History has a way of repeating itself. My last review was on the descendant of the progenitor of all 4WDs and now I’m looking at a vehicle who can trace its roots back to the first-ever compact SUV.
The Grand Cherokee Overland is the result of this other “first” for Jeep.
According to former car executive Bob Lutz, who worked, headed and chaired in all America’s Big Three motor companies, American Motors Corporation (AMC) invented an all-new automotive segment, the compact sport utility vehicle with the Jeep Cherokee two- and four-door models.
He said this in a book he wrote that has an awkwardly long title, as most business related auto-biographies are wont to do, so I’ll just let you dear reader take my word for it.
AMC owned Jeep at the time and after its introduction of the Cherokee in 1984, it launched the Grand Cherokee almost a decade later in 1993.
Like its predecessor, the fourth generation Grand Cherokee Overland has a unibody construction. Just like the Wrangler, it boasts a 3.6l Pentastar V6 VVT engine that generates 284 horses at 6,350rpm and 347Nm of torque at 4,300rpm.
Though from my experience with this SUV, the engine seems to be tuned to be more nippy and agile than the Wrangler’s.
It had good acceleration making over-taking a breeze on the highway and the SUV felt for more nimble and agile than its brute of a brother.
I think this was also partially due to the SUV’s air suspension system which, according to blurb, raises and lowers the vehicle at highway speeds to help reduce drag.
You can also manually operate the Quadra Lift system depending on your needs. You can make the wheels rest almost on its arches to aid loading stuff into the back, or in my case, a very pregnant wife in the front (bless her). You can also raise it by up to 66mm to tackle obstacles offroad, but I’ll get into that later.
What I found good about the SUV in city traffic was that it felt and behaved more like a sedan than a truck. Making U-turns was a breeze as it has a relatively tiny turning radius and its power steering was tight and very responsive.
Maybe a bit too responsive for me as I’m used to vehicles needing more grunt to turn.
I had a few hairy experiences trying to fiddle with the radio while driving. All it took was a slight nudge of the wheel as I leaned over to swap from the unbearably “pop” station that always seems to be tuned into the radio of every test car I drive to something more pleasant to switch lanes.
This would not be a problem for me after more experience with the SUV but it is something to think about if it is your first time driving it.
Talking about the radio, the Grand Cherokee Overland sports a mean entertainment system.
It has an Alpine nine speaker system attached to a 7-inch multi-view display that controls the vehicle’s entertainment as well as its communication, navigation and climate control systems.
What makes it cool for me, is that you can pair it to two different devices via Bluetooth, meaning that you can have your phone connected and your MP3 player as well.
I had it set up to receive calls through my phone and play music from Spotify on my tablet.
The sound system does seem a bit bass heavy which is cool if you’re listening to rock or hip-hop, but not so cool for instrumental or jazz but that could just be me being incompetent with the equalizer.
But seriously, prepare your eardrums when your favourite artist decides to “drop the bass”.
My fillings are still rattling after a particularly heavy rendition of “Highway Star”.
For something this ultra-luxe I decided to drive to Cameron Highlands to have Earl Grey tea and scones, because that’s what posh people do, and the 400km return trip to Kuala Lumpur would give me a good estimation of what the Grand Cherokee was like.
What I found on my drive was that the Grand Cherokee made for a very comfortable cruiser.
It can be fast if you need it to be, but the default drive experience was of having one hand on the wheel, the other resting on the side while you listened to your favourite tunes the SUVs pumping sound systems.
While it is a very large vehicle, at cruising speed (circa 120kph) it is very responsive, nimble even, so navigating through the thick week-end traffic on the North-South Highway was a breeze.
Once we turned off from the highway at Tapah on the old trunk road leading up to Tanah Rata was when the Grand Cherokee came into its own.
The windy road leading up into the highlands was a dream to drive with this vehicle.
I have moaned many times in the past about sun-roofs being redundant in Malaysia’s hot and sticky climate, but this was the one time where a sun-roof seemed rational.
Cool air plus smooth driving leads to a happy car reviewer!
The Grand Cherokee performed well along the twisty road heading up into the highlands.
The car took corners in its stride making each turn seem to melt into the next.
Don’t get me wrong, there was no high revving engine nor screeching of tyres.
This SUV makes you want to savour the scenery and contemplate the road as you travelled onwards.
We decided to drive up Gunung Brinchang when we hit Tanah Rata to take the car through its motions. Just then the sky opened up and pelted us with buckets of rain, and I was glad that Ringlet was a couple of clicks behind me.
I have to give it to the Grand Cherokee, it took the tight and narrow semi-flooded road up to the peak in its stride.
At no point did I feel that my vehicle was going to lose control of the situation regardles of the water and loose gravel.
After out water-logged trip to the top and a few oohs and ahs at the scenery, we meandered back down the road to Tanah Rata for our afore-mentioned scones and tea.
All in all, I was very impressed with the Grand Cherokee.
In my previous review of the Wrangler, I said that it was a bit over-priced for its category. In the case of the Grand Cherokee, I would say that it is considerably under-priced.
For all its capabilities plus its bells and whistles, you would expect a price tag of at least RM100K if not more than its RM468K price tag.
Its imposing looks, performance and features places it in a class above its price tag and I do feel that many Malaysians would agree with if they gave it a chance. - NIKLAS ALBAKRI