By Bruce Caldwell
The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited is a vehicle that could have very well been designed specifically for Pacific Northwest drivers. It’s a multi-purpose SUV that does an outstanding job of melding ruggedness, versatility and luxury in one reasonably sized package. The Grand Cherokee suits the outdoor activities that are so popular with local residents and it also serves as a safe, comfortable commuter cocoon.
Walkaround: The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee was totally revamped for 2011, so 2012 changes are minimal. The most notable addition is the return of the spectacular Grand Cherokee SRT8 model with its muscle car-quick 6.4-liter 465-horsepower/465 lb-ft V-8.
Styling is handsome in a traditional, somewhat boxy SUV fashion. The vertical grille design is an easily recognizable Jeep cue. Like most Jeep products our Grand Cherokee was fitted with handsome five-spoke alloy wheels. Jeep has done an excellent job of combining classic Jeep cues with contemporary SUV elements. The result is a look that should stay fresh for many years and boost resale values.
Interior: The Grand Cherokee Limited interior is one of two major highlights of the vehicle. The other one is its off road prowess. Since interior interaction is an everyday thing, cabin quality will impress more buyers than the rugged trail abilities.
Our test Limited model is the middle option above the base Laredo and below the Overland. Even so, it had features and quality levels comparable to many top luxury sedans. A blindfolded person would have a difficult time telling that they were in an SUV if it weren’t for the obvious taller entry and seating position.
A near $10,000 price bump from the Laredo to the Limited nets over 30 extra/upgraded features. Our tester added the Luxury Group II option ($1,495). Key interior items on our Jeep included leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, power lumbar, heated rear outboard seats, heated steering wheel, power tilt/telescopic, satellite radio, wireless cell phone link, voice recognition, navigation system, backup camera, and a great panoramic power sunroof.
Front legroom is stretch-out spacious. The seats are comfortable, but still very supportive. The quality of materials, the textures, colors and construction were all excellent. The Grand Cherokee approaches luxury sedans for its level of interior quietness.
Rear legroom is also excellent, even with the front seats pushed back. The previous generation Grand Cherokee had a considerably tighter rear seat, so this is a marked improvement. The second row seatback angles are adjustable. The floor hump is low, but the middle position is poorly padded. Adults can fit in the middle position, but not comfortably. The Grand Cherokee is great for four full-size adults.
Cargo space is sufficient, but not cavernous. It’s a long ways from a Chevy Suburban, but far beyond compact SUVs. The cargo floor is flat with welcome chrome rub strips. The split folding rear seats have a slight uphill slant. The power tailgate is a nice feature as are the shopping bag hooks.
Miscellaneous interior storage areas are ample. The center console bin is large as is the deep glovebox. Medium-size front door bins have bottle notches. A great sound system with auxiliary steering wheel controls caps off an excellent interior.
Under The Hood: The Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited is a mechanical marvel in terms of sophisticated traction technology. It’s based on a unibody platform that owes much to the Mercedes M-class SUVs (a bonus from the former Chrysler/Mercedes partnership). The result strikes us as a near-perfect blend of Mercedes technology and Jeep trail-tested ruggedness.
We’ve driven Jeep Grand Cherokees on daunting off-road courses that few owners would ever subject their personal vehicles to and been amazed at how proficiently the Grand Cherokee handled obstacles. The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee is capable of safely traversing terrain far more rugged than most owners will ever see, much less try.
Technology features border on overkill. The Selec-Terrain controls on the center console provide options for 4WD low, hill descent, snow, sport, auto, sand/mud, and rocks. There is a tow/haul switch on the dashboard. Most drivers will set the dial to automatic and let the outstanding Quadra-Trac II 4WD system do the hard work and decision making.
Our tester Grand Cherokee Limited had the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, which is rated at 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. It featured cylinder deactivation to aid fuel economy. The EPA rates the Grand Cherokee V-8 at 13 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. We averaged 17 to 19 mpg with one freeway-only trip netting 20.6 mpg. A new six-speed automatic transmission helps in the fuel economy department.
Behind The Wheel: The 2012 Jeep Grand Ch
erokee is a smooth, pleasant vehicle to drive. It’s more carlike than trucklike. Acceleration was decent, but far, far short of what the SRT8 delivers. Steering, braking and overall handling were all very good.
Whines: We didn’t care for the left-side wiper controls that share the turn signal stalk. The rain-sensing wipers were excellent, but when we instinctively moved the stalk up for a single swipe we activated the right turn indicator. The V-8 engine was a little thirsty although that’s expected for a 5,000-pound vehicle with a 7,400-pound towing capacity.
Bottom Line: Jeep has been building off-road capable station wagons since 1947 and the current iteration of the Grand Cherokee Limited is by far the best of that impressive bunch.