Jeep began the whole SUV thing almost accidentally with the introduction of the CJ (Civilian Jeep) not long after the Second World War ended. Spotting holes in the market Jeep introduced station wagons and later – 1996 to be precise – came the first Jeep Grand Cherokee, a large 4WD aimed more at buyers of luxury station wagons rather than keen off-road drivers.
These first units are getting on in years, so we will start this used car checkout with the WK Series Grand Cherokee launched in Australia in February 2011. Wisely it was designed to suit on-road buyers, with better suspension a smoother, quieter ride and plenty if interior nick-nacks to suit family buyers.
But, true to its roots the Grand Cherokee was still a genuine 4WD and could tackle rugged off-road work that would literally stop most crossover wagons in their tracks, or rather off their tracks.
Grand Cherokee was facelifted in June 2013 and again in May 2017. Significant advances were made to the infotainment system in both cases.
Hotrod models, called SRT (2013 to date) and Trackhawk (2017, and would you believe a 700 horsepower engine?!) are something out of the ordinary. They may have belonged to people who liked to take place in serious redlight drag racing, so be wary.
Much safer bets may be one of the 75th Anniversary of Jeep models launched in 2016. These may become collectors’ editions sometime down the track. No promises, though.
Grand Cherokee has good interior space and a voluminous boot thanks to its squared-off rear end – sometimes the old shapes are the best ones.
Although it’s large, the Grand Cherokee is easier to drive in traffic than you might expect due to its high seating position and the well-defined extremities of the squared-off body – a feature of all Jeeps. Parking can a hassle in really tight situations but otherwise few owners say they’ve had any real problems.
In Australia, the Jeep dealer network operates in the bush as well as the suburbs. We hear of no significant complaints about the prices of spare parts or their availability.
Insurance costs are generally about average for this class of vehicle. The range of premiums between major companies doesn’t seem to vary a lot, but it’s still worth shopping around – as always make sure you come up with apples-with-apples figures.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Listen for squeaks and rattles when test driving on rough roads, there’s probably no need to get off sealed surfaces for this, though it’s better if you do.
Jeeps go off-road more than many so-called SUVs, so do a thorough body and underbody check. Scratches on the doors and front guards, as well as the lower corners of the bumpers are the sign of off-road running.
Also look for damage to the protection plates, the platform and the bumper mounts, all of which indicate serious off-road work.
Salty sand on the under surfaces probably indicates beach driving – which is great fun, but if salt gets into the metal it can do dreadful things in the way of rust.
Check the cabin and boot for signs of wear and tear.
There should be no fumes from the exhaust pipe, even when the engine is worked hard or has been idling for an extended period then accelerated.
Automatic transmissions are typically American in that they are beautifully smooth. Any roughness should be a reason to call in a professional.
Manual gearboxes aren’t the most refined units but are generally trouble-free; beware of one that crunches on fast downchanges.
Budget on spending from $12,000 to $18,000 for a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo; $16,000 to $23,000 for a 2011 Limited; $23,000 to $32,000 for a 2012 Overland; $28,000 to $37,000 for a 2013 Limited; $32,000 to $43,000 for a 2013 SRT8; $35,000 to $48,000 for a 2014 Overland; $40,000 to $53,000 for a 2014 Summit; $45,000 to $59,000 for a 2016 75th Anniversary edition; $52,000 to $69,000 for a 2015 SRT8; and $61,000 to $81,000 for a 2016 SRT Night Edition.
CAR BUYING TIP
Off-road driving in vehicles with a sort-of military background may have had a hard life – don’t dream of buying one without a full professional inspection.