The task was relatively simple, dodge the airport and drive south to the Victorian capital instead of suffering the stress of packing into a big bomber for a flight to the Australian F1 Grand Prix.
Some thought we were mad, a boring cruise down the speed-restricted Hume Freeway or an hour or so on the Flying Kangaroo. But there was more to it than that. We had a pushbike to take down to do some rides while in Bleak City, luggage and cameras and all the things needed for four days at the GP. So what to take?
Well, the bike and gear dictated it had to be more than a hot hatch and lets face it the easy curves and cruise control demands of the Hume virtually ruled out a hot hatch or a sports sedan.
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee Overland ticked all the boxes, big enough to take all the gear, economical thanks to the frugal turbo-diesel V6, and with enough grunt to maintain interest but not to arouse the ire of the boys in blue.
The Overland was loaded, ready to go, fuelled for the 900 odd kilometres ahead hitting the road before dawn and arriving fresh and relaxed in Melbourne a touch over nine hours later. It was the perfect choice and one that endeared itself with its comfort, easy loping performance, quietness and great sound system.
Jeep has really hit its straps in Australia over the past couple of years thanks to value for money pricing, a revitalised product line up and Chrysler’s strong sales and marketing push. The Grand Cherokee is almost outselling Toyota’s popular LandCruiser Prado this year (5131 sales vs 5640, as of April), an indication of its acceptance by the market.
A derivative of Mercedes M-Class the Grand Cherokee benefits from that lineage which came as a result of the old Daimler Chrysler tie up. Chrysler’s new spouse, the Fiat group, is the source for the the common-rail turbo-diesel V6. It makes us wonder whether Chrysler is like a predatory serial monogamists picking up valuable dowry from every relationship it enters.
The 3.0-litre V6 engine received a makeover for the latest model, with maximum power boosted by 7kW, to 184kW, and torque rising to a very respectable 570Nm. The biggest improvement came with the introduction of the eight-speed ZF auto, which gives the perfect shifts and enables the engine to always stay in its best torque window.
The Overland wears a price tag of $71,945, plus on roads and dealer deliveries, and that is a pretty good proposition particularly when compared with its direct relation, the ML from Benz.
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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland CRD – THE SPECS
Engine: 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6
Output: 184kW@4000rpm / 570Nm@2000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: Quadra-Trac all-wheel drive
Wheels: F: 20×8.0, 265/50 R: 20×8.0, 265/50
ANCAP: Four stars (scored 29.95 out of 37)
Kerb weight: 2327kg
Power-to-weight: 12.6:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 7.5L/100km
Economy during test: 8.2L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 93L/Diesel
Power efficiency: 24.5kW:L/100km
0-100km/h as tested: 8.3 seconds
Priced from: $71,945
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland CRD – THE PACKAGE
The equipment levels on the latest Jeep GC Overland are impressive and also had a boost with the 2014 update, particularly in terms of safety.
As well as the seven SRS airbags carried over from the previous version (dual front, front side, side curtain and a driver’s knee airbag) and stability control, the new Grand has been given forward collision warning with auto brake, blind-spot monitoring and active cruise control to lock on to the car in front, which we find intensely annoying and frustrating.
As previously mentioned the big boost for the 2014 GC is the addition of the impressive ZF eight-speed auto, which benefits both performance and fuel economy.
Inside the cabin the US-designed Overland boasts a very satisfying array of creature comforts, including power leather front seats, leather rear seats with heated seating front and back, climate control split air-conditioning, a powered tailgate, reversing camera, auto xenon headlights, keyless entry, and 20-inch alloy wheels. Add in auto wipers and a sunroof and you have yourself a pretty pleasing equipment list.
The dash, instruments and audio/ air-conditioning controls benefit from a large touch-screen which is both easy to read and easy to use. All of this just adds to the GC’s value for money proposition, which might sound strange with a $72k machine but this is measures up well against Euro SUVs and most particularly when it comes to price.
The Overland doesn’t boast a third row of pop up seats like many of its opponents so it is strictly a five-seater, which may or may not suit you depending on your needs. Having said that the comfort levels are very high and good NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) makes this a very pleasant place to spend a few hours on a long drive, or for that matter, around town in traffic.
We’ve heard some criticism of the GC for being too American when it comes to the interior but American cars aren’t what they used to be and the interior in the GC is finished beautifully with lovely touches, such as the contrast stitched leather on the dash and trim, to really subtle mood lighting that even illuminates all the nooks and crannies without being intrusive. In terms of fit and finish, again US cars aren’t what they used to be. The weight of imports on the US market has forced the big three to lift their game and besides, our right-hand drive Jeeps are built in Austria, so this is close to being a German car.
