2017 Full-Size SUV Of The Year: 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2017 Auto Judge Winner Full-Size SUV 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Article originally published in the Houston Chronicle.

The most awarded SUV ever makes another trip to the podium to accept the 2017 Auto Judge Full-size SUV of the Year award!

Jeep updated its Grand Cherokee model with new drive-trains, more luxury and a bevy of options for off-road prowess for 2014; for 2016, there is improved efficiency for all V6 and 5.7-liter V8 engines by means of electric power steering with customizable settings and reduced tire resistance and weight reduction; the Pentastar V6 also received a collection of engineering updates. An Ivory Tri-coat exterior color is added for Overland, Summit, and SRT models; there is a new High Altitude special edition; and Off-Road models get 18-inch Goodyear All-Terrain Adventure tires.

One of the original mid-sized luxury SUVs to come to market in 1992, the newest Grand Cherokee seats five and is priced starting at $29,995. Jeep’s new EcoDiesel V6 is available to power Limited, Overland, or Summit models; gasoline engines are available in five trim levels: Laredo, Laredo E, Limited, Overland, Summit, and the top-of-the-line SRT. All are available in 2WD or all-wheel drive. Updates for the SRT include a newly-designed instrument panel gauge cluster, all-new drive modes, revised SRT Performance Pages and weight reduction.

The exterior strikes a pleasant visual balance between refinement and ruggedness sporting a grille that has been designed to give luxe character. Slim headlamps and a short upper grille refine the front end, while a beefy lower grille gives it a “rugged” demeanor; the base rubber is 17-inch all-season tires and, depending on the trim level, tires can come as big as 20 inches.

Inside is a roomy and comfortable cabin dominated by technology. The center stack has either a 5-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen, with climate and audio controls that are easy-to-reach and to use. Our drive model had a leather-wrapped shifter and leather-adorned the three-spoke steering wheel that has paddle shifters and sits in front of a curved information display with details on temperature, gas mileage, speed, trip mileage and more. The standard audio system is a six-speaker setup with AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sirius XM; dual-zone climate control is included on all models, as are two 12-volt power outlets.

2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Auto Judge

Four engines are available: The 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar delivers up to 295 hp. and has been updated for 2016 with Engine Stop-Start, Exhaust-Gas Recirculation, and an advanced two-step Variable Valve Lift system; all three combine to increase efficiency; EPA and exact horsepower and torque have yet to be released. Two optional motors can be ordered with all but Laredo and SRT: a 240-hp., 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel that grinds out 420 lb.-ft. of torque and a 5.7-liter V8, rated at 360 hp. and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, and delivers an expected 14/22 mpg city/highway (14/20 with 4X4) and the V6 EPA estimates coming in at 22/30 mpg for 2WD and 21/28 for 4WD. The top-level and high-speed SRT with a 6.4-liter V8 and produces 475 hp. and 470 lb.-ft.; fuel economy has not been released. All engines are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Jeep says it brings best-in-class towing of 7,400 lbs.

We were impressed by the Grand’s on-road ride which is refined and responsive. We also had the opportunity to motor over off-road trails and up rock climbs; it stands out for its off-road prowess that comes from astute engineering, rugged and compliant suspension and top-notch mechanical systems. Quadra-Lift – optional on mid-range and standard on higher end models – is Jeep’s air suspension system with ride height settings from 8.7 inches to 11.3 inches of ground clearance and an option to drop the vehicle 0.6 inches closer to the ground for easier parking and better aerodynamics. New ECO mode allows a lowered ride height at speed. Models without Selec-Terrain come standard with traction control, ABS, and brake assist.

2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel
Type: Midsized SUV
Base price: $46,195
As tested, including destination: $61,175 (approx.)
Drivetrain: 3.0-liter V6; 8-speed automatic transmission
Horsepower and torque: 240 hp. @ 3,600 rpm; 420 lb.-ft. @ 2,000 rpm.
Trailering Max: 7,400 lbs. (4×2) 7,200 lbs. (4×4)
Fuel: Ultra Low-sulfur diesel
EPA estimated fuel economy: 22 city/30 highway (2WD); 21/28 (4WD)
Curb weight: 6,500 lbs. (2WD); 6,800 lbs. (4WD)
Safety: NHTSA – overall 5 star
Website: www.jeep.com

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Sue Mead
Sue Mead’s automotive career began as a freelance evaluator for Four Wheeler Magazine in 1988, on the first team that included women as testers. Today, she travels the globe test-driving cars and trucks, and working as a photojournalist/feature writer for dozens of publications, specializing in 4WD and adventure. Mead has been an auto editor and 4WD editor for CNN/fn. Her books include Monster Trucks and Tractors; Off Road Racing, Legends and Adventures; and Rock Crawling. She has been to 70 countries; driven enough off-road and 4WD race miles to have circumnavigated the globe twice! Mead won the Open Production class at the 2011 Dakar; and is an inductee into the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.