The refreshed Grand Cherokee’s luxurious Summit trim level is everything I want out of an SUV.
– Detroit, Michigan
The Grand Cherokee has long been my favorite entry in the Jeep lineup – yes, I love the Wrangler, but I wouldn’t want it as an everyday car – and the new 2017 Summit version only cements that opinion. It’s the most luxurious version yet of Jeep’s big two-row model, with goodies like LED headlights, 20-inch wheels, Nappa leather, and an acoustic-insulated windshield highlighting the features list. That pushes its as-tested price up to a healthy $60,675, compared to the Grand Cherokee’s entry price of just $30,295. Like all other versions of the Grand Cherokee, it does everything I ask of it without fuss and, thanks to the Summit treatment, with plenty of plushness.
- It’s extremely comfortable. With active noise cancellation technology to complement the thicker windshield, as well as the squishy air suspension, the Grand Cherokee Summit does an exceptional job of keeping its occupants shielded from the sounds and sensations of the outside world. The Jeep has all the refinement of luxury crossovers, though at times the big wheels can crash over really harsh impacts.
- The old-fashioned shifter in the center console may look boring, but it works every time. I liked the look of Jeep’s electronic gear selectors, but I also could never get them in the right gear on the first try; the government says the controls were so confusing they led to hundreds of crashes. Every time I shuffle between gears to parallel park or get out of a parking spot, I really appreciate the simplicity and ease-of-use of this design.
- It’s really solid and satisfying from behind the wheel. The strong (295 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque) Pentastar V6 works well with the smooth eight-speed automatic to deliver the responsiveness and power I need for everyday driving. Well-weighted steering and surprisingly well-controlled body motions also make the Grand Cherokee plenty satisfying to drive around corners; forget your preconceptions about big, heavy Jeeps rolling like boats around entrance ramps.
- Air suspension is just plain cool. You can lift up this Grand Cherokee if you’re going off-roading, which I, like most owners, did not. But the Jeep also hunkers down slightly at high speeds to improve highway aerodynamics, and when parking to make getting in and out a little bit easier. The only downside? A loud whirring from the air compressor when you park and get out of the car.
- It’s a pain to close the liftgate. Bear with me for what probably sounds like a “first world problem.” On most vehicles, there’s a button on the lower edge of the liftgate to operate the power-close function – it’s just above your head when the cargo area is open – that instantly commands the motor to start closing. But Jeep puts the button at the left of the cargo area, and it doesn’t activate unless you hold the button for a beat or two. Again, it sounds petty, but it bugs me every time I have to get stuff out of the Grand Cherokee.
- As much as I like the Pentastar engine, it’s thirsty when pulling this 4,952-pound Grand Cherokee. Though the EPA promises 21 miles per gallon combined, I rarely saw more than 20 indicated, even after stints driving on the highway. It’s a good reminder that the Grand Cherokee offers a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that returns much better fuel efficiency; though 2017 numbers aren’t out, the 2016 Grand Cherokee 4x4 EcoDiesel was rated at 21/28/24 mpg.
- It’s certainly not cheap. The Grand Cherokee Summit is a fantastic vehicle, but the $60,675 as-tested price of this model could get you in German luxury crossovers, albeit with fewer options. When a base Grand Cherokee starts at half this price, the Summit feels like an expensive indulgence.
Photos: Jake Holmes / Motor1.com