrain. The interior was quiet except for a soft “boom” the rear suspension emitted when we crossed suspension joints on the highway.
Our major beef with the Grand Cherokee was predictable: its fuel economy was mediocre at best. Although rated at 18 mpg city, 25 highway, the best we could do was 19 to 20 mpg in mostly highway driving. The EcoDiesel version is reputed to reach 30 mpg, but diesel-powered Grand Cherokees cost more and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a Notice of Violation against Fiat Chrysler over possible Clean Air Act violations involving this engine.
The test car’s Uconnect touch-screen infotainment and climate-control screen was easy to operate, and the interior was roomy and comfortable. The heated and cooled front seats were soft yet supportive.
The base Grand Cherokee Laredo, with rear-wheel drive, starts at $30,395. With options that included a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, parallel and perpendicular parking assist, and blind-spot and cross-path detection, the sticker price came to $50,220.
The Grand Cherokee comes in a wide variety of flavors, reaching a base price of $50,495 for the Grand Cherokee Summit. For drivers who want something rugged, but perhaps a little smaller and more fuel-efficient, the Cherokee starts at $23,695 and is available in Trailhawk trim.
While the 2017 Grand Cherokee was rated “Marginal” in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s tough small-overlap crash test, it received 5-star ratings across the board in government crash tests.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 295 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic
Ground clearance: 8.6 in.
Weight: 4,677 lb.
Suspension: Quadra-Lift adjustable air suspension
Wheels: 18×8-in. off-road aluminum
Tires: P265/60R18 all-season all-terrain
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 36.3 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 68.3 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 6,200 lb.
Fuel capacity: 24.6 gal.
Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline