2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee L WL Overland

2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee L WL Overland

Full-size American SUVs aren’t a common sight on South African roads. But Jeep’s Grand Cherokee L is about to change that.


There’s an image that instantly pops into your mind when you think of the stereotypical Yank tank fullsize SUV. For starters, they’re of mammoth proportions, with a two-box appearance, as if they have been chiselled out of Mount Rushmore itself. The typically cavernous wheel arches are filled with massive wheels that sometimes sport a chrome finish. This is precisely the impression when you first lay your eyes on the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Not only is it even larger than its predecessor, it’s also a massive departure in terms of styling. For the record, the new model is 5 204 mm long, 2 149 mm wide and 1 816 mm high. As you may have guessed, the L in its name denotes “Long”, which indicates there’s an extra row of seating right at the rear.

2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee L WL Overland

Jeep’s stylists have called upon the original Wagoneer for inspiration. The traditional seven-slot grille has been retained, although it’s now angled sharply forward, instead of being raked towards the rear, as was the case for nearly all of the previous generation models. The grille is flanked by narrower headlamps than those on the older model.

Both the grille and headlamps are underlined by chrome trim. The Grand Cherokee L’s gaping airdam is framed by a chrome border, too. Along the profile, you’ll find the familiar trapezoidal wheel arches that the Grand Cherokees have sported since the first generation. These are obviously larger than before and on the Overland model we drove on the launch, they are filled with highly polished 20-inch alloys. The impression the Grand Cherokee L stands even taller is created by the near-vertical doors and glass. At the rear, the tail lamps are still narrower slits of LED lighting.

You might expect that this behemoth would be powered by a gas-guzzling V8 powerplant, but the only option available in South Africa is one engine – the 3,6-litre Pentastar V6 – one of the brand’s most tried-and-tested naturally aspirated units. There will also be no turbodiesel in the foreseeable future unless there’s a dramatic improvement in our fuel quality, and there’s no talk yet of a V8 option.

The V6’s torque is sent to all four corners via an eight-speed automatic transmission and the company’s famed Quadra-Trac II four-wheel-drive system. On this Overland model and on the range-topping Summit Reserve, there’s also an e-diff, as well as an active transfer case that handles locking of the rear axle and sends optimum traction to the corner that needs it most in off-road situations. This system is semi-regulated by the Selec-Terrain traction management, which lets drivers choose between Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow and Sand/Mud.

You select the drive mode via a switch that shares the centre console with the round gear selector, which sports a jewel-like finish, and another switch from where you can set the Grand Cherokee L’s height. The other items on the gloss-black centre console panel are the low-range selector and hill-descent control. Ahead of this is a recess featuring a wireless charging pad for your mobile phone.

But just because someone else called dibs on this device doesn’t mean the person seated in front has to deal with a at battery. There are two regular USB and two USB-C ports here, so you can provide power or use them as an entertainment source. There’s also a 12 V DC socket and auxiliary audio port. For the second row of seats, there are another four USB ports in the centre console, while the third row’s seats have two on each side of the vehicle.

All of the above is just what catches your eye as you climb into the Grand Cherokee L’s supple Nappa-leather-wrapped seat. The next thing to grab your attention is the trio of digital displays. There’s a 10,25-inch unit facing the driver that displays all of the regular instrument-panel information like the tachometer and speedometer. Then, the one that’s mounted mid-fascia for the usual infotainment features measures 10,1 inches.

The last one, mounted in the fascia facing the front passenger is truly unique in this segment. It’s a 10,25-inch screen from which the passenger can view navigation data, monitor the cameras around the vehicle and enjoy their own audiovisual entertainment with Bluetooth connectivity or through an HDMI port. On that subject, in both the Overland and Summit Reserve special models, the main Uconnect infotainment system plays audio through a 19-speaker arrangement that was developed by American home theatre fundis McIntosh Laboratory.

Another important point about the cabin is there’s a traditional bench in the centre row on this Overland model and the base Limited, with three safety belts and three-zone climate control. On the range-topping Summit Reserve, there are two proper seats in the centre, as well as four-zone climate control.

Out on the road, the Grand Cherokee L’s handling belies its weight of 2,3 tonnes. The electrically assisted steering does an excellent job of turning the front wheels enough to make the big Jeep feel like an SUV of half the size. Making our way out of Tshwane to eNtokozweni, it didn’t seem as though the 210 kW and 344 N.m were insufficient. On the contrary, the torque converter moves the mass smoothly and easily. Up at freeway speed, the V6 is responsive and revs lustily towards the limiter. Even though the Jeep engineers have done an excellent job of reducing NVH, there’s enough of an exhaust tone that the occupants know what it’s packing.

Unfortunately, most of the driving done on the local launch was on the super-smooth tarmac of the N4, so there was very little dynamic behaviour to learn from. What this situation did allow was a lot of time to spend adjusting myriad menus available to the driver on the instrument panel display and customising exactly what showed on the head-up display … all performed via the multifunction steering wheel. The options to suit exactly what the driver wants add another impressive aspect to the package.

As tried-and-tested as the Pentastar is, unfortunately, it’s not exactly the most fuel-efficient powerplant out there, in spite of its fuel-saving stop/start system and optimised electronic fuel injection. We averaged just under 11 litres/100 km at a constant national limit.

Another area where we believe the Grand Cherokee L could do with some slight improvement is its off-road ride quality. On this Overland-specification model, the 20-inch rims are wrapped in 265/50 rubber, which isn’t what you would call a low profile, but a bit more sidewall could make all the difference. The air suspension provided enough of a cushion on the gravel roads we experienced, even on the rougher sections, but the large rims and relatively lowprofile rubber don’t inspire a lot of confidence, especially when they require so much air pressure.

One thing we cannot argue with is how cleverly Stellantis has specced the Grand Cherokee L across the Limited, Overland and Summit Reserve for the South African market. There are no options, so it’s easy to justify the extra cash you spent on the Overland in comparison to the Limited, for example, by the extra goodies you get. And likewise for the Summit Reserve compared to the Overland.

What remains to be seen is how capable the Grand Cherokee L is when taken off-road. Is it the best one ever because it’s laden with technology, or has Jeep sacrificed some of the legendary off-road ability to make it a comfortable family cruiser? We’ll have to put it through a proper road test to be certain.

TECHNICAL DATA2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee L WL

  • Price: R1 479 900
  • Engine: 3,6-litre V6 petrol
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Max Power: 210 kW @ 6 400 r/min
  • Max Torque: 344 N.m @ 4 000 r/min
  • Top speed: 139mph
  • 0-62mph: 7.1sec
  • Rivals: Mercedes-Benz GLS, BMW X7 G07, Lexus LX, Toyota Land Cruiser 300
  • + full marks for on-the-road presence, incredible specification
  • — only one engine

  • 01 The generous proportions are no match for the electically assisted steering.
  • 02 Optimum traction is semi-regulated by Selec-Terrain. Modes are selected via switch in centre console.
  • 03 Other items on black centre console are low-range selector and hill-descent control.
  • 04 Engineers have tweaked NVH levels, but there is still plenty of exhaust tone to keep it honest.
  • 05 Audio is played through McIntosh’s 19-speaker setup.
  • 06 Round gear selector in centre console.
  • 07 Despite stop/start system, powerplant is not themost fuel efficient out there.
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