2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee

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I think I know how they felt.

You know – guys like me, reviewing the final cadre of muscle cars some 40 years ago, back in the early 70s. They could feel the wind shifting,  knew the show was almost over – the lights about to go out for good. Time for one final fling, a last dance. Within a year or two, they’d all be gone. No more really big V-8s; no more really high horsepower.

No more fun.

Power did make a comeback, of course. But big V-8s (and real muscle cars) never did. Six-something liters is about as big as it gets today – in a small handful of low-production, high-dollar models.

Most mass-market modern V-8s are in the 4-5-ish liter range – weensy (and torque deficient) little things compared with, say, a pushing 8 liters (and 500 lbs.-ft. of torque) big-block from 1970. And while new performance cars exist in abundance, there’s only one  (the Dodge Viper)  that’s even close to being the unchained animal those old muscle cars were.

Anyhow, I felt what those guys in the ’70s must’ve felt during the week I had the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee – because it and its kind are as sure to be walking the green mile in the next handful of years as big-block muscle cars were fated to back then. And for the same reason:


Back then, it was Uncle’s Clean Air Act of 1970 – and subsequent to that, Uncle-created gas lines and price spikes. Today – tomorrow – it will be Uncle-mandated fuel efficiency edicts, such as the one that says all new vehicles, “light trucks” included this time, shall average  35.5 MPG by 2016.

The ’13 JGC gets 16 city, 23 highway.

With the V-6.

The V-8 w/4WD registers 13 city, 20 highway.

You can see where this is headed.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.


The Grand Cherokee is one of the few remaining mass-market, mid-sized, mid-priced SUVs that is emphatically not a “crossover” SUV. It is a real SUV – built on a RWD-based chassis (not a car-type, FWD-chassis).

It’s available with real 4WD with a two-speed transfer case and 4WD Low range gearing (not car-type and light duty AWD like the recently crossover’d Ford Explorer).

Also, you can still get a V-8.

You can’t in the otherwise similar Toyota 4Runner, which only comes with a V-6

The closest thing to it is probably the larger (closer to full-sized) Nissan Pathfinder – which also offers a V-8. (At least, for the moment.  An all-new 2013 Pathfinder will be be available shortly. It will be interesting to see whether it, too, gets crossover’d.)

Prices start at $27,495 for the Laredo with 2WD and 3.6 liter V-6.

A top of the line Overland with V-8 and 4WD stickers for $43,595.

There is also a high-performance SRT-8 version of the GC, which will be reviewed separately.

With the Ford Explorer now basically an AWD minivan in crossover SUV drag – and the Toyota 4Runner running on just six cylinders – the Grand Cherokee has few direct competitors left.

And probably, a short lease on life. 


The Grand Cherokee was completely redesigned in 2011, so changes for 2013 are modest. There’s a new Trailhawk package, which includes Kevlar-reinforced off-road tires, rock rails and unique exterior/interior trim. This model comes standard with 4WD (of course) but can be ordered with either the V-6 or the optional V-8.


It’s still a real-deal SUV – unlike the recently gelded Ford Explorer. You can go seriously off-road, do serious work and pull serious loads (up to 7,400 pounds) with it.

Standard V-6 is almost V-8 powerful but doesn’t drink gas like a Concorde with its afterburners lit.

Benz-sourced refinement (especially ride quality).

Base 2013 Laredo is priced almost $3k less for 2013 than 2011 Laredo was.


$4 gas is back – and $5 gas is probably on the way, courtesy of either inflation or the loons in DC who seem determined to ignite another war in the Middle East.

Optional Hemi V-8 does drink gas like a Concorde with afterburners lit.

It’s not a Benz – or a Land Rover – and the economically impaired working and middle class is increasingly unable to afford (or afraid to buy) $30,000-plus 15 MPG SUVs.

Benz-sourced turbo-diesel engine that’s available in export markets not available here.

No third row.


The ’13 GC has a mighty new powerplant – and an even mightier old one.

Standard is a 3.6 liter, 290 hp V-6 featuring variable valve timing. This is Chrysler’s new “Pentastar” V-6, designed to help resuscitate Jeep (and more so, parent company, Chrysler’s) fortunes. Though smaller than the GC’s previously standard (and massively out of date/massively underpowered ) 3.7 liter V-6, the new engine produces 80 more hp while also being a little bit easier on gas.

The 3.7 liter engine in the previous  generation GC was rated 16 city, 21 highway – godawful numbers for a V-6 that produced all of 210 hp.

The new 3.6 liter engine matches the old 3.7 liter engine’s city mileage and beats it slightly on the highway (23 MPG, with 4WD). It’s still not great on gas, but with 290 hp available (24 more hp than the current Nissan Pathfinder’s standard V-6; 20 more hp than the Toyota 4Runner’s 270 hp V-6) it’s now a class leader – which the old V-6 wasn’t.

The main thing is you don’t have to upgrade to the even hungrier 5.7 liter Hemi V-8.

The V-6 gets most jobs done. Though not a tire-fryer, it’s got enough gumption to avoid embarrassing its owner. And to make him feel better about his fuel bills.

But if you do need more, the 5.7 liter Hemi is still available. For awhile, at least. It rates 360 hp and 390 lbs.-ft. of torque, making it the strongest V-8 available in a $30k-ish, mid-sized SUV (the 2012 Nissan Pathfinder’s available 5.6 liter, 310 hp V-8 comes in second; the 2013 Toyota 4Runner doesn’t offer a V-8 engine at all).

But the Hemi is hungry: 13 city, 19 highway. That’s best-case, driven fairly gently. Drive it not-so-gently and single digits in city-type use will be your reward.

The Hemi makes up for its appetite with acceleration (0-60 in about 6.8-6.9 seconds, sports car-quick for an SUV). But the V-6-equipped GC isn’t slow by any means: 0-60 in about 7.5-8 seconds flat (2WD versions being quickest).

Both engines come with five-speed automatics and either RWD or (optionally) one of three different 4WD systems, including a full-time system without Low range gearing (Quadra-Trac 1), plus a Land Rover-like driver-selectable terrain-adjusting system with positions for Snow, Sport, Mud/Gravel and Rock Climb – plus 4WD Low range gearing (Quadra-Trac II) and, lastly, a hard-core version with the terrain-adjusting system, 4WD Low range gearing and a pair of electrically controlled limited-slip axles (Quadra-Drive II). If you go with the top-of-the-line Overland version of the GC, you’ll also get the Quadra-Lift suspension that raises or lowers ride height either automatically to suit conditions – or manually, by driver input. You can use this feature to “kneel” the GC for easier passenger access.

Max tow capacity is a brawny 7,400 pounds – significantly higher than the 5,000 lb. maximum rating of the current Ford Explorer and Toyota 4Runner.

It’s also 1,400 lbs. more than the Nissan Pathfinder can pull (6,000 lbs., max).


It’s amazing that a vehicle this capable off-road is so nice to drive on-road.

I’ve been off-roading with Jeep and know for a fact that this thing can keep up with an old Bronco or International Scout off-road. Or an old Jeep, for that matter.

But those old 4x4s are as punishing on-road as a weekend in Abu Ghraib.

The GC, you can drive to the ravine – through the ravine – then back home again. And have the memories stored in your head – not in your lower back.

The reason? An all-new four-corner air suspension – and no more solid rear axle. The new set-up is similar to what you’d find in something much more expensive, such as the Land Rover LR4. It allows each wheel to articulate with the terrain – and absorb potholes – instead of transferring the shock and vibration to the occupants through the chassis like the ringing of a big brass bell. The track has been widened, too – another stability enhancer. The ’13 GC is 2.6 inches wider through the hips (76.5 inches) which for perspective is  almost four inches wider than the close-to-full-size Nissan Pathfinder (72.8 inches).

It might not be able to squeeze through as many tight spots off-road as the Pathfinder could, but those are scenarios few owners will have to deal with. Meanwhile, in everyday driving on-road, the GC feels much less tip-prone when cornering and more sure-footed at higher speeds.

Meanwhile, you’ve also got more elbow room – both front and back.

Another stability-enhancer and on-road ride improver is  the new GC’s longer, almost limousine-like wheelbase – 114.8 inches vs. 109.5 inches previously. That’s a 5.3 inch stretch job. For some perspective, the ’13 GC’s wheelbase is now only three inches less than a Lincoln Town Car’s (117 inches) but the overall length of the ’13 GC is only about an inch more than before (189.8 inches for the ’13 vs. 188 for the old model) and two feet less overall than a Town Car. A more apples-to-apples comparison is to park the ’13 GC next to the physically larger overall (close to full-size) Nissan Pathfinder. It is 192.3 inches long and has a wheelbase of 112.2 inches – 2.6 inches less wheelbase than the smaller (mid-sized) GC.

The wide track and generous wheelbase render the GC the best on-road riding/handling off-road capable 4×4 SUV that’s not also $50,000 to start.

It still has the same tight turning circle as before, too – just over 37 feet.

But it has more ground clearance: 8.7 inches vs. 8.2 before. If equipped with the auto-adjusting Selec-Terrain suspension, you can kneel it down 1.5 inches from the standard setting to clear low-hanging fruit (and ceilings) or jack it up 4.5 inches to avoid floorpan dents from big rocks in your path. There are five different terrain/driving condition settings: Automatic, Sport (lowered ride height), Snow, Sand/Mud – and Rock. You must engage 4WD Low before you can engage the Rock mode. Hill Descent Control is included, naturally.

The Pentastar 3.7 V-6 engine delivers a pretty good balance of performance and economy.

In the previous GC, the base V-6 was a disaster. It was ancient, underpowered – and it sucked gas. You pretty much had to upgrade to the V-8 to get a decent performing vehicle.

Now, you don’t have to buy the Hemi. It’s nice that it’s there, for those who want the booster shot – or need the maximum tow capacity. But the standard 290 hp V-6 should be sufficient for most buyers, especially suburbanites who spend most of their driving time driving in stop-and-go traffic. The Hemi never gets out of the teens – even on the highway. But if you drive the V-6 reasonably – keep it under 70 and don’t floor it all the time – low-mid 20s are doable. I did it.

At $4 per gallon, that matters.

If gas gets to $5 a gallon, it may prove critical.


The GC’s updated shape is more crossover-like than before, which you may like or not – depending on your tastes. Some may prefer the boxier, more rugged-look of the old model – but there’s no argument about the improved aerodynamics (and reduced wind noise at highway speeds) that the slick new bodyshell provides.

Inside, you’ll find a cabin that’s comparable to the best on the market in this price range (and then some) vs. noticeably below standard, as was the case with the previous GC. Top-of-the-line Overland models are draped in leather, with individual sections stitched together just as you’d find in $50,000 lux models such as the Land Rover LR4 or a Benz G-class. The door panels are sculpted out, with high-line-looking wood or graphite-style inserts that wrap-around the dash, continuing to the doors and tapering off toward the rear. The steering wheel’s finished in half wood (top section) and half leather. It’s heated, too (in Overland models). The leather features contrast-color piping; sharp-looking pewter-aluminum covers and trim plates finish it all off.


You can order a dual-section Panorama sunroof, heated front and rear seats and a Media Center package that bundles GPS navigation (with real-time traffic updates) and a premium audio system with 30GB music storage hard drive. The Overland Summit has 20 inch polished wheels, park assist, Blind Spot warning and “smart” cruise control that automatically maintains both your pre-set speed and a safe following distance relative to the speed of the vehicle ahead of you.

Trailhawk models feature unique exterior and interior detailing, as well as a meaty off-road stance courtesy of rock-crawl-ready 18 inch wheels with M/S rated (and Kevlar reinforced) tires.

