The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to be a strong contender in the premium midsize SUV field. Before this year, it was already a great all-arounder — spacious, comfortable and capable, and easily one of the top SUVs for the price.
The Grand Cherokee is appreciated for providing tranquil transportation, soothing the jangled nerves of the Friday night commute before taking the family deep into the woods for the weekend’s camping trip.
An ability to negotiate tough terrain is a major factor in the Grand Cherokee’s appeal and an important part of the overall Jeep identity. There’s a choice of all-wheel-drive systems — among other off-roading features — to complement a range of highly regarded engines, including a turbodiesel V6. For this year, though, the Grand Cherokee has turned a different corner.
What’s New for 2018?
The Trackhawk version. If the 475-horsepower SRT version sounds too tame, the Trackhawk has 707 hp to help boost the share prices of performance tire manufacturers. A 7-inch infotainment screen replaces last year’s 5-in version, while Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration has become available.
What We Like
Superior off-road capability; build and interior quality; driving dynamics; torquey and fuel-efficient turbodiesel V6; the sheer nerve of making a 707-hp SUV.
What We Don’t
Indifferent fuel economy for all engines except the diesel one; diesel engine gets a little noisy; pricey upper-level models.
Using 8-speed automatic transmissions in every version, the Grand Cherokee starts with a 3.6-liter V6 engine making 295 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts consumption at 19 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined for rear-wheel drive. With AWD, those numbers are 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined.
A 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6 is optional in the Limited, Overland, Trailhawk and Summit versions. Output for this engine is 240 hp and a muscular 420 lb-ft of torque. There are no 2018-specific EPA figures, but last year’s rating was 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/25 mpg compbined with RWD or 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined with AWD. We don’t expect anything drastically different this year. In RWD, this engine can tow 7,400 pounds.
Also available in the Limited, Overland, Trailhawk and Summit is a 5.7-liter V8 that develops 360 hp and 390 lb-ft. EPA figures are 14 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/17 mpg combined in AWD. This engine can tow 7,200 pounds.
The SRT’s 6.4-liter V8 rumbles with 475 hp and 470 lb-ft. Fuel consumption is 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway/15 mpg combined.
The Trackhawk has a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 generating a massive 707 hp and 645 lb-ft of torque. It’s not exactly a fuel sipper: 11 mpg city/17 mpg hwy/13 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee is available in Laredo, Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit and SRT forms.
The Laredo ($31,690) is the entry model, but it still has a decent interior. The dashboard and door panels are mostly covered in premium materials, and standard equipment is generous — including 17-in alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, fog lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated side mirrors, a tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, a 7-in touchscreen interface and a 6-speaker audio system with two USB ports and an auxiliary audio input.
At the Limited ($39,290) level, cabin quality resembles a BMW or Land Rover. It’s also eligible for the 5.7-liter V8. Notable standard features include a power lift gate, 18-in alloy wheels, 8-way power-adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory functions, heated seats in the front and rear, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, a 115-volt outlet and a 9-speaker audio system with satellite radio.
The Overland ($46,090) has 20-in wheels, rain-sensing wipers, xenon headlights, a panoramic sunroof, a power-adjustable steering wheel with wood trim, LED daytime running lights, fog lights, an 8.4-in touchscreen with navigation, premium leather upholstery and cooled front seats.
The Trailhawk ($44,390) is described by Jeep as the most capable Grand Cherokee ever. As well as specialist tires, the AWD system comes with low-range gearing and an electronic limited-slip rear differential, the air suspension is adjustable, and this model also has skid plates, hill ascent/descent controls, dedicated off-road-applicable instruments, power-folding side mirrors and various styling touches inside and out.
The Summit ($52,090) comes standard with practically every upgrade available, including adaptive cruise control, collision warning with emergency braking, front parking sensors, self-parking functionality, lane-departure monitoring, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, active noise cancellation, extended wood trim and a 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
The performance-oriented SRT ($68,490) enjoys a 6.4-liter V8 and a lowered suspension that naturally compromises Jeep’s traditional go-anywhere approach. But when it does go somewhere, it’s quick.
The Trackhawk ($88,090) sports 20-inch wheels shod with high-performance rubber and upgraded hardware to cope with the forces this thing can generate. It also has suede and Nappa leather upholstery.
Many standard features in pricier versions are optional on lower trim levels. Other extras include a Blu-ray rear-seat entertainment system and a towing package.
Trailhawk, SRT and Trackhawk aside, the Grand Cherokee comes with RWD as standard. The AWD systems on offer require some explanation.
Laredo trims feature the Quadra-Trac I permanent AWD setup.
Quadra-Trac II, with a two-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 AWD Limited and Overland variants and standard on the AWD Trailhawk and 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 like rocks, sand and snow.
Extra comfort for AWD 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 36.3 cu ft. behind the second seating row. Two removable storage bins under the trunk floor are ideal for muddy items.
The 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 is standard in the Limited trim and up. Available technologies include blind spot monitoring 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 AWD model’s overall rating is five stars thanks to its greater rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Grand Cherokee its top rating of Good in all crash tests except the tricky small-overlap front crash test, where it was deemed Marginal (the institute’s 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 turbocharged punch at low revs; the V8 engines are out-and-out awesome.
The SRT has an AWD system tuned especially for high performance. The result is a phenomenal mix of power and grip. The Trackhawk turns up that intensity to 11. It has the same incredible engine as the Dodge Challenger/Charger Hellcat cars and can sprint from standstill to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds — Porsche 911 territory. Not even the BMW X5 M has that kind of power (it has “only” 567 hp). And naturally, the selectable driving modes include a track setting, plus a user-customizable setting and a valet mode that disables launch control and limits engine speed to 4,000 rpm.
Away from the pavement (the Summit model is too luxurious to earn Jeep’s “Trail Rated” accolade), the compliant suspension, all-wheel-drive ability, terrain response system and useful ground clearance (SRT and Trackhawk excepted) all combine to make the Grand Cherokee a genuine off-roader — a true Jeep.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Dodge Durango — A 7-seater based on the same platform as the Grand Cherokee but far more suited to on-road driving than getting muddy with its Jeep cousin. It’s pretty good at what it does, though.
2018 Chevrolet Traverse — All new for 2018 and super-spacious.
2018 Ford Explorer — This is the usual rival to a Grand Cherokee, but it has become more of a crossover than a bona-fide SUV. Comes with third-row seating, and instead of a big V8, the Explorer employs a turbocharged V6.
2018 Land Rover Discovery — There’s a new generation expected for 2018 that will use a unibody construction instead of the old-school ladder-frame setup. It should be impressive, given Land Rover’s all-terrain pedigree.
2018 Toyota 4Runner — Perhaps not up to Jeep standards, but the 4Runner is no slouch away from the tarmac.
Used Mercedes-Benz M-Class — Spend somewhere in the low- to mid-30s region, and an M-Class (now the GLE-Class) is feasible. Great engines, superb build, high-class ambience — and someone else has already taken the depreciation hit.
Opt for an Overland if you’re not going over land but sticking to the pavement. Or go with a Trailhawk if there’s some off-roading to be done.