Last month, my husband and our two kids, ages 2 and 5, landed at T. F. Green Airport south of Providence, Rhode Island, for a family vacation (I use that term loosely) to Cape Cod. My mom and sister-in-law were also in tow from Atlanta, and the rest of my husband’s family would be meeting us on the Cape. I reserved a 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel for my foursome, and we were excited to make the 90-minute trek to Dennis, Massachusetts, in the Jeep and live with it for a week.
Traveling with little kids is no joke. They require a lot of stuff to get them from point A to point B. We flew with two ginormous convertible car seats and two umbrella strollers, forgoing our large double stroller since we didn’t think it’d fit in the Grand Cherokee’s cargo area with all our luggage (we made the right decision, as it turns out).
One thing I dread in every new car I drive is installing my kids’ safety seats. It fills me with anxiety, because I know the fight that’s about to go down: mom versus car seat (I can’t tell you how many times the car seat has won that battle). I was especially nervous because I needed to install them with my kids sitting right there, waiting in the hot sun, immediately after a 2.5-hour flight. Sounds like fun, right?
Thankfully, Mom prevailed this time. Our car seats utilize the ClickTight system, which involves threading the shoulder belt through the seat and clicking it into place (as opposed to many seats that use the LATCH system). In many cars, the seat belt receptacle is rigid and recessed, which may look cleaner than the exposed and flexible ones, but boy does that make it hard to install a child safety seat. Thankfully, this is not the case in the Grand Cherokee. I was able to install our seats quickly so we could be on our way.
Power and Stuff
Pairing my phone was super easy, and I was reminded how much I like Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system with its tabletlike, 8.4-inch touchscreen. It’s the single most user-friendly, intuitive system on the market, in my opinion. My husband, who’d never used it before, was able to navigate it within minutes. The interior of the Jeep was gorgeous, with rich brown leather seats, a wood-and-leather-wrapped steering wheel and soft-touch surfaces everywhere.
Driving the powerful Grand Cherokee with its 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel engine was mostly a positive experience — although, if you’re someone who’s never driven a car with a diesel engine before, it takes a little getting used to. There’s more power when you initially accelerate, so it may feel jerky, but eventually you’ll like how quick it feels, especially when that power still gets you around 28 miles per gallon on the highway! The only negative was trying to find a gas station with a diesel pump before we left the island. It took three stops, but we finally found one. It’s definitely something to consider before you invest in a diesel-engine car for the long haul.
Ups and Downs
As we lived with the Grand Cherokee for the week, there were some additional pluses and minuses. If you’re a family of four with two car seats in the back and you occasionally have an extra person to shuffle around, you may think you need a 3-row SUV. That may be true typically, but as it turns out, the Jeep’s second row was pretty roomy, and my sister-in-law (who is a relatively small adult) was able to squeeze between the two child seats for short rides.
On the negative side, that gorgeously rich brown leather I mentioned showed every last speck of dirt, especially little sandy footprints from toddler shoes as they climb into their car seats. Thankfully, those footprints wiped away fairly easily!
I wasn’t expecting the constant flow of compliments from various restaurant valets on the color of the Jeep. Velvet Red Pearl is definitely a hot hue, according to the guys at the Ocean House in Dennis Port.
In the end, the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel was a great SUV for a week on the Cape, especially with the region’s often rocky terrain. It was comfortable for my family, both on short trips around town and on longer drives to and from the Rhode Island airport. Assuming you don’t need to drive a fifth person around on a regular basis, the Grand Cherokee is a solid option for a small family (albeit expensive at $60,080 as tested). You may also want to think through the diesel option (a cost of $5,000) based on your wants, needs, budget and location.