But even the standard Laredo is handsomely fitted out with much-improved materials, fit and finish vs. the old GC. It also comes standard with dual-zone AC, keyless ignition, power driver’s seat, leather trim and a six-speaker stereo with Sirius-XM.

There is no third row option (there is in the 4Runner) but realistically, this is probably for the best. The 4Runner’s third row is all-but-unusable; there’s just not enough space inside to make it work. Jeep faced the same issue, and decided it makes more sense to have comfortable accommodations for five vs. torturous accommodations for seven. I am not merely being rhetorical here, either. Check the stats: The GC’s got 38.6 inches of second row legroom. The 4Runner’s got 32.9 inches. Business Class vs. Coach. The Toyota does have more overall cargo capacity – 89.7 cubes with the seats folded vs. 68.7 for the GC. But for people carrying, the GC wins if the measure is carrying them in comfort vs. seeing how many you can carry.

The only thing about the layout I could find to complain about it is the placement of the two 12V power points. Both are hidden from view (one deep inside the center console storage area, the other deep within the storage shelf at the bottom of the center stack) which makes them awkward to use. Plugging an accessory in has to be done by feel – or with the GC stationary.


There is only one big thing wrong with the new Grand Cherokee: It is a vehicle that no longer fits the times. While there will likely always be a market niche for high-end SUVs (rich people don’t care about gas mileage – and can afford to pay $40,000 and up for a vehicle that gets 15 MPGs) the market for mass-market, real-deal SUVs is declining along with the middle and working classes’ ability to purchase (and feed) such vehicles.

As I write this review, in the fall of 2012, gas prices are back up to about $4 a gallon – and taking off my car test driver hat and putting on my consumer/potential car buyer hat, I’d be very reluctant to buy any vehicle that couldn’t give me at least 30 MPG – assuming I needed it for daily driving.

Who is going to buy vehicles that costs $120 to fill-up – and which need to be filled up every week, if driven regularly? That’s pushing $500 a month – just for the gas.

I’d be sweating if I were Fiat – Chrysler-Jeep’s new management.


It’s cruel and crappy that the best GC Jeep ever built got built at what may prove to be the worst possible time for a vehicle like the GC.

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. Sounds like they better come up with a good diesel, (unlike their last few), and pay off the greenies in California and Washington very soon or die.

  2. Eric,
    Speaking of V-8s, I just had the pleasure of alongside a Panamera. Any chance that you’ll get to review one soon? That is one amazing-looking—and sounding!—ride. Expensive of course but out of this world styling and that throaty exhaust was just too much. Hope you can get hold of one.

    • I’ll second that. The concept drawings for the Panamera got labeled “the new 928” by quite a few Porsche enthusiast groups.

  3. Great analogy–“Like a Concorde with its afterburners lit”! Love that.

    And a fine picture of the Concorde…yet another victim of Gunverment!

    Does anyone notice a trend? Government is decivilizing, it’s actively devolving us. We’re literally going backward.

    Concorde–GONE. Too much “noise” pollution. Too much NOx in its exhaust. So no more supersonic flight for you, puny serfs.

    Laundry–no more phosphates, and limited water use–dingy, greasy clothes for you, puny serfs.

    Dishwasher–five gallons a load. No more energy usage and clean dishes for you, puny serfs.

    And now, as before, CARS. They loaded on the emissions crap in the 70’s and nearly killed them, but the miracles of software and engineering have made 400-hp cars ho-hum; 500 horses is the new bad and 600 is do-able.

    But they can’t have that, can they? Can’t leave it well enough alone. No, because serfs can’t have fast cars–we’ll wreck that too!

    So they produce a physically impossible set of demands–make them too heavy with insane safety mandates, AND impose impossible efficiency demands. Slow expensive range-limited electrics for you, puny serfs.

    Now do ya’ll see why I laugh with tears in my eyes when someone says that government keeps civilization together?

