Game Changer

Story by Godfrey Castle and Pictures by Godfrey Castle and others

‘Why don’t you try the Overlander 3.0 diesel? It has a silky-smooth, gutsy engine, 8-speed gearbox, and more comfort features than any other vehicle in this class’. With that invitation ringing in his ears, our Group Publisher wasted no time before taking a closer look at the big American SUV.

When it comes to certain motorcars, especially 4x4s, there’s a great deal of brand loyalty at stake. You’re a Cruiser man or a Defender man, and then there are also the Nissan and Jeep manne. Each owner is fixated on his choice of vehicle, but – as in any longterm marriage – there comes a certain element of risk. No, not just the fact that the love of your life may develop a tendency to nag – you can live with that; I’m referring to the fear of being rescued from a deep, dark sandpit by a brand of vehicle different to your own!

I must admit that I am one of those brand loyalists: I have had five versions of what has voted the towcar of the year in the UK for an equal number of years running – so would it be fair, my offering an opinion on a Jeep?

And why am I willing to consort with ‘the enemy’? Well, I have a problem: my own trusty towcar has suffered from recurring bouts of ‘limp-mode-itis’ and, even though the agents plug it into a computer that supposedly reads the fault codes, they seem to find no cure other than to throw new parts at it in the hope that they’ll eventually happen upon the problem bit.

So, as much as I’m a fan of my chosen brand, perhaps enough is enough. Maybe the time is right to open one’s mind to what else is available in the market – and, yes, commit the cardinal sin of changing brands, and face the ridicule. Perhaps I could move on from being the butt of jokes, the latest of which, apparently, is asking me (every time we stop), if I have a tin of the right-coloured oil to match the ground!

Now, what would I replace my towcar with? I need 4×4 capability because of the places I like to explore occasionally, I am accustomed to air suspension with its vastly superior ride, and I like the high visibility from the driver’s seat, space, GPS, and sound system – what other vehicle would give me the same level of comfort?

I have never really been a Jeep fan but it’s funny how things can change! Let’s look at its recent heritage. The company was bought out by Daimler (Mercedes Benz) – and during their brief ownership, Jeep must have benefited from a massive dose of German expertise. They even tried the Mercedes Benz diesel engine in the Grand Cherokee for a while, before the newly-merged company ran into other problems, and Jeep and Chrysler were sold off to Fiat. Some might say that this could have been a backward step for the Jeep brand, but, in reality, Fiat is the land of Ferrari, some incredible aeroplanes, and arguably the world’s best designers.

And so, the Grand Cherokee doesn’t disappoint; it retains a rugged, yet stylish, exterior that looks more stylish and compact than other, more mainstream 4x4s, and the Overlander badge on the tailgate identifies this model as having a much higher level of specification and passenger comfort. And this vehicle is equally handsome inside. It looks good, the interior is trimmed in double-stitched leather, the instrumentation is digital and controlled via a touch screen with more features than Google, and, surprisingly, this vehicle is better priced than any of its competitors!

Mechanically, it has a German ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, and a really gutsy Italian-designed and – manufactured 3-litre V6 turbo diesel engine which develops 179 kW and 569 Nm torque from a lowly 1 800 rpm! The 5.7-litre V8 Hemi petrol engine in the top-of-the-range Grand Cherokee

Overlander only develops 520 Nm. It has air suspension that can be raised or lowered to suit the trail, and five different options of traction control – just like Land Rover Discovery.

Other driver benefits include forwardcollision warning and adaptive cruise control, electronic stability control and trailer anti-sway control, blindspot monitoring, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, automatic dimming rear-view mirror, electrically adjustable seats with built-in heating for cold mornings – and cold air cooling for hot days in the leather saddle! It also has dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers and rain or wet brake support, rear-view camera (fantastic for when one is hitching up the caravan) and voice-command blue-tooth for pairing to your cell phone. There is also a Harman Kardon sound system, satellite navigation, and front and rear parkingdistance warnings – with a display on the dashboard that indicates where objects blind to the driver might risk damage to the vehicle.

Then there is the luxury of the electrically opening and closing rear tailgate, the electrically adjustable seat, and more. It all equals a huge number of features and I feel that Jeep has done this to win back market share. It won my attention and it’s all at bargainbasement prices that make the Grand Cherokee potentially the vehicle to testdrive this year!

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