The Jeep Grand Cherokee L Is Better Than A Range Rover – & Half The Price
Back in the 60s, long before Land Rover came out with the Range Rover, Jeeps like the Wagoneer represented a certain type of all-American luxury. They were bigger, comfier and more capable than any other car on the road (if not the planet). They acted their size. The new Grand Cherokee L is a return to that grand tradition.
The ‘L’ in the name stands for ‘Long’ and appropriately, it’s a long-wheelbase version of the new WL Grand Cherokee. Compared to the outgoing WK Grand Cherokee (which was and is Jeep’s best-selling vehicle in Australia), it’s 383mm longer and 41mm wider. It’s proper big, like the old Wagoneers.
Indeed, it’s the first seven-seater Jeep has offered in Australia since the Jeep Commander in 2006. It’s a savvy move, seeing as the demand for seven-seater SUVs has never been higher – and there are few other seven-seaters as capable or luxurious as the Jeep Grand Cherokee L.
And that’s really the thesis of this review. The Grand Cherokee L is a huge step up for Jeep in terms of quality, luxury, capability, aesthetics (and price, to be fair). Let’s be clear: this car isn’t competing with Nissan Patrols, Toyota Land Cruisers or Ford F-150 King Ranches. It’s competing with Land Rovers and Range Rovers. And in that sense, it weighs up pretty well.
I had the chance to drive the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L on a mixture of highways and some fairly serious bush tracks just outside of Batemans Bay on the New South Wales South Coast, and I was very impressed. (Would also like to give props to Jeep Australia for allowing us to really test their vehicles – the fact we were allowed to go so hard on such difficult trails says a lot about their confidence in their new car.)
While the Grand Cherokee L was comfortable and well-mannered on the tarmac, it’s off the road where it really shined. Now, most Jeep customers – like most Land/Range Rover customers – will never take their Grand Cherokee L anywhere close to off-road. But the fact that it’s so proficient when tested is still very impressive.
Despite its length and weight (just under two and a half tonnes!), the Grand Cherokee L scampered up and down steep slopes, big mud puddles, deep ruts and craggy rocks in a rather nimble fashion, despite shod in only highway terrain tyres. Its revvy 3.6L V6 petrol engine, while hardly the best-sounding donk on the planet, proved to be more than capable of getting the big car out of tough situations.
Whether you’re on or off the road, the Grand Cherokee L’s beautifully designed interior, with comfy quilted leather seats, tastefully executed open-pore wood trim and solid switchgear – including a real metal dial shifter – is a sumptuous place to be.
Multiple times during the trip I had to pinch myself. This is an American-made car? You could easily be fooled into thinking you were in a Land Rover or Lexus. The fit and finish is so good; it’s so luxurious and handsomely designed. It’s kind of mind-boggling.
It should be pointed out that we’re mainly talking about the top Summit Reserve spec here and not the lesser Limited or Night Eagle specs, which not only miss out on the Quadra-Trac II off-road system and air suspension that the Summit Reserve gets (which are pretty much a must for serious off-roading) but also goodies like the supple Palermo leather seats, superb McIntosh sound system and the interior rear camera – great for keeping an eye on the kids back in the third row.
Even with all the kit in Summit Reserve spec, the Jeep Grand Cherokee L ‘only’ sets you back $115,450. When you consider that a Range Rover starts at $225,500 and a similarly-specced Land Rover Discovery goes for $126,570, that’s pretty sharp.
The Night Eagle and Limited specs, which still have plenty of kit and are luxurious in their own right, are even sharper: $82,250 and $87,950 respectively. So although it’s comparing apples with oranges, a Grand Cherokee L Night Eagle is closer to a third of the price of a Range Rover…
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room – and I’m not talking about the huge new Grand Cherokee L. Jeep, and its parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have long faced criticism about their questionable reliability in Australia. But FCA’s recent merger with PSA Group to form Stellantis has already seen Jeep make leaps and bounds when it comes to refinement and build quality.
Jeep is clearly trying to go more upmarket with the Grand Cherokee L, but we think they’ve actually managed to pull it off. The Grand Cherokee L’s brash brand of capable American luxury is both romantic and genuinely compelling. Yes, Range Rover has more brand cache, but in tall poppy syndrome-afflicted Australia, why not buy the Jeep? It’s cheaper and in many ways better.
It’s not just sharper when it comes to pricing, you’re more likely to get your hands on one quicker, too. Waiting lists for new Range Rovers already extend well into next year, and while waiting lists for Grand Cherokee Ls are reportedly already starting to fill up, Jeep’s still a safer bet.
Or, if you’d prefer something slightly less land yacht-y, the standard wheelbase Grand Cherokee’s on its way Down Under, too…
Find out more about the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L at Jeep’s online showroom here.