    • Politicians all wear makeup. They prance and dress up right. Can’t make me be their muppet in their muppet show tonight.

      Why do we even watch them. Their twisted drag queen show. Who are these cellblock cuckolds, I guess we’ll never know.

      Don’t let them get it started. Must stop them not help start it. The decimational, regulational, desolational, muppetational – Thousand Green Mile Death March Muppet Show!

    • Meth,

      This trend – the de-civilizing of our lives – tracks exactly with the lives of my generation. Anyone born in the mid-late 1960s was born at the apogee of American technical/commercial progress. By 1970: Man on the moon; commercial supersonic flight realized. Great skyscrapers being built. The Interstate system besting the Autobahn.

      40 years later:

      The Space Pinto – and low Earth orbit.
      It takes longer to fly from New York to LA than it did in 1970.
      Cities crumbling.
      Speed limits/traffic rates of travel functionally lower now than 40 years ago.

      But we do have sail fawns.

      • I’m a ’69 model Eric so I hear precisely what you’re saying…we’ve gone through it together.

        When I think of the early 80’s–even though by that time despotism was thoroughly entrenched at the upper echelons–it was idyllic compared to today. The only difference is how far the corruption has penetrated.

        The principles were in place; in fact, the principles of tyranny were in place by 1913, arguably by 1861.

        It just takes a while for practice to catch up.

        Still–the music, the exhilarating feeling of freedom; that something-in-the-air, a common sense of “live and let live”, “ain’t none of my business”, “no harm no foul”, “go ahead, it’s a free country”…

        …In fact in my attempts to wake people up I’ve been trying a different tack. Don’t freak them out with the obvious police state; inspire them with “remember what it was like to FEEL FREE?”

        If we could just re-introduce to common thought those precepts above, those little homilies that people repeated like mantras, we wouldn’t necessarily have to “wake them up”. We could just tie into the mass hypnosis but inject our own memes….”Live and let live”. Repeat after me.

      • Space Pinto! That’s a classic Eric!

        I haven’t admitted this before, but I was on station off the coast of Hawaii in 1981 for the maiden flight of Columbia. My mission (as it were) was to image the heat shield on re-entry. The fear was it would unzip.

        History tells us this didn’t happen and I can personally attest to that, but it did happen 20 years later. What irks me is *we knew it could happen* and then NASA acted like it was a big surprise.

        We could do better. We could do a *lot* better.

        • Yup!

          The Space Pinto was old by 1986 – the year the Challenger blew up. Pushing 30 years later and we don’t even have the Space Pinto anymore….

          Ah, progress.

          • What gets to me is that we’ve done this low-orbit dance for decades, ignore the moon we supposedly landed on, and our focus is now on a planet so far away it boggles the mind. Why? Simply to keep our eyes off the ball in play.

        • The space shuttle is 1972 technology. That’s when it was laid out and planned.

          However, NASA isn’t the only space program the feds run. Aliens don’t go Vegas to gamble so what’s flying out there isn’t likely alien, it probably belongs to fedgov. Also the UFO sightings show an advancing technology over time.

          I don’t think fedgov looked at the SR71 and said ‘that’s good enough’ and stopped.

          • Brent, I personally imaged an SR71 in flight once. I suppose that’s my claim to fame 🙂

            I never got to look at the data, there were around 4 Air Force guys that met us when we landed. They took the tapes and we never saw them again. True story.

          • Air Force Colonel: “I need you to get on that airplane right now.”

            Harry Stamper: “Crazy Willy put you up to this?”

            Air Force Colonel: “I’m afraid I don’t know Crazy Willy Sir!”

          • Harry Stamper: What’s your contingency plan?

            Truman: Contingency plan?

            Harry Stamper: Your backup plan. You gotta have some kind of backup plan, right?

            Truman: No, we don’t have a back up plan. This is it.

