2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V8

Rarely have I had a vehicle perform such a slow burn as the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Here is an SUV that I initially regarded with a very healthy dose of skepticism, that has become one that I recommend heartily to my auto brokering clients, and sell or lease on a very consistent basis.

Negative initial reactions were centered around Jeep’s checkered history with regard to reliability; it’s not that I hadn’t seen Jeeps run to 200,000 miles—and owned one—but that many I’ve seen in my years as a broker were plagued by electric and mechanical gremlins, not to mention fast degradation of their cheapo interiors. So the idea that the new one, a child of the ill-fated Daimler-Chrysler affair, would be much better didn’t have a lot of credence.

But time spent with it (and its platform-mate Dodge Durango) convinced me that it was a well-built, excellent driving midsize SUV with tons of character and capacity. Of course, it has looked great since its debut in 2011, combining the classic tough Jeep stance with upmarket detailing that still is fresh almost three model years after its launch. Inside, the more pedestrian models are well built and sized, but some of the materials aren’t worthy of the price point. To realize the Grand Cherokee’s potential you need to step up to at least the Overland model, with its leather dash and door panel tops, upgraded seating material and real wood trim. Then you have a cockpit worthy of a vehicle priced in the mid-40s.

Since the Jeep’s platform is shared with the Mercedes SUVs, the driving experience is quite Teutonic, with a pervading sense of solidity and well-damped, deliberate ride motions—no surprise with its 5000lb-plus heft. It also handles well, and the Grand Cherokee’s steering is accurate and well-weighted. When powered by the 360hp Hemi V8, performance is adequate, no more, another side effect of the Jeep’s mass. Even its 390lb-ft of torque can feel overmatched at times, with 0-60 taking about 7.5 seconds, and fuel economy is quite abysmal, too, with ratings of 13mpg city and 20mpg highway. My own numbers aligned with the EPA’s.

None of this accurately reflects how nice the Jeep is to drive however. The Hemi sounds terrific, with a cultured burble at idle giving way to a throaty roar under acceleration, and the sophisticated way the Grand Cherokee deals with rough roads, enhanced by the comfortable interior, make it feel quite special.

Reliability is apparently better these days too, based on initial reports from the likes of J.D. Power and anecdotal evidence from my clients who are driving Grand Cherokees. So it’s no surprise Jeep is doing so well this year, with sales up 13 percent and a new global sales record for the company. Word of mouth seems part of this, with the Grand Cherokee having its best December sales numbers in seven years, unusual for a vehicle that has been on the market for any length of time.

EPA ratings: 13/20; 19mpg combined
Price as tested: $46,015
Here is what Jeep has to say about it.