Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland
It’s not every day one gets invited on a 4×4 adventure for which the organiser stipulates strict off road vehicle credentials – one’s that make Australian immigration requirements look like a preschool entry exam.
I buzzed with excitement as I rang up local press fleet managers to see what rugged, manly, overcompensating 4×4 I could organise to show off on my adventure into the KZN Midland’s.
Alas, a Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland was all I could muster – a vehicle that, in my mind, had already got stuck at the mere sight of a rutted road, never mind the mountainous landscape I was so eager to encounter on my journey.
Upon the vehicle’s arrival my fears only worsened. This big American brute, with its massive alloy wheels and smatterings of chrome cladding, shows little sign of being born for anything more than kerb hopping in Sandton. That said I wouldn’t complain having one parked in my drive. The facelift-style updates invoke images of Jeep designers rubbing L’Oreal Revitalift into the old Grand Cherokee’s pores, along with a heavy dose of testosterone for good measure.
Hop inside the cabin and you’re met with that familiar sensation of being sat in a Lazeboy rather than an SUV, however you’re surrounded by sumptuous leather, brushed aluminium and wood inserts which no longer resemble cheap tat. It’s no Mercedes inside here, but it’s a stark contrast from older models. You’ll also notice vast improvements in overall space inside the cabin, especially rear leg room.
What should make Mercedes shake in their boots a little is the standard equipment on offer with the Overland, including niceties such as a panoramic sunroof, automatic tailgate, heated seats, park assist with rear view camera, keyless functionality and a touch screen entertainment-system-come-sat-nav.
Out on the road the Overland has also made decent strides in feeling more like a car and less like a hover craft (for those that don’t know anything about the manoeuvrability of hover crafts, it’s pretty diabolical). Jeep managed to wangle one or two development tricks out of Mercedes while they were under DamilerChrysler ownership, leading them to a very clever air suspension system including a fully independent set up front and rear that has vastly improved road holding. Click into Sport mode and the vehicle hunkers down, the traction control dials out and most of the torque is directed to the rear wheels to encourage enthusiastic driving.
Off the road, Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II system (as it’s known) runs very much along the lines of the one used by Land Rover. Four different settings (five if you include Sport) perform electronic witchcraft that enables the Jeep to overcome any terrain you might encounter. Thanks to that air suspension the vehicles ride height varies with each setting, moving by as much as 104 mm. A low range ‘box and electronically limited slip differentials are also at the ready, along with little cameras positioned all round the exterior to give you a detailed view of otherwise unseen obstacles.
In short the combination is quite brilliant. The Overland overcame everything my Midlands adventure could muster, in some instances making it seem quite the meander in fact. The off road enthusiasts, who showed up looking like Kingsley Holgate at the launch of a gruelling expedition, were made to look rather silly while standing around in a huddle calculating the best route through each obstacle, as the Jeep (piloted by myself, with my limited off road experience) plundered up and over without incident.
The power for such tomfoolery comes from a typically American 5.7 litre Hemi V8. As you’d expect the figures aren’t that impressive, with 259kW and 520Nm resulting in a sluggish 8.6 seconds to hit 100km/h. Not that this makes the slightest difference when you can lounge in the driver’s seat, bury your right foot in the plush carpet and simply enjoy the bone shaking roar of some good old American muscle – I could have been going backwards for all I cared.
Given the world’s focus is now somewhat greener, Jeep has been looking for creative solutions that would align the Hemi with this philosophy. One such solution comes in the Multiple Displacement System which shuts down four of the eight cylinders when they aren’t needed. Their efforts result in a claimed consumption figure of 14.1 litres/100km, which if I’m honest is probably not going to be achieved with every day driving. None-the-less their efforts are duly noted.
Jeep has indicated that this is the most capable and luxurious Grand Cherokee ever produced – and I must agree. The Overland maintains the fiercely imposing nature we’re accustomed to with the Grand Cherokee, while most importantly addressing the quality issues of its predecessor. Personally I feel the petrol powered V8 is impractical in a country where fuel prices are soaring, however the competitive pricing and exceptional all round capability make this Jeep a winner.
Price: R 638,990
Engine: 5.7 litre V8
Power: 259 kW
Torque: 520 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 8.6
Top speed (km/h): 225
Fuel consumption (l/100km): 14.1 (claimed)