Nathan Ponchard reviews the Jeep Grand Cherokee S-Limited V8 – the last of the line of the current generation before an all-new model arrives from late in 2021.
In most instances, ten years is a lengthy lifespan in the automotive world. There are always exceptions – usually extreme ones, like the 70-Series Toyota Land Cruiser – however, for the most part, a decade on sale is an impressive innings, neatly translating to where the fourth-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee will clock off later this year.
Despite its considerable age – it was unveiled in late 2010 – the still-current Grand Cherokee has led a rather grand existence. More reliable than many of its stablemates, with a model range as broad as the Grand Canyon is deep, Jeep’s fourth-gen SUV flagship has sold up a storm both at home and here in Australia.
There have been several sizable updates to keep the Grand Cherokee looking and feeling fresh – namely in 2014 and 2017, with headline-grabbing additions like the completely bonkers Trackhawk model to keep its brand image bubbling, yet the Grand Cherokee has long been the most convincing and classy SUV that Jeep offers.
We’re still a year away from seeing the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee five-seater, though the lengthened six- and seven-seat Grand Cherokee L (the first to arrive) will reach Aussie showrooms in the final quarter of 2021, meaning what you see here will continue to be Jeep’s mainstay for many months to come.
The MY21 Grand Cherokee in question is a $72,950 S-Limited petrol, representing easily the most affordable path to owning a V8-engined Grand Cherokee. You’ll need to stump up another $23K to get yourself an SRT version, and another $44K to score the supercharged Trackhawk range-topper, which is a considerable wedge from any perspective.
But does the S-Limited V8 offer enough bent-eight brawn, or would you be better served by a same-price S-Limited turbo-diesel?
The S-Limited itself appeared in April 2019 as a limited-run variation on the evergreen Limited, boasting customary black-out visual treatment and the return of Chrysler’s 5.7-litre Hemi V8 to the Grand Cherokee line-up.
Now a full-time addition, the S-Limited is positioned between the entry-level Night Eagle ($59,950–$65,950) and the off-roady Trailhawk diesel ($75,950), and beneath the Overland diesel ($82,950).
Both S-Limited drivetrains – the 259kW/520Nm 5.7-litre petrol V8 and the 184kW/570Nm 3.0-litre turbo diesel – feature eight-speed automatic transmissions, Jeep’s ‘Quadra-Trac II’ full-time all-wheel drive system with high/low range, and 3.5-tonne towing capacities.
Huge 93-litre fuel tanks too, though the diesel’s enormous efficiency advantage (7.5L/100km on the combined fuel cycle versus 13.0L/100km for the V8) gives it a theoretical range of 1240km, making it the superior variant for long-distance towing.
The V8 has its USPs, of course, including a subtle rumble reverberating in the background and greater refinement than the diesel. But it never really conveys a feeling of genuine performance, or even low-down torque.
Lean on the V8’s bottom end and the transmission simply downshifts, masking any sense of torque-laden urge, which is perhaps no surprise when the Hemi’s Newton-metre peak happens at 4200rpm.
Yet even when you flatten it, the S-Limited V8 only gets to 100km/h in a claimed 7.3sec, which is moderately quicker than the diesel (8.2sec) but miles behind the 6.4-litre SRT V8 (4.9sec), not to mention the ballistic Trackhawk (3.7sec). Maybe it’s to do with the fact that its 259kW/520Nm outputs are forced to work so hard when lugging 2,302kg!
Despite its considerable heft, the Grand Cherokee S-Limited does manage to drive pretty well. While its steering feels over-assisted (until you press the ‘Sport’ button in the centre console), it’s reasonably precise and helps point the Jeep into corners with effortless, well-balanced ease. Its underpinnings are derived from the second-generation Mercedes-Benz ML, so that hardware (double-wishbone front suspension, multi-link rear suspension) is definitely working in the Jeep’s favour.
There’s some body roll – no surprise there – but the Grand Cherokee hooks its 265/50R20 Continental Cross Contact tyres into hard surfaces with minimal fuss and bother. That roll comes from a suspension set-up that favours suppleness over sportiness and praise Detroit for that!
The Grand Cherokee is all about smashing out big distances with loping ease, and over some of Australia’s lumpier freeways, it’s superb – especially when you consider it’s the fixed-damper variety, not the height-adjustable air-sprung set-up from the Trailhawk and Overland. And while that means there’s a fair amount of body movement over undulating dips and humps, the 2.3-tonne Jeep somehow manages to maintain its decorum.
There’s comfort inside its cabin too, with lounging, leather-clad, eight-way-electric heated front chairs (with two-position memory for the driver) and a supportive, elevated rear bench offering a great forward view (though only average legroom).
The front pair are quite commanding as well and include nifty angle-adjustable headrests, however with thick-set A-pillars and a bulging SRT bonnet, the Grand Cherokee S-Limited isn’t the easiest SUV to see out of.
As for the interior, the overall design is a decade old so it’s clearly dated but most of it works well. The digital/analogue instruments are so clear they could be seen from the next suburb, as is the centre console switchgear, and the touchscreen functionality (with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto) is a no-brainer. But the look doesn’t necessarily convey expense – something the next-gen Grand Cherokee has worked hard to fix.
The nine-speaker Alpine stereo (with subwoofer, 506-watt amplifier, and twin front and rear USB ports) sounds suitably meaty, though I’m sure the 19-speaker Harman/Kardon jobbie in the Overland is on another level. And even though the S-Limited’s whole reason for being is to simply butch-up the look of a regular Grand Cherokee, it brings plenty of standard equipment to the table.
In addition to its safety highlights (lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise, parallel and perpendicular auto-park assist, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera), the S-Limited boasts an electric tailgate (with the button mounted on the side of the luggage area, not the tailgate itself), 20-inch ‘Granite Crystal’ alloys, premium LED fog lights, dark-lens head- and tail-lights, auto high-beam, electric steering-column adjustment, Heritage perforated-leather trim, a heated steering wheel, a 220-amp alternator and self-levelling rear suspension.
Jeep now offers fixed-price servicing for the Grand Cherokee – capped at $399 per service – with 12 month/20,000km recommended service intervals and lifetime roadside assist if you service at a Jeep dealer. The warranty on offer is five years or 100,000km, whichever comes first.
Even taking into account its considerable age, the Grand Cherokee S-Limited V8 is a likeable SUV. Firstly, it still drives surprising well and its ride quality rarely fails to impress. It’s comfortable, solid, imposing, and has the ability to tackle off-road adventures with greater dexterity than most.
It’s also different from the large SUV norm, even though it’s ultimately not that different from when it launched in Australia way back in 2011, and that individuality definitely counts for something. But its rather subdued 5.7-litre V8 doesn’t bring enough hustle to the hoedown, making the much-torquier, same-price 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 S-Limited a much more intelligent choice.
If you really want a V8, the more expensive Grand Cherokee SRT packs a lot more bent-eight flavour. And if you want to tow, the diesel wins every time … which leaves the S-Limited Hemi V8 stuck in no man’s land.
It’s an intriguing SUV but also kind of irrelevant. Perhaps the all-new fifth-generation Grand Cherokee will better-utilise the Hemi V8’s undoubted talents.
Photography by Ellen Dewar
Variant tested S-LIMITED (4x4)
Key specs (as tested)
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