There have been varying ways to describe different Jeep offerings over the years. Rugged, capable, and versatile are among the favourable choices. But luxurious?
The purveyor of off-road vehicles and more recently, garish family haulers, is eagerly aspiring to luxury praise with the latest variant of its Grand Cherokee SUV, the Summit Platinum. Earlier Jeeps may have flirted with the title, but applying it to the Summit Platinum would surely vindicate its $78,000 (plus on-road costs) price tag. As it stands the supporting marketing rhetoric already purports to have "luxurious comfort and supreme refinement" from the five-seater juggernaut.
Jeep's secret ingredient is not so much what the newly appointed flagship model exhibits on the road, but what it manages to hide. New active noise cancellation software – similar to that found on expensive headphones – is claimed to deliver a 10-decibel reduction in ambient engine noise inside the cabin. An acoustic front and rear windscreen and acoustic second-row door glass reinforce Jeep's sound mitigation attempts.
And they've succeeded. The technology impresses with its ability to insulate occupants from the outside elements; a technological play on an old luxury car trait, if you like. On a recent extended highway journey, road noise and wind noise were suppressed from outside the cabin, making for a serene driving environment.
There are also other areas of the Summit Platinum that bring seemingly unparalleled levels of comfort and luxury to Jeep's largest offering. The muted interior lends greater clarity from the epic 825-watt, 19-speaker Harman Kardon speaker system, complete with three subwoofers and a 12-channel amplifier.
Standard comfort aids include heated leather seats all round (the front seats with electric adjustment), a heating steering wheel, a sunroof, auto-dimming rear view mirror, puddle lights, keyless ignition and start, dual-zone climate control, electric tail gate … the list goes on. There are even dual rear seat screens to watch movies.
Outside, 20-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights and adaptive bi-xenon headlights seal the deal.
It is the sum and packaging of these products that endow this Grand Cherokee with unprecedented comfort and cachet. Is it luxurious? Absolutely, but it's no Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
The new model also rides and handles with impressive dexterity.
Surprisingly manageable bulk
The Grand Cherokee partly belies its sheer size on the road with the help of light low-speed steering and a surprisingly manageable 11.6-metre turning diameter. Large side mirrors and a suite of driving aids such as front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera and blind spot monitoring further accentuate this character trait. Seven airbags, stability control, ABS and traction control ensure a five-star safety rating.
Standard air suspension is soft and cushioning on the open road, reflecting sharp inconsistencies into the cabin without being crashy. But at speeds below 50km/h the ride feels brittle, with most undulations thudding through the cabin and interrupting the serenity. The low-speed ride is one minor mark against an otherwise endearing drive experience.
Look beyond the technological wizardry though and you'll discover the real highlight: the Summit Platinum's Italian-built 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel engine. The 184kW/570Nm oil burner sends drive to all four-wheels via an eight-speed automatic.
The secret weapon
Mustering its full complement of torque from 2000rpm, it will happily shift the Grand Cherokee's 2300kg mass around town without fuss, ambling along to a brute oil-burning soundtrack . But call upon the engine with added urgency and it responds with strong and willing performance. Triple figures are notched in a claimed 8.2 seconds, meaning getting up to highway speeds and performing overtaking manoeuvres requires little more than a gentle squeeze of the accelerator.
The engine is capable of such progress in part because of its matching eight-speed transmission. It provides a broad spread of ratios and moves between them with perceptible smoothness, meaning you won't feel as though you're back and forthing all day. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and Sports mode can offset the transmission's natural tendency to push for a higher gear in the name of fuel efficiency, which averaged out at about 8.5L/100km on test.
The Summit Platinum also bears the hallmarks of the Jeep brand with its standard off-road credentials. The air suspension leverages the Jeep's ground clearance to five different heights ranging from 181mm to 287mm. Hill descent control, a two-speed transfer case and 25-degree approach angle, an 18-degree departure angle and 23-degree breakover angles. There's also a five-stage off-road function (but we'll reserve judgement on that equipment for another time).
Interior packaging is another inherent strength of the Summit Platinum. Soft-touch materials, ambient blue lighting, Alcantara surface treatment, a leather-stitched dashboard and elegant chrome inlays are all tastefully presented. The standard 8.4-inch touchscreen, housing functions such as Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, also minimises switchgear clutter. There are acres of space and excellent adjustment across both rows of seating, as well as the generous 782-litre boot (to the roof). About the only packaging gripe is the clunky foot-operated parking brake, which teeters precariously above the driver's shin.
While on face value the Summit Platinum feels solid and luxurious, question marks still linger over its long-term reliability. The Grand Cherokee (current and past models) was the most recalled vehicle in Australia last year, amassing six separate notices in 12 months.
The challenge moving forward is for new variants like the Summit Platinum to leave its own positive impression. Jeep appears to have started on the right foot.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Platinum
On sale: Now
Price: $78,000 plus on-road costs
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel
Power: 184kW at 4000rpm
Torque: 570Nm at 2000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, AWD
Fuel use: 7.5L/100km combined