There are myriad cup holders and storage spots all over the cabin, and with the rear seats folded down there is a huge amount of room in the back for such things as bicycles and luggage. Even with the seats up there is no shortage of space in the rear luggage compartment (782 litres), which is accessed via the push button electric tailgate. With the seats down the luggage capacity is vast (1554 litres), enough for a racing bike and all accouterment for a week at the GP.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland CRD – THE DRIVE
A blast down the Hume may not be every motoring journos idea of a thorough test but lets think about what most buyers of an SUV like this are really seeking. Jeep GC buyers aren’t going to give two hoots about powering into a series of switchback corners at near race pace and worrying about how much understeer is generated.
The reality is that most buy this vehicle for its room, available off-road capacity, cruising capabilities and the economy of the diesel engine which also adds to its towing capabilities – another important purchasing criteria for many.
Assessing the Overland on this basis means that it ticks all the boxes and does all of the jobs really well. Cruising down the intensely policed Hume Freeway with the actual speed locked in at 110km/h on cruise control and the indicated speed showing a shade under 120 (verified by GPS) allowed an excellent, comfortable journey, with the fuel being sipped at a shade under 9L/100km. The fuel economy allowed the Jeep to get to Melbourne easily on a single tank of diesel (93L).
The one annoying part of the transmission is the selector. The latest ‘electronic whizz bangery’ has made this hard to use. It’s fly by wire and it’s not a positive shift. You can’t click it back four notches and ‘feel’ you’re in Drive. Instead it is vague and can, particularly when maneuvering, be a little frustrating.
So to the foot-operated parking brake, which is annoying to use and really is a throwback to a past engineering doctrine. Electric park brakes are everywhere these days so get with it, Chrysler. The pedal can also be intrusive on legroom, depending on your stature.
The steering is nicely weighted and assisted, and even when the road gets a bit twisty it still works very well. It is not an F1 racer, or even a sport sedan so don’t expect it to be. This is a big, reasonably heavy two-tonne-plus SUV, but it can raise its skirts and run hard when required.
The Overland is a haven of quietness on the highway, and with the stereo on feeding some calming ‘cruise’ tunes there is precious little noise from the outside world that gets in to annoy.
There is no escaping the Overland is a SUV, it sits high off the ground as a consequence, and while we didn’t test it off road, it does have the ability to raise and lower the suspension to suit road conditions. The system can give up to an extra 65mm of ground clearance for heading bush. Sitting so high means at times it is not all that easy or elegant to climb into and out of.
In terms of performance we timed 0-100km/h in 8.2 seconds. It’s not cracking pace but it is decent for an entry-level sports car, and great for a large SUV. We also managed an average economy of 8.2L/100km during our mostly-highway-driving test.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland CRD – THE VERDICT
The Grand Cherokee isn’t perfect, but it is very good in many areas and while ultimately it may not handle like a sedan, few could ride beside it when it heads for the bush.
An SUV will always be a bit if a compromise, any car is in the wrong conditions, but the fact is the Overland is better than most. It can handle a fair pounding off road, but is comfortable, roomy, frugal, well-equipped and very capable on road. So in real terms for those with hearts set on an SUV the Overland is not too much of a compromise.
Above all the price makes the Grand Cherokee a hell of a choice and buyers are clearly voting with their feet.
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– Excellent value for money
– Nice design
– Luxurious but practical and roomy interior
– Comfortable and quiet
– Reasonably fuel efficient
– Excellent turbo-diesel and eight-speed auto
– Annoying gear selector
– A bit of a climb into the cabin
– Foot-operated parking brake
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland CRD – THE COMPETITORS
Ford Territory Titanium AWD
2.7-litre turbo-diesel V6 – 140kW-440Nm – 9.0L/100km – 2167kg – from $59,990
Holden Colorado 7 LTZ
2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder – 147kW-500Nm – 9.2L/100km – 2205kg – from $50,490
Mitsubishi Pajero Exceed
3.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder – 147kW-441Nm – 9.0L/100km – 2347kg – from $73,990
Nissan Pathfinder ST-L
3.5-litre V6 petrol – 190kW-325Nm – 10.2L/100km – 2025kg – from $54,490
Toyota Prado VX
3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder – 127kW-410Nm – 8.5L/100km – 2425kg – from $78,990