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2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2016

The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee premium midsize SUV is a great all-rounder. It can provide tranquil transportation to soothe the jangled nerves of the Friday night commute and then take a family deep into the woods for the weekend's camping trip. It's spacious, comfortable, capable and easily one of the top SUVs for the price.

The ability to negotiate tough terrain remains a major factor in the Grand Cherokee's appeal and an important part of the Jeep identity. There's a choice of all-wheel-drive systems, among other off-roading features, to go with a range of highly regarded engines, including a turbodiesel V6.

What's New for 2016?

Every Grand Cherokee is now slightly lighter because Jeep has installed aluminum suspension parts to replace steel components. Less weight brings benefits in fuel consumption and dynamics.

The shift lever has also changed. Drivers no longer have to select a gear by going through a stepped slot. This one just requires nudges -- push forward for park, pull back for drive and all stops in between.

With the exception of the high-performance SRT and diesel-powered versions, steering assistance now comes from an electric system. This brings an economy benefit and allows the model to be compatible with any active driver safety systems that might become available.

The 3.6-liter gasoline V6 has been updated for improvements in power and fuel efficiency, including a start/stop function. Jeep has also introduced a High Altitude trim, and the SRT receives new selectable driving modes, along with a re-designed instrument cluster housing a centrally located tachometer, because driving enthusiasts are considered to be more interested in engine speed than road speed.

What We Like

Superior off-road capability; first-rate build and interior quality; good driving dynamics; torquey and fuel-efficient turbodiesel V6

What We Don't

Indifferent fuel economy, except the diesel; diesel engine gets a little noisy; pricy upper-level models

How Much?

$30,990-$66,490

Fuel Economy

Using 8-speed automatic transmissions in every version, the Grand Cherokee starts with a 3.6-liter V6 engine making 295 horsepower (Jeep hasn't quoted any torque numbers yet, but let's assume it's slightly above last year's 260 lb-ft). There are no Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) figures so far, but this year's revised engine will improve on 2015's 17 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg combined (rear-wheel drive). With all-wheel drive, average consumption should dip by about one mpg.

A 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6 is optional in the Limited, Overland and Summit. Output is 240 hp and a muscular 420 lb-ft of torque, while fuel economy is an excellent 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined in rear-drive form or 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. In rear-drive form, this engine can tow 7,400 pounds.

Also available in the Limited, Overland and Summit is a 5.7-liter V8 that develops 360 hp and 390 lb-ft; no EPA figures yet. Last year's were: 14 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/17 mpg combined (rear-wheel drive) or 14 mpg city/20 mpg hwy/16 mpg combined (all-wheel drive). This engine can also tow 7,400 pounds.

The SRT's extreme 6.4-liter V8 rumbles with 475 hp and 470 lb-ft. Again, nothing yet from the EPA, but the 2015 model returned 13 mpg city/19 mpg hwy/15 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee is available in Laredo, Limited, Overland, Summit and SRT forms.

The Laredo ($30,990) is the entry-level model, but it still comes with a decent interior. The dashboard and door panels are mostly covered in premium materials, and the list of standard equipment is generous. This model includes 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry/start, Bluetooth, a 5-in touchscreen interface and a 6-speaker audio system.

At the Limited ($38,360) and Overland ($45,190) levels, cabin quality resembles BMW or Land Rover. Notable standard features include a power lift gate, power front seats with driver memory functions, heated front and rear seats, a rearview camera and a 9-speaker audio system. The Overland has 20-in wheels, xenon headlights, a panoramic sunroof, a power-adjustable steering wheel with wood trim, a 8.4-in touchscreen with navigation, premium leather upholstery and cooled front seats.

The Summit ($50,590) comes standard with practically every upgrade available, including adaptive cruise control, collision warning, blind spot monitoring, active noise cancellation, an extended wood trim and a 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

The performance-oriented SRT ($66,490) enjoys a 6.4-liter V8 and a lowered suspension that naturally compromises Jeep's traditional go-anywhere approach. And when it does go somewhere, it's quick.