            Harry Stamper: And this is the best that you c – that the-the government, the *U.S. government* can come up with? I mean, you-you’re NASA for cryin’ out loud, you put a man on the moon, you’re geniuses! You-you’re the guys that think this shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up! You’re telling me you don’t have a backup plan, that these eight boy scouts right here, that is the world’s hope, that’s what you’re telling me?

            Truman: Yeah.

            Armageddon, 1998

  4. Yet another nice review, EP.

    I took a look at the GC a few months ago while shopping for a new SUV. I like the style, and the interior is pretty nice, especially in this price range. However, I also found a lot to not like about it. The biggest problem I found was in build quality. A brand new, fully optioned out SRT8 model I was looking at, running about $70k, had a broken rear driver’s side door. You could not open it from the inside. It was not a child lock (checked, those were off), and it opened from the outside just fine. Looks like Chrysler is still up to its standard lack of quality.

    Second, I found the legroom of the back seat, as you mentioned, pretty good. However, I didn’t find the headroom very satisfying. I’m about 6’3″ and my head was nearly hitting the liner.

    Third, visibility was rather poor. I really like the styling of this model much better than the previous gen’s. It’s much more muscle-truck and much less minivan. However, as I’ve noticed with a lot of SUVS, it has a very high belt line and low roof. Thus it looks sort of like it has a chopped top. It means that you have rather large blind spots to the rear and it’s a bit harder to see all around you. It’s certainly not as bad as some SUVs (I’m looking at you, Cadillac SRX), but it’s not great. This is especially important when off-roading as you really need to see where the corners of the truck are. This one requires you to sort of guess.

    Overall, I think Jeep has done a good job with this update, but, like you, I don’t see it saving the model from the future. In fact, I’m a bit worried about the future of Jeep itself, given that it’s fuel efficient models are also its least popular ones and the only good vehicles it makes are the Wrangler and the GC, both of which get poor mileage. I’m wondering if they will be sacrificial lambs of a sort. I bet Chrysler split off RAM from Dodge recently because of the gas mileage issue, at least in part. That way, since it is an “average” fuel economy mark that has to be hit across all the vehicles sold, including calculating for the overall number of each model sold, you can put all your crap gas mileage models in a bucket over to the side and let them be taxed by gas guzzler taxes without affecting the other models.

    • Thanks, SJ!

      Agreed on the beltline; this is an increasingly common problem across the board – all makes/all models. Door height has been raised to meet (you guessed it) side impact standards. To maintain “normal” side glass height, the resultant vehicle would look over-tall. So, they abbreviate the side glass/rake the front and rear glass – and you get a “chopped” look. Another factor impinging negatively on visibility is the growing thickness of A B and C pillars (roof crush standards) as well as the tall/thick seat headrests (whiplash).

      You have to drive an older car to get a sense of how much has changed. The other day, I went for a ride in my friend’s ’63 Buick Special sedan. You felt like you were in a greenhouse. Excellent visibility all around. But, apparently being able to see is less important (to the government) than what happens when you roll the car – even though you are far less likely to roll the car if you can see~

      • Depends on the old car chosen. My ’12 mustang isn’t all that different side window wise as my ’73 Maverick. The Maverick was one of those old cars where the doors came up higher. I do accept that Mustang is like the modern 2 door car with the best outward visibility while Maverick was probably on the other end for it’s time. There has certainly been a shift towards a chopped early 50s Mercury.

        Now something like pillarless mid 70s oldsmobile four door is completely different and nothing like that is available today as far as I know.

  5. Interesting to note that the GC’s Hemi makes less power, gets worse mpg, and has fewer forward transmission speeds than the “same” Hemi does/will in the 2013 Ram. GC probably doesn’t have auto engine off/on for stop/start driving, either(?)

    Seems as if Jeep wants to make their Hemi extra thirsty, so nobody will buy it, so they will have an excuse to stop building it even sooner than the fedgov would dictate.

    Too bad, because the Hemi GC is almost unique in how on road quick, yet off road capable and soft riding it is. I bet they would sell a lot of these great SUVs if that engine got 16/26mpg, instead of 13/19.


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