There was a time when the United States, unquestionably, made some of the finest cars in the world. Beautifully engineered, flamboyantly designed and full of character, these were cars that tugged at your heart strings. Today, however, much of the mystique and romance with American cars has faded. This downward spiral commenced in the late 60s and the OPEC fabricate oil crisis of 1973 only made things worse. We don't really think very much of American-engineered cars that are built for the US market. So, it was quite a shock to find that the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, headed here sometime later this year, is really quite impressive.
It looks stunning in the flesh with its bold, sharp lines, square-shaped jaw and that characteristic Jeep toothy grin. It has what it takes to get you plenty of attention. The hardware is even more impressive. The chassis is taken from the 2012 Mercedes M-class and powering it is a 240bhp diesel made by VM Motori of Italy. An eight-speed automatic chops up the power and distributes it to the rear wheels.
There's plenty of room both front and rear and a sizeable, well-shaped boot for your luggage. So, space and size isn't an issue. The driving position is really good, the front seats are massive, meaning fantastic comfort, and equipment levels aren't too bad either. The quality of the sat-nav isn't up there with Jeep’s German rivals and plastic quality is nowhere near as good as an Audi or a Mercedes, and that's a bit of a let-down. What's shocking, however, is how well the new Cherokee diesel drives.
On the road, the Jeep is not only comfortable but also commendably quiet. Wind noise is well suppressed, the engine purrs unless pulled hard and the suspension dismisses poor patches of road with surprising nonchalance. There is very little bobbing or pitching and body roll is well contained too, for the most part. The comfortable suspension, tall gearing and relaxed engine make this a really impressive boulevard cruiser, imbibing some American character after all.
And it moves well too when you want to press on. Acceleration comes in strongly and there is a smooth and consistent shove, as it keeps pulling hard all the way past 180kph. Despite its soft springing, the dampers do a fantastic job, checking the body as it rises over crests or sinks into dips. There's surprisingly good grip and even a fair amount of feel through the steering.
The Cherokee will come to India via Fiat, which owns Chrysler. Despite its American origins, this diesel version feels like it is well suited to the Indian market. Interior plastic quality aside, it is comfortable, spacious, refined, adequately powerful, and it even drives well. That it looks like a million dollars, sweetens the deal even more. As long as Fiat prices it competitively, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee could start Jeep's innings in India on a positive note. This is, after all, one of the world's most awarded SUVs.