Many features that are standard in pricier versions are optional on lower trim levels. Other extras include a rear-seat entertainment system with Blu-ray capability and a towing package.

The SRT aside, the Grand Cherokee comes with rear-wheel drive as standard. The all-wheel-drive systems on offer require some explanation.

Laredo trims feature the Quadra-Trac I permanent all-wheel drive setup.

Quadra-Trac II, with a 2-speed transfer case for greater off-road ability, can be installed in the Laredo, but is the default system in the Limited and Overland.

Quadra-Drive II is optional on all-wheel-drive Limited and Overland variants, and standard on the all-wheel-drive Summit. It adds an electronic limited-slip rear differential.

Selec-Terrain is paired with the above systems. It's a feature that has pre-programmed settings of engine response, gearshift points, suspension and hill descent control for optimum traction on tricky surfaces, such as rocks, sand and snow.

Extra comfort for all-wheel-drive versions comes from the Quadra-Lift optional air suspension that can also lower the vehicle for better aerodynamics or raise it for higher ground clearance. It operates automatically or manually.

Maximum cargo space with the rear seats folded is 68.3 cu ft. And there are two removable storage bins under the trunk floor that are ideal for muddy items.

Jeep's 75th anniversary is marked by special-edition 2016 models based on pre-existing trim levels, but adding various cosmetic differences (green paint, bronze highlights and tweaked headlamp designs) plus a few extras, such as a heated steering wheel.

A High Altitude package is based on the Overland, but has a sportier suspension tune, some cosmetic differences and several active safety features.

Safety

The 2015 Grand Cherokee features anti-lock brakes and six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side curtain), along with traction and stability control. A rearview camera becomes standard in the Limited trim. Available technologies include a blind spot monitoring system and radar-based collision alert.

In government crash tests, the rear-drive Grand Cherokee scored four stars out of five overall, although it received five stars for both front and side protection. The all-wheel-drive model's overall rating is five stars thanks to its greater rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Grand Cherokee its top rating of Good in all crash tests, except the small-overlap frontal test, where the Jeep was deemed Marginal (second-worst rating).

Behind the Wheel

On pavement, the Grand Cherokee delivers a reassuring drive, feeling nimble and responsive. The suspension is firm but not harsh, absorbing bumps quickly and confidently. With the base V6, acceleration is perfectly adequate. The diesel V6 packs a big turbocharged punch at low revs and the V8 engines are plain awesome. The SRT has an all-wheel drive system tuned especially for high performance, giving a phenomenal mix of power and grip.

Away from the pavement, the compliant suspension, all-wheel-drive ability, terrain response system and useful ground clearance (SRT excepted) all combine to make the Grand Cherokee a genuine off-roader and a true Jeep.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Ford Explorer -- The usual rival to a Grand Cherokee has become more of a crossover than a bona fide sport ute. It comes with third-row seating, and instead of a big V8, the Explorer employs a turbocharged V6.

2016 Lexus RX 350 -- The Lexus RX is new for 2016. Though it's not renowned for any off-road ability, it's one of the best-selling premium midsize crossovers.

2016 Volkswagen Touareg -- Although the Touareg can't match the Grand Cherokee's sophisticated all-wheel-drive skill set, it's still adept at medium-duty off-roading. And its on-road manners are impeccable.

Used Mercedes-Benz M-Class -- If you're willing to spend somewhere in the low to mid 30s region, a 2013 M-Class is feasible. It comes with great engines, superb build and high-class ambiance. And someone else has already taken the depreciation hit.

Autotrader's Advice

Thanks to its extraordinary fuel economy and effortless low-end torque, the diesel version is the ideal choice, but a Limited with the 3.6-liter gasoline V6 should please most people a majority of the time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee: New Car Review - Autotrader