Tough Trailhawk, more sumptuous Summit bolster 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Last Update September 1st, 2016

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee

What changes make the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee different?

New peaks in off-road ability and luxury. They’re late-in-life updates to this aging but popular midsize crossover SUV. Introduction of the Trailhawk model creates the most off-road-capable Grand Cherokee ever. Upgrades to the luxury Summit model fashion the fanciest Jeep ever. Borrowing a beat from hot-selling Trailhawk editions of Jeep’s subcompact Renegade and compact Cherokee crossovers, the Grand Cherokee version gets extra ground clearance, an optimized four-wheel-drive system, and special trim — including red-painted tow hooks. Gilding what was already the poshest version of this five-passenger midsize crossover, the ’17 Summit gets exterior enhancements, including 20-inch polished alloy wheels, and an interior lined with Laguna and Nappa leather.

Why should I buy a 2017?

Because it’s a standout with a broad band of attributes: stellar off-road ability; a choice V-6, Hemi V-8, and turbodiesel V-6 engines; and available baubles like open-pore wood trim and Argentina Tan leather upholstery. A significantly revamped Grand Cherokee is coming for model-year 2019, so the ’17’s looks, features, and mechanical essentials are unlikely to change for model-year ‘18. The core of the ’17 lineup is familiar, beginning with the Laredo model and continuing through progressively plusher Limited, Overland, and Summit versions, and headlined by the high-performance SRT. Pricewise, the Trailhawk slots between the Limited and Overland. It’s available with all three engines, but comes only with four-wheel drive. The SRT has a special all-wheel-drive system, while all other Grand Cherokees are also available with rear-wheel-drive only.

Check out our 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Preview for the latest Information.

Should I wait for the 2018 model instead?

Yes, if you want a shot at the potentially collectible super high-performance Grand Cherokee Hellcat. Jeep officials reportedly promise to unleash the 700-horsepower monster by the end of 2017, probably as a 2018 model. The Hellcat badge identifies supercharged-V-8 versions of the Challenger coupe and Charger sedan from Jeep’s corporate cousin, Dodge. A Grand Cherokee iteration would be the fastest Jeep ever and almost certainly be in high demand. It would send this Grand Cherokee design generation out with a bang. Despite a model-year-2014 freshening, today’s Grand Cherokee is essentially the same SUV that bowed for model-year 2011, making it one of the oldest in the competitive set. Jeep could conjure up another special edition or two, but the basic design represented in the 2017 lineup won’t change substantively until the next-generation Grand Cherokee hits showrooms during 2018, likely as a 2019 model.

Is the styling be different?

No — save tweaks apparent on the ’17 Trailhawk and Summit. In addition to the red tow hooks and red Trailhawk badges that have become status markers on Renegades and Cherokees, this Trailhawk uses the slightly altered grille and front fascia from the recent Grand Cherokee 75th Anniversary Package. It’ also has its own anti-glare hood decal and gray mirrors and roof rack; Mopar rock rails are optional. Its standard18- or optional 20-inch alloy wheels wear Kevlar-enforced Goodyear Adventure off-road tires. A unique black interior boasts leather and suede Trailhawk-logoed seats, red stitching, and piano-black and gunmetal appliqués.

The Summit trim has been around a few years but gets gussied up for ’17 with an updated front fascia and grille, LED fog lamps, and chrome-like wheels. A suede headliner returns, with leather extended to the dashboard, console, and door panels. Seats are newly covered in Laguna leather with edge welting. Returning versions of the other Grand Cherokees are again be distinguished by model-specific exterior and interior touches and wheels. Most distinctive is the high-performance SRT, with its black-screen grille, unique bi-xenon headlamps with signature LEDs, lowered suspension, forged- rather than cast-aluminum 20-inch wheels, and special instrumentation and front seats.

Any mechanical changes?

Yes, in the form of strategic enhancements to the Trailhawk. Principal among these is a unique version of Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension. It’s calibrated to furnish additional articulation and travel, along with 10.8 inches ground clearance, 0.4 inches more than the Quadra-Lift provides for other Grand Cherokees. Otherwise, Trailhawk will come standard with traction-maximizers also available on other models. This includes Jeep’s most-capable four-wheel-drive setup, Quadra-Drive II with low-range gearing, plus an electronic limited-slip rear differential.

The ’17 Grand Cherokee’ engine roster repeats with a 3.6-liter V-6 (293 horsepower/ 260 pound-feet of torque); a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 (360/390); and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 (240/420). The SRT returns with a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 of 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. Among the mainstream models, Laredo is the only one ineligible for the V-8 or diesel. The 5.7-liter V-8 is the sole engine unavailable with rear-wheel drive.

With the V-6, Grand Cherokees are available with the Quadra-Trac I 4WD system, which is actually all-wheel drive (AWD), but still a better bet for traction in snow than rear-wheel drive. Optional with the V-6 and diesel and standard with the 5.7-liter V-8 is Jeep’s Quadra-Trac II, a full-time 4WD system with off-road-suited low-range gearing. Optional with the 5.7-liter V-8 and the diesel is Quadra-Drive II. It adds an electronic limited-slip rear differential to further enhance traction, plus Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension, adjustable to increase ground clearance to 10.8 inches, from the standard 8.6 inches.

The Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II systems incorporate Jeep’s Select-Terrain traction-control, allowing the driver to twist a console knob and dial in powertrain settings calibrated for maximum traction in snow, sand and mud, or rock; there’s also a sport setting.

The SRT has its own AWD system tuned to maximize on-road handling. All Grand Cherokees employ an 8-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Does fuel economy improve?

