Beauty and Brawn

The latest SUVs have an interesting mission: Look rugged and act luxurious. As the big showboaters have become the stylin’ cars of choice these days, Jeep—the burly originator of the concept—was in danger of being left in the dust. But if our recent test of the Jeep Grand Cherokee is any indication, it’s clunky no more.

Maybe we should credit the brand’s new Italian ownership for creating such an elegant smoothie. The stitched leather seats highlight a formally sweet interior. The Quadra-Lift air suspension creates a comfortable ride in town and then lowers the vehicle at highway speeds to improve fuel economy. Thus, the Jeep has the requisite height but none of that top-heavy feeling that plagues some SUVs.

The biggest curse on SUVs is the sketchy fuel economy, but our Overland model had the EcoDiesel engine, which, when linked to its eight-speed transmission, gave us about 24 mpg in mixed driving. This translates to an extra 100 miles per tankful over the gasoline-powered version. Highway cruising will be even better, and that one tank of diesel will take you 730 miles.  

And, oh yes, the Jeep heritage lives on: The Grand Cherokee tows up to 7,400 pounds, and four-wheel-drive options are available. While you can get into a base Cherokee for $30,000, our Grand Cherokee Overland edition edges close to $50,000. That’s steep, but the price compares very favorably with the Cherokee’s German diesel rivals, which cost about $10,000 more.Our test model was strikingly handsome, with flanks dignified and brawny. The Jeep has come a long way.

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