The Jeep that costs as much as a BMW

The Jeep that costs as much as a BMW

Jeep’s first seven-passenger Grand Cherokee hopes to challenge Europe’s big prestige SUVs. Here are five things you need to know about the L Summit treetop reserve.

You will be doing a double take at the price

Jeeps is asking $125,000 to hunt this flagship. It’s BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Audi Q7, Range Rover Velar or Land Rover Defender/Discovery money – established prestige names. Grand Cherokee Ls start at around $90,000 on the road, but this top of the line isn’t called Summit Reserve for nothing. It’s a leather-lined luxury multi-purpose Jeep. Seating seven, some serious off-road capability and this 5.2-meter brute has some presence outside and inside.

There are levels of luxury and space oligarch yacht

The aggressive looking exterior gives way to a cabin of sumptuous opulence. There’s a big leap forward in class over previous Grand Cherokees, which helps mitigate that price drop. The ventilated, electric, massaging quilted leather seats are great for long drives – I highly recommend the “climbing” massage. Elsewhere there are open-pore walnut wood trim, knurled metal rotary dials, a crisp digital pilot display and 19-speaker McIntosh sound. After a week-long family test, we named it the American Range Rover. Kids loved the power-folding second- and third-row seats, but didn’t appreciate the internal cameras monitoring their behavior. At this price, Jeep asking more for a head-up display and wireless phone charging is cheeky.

There are changes for better and for worse

Grand Cherokees are popular tow vehicles, but this new version is courting the urban classes rather than the touring classes. The older 184kW/570Nm diesel with 7.5L/100km economy has been dropped, leaving only a more thirsty (10.6L/100km) 210kW/344Nm V6 petrol. A frugal plug-in hybrid is planned this year, but only in the five-seat version. As for towing, the old rating of 3500 kg has disappeared. There is now a maximum of 2813 kg for the Night Eagle and Limited grades, and a measly 2268 kg for this Summit Reserve. If you need to transport your three-ton yacht, look elsewhere. Positively, Jeep has upped the safety game with a full suite of driver aids, including rear cross-traffic alert, advanced automatic emergency braking and a 360-degree camera. That’s hugely important for family buyers, along with roomy seating for seven (adults fit in the back row), smart storage and a generous 487-litre boot with seven seats. Limiting the five-year warranty to 100,000 km is stingy.

This one has all the off-road kit, but would you use it?

The Summit Reserve is the only grade to mark Jeep’s complete off-road package, but how many buyers will care? A two-speed transfer case glides it into low range with barely a glance, while air suspension provides a whopping 276mm of ground clearance and 610mm of wading. Other grades have only permanent 4 wheel drive, 215mm and 530mm respectively. My off-road test showed it had great climbing ability, but its long wheelbase meant regular bumps under the bodywork. The 21-inch polished alloy wheels and road tires don’t look bushy either. This summit reserve seems more at home on a wine route than a muddy one.

There’s good news and bad news on the driving fronts

Although its cornering skills can’t challenge a BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne, the 2270kg Jeep feels secure, steers with precision and controls body roll well. It cruises serenely and the smoothness of the eight-speed auto, but you miss the torque of a big diesel engine. The gasoline V6 has a muscular sound and is suitable for the city, but it lacks punch and drank 12L/100km during our test. The paddle shifters are the smallest I’ve ever encountered, the brakes felt spongy, and Jeep’s “active lane management” beeped incessantly at every opportunity, even when I was driving between the white lines. Luckily, this behemoth has a self-parking system to protect its pretty panels.