City-highway combined ratings decline 1 mpg for a couple of powertrain combinations because of changes in EPA reporting designed to more accurately reflect real-world mileage. But Grand Cherokee owners shouldn’t see a difference in actual fuel economy. Interestingly, the Trailhawk model doesn’t suffer by comparison to other Grand Cherokees. EPA ratings for the Cherokee Trailhawk are lower than those of other Cherokees.

The ’17 Grand Cherokee ratings are 19/26/21 mpg city/highway/combined for the V-6 with rear-wheel drive and 18/25/21 with AWD or 4WD. The 5.7-liter V-8-and-4WD combo rates 14/22/17 mpg and the diesel rates 22/30/25 mpg with rear-drive and 21/28/24 with 4WD. The SRT rates 13/19/15 mpg and is the only gas model for which Jeep requires 91-octane fuel instead of 87 octane.

Does it have new features?

Yes, mainly by virtue of the added Trailhawk and Summit stuff noted above. Otherwise, Jeep continues to offer a range of standard and optional features essential in a segment where buyers now demand near-luxury-class accoutrements. What sets Grand Cherokee apart is off-road ability challenged in this class only by the Toyota 4Runner. Props to Jeep’s Fiat-controlled management for supporting engineering that sustains the brand’s go-anywhere credibility. Comfort, convenience, and connectivity features remain competitive, as well. There are de rigueur amenities: ambient lighting, heated front and rear seats, and cooled front seats. Leather upholstery is standard on all but the Laredo. There’s wood in the steering wheel of the Overland and Summit, which also include the dual-pane moonroof that’s an SRT option. Safety is addressed with autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning (though not autonomous steering). Adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead is also available.

All models return with a 7-inch info display in the gauge cluster and come with Chrysler’s laudable Unconnect infotainment interface. Standard or available on all but the Laredo is Unconnect with navigation. It uses an 8.4-inch dashboard screen and supports Siri Eyes Free. It also allows you to drag and drop your favorite icons to its main menu bar for customizable access to everything from smartphone apps to symbols for heated or cooled seats. On the SRT it displays various performance timers and gauge readouts. (The SRT also has a valet mode that reduces engine power and narrows performance parameters.) The audio system standard on Summit and optional on Overland and SRT has 825 watts, 19 speakers, and three subwoofers. Available on those three models is a dual-screen Blu-ray DVD rear-seat entertainment system.

Are 2017 prices be different?

They increase a few hundred dollars on average but remain competitive with similarly equipped rivals – though no other midsize SUV is available with a V-8 engine and nothing in the class matches the SRT.

Among notable 2017 competitive clashes, the flagship Ford Explorer Platinum with a 365-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 and AWD starts at $54,180 while Grand Cherokee’s flagship AWD Summit with its 360-horse Hemi V-8 is priced at $58,185. On the off-road side, the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro started at $42,750 for 2016 (the ’17 price was unavailable in time for this review), and is limited to a 270-horsepower V-6. The ’17 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk with its 293-horse V-6 begins at $43,990 – though you can get the Jeep with a Hemi and the turbodiesel, as well.

Base prices in this report include Jeep’s $995 destination fee. With the V-6, the 2017 Laredo starts at $31,290 with rear-wheel drive and $33,590 with AWD; the Limited at $38,990 with rear-drive and $40,890 with AWD; the Trailhawk at $43,990 with 4WD only; the Overland at $45,690 and $48,690, respectively; and the Summit at $51,390 and $54,390.

With the 5.7-liter V-8 and 4WD, the 2017 Limited starts at $44,185, the Trailhawk at $47,285, the Overland at $51,895, and the Summit at $58,185. With its 6.4-liter Hemi and AWD, the 2017 Grand Cherokee SRT is priced from $67,790.

With the turbodiesel V-6, the 2017 Limited is priced from $43,490 with rear-wheel drive and $45,390 with 4WD; the Trailhawk from $48,490 with 4WD only; the Overland from $50,190 and $53,190, respectively; and the Summit from $55,890 and $59,390.

Of course, adding sought-after options drives up these base prices. Using the popular Limited trim as an example, adding such desirable upgrades as bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, a high-watt stereo with subwoofer, power tilt/telescope steering column, dual-pane panoramic sunroof, and the basic Uconnect 8.4 system requires the $4,200 Luxury Group II option. Shell out another $1,295 to add inbedded navigation. Including the safety of automatic braking lane-departure warning, rain-sensitive wipers, and adaptive cruise mandates with $1,495 Jeep Active Safety Group Package.

When will it come out?

Release date for the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee was in late summer 2016.

The 2017 Grand Cherokee is better than the…

Hewing to its five-passenger competitive set, the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and its design cousin, Kia Sorento, which don’t approach its off-road chops and can’t reach its near premium-class heights; the Nissan Murano, which is overstyled and underwhelming to drive; and the Volkswagen Touareg, which is solid and upscale, but just as old and none the better for it.

The 2017 Grand Cherokee is not as good as the…

Ford Edge, if you’re looking for more passenger and cargo room and sharper handling with few pretensions of off-road talent or muscle-car performance; and Toyota 4Runner, which approaches the Jeep for prestige and can match it off-road, with the added bonus of far better reliability.

What change would make it better?

Augmenting lane-departure warning with lane-maintaining automatic steering; top rivals already have it. Hard-core off-roaders probably pine for a true locking rear differential rather than the electronic limited-slip diff. Those who envision a Grand Cherokee with three rows of seats likely realize that’s a Dodge Durango – although they’ll get a genuine Jeep version with the early-2019 resurrection of the Grand Wagoneer. It’ll use a stretched version of the next-gen Grand Cherokee platform.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]