The popularity of the Jeep Grand Cherokee is rising every year in this country, I decided to spend a week in the Grand Cherokee Laredo to see how good it really was.
The Laredo 4×2 is the entry level model in the Grand Cherokee range powered by a 3.6L V6 mated to a 6 speed auto transmission, my brief for the week was to see how good the Laredo stacked up as more of a family wagon since it was missing Jeeps excellent 4wd system it wouldn’t be going too far off road so I thought.
Having been interested in the Cherokee for a while I was excited when I picked up the keys, I wasn’t too excited when I realised that not only was it filthy but it was out of petrol as well. Not a good way to start off a review but the Jeep was beginning the week in the minus, my brief then changed to can the Laredo get itself back into the plus.
When I picked up the Laredo I wasn’t expecting much considering it is the entry model in the range, but I was quite surprised with the amount of kit is does have.
Newly designed HID headlights with complete with LED day time running lights (DRL’s) really suit the redesigned bumpers of the Grand Cherokee, the fog lights complete with chrome surrounds and the chrome accents on the iconic Grand Cherokee Grille completes the package and does a great job of making it look like it means business.
The Bi-Xenon HID head lights light the road perfectly in any conditions, it also has a very handy auto high beam function which basically turns your high beams on when it senses (via a camera behind the rear vision mirror) they are required, it also uses the same camera to detect when when a on coming car is approaching and dips your high beams.
I found the function worked great about 95% of the time I did find though it was a little slow to react if you going around a bend but it dip the lights.
The first thing that stands out to me when I slipped behind the wheel is the comfort the cloth seats offer, then my attention was drawn towards the instrument panel which has got be one of the most attractive setups I’ve ever seen. With the instruments are basically a 7 inch Customisable multi-view colour TFT display, to the left is the tacho, to the right is the fuel and temp gauges.
In the middle is a info screen which offers you various readings from the tyre pressure monitors, a fuel economy gauge, a large digital speedo and many other features. The dash also offers programmable spots in the top left and right of the cluster which display stuff like your instant economy and outside temp.
After spending 10 minutes playing with the instruments via the easy to use buttons of the steering wheel I had to remind myself again this was the entry level model.
The centre stack is a touch underwhelming to because the 5.4 inch touch screen for the audio system to me just looks kind of out of place because it’s small.
The audio system does offer decent sound and a good amount features including full Bluetooth connectivity which is extremely easy to use and took only a moment for me to connect up my phone. Voice recognition which can be controlled via steering wheel button works great.
Below the audio system are the controls for the aircon are well set out also very easy to use and actually look good as well.
The cloth seats are comfortable and offer great support even after spending several hours behind wheel and driving it down some dirt gravel roads I did not feel any fatigue or pain from my bad knee and ankles.
The broad console ads to the image that makes this car seem so spacious on the inside, the twin cup holders are illuminated at night are in the perfect place and drinks in the holders don’t get in your way like they do in some cars.
The back seat offers heaps of leg room the seat is comfortable and adjustable but kids didn’t complain once even after many hours in on a long Saturday drive.
The rear load area offers a very acceptable 782 litres of room which does increase to 1550 litres when you fold down the rear seats.
Under the bonnet the Laredo has the 3.6L Pentstar V6 with 210kw and 347Nm of torque, over a week I became a huge fan of the 3.6L V6. It has good amount of power and Jeep have done a great job of gearing it to the car. It gets off the mark reasonably quick for an SUV of this size and has a decent amount of power of overtaking.
Fuel economy as you can expect does suffer a little bit in bumper to bumper traffic I was averaging over 16L/100km but you have to remember that at just under 2000kg this car is not a light weight so stop start traffic will affect your economy. On the freeway the V6 really came into its own the economy was wonderful averaging under 9L/100km.
The V6 is backed by the excellent ZF 8 speed auto transmission which is perfectly matched to the V6 engine and always seemed to be in the right gear at the right time.
The transmission makes a big difference in fuel economy especially on the freeway when 8th gear means the engine is hardly working at all.
It also has sport shift function with gear paddles on the steering wheel which works extremely fun to use and made sure I never had to take a hand off the wheel to change gears.
I decided to take the family exploring in the Laredo we went to a small town named Wollombi in NSW, the purpose was to see how good the Laredo was as touring vehicle.
The drive started off as a tedious drive through Sydney traffic til we hit the freeway, once off the freeway the trip was about an hour on mostly B roads and the Laredo performed great.
After stopping off at the little Tavern in Wollombi for lunch, the burgers there where massive and delicious. We decided to head up to the Finchley Trig station look out which was in the Yengo national park, now I was told you could easily get a 2wd vehicle up the road. Most of the road you could although I wouldn’t like to try it in anything without decent ground clearance. We did venture further down the track then planned in places the road was boarding on 4wd territory but the Laredo handled it in stride.
On the way back we back we decided to detour down the historic Great North Road which was built by the convicts in the 1800’s and was one of the main routes to the central coast.
This road is basically dirt a gravel all the way and the Laredo handled it like it was tarred road, so after a whole day on roads going from freeway to slow potholed dirt and gravel tracks the Laredo lapped it all up and asked for more all while returning a very respectable 10.9L/100km for the whole trip which impressed me a lot.
On the road the Laredo rides very nice indeed around town it’s comfortable and doesn’t seem to be upset by any road surface, during our long drive we took it down several dirt and gravel roads which were bordering on 4wd territory and the Laredo showed it’s true Jeep heritage and handled them perfectly thanks to the excellent suspension setup and the great amount of ground clearance.
Part of that also could be contributed to the all terrain 18inch tyres that are wrapped around the great looking polished alloys.
The Electro-hydraulic power steering is light enough to make parking easy but offers a decent amount of feel while on the road, the steering also made it easy to pick my way around pot holes on the rough roads.
Safety wise the Laredo is packed full of safety features including ABS, stability control, traction control, rollover mitigation, and seven airbags the Laredo does lose some points for not having rear parking sensors but it gets some back for having a rear view camera which took the hard work out of reverse parking.
So after a week not only did the Laredo get into the plus but it impressed me a lot, It has a good amount of room, packed full of extras that you expect to see on a base model, it is great to drive, rides and hands well has more off road capability then you would expect from a 2wd SUV. I’d tried to think of anything that i didn’t like about the Laredo and could only come up with a couple of small things one is the foot operated park brake yes it can be a pain at times, the second is the touchie shifter because it’s spring loaded and returns to the centre it’s very easy to miss the gear you want ie: shifting into park instead of reverse, but those two issues wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me.
The Laredo over the week proved to me that not only it can be the perfect family car during the week but it would make the perfect touring car for the weekend away and even in 2wd guise will take you places other vehicles can’t all while doing it in comfort.
The Laredo would be perfect for anybody wanting an entry level 2wd SUV, that’s safe comfortable and has plenty room of for the kids and is loaded with goodies. The best part is yet to come as right now you can get a Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo for just $45,000 drive away for the model I tested here which seriously a lot of car for that sort of money.
For more information on the full Jeep Grand Cherokee range visit their website www.jeep.com.au