- Well equipped for a base model
- Excellent towing ability
- Still looks good after all these years
- Price has crept up in recent years
- More safety kit needed
- Should offer seven seats
In 1996, Australia welcomed the Jeep Grand Cherokee to our market. Sitting above the smaller Cherokee, the Grand Cherokee hit peak popularity in Australia in around 2014 thanks to favourable exchange rates and a fresh attitude – yet six years on, the same car is still on sale and against a slew of new SUV competition, selling reasonably well. We tested the entry-level 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Night Eagle to find out what buyers still see in the Grand Cherokee and what it can teach newer rivals.
Price & Specs: 7.0/10
Starting at $59,950 plus on road costs, the Grand Cherokee Night Eagle is $3,750 cheaper than a Toyota LandCruiser Prado GXL yet the Grand Cherokee does come with a lot more equipment. Despite being the entry level Australian-spec Grand Cherokee, the Night Eagle variant comes with 20-inch black-painted alloy wheels, an 8.4-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation, digital radio, leather upholstery with heated 8-way electric front seats, hill-descent control, auto bi-xenon headlights with auto wipers, a six-speaker stereo system and keyless entry and start.
Standard safety features on the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee include forward collision alert with low and high-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB), rear AEB, auto high beam, trailer sway control, lane departure warning and front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera. Unfortunately, the Night Eagle doesn’t come with adaptive cruise control or blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert – these features are reserved for the upper-spec Limited, which starts from $63,950.
Upper Grand Cherokee models add a lot more equipment such as Nappa leather upholstery in a variety of colours, a panoramic sunroof, more off-road kit, a premium sound system and so on. But despite being a base model, we think the Night Eagle is more than adequately equipped – especially against the rather basic LandCruiser Prado GXL.
Speaking of the competition, competitors for the Grand Cherokee come from far and wide to suit a variety of buyers. Those looking for a towing vehicle will no doubt compare the Prado and Grand Cherokee to the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Ford Everest – all can tow well and also off-road. But many bought will never venture off the tarmac, so cars like the Hyundai Santa Fe, Skoda Kodiaq and Mazda CX-9 – all with seven seats versus the Jeep’s five-seat layout – will be considered too.
Optional on the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Night Eagle is a $1,950 sunroof fitted to our test car, as well as $695 metallic paint – ‘Sting Grey’, ‘Granite Crystal’, ‘Velvet Red’, ‘Billet Silver’ and our test car’s ‘Diamond Black Crystal’. The only standard colour available on the Grand Cherokee is ‘Bright White’.
Performance & Fuel Economy: 8.5/10
The engine fitted to our 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Night Eagle test car is the optional 184kW/570Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel that’s also used in other FCA products – this is a whopping 54kW and 120Nm more than you get in the LandCruiser Prado, which makes a huge difference in everyday driving. Put simply, you never feel lacking in the grunt department. The standard and only transmission option for the Grand Cherokee fitted with the diesel engine is an eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox ? the shifts are smooth, and it is always in the right gear.
Driving the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Night Eagle on standard suburban roads is a relaxing driving experience – the engine is smooth and rides a nice wave of torque but if asked to it can propel you forward with typical diesel grunt. This is especially noticed on the freeway or roads with a higher speed limit as the Grand Cherokee has no trouble getting up to speed.
One of the Grand Cherokees best attributes is its towing power – when fitted with the diesel engine, it’s 3,500kg. This is compared to the LandCruiser Prado?s towing capacity of 3,000kg and the Pajero Sport’s 3,100kg rating. It’s no wonder you see so many Grand Cherokees in towing duty.
The claimed average fuel economy of the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Night Eagle diesel is a solid 7.5L/100km ? with a mixture of highway and urban driving we received a figure of 8.5L/100km. This is close to the claimed figure and with a massive 93-litre fuel tank, expect to get upwards of 1,000km between trips to the pumps. The LandCruiser Prado has the same sort of fuel economy with a claimed average figure of 8.0L/100km, though it only has four cylinders and much less performance.
Ride & Handling: 7.5/10
The ride characteristics of the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Night Eagle are simple to explain: it’s an extremely comfortable car, no matter the situation. It’s composed and offers a nice relaxing ride that is not too firm to be uncomfortable but not too soft to be all loose and unstable. On the open road at speed, the Grand Cherokee sits happily at the speed limit with the ride soaking up the various bumps and potholes.
The Grand Cherokee is obviously no sports car but that being said it does reasonably well for such a big car when thrown into a corner. There is minimal body role and unlike a lot of other SUVs you don?t get the feeling the car will topple over when pushed around bends.
The entry-level Night Eagle uses standard steel suspension, though in other Grand Cherokee models, air suspension is available. Other off-road kit available in the Grand Cherokee range includes a two-speed transfer box, a terrain management system to tell the car what sort of terrain you’re driving through (sand, mud, etc), hill descent control, a rear limited-slip differential and in the hardcore off-road Trailhawk model, underbody skid plates, a ‘selec-speed’ mode and a rear limited-slip differential.
We didn’t get to try out the Grand Cherokee off-road, but being a Jeep, it would undoubtedly be extremely capable when the going gets tough.
Interior & Practicality: 7.0/10
The interior of the Grand Cherokee is somewhere where you can spend a lot of time without feeling tired as it’s a very comfortable space. The seats are big and supportive with front electric adjustment – though no memory functionality, which the upper spec Limited adds – and the steering wheel is nice to the touch with quality leather trimmings.
The 8.4-inch ‘U-Connect’ touchscreen system is easy to use – all the different page options are placed at the bottom of the screen and the screen itself is bright and responsive to touch. The off-road screen is interesting to play with as it can show the angle and height above sea water of the vehicle, which adds some extra for off-road enthusiasts. The reversing camera is clear and has guidance lines, which also makes it easier when trying to hitch up a trailer or caravan – though a 360-degree camera would be even better.
The partially digital driver’s display has a plethora of information that can be shown to the driver from a regular trip computer to the tyre pressure monitoring system and even some of the off-road features – though it would be nice to see a map integrated like newer systems. And while the quality is reasonable with soft touch materials, it’s not the most practical cabin with not much storage for trinkets.
The rear seat room is plentiful, taller passengers will have no problems with knee or head room in the Grand Cherokee. The rear occupants will also be comfortable as they have access to two rear air vents and a fold down centre armrest. Unlike the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, there are no charging points in the rear of the Grand Cherokee – you have to step up to the Limited for that.
The boot of the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee is massive at 782-litres – so massive that we wonder why there’s no seven-seat option available – which increases to 1,554L with the rear seats folded. It’s also functional and versatile as well with cargo tie downs, a cargo blind, four hooks to hang shopping bags off and two 12-volt outlets. There are also two small storage cubbies to each side of the boot and if you lift up the boot floor you will find a full-size spare wheel.
Running Costs & Warranty: 7.5/10
Jeep have stepped up their warranty and aftersales package in recent years as currently every model comes with a five-year/100,000km warranty and roadside assistance package – though if you continue to service your Jeep through an authorised Jeep service centre, you get lifetime roadside assistance.
Servicing the Grand Cherokee is required every 12 months or 20,000km, which is double that of the Prado’s six-month/10k intervals – it’s worth noting that is 8,000km more than the 3.6-litre petrol V6 Grand Cherokee. The Jeep comes with capped price servicing for five years at a cost of $599 a service, which equals $1,797 for three services. A Prado would cost $1,560 to cover the same timeframe, though with twice as many trips to the dealer.
2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Night Eagle DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.5/10
This generation of Grand Cherokee may have been around since 2011, but it’s clear that Jeep have done enough to kept it fresh as sales are still strong – and in our opinion, it’s easy to see why. It is unrivalled in its towing capacity and for the money comes well equipped as well, especially against rather basic competition.
The 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee would be perfect for those looking to get out more and explore more of our country or even for those looking for a practical SUV to do the school run and annual driving holiday. It fits so many moulds and lifestyles that we think the Grand Cherokee could be suited to everyone.