When it’s time to slog off to Detroit for the annual North American International Auto Show, it is best to prepare for urban combat knee deep in snow. Of course, it could also end up being sunny and 50 degrees, but that’s as likely as a genie showing up at your doorstep offering three wishes. So, prepare for the worst. I chose a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee as my long-distance comfort weapon.
It was cold, about 2 degrees when I left home, but that was no issue for the Grand Cherokee. Heated (and ventilated) leather front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel peeled off the chill within minutes. Dual zone automatic climate control warmed my bones. I plugged the hotel address into the navigation system in less than a minute, cranked up the 506-watt amp, plugged in my music player, and headed for highway. Luckily, clear sunshine warmed the interior through the dual pane panoramic sunroof.
Underway, I had plenty of time to look around the interior (while keeping eyes mostly on the road). My ride had a reconfigurable instrument cluster that can be set for a large analog speedometer or digital read-out. In the center dashboard is perhaps the world’s easiest to use infotainment system. You can control climate, audio, phone, and navigation by touchscreen with intuitive icons that lead immediately to the right screen. Or, use redundant controls below, including actual knobs for volume and tuning. If that doesn’t please you, command it by voice.
Adding convenience is an automated parallel and perpendicular parking system that guides the vehicle into spots with minimal human help. Keep safe with adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, collision mitigation, and lane keep assist systems.
To access all of that technology, one has to pass a smoothly sculpted body that could only be worn by a Grand Cherokee. Up front, Jeep’s trademark seven-slot grille is flanked by Bi-Xenon HID headlamps. The side profile is as buff as an accomplished rock climber, looking both muscular and upscale. Wrap-around rear lamps, 18-inch alloy wheels, and ample ground clearance confirm you’re looking at Jeep’s finest. It will look just as good in a ritzy car park as covered with mud or winter road salt.
You can buy a Grand Cherokee with a 5.7-liter HEMI V8, 3.0-liter diesel, or in the SRT, a 475 horsepower 6.4-liter V8. But, my personal choice was the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that delivers a robust 295 horsepower and relatively frugal 18/25-MPG city/hwy. I barely noticed the eight-speed automatic transmission working its magic, but I could have paddle shifted it if I chose. Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system adjusts the powertrain for varying conditions like snow and mud with the twist of a console switch.
I expected lots of snow, but only enjoyed long expanses of fast Interstate. In that realm, the Grand Cherokee is surprisingly smooth riding with the suspension soaking up broken Michigan pavement with no bother. The big wagon was noticeably quiet at almost any speed with plenty of power in reserve. Before my trip, I had my daughter and her car seat in the back – plenty of space for her and her princess castle in the cargo hold (especially easy with the power hatch).
Jeeps – even the Grand Cherokee – once had a reputation for being harsh-riding gas guzzlers. Thanks to architecture shared with the Mercedes-Benz GLE and Dodge Durango, not to mention an efficient powertrain, the latest Grand Cherokee is everything but. It maintains ample off-road capability, but presents as a luxury SUV in every facet of its being. Take it anywhere and feel right at home – especially in Detroit, where it was built.
A base price of $30,395, or $47,930 as-tested, puts Jeep’s flagship against the GMC Yukon, Ford Explorer, Lexus GX, BMW X5, Audi Q7, and its platform mates from Mercedes and Dodge.
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited
- Five-passenger, AWD Crossover
- Powertrain: 295hp 3.6-liter V6, 8-speed auto trans
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Comfort, Performance
- Fuel economy: 18/25 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Detroit, MI
- Base/as-tested price: $30,395/47,930