It’s been 25 years since Jeep released the first Grand Cherokee and in that time, a lot has changed. The SUV went from niche to mainstream, from rugged off-roader to wagon on steroids, but the Jeep, as is its wont, hasn’t changed quite as much. And that’s worth celebrating.
Engine: 3.6-liter V6
Output: 295 hp, 260 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 8 Speed Automatic
Fuel Economy (MPG): 19 City, 26 Highway
Fuel Economy (l/100kms):12.7 city, 9.6 highway
Price (USD): $47,820
Price (CAD): $52,845
Obviously, Jeep agrees, because the new for 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Sterling Edition celebrates the Grand Cherokee’s 25th anniversary, and it’s a nice reminder of the SUV’s off-road roots, and why those roots are still relevant on the road today.
Jeep, as you might expect, is happy to remind you of this history by festooning the Sterling Edition with badges and frills to remind you just how special your new Grand Cherokee is. Taken together, the standard badging, the 9-speaker Alpine audio system, the heritage seats, the 20-inch wheels and everything else combine to make this new trim level cost about four grand more than the Limited trim. It’s a simple trim package that amps the comfort up slightly while also playing up the brand’s off-road heritage.
To be honest, though, this model is about as likely to really go off-roading as a Trackhawk is likely to hit the track. Sure, they’ve both been designed to theoretically go to those places, but in practice, no one’s risking their very-expensive paint, brakes, or tires by actually taking them there. The closest a Trackhawk is getting to a track is a good on-ramp and the closest a Sterling Edition is getting to off-road is climbing a curb to avoid mall traffic.
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But that doesn’t make designing them to accomplish those tasks ridiculous. Making vehicles too good for the road means that they’re good enough for owners. And while I don’t necessarily object to benchmarking SUVs on a racetrack, there are distinct advantages to benchmarking them on rutted, muddy paths.
The Grand Cherokee’s heritage—as its Heritage seats and 20-inch Heritage wheels term it—is in the impassable quagmire of dense forest. It might not be the original SUV, but the Grand Cherokee is likely the vehicle that brought the segment to prominence. And that heritage means not just a vehicle that can handle itself off-road, but one that’s comfortable on road, too.
So many cars want to fool you into thinking they’re sporty that hard, uncomfortable suspensions have become the norm. But who cares about taking an on-ramp at a million miles an hour when you have kids or friends in the back seat and precious cargo. All a rough ride is going to achieve is the creation of a mess. The Grand Cherokee is softly sprung because its paths are uncomfortable. Combined with the big, couch-like seats mentioned above, it makes for a soothing ride that lends itself to long drives or congestion-induced waits in traffic.
Along with that, FCA’s UConnect is among the simplest, easiest-to-use infotainment systems on the road. The Sterling Edition comes standard with Jeep’s now larger 8.4-inch touchscreen, but it also has big chunky buttons that can be used with gloves on. The advantage of that is easy-to-find buttons which are useful off-road. It’s also wildly useful on-road where menus and anything that takes your attention away from the road for more than a split second is dangerous, too.
Short overhangs—the same short overhangs that give you 24-degree departure angles—mean that fitting heavy cargo into the back easy. It does mean, though, that the Grand Cherokee’s 36/68 cubic feet (1,028 liters/1,934 liters) of cargo capacity is less than impressive as compared to the competition. A Ford Explorer offers considerably more (43/80 cu-ft, or 1243/2314 liters though it is a three-row) and that’s quite the disadvantage, but something like the Dodge Journey which offers 33.1/67.6 cu ft (1,122 l/1,914 l) cargo capacity, leaving the Grand Cherokee within the “acceptable” range.
Up front, meanwhile, the short overhangs caress a standard Pentastar V6. The requirement that it be able to pull the Grand Cherokee’s heft out of deep ruts means that it feels torquey and quick producing a reasonably 295 hp and a healthy 260 lb-ft of torque. The 8-speed automatic transmission, meanwhile, could accurately be described as a dog. It doesn’t so much feel like an automatic as it feels like a manual being operated by someone who’s never used a clutch before. Off the line, the car shudders, shattering the illusion of luxury that the ride and the seats, and the decent leather had been working to cultivate. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh to the transmission, but it was harsh to me.
Fuel economy isn’t great, either. Rated at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway (12.7 liters per 100 kms city and 9.6 liters per 100 kms highway ), we observed as little as 16 mpg (about 14.7 l/100 kms) in the real world (admittedly traffic-filled) driving. The fuel needle seems to spin counterclockwise faster than an Australian toilet.
The illusion of luxury is also hampered by an interior that, while nice, is only that. Hard plastics and other cut corners compete with the nice sound system and the rear-seat entertainment to make for an interior that’s as luxurious as Anna Delvey is rich (that is to say only superficially convincing). Outside, meanwhile, the Sterling Edition’s badging, tow hooks, fog light bezels, grille, and roof rails are all finished in something that Jeep generously calls “platinum chrome.” Not shiny enough to be either chrome or platinum, it looks like these were all painted a dull silver. It’s fine, I guess, but hardly feels worth mentioning as a feature.
This isn’t supposed to be the top of the line model, though. Our model cost $47,820 ($52,845 in Canada) letting the Sterling Edition sit right in the middle of the range. It certainly has enough standard features to be worth the premium over the Limited trim ($38,495 in the US, $48,195 in Canada), but it becomes a little harder to justify when compared to higher trims. The Trailhawk, for instance looks a little cooler and features the Quadra-Lift air suspension, but only costs $1,000 more, making it a more attractive offering.
The Verdict: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review
Overall, though, it’s a nice package and it’s a nice reminder of why the true SUV is an idea worth holding onto. Walking the line between comfort and capability, the Sterling Edition is a fine tribute to the original Grand Cherokee. It just might not be the finest.
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