The next five years shall see 12 new models being launched in India by the Italian American Goliath – Fiat Chrysler. They plan to enter the Indian market with the Jeep brand by 2015. The group plans to initiate the launch with the compact SUV Fiat Avventura and the luxury toy Abarth 500. The next year, Fiat Chrysler will introduce the long awaited Jeep Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee models, along with the Punto Abarth. The company plans in importing the Wrangler whereas the Grand Cherokee and the Punto Abarth will be locally manufactured.
There are big cars, BIGger SUVs, Land Rovers and then there’s the Jeep Grand Cherokee. You may drive by in a GL Class, or an X6 , Q7 or even a Freelander, but none of them would pop eyeballs, drop jaws or draw drooly dreamy stares to the extent that a Cherokee does with the least bit of effort and that isn’t even stating it in the right manner.
The Grand Cherokee will make you raise your eyebrows all the way up and leave your mouth – a gaping ‘O’ simply by the aesthetics of its visual proportions. It is BIG to begin with, only a tad, unnoticeably smaller than the Q7 (surprisingly) at 4821 mm and stands well over 1730 mm tall, and almost 2 metres wide! The form and stance make it appear big and it commands an impressive road presence even on a two lane. The surface plays are simple and strong with the slightest hint at well shaped muscles – the strong and square wheel arches add to the visually wide proportions. The details add to the elegance and the bling reflects exclusivity and class. There is quite some chrome in prominent places like the iconic Jeep seven slit grille and the massive 20″ wheels. There are further chromed details in the headlamps, fog lamps and the front bumper. The clean cut new age headlamps give it a very finished, crisp look. There is chrome badging along both sides, and quite some more on the door handles, roof rails, rear bumper, loading bay sill and rear details. The Big Jeep gives off an aura of premium and exclusive ownership – and whoever steps up to it shall entertain no doubts about it.
The interiors will be more than a pleasant surprise as soon as you open the door and get inside. The 2014 Cherokee shows that Jeep has seriously levelled up with the upmarket quality of its interiors. Grained wood panels and one of the most pleasant to touch leather linings adorn the doors and dashboard. Everything is crisp and clean without the usually “crowded with buttons” feel one comes across in expensive cars especially the uncluttered and clear central console. A large 8.4″ touch screen display with brilliant graphics, controls majority of the Jeep’s assortment of impressive features like dual zone climate control, heated and ventilated seats, audio equalizer controls, and Jeep’s volumes of safety driven features. The console offers USB, Auxiliary and Storage card input. The centre console, with analogue dials on both sides displaying vehicle information. One can switch from a kmph dial to an mph one, and have multiple modes for trip data, off road settings where you see information on suspension settings, steering angle, power transmission info, tyre pressure, and much more.
The steering wheel is electrically adjustable and sports the same elegant wood and leather finish as the rest of the interior panels – along with a lot of buttons – 22 in all. Audio controls, cruise control, adaptive cc, and Bluetooth Call handling.
A rich to feel and hold T-shaped gear selector adorns the transmission tunnel, with controls for off-road modes, a Range Roverish rotary dial selector for terrain modes and controls to raise and drop the air suspension. The highest setting lets the Cherokee stand a foot off the ground level. Hill descent control is also one of the numerous drive settings available.
The greenhouse sports a massive double panorama sunroof and provides the rear passengers with the luxury of rear aircon controls, seat warmers and two extra USB ports. Material quality on the overall being good, the plastics do not quite match the quality of the same in its German competitors.
The Cherokee is powered by a 3.0 litre V6 diesel driven Heart, designed by VM Motori , Italy – partly owned by Fiat. The 8 speed ZF transmission is simply brilliant and provides for some of the smoothest shifts. Steering Mounted paddle shifters come stock but are rather pointless because of the sheer brilliance of the smooth transmission unit.
Despite the weight – a hefty 2.4 tonnes – the Jeep with its immaculate combination of a diesel and the intelligent transmission box delivers 9 kmpl in the city and 12 kmpl on the highway. A long range of 900 kms on a single tank of petrol with 93 litres thrown in.
Along with the power and sustenance, the Jeep sports hefty brakes that have a progressive deceleration and makes driving more confident.
All in all the Jeep Grand Cherokee is every bit an impressive SUV both on and off the road. A lot of its built credit goes to the fact that it sports a modified and rebuilt 2012 Mercedes Benz ML Class platform. However where on one hand, despite the undisturbed confident and strong drive it provides for on smooth roads , it eventually shows its limitation on the not so smooth, rutted ones and is dominated slightly by its German competitors, the Jeep at heart is still a true blue off-roader and comes alive with a surprising gusto once you take of the tar and into its playground.
The Cherokee can be expected to be made available by Fiat between a slightly expensive price tag of INR 60-65 lakh by the year end, which is not all that expensive if you understand the deal you would be making by bringing home this impressive composition of luxury, drive quality, plain and bold good looks, imposing form, the capability of an accomplished off roader and its key advantage over its competition – the distinct presence of the soul and character of a Jeep.