Road Tests

First Drive: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee

More luxury, more power, more Jeep-ness

Jeep has found the goose that lays golden eggs with year after year of successive growth. Last year alone, the brand sold more than a million units globally, a first for Jeep. This year, the company foresees it eclipsing that number, thanks in part to a set of refreshed-for-2017 Grand Cherokee trims  we sampled in the mountains just outside of Los Angeles.

At a small off-road park nestled in the Malibu Mountains, the company introduced three refreshed trims: a more luxurious Summit aimed at taking on more premium offerings like BMW’s X5 and Audi’s Q7; the Trailhawk, the most rugged and capable Grand Cherokee the company has ever offered; and the Grand Cherokee SRT, the company’s most potent offering that can embarrass SUVs like the X5 M and the Mercedes-AMG GLS63 not only with its comparatively low price but also due to its staggering performance abilities.

We started our reintroduction in the 2017 Grand Cherokee Summit. Actually, we started in the Summit’s back seat, as the Summit is supposedly the most luxurious vehicle ever offered by Jeep and we thought it was only right to be driven around like a dignitary for our first foray. And after only a handful of minutes around the sweeping curves and oceans vistas near Malibu, we were blown away by the Bentley levels of opulence that can be had for less than $60,000.

Indulgently soft diamond-quilted leather and faux Alcantara is used liberally throughout the Summit’s cabin. Touching it is like dipping your hands in melted chocolate—smooth and warm. The cushioning, especially in the three-abreast rear seats, feels bespoke to your backside, making occupants want to be driven rather than drive—similar to a Rolls-Royce. Jeep also increased the amount of acoustic glass, insulating passengers further throughout the lineup.

We left the impressive interior of the Summit to swap keys for the 2017 Grand Cherokee SRT, a 475-horsepower speed freak that defies the laws of physics with its high center of gravity and colossal 5,104-pound curb weight. Come to a complete stop on a level surface, depress the brake, activate launch control, and the Grand Cherokee’s V-8 will send you to extra-legal speeds in the blink of an eye; this is a perfect tool for heading to Costco via the drag strip.

More impressively, though, when we reached a particularly winding section of road, the Grand Cherokee SRT hooked up, tilted slightly, but rocketed us through, bouncing off curbs like a DTM race car. It sent our occupants side to side as the SUV goaded us into pushing the envelope further past our comfort point.

After our romp through the hills, we were left with the thought, “This shouldn’t be able to do what it just did.” We absolutely whipped the Grand Cherokee SRT through the rolling hills and tight turns near Mulholland Highway, a favorite among motorcycle riders because of its tight set of switchbacks.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT rear three quarter

We couldn’t help but think that this Grand Cherokee SRT is just a placeholder for the Hellcat-powered Grand Cherokee Trackhawk that we caught testing recently. If the Grand Cherokee SRT is already this good, we can’t wait to see what 707 horsepower and a host of other performance changes does to this wicked-fast grocery getter.

But a Jeep’s soul doesn’t really wish for strictly on-road shenanigans. These vehicles are meant for dirt, mud, and for crossing rivers, and that’s where the 2017 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk aims to make its mark across the lineup. With a revised and more rugged air-suspension, the 2017 Trailhawk lets owners go anywhere they wish in a plush and comfortable cabin.

Jeep graciously provided a few Grand Cherokee Trailhawks for testing on an off-road trail that ranged from an easy yet rocky climb to a heavily rutted section that helped illustrate why it included all-new underbody shielding for the trim. The trail also featured a near sheer demonstration using the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk’s hill-descent control. Nothing along our route was able to flummox the Trailhawk, and we couldn’t ask for a more comfortable ride over bouncy terrain.

With such a diverse array of obstacles, and the fact that the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk performed so admirably, it’s easy to see that Jeep’s engineers aren’t resting on their laurels and just refreshing the Grand Cherokee’s looks. They’re continually improving the Grand Cherokee’s winning formula so it can be cross-shopped with higher classes of vehicles.

Jeep’s Grand Cherokee has come to represent the brand’s crown jewel, a nameplate that shows the world what Jeep is capable of when it’s allowed to swing for the fences. These refreshed models—the Summit, Trailhawk, and SRT—prove that Jeep has the ability to build not only the most capable factory SUVs like the Wrangler but SUVs that can compete with the best German produced products as well.

Pricing for the Grand Cherokee starts at $31,290, but the Trailhawk starts at $43,990, the Summit trim will set buyers back $54,390, and the SRT a whopping $67,790. The refreshed trims will show up in dealerships later this year.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Specifications

On Sale: Fall 2016
Price: $31,290 (base)
Engine:

3.6 DOHC 24-valve V-6/293 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 260 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm,

(SRT) 6.4-liter 32-valve V-8/ 475 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 470 lb-ft @ 4,300 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine FWD or AWD
EPA Mileage: 19/26 mpg (city/hwy FWD) 13/19 mpg (city/hwy SRT)
L x W x H: 191.3 x 67.6 x 77.1 in
Wheelbase: 114.8 in
Weight: 5,104 lb
0-60 MPH: 7.1 sec (base), 4.6 sec (SRT)
Top Speed: 118 mph (base), 157 mph (SRT)

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Buying Guide
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EPA MPG:

19 City / 26 Hwy

Cargo (Std/Max):

36 / 68 cu. ft.

Seating:

5/5