“Two houses, both alike in dignity….” It’s the opening line to the most famous love story of all, Romeo and Juliet. It’s an appropriate start to A Wheel Thing’s back to back review of two very (understandably) alike vehicles, the Grand Cherokee Laredo and Limited.
The Driven Heart
Both the Laredo (entry level) and Limited have the 3.6L V6 petrol engine as standard, matched to a smooth and slick shifting eight speed auto. The Laredo offers a 3.0L diesel as an option, as does the Limited plus the honking 5.7L V8 HEMI powerplant. It’s a tough mill, offering 210 kilowatts and a grunty 347 torques, both at a highish 6350/4300 revs respectively however it feels as if there’s always plenty on tap, especially with that range of gearing which is great considering they’re lugging around 2000 kilograms plus human cargo. Under most situations there’s a smooth, seamless delivery as the go pedal is pressed, the exhaust ripping out a snarling, rorty sound and a barely noticeable change of gears. Sometimes the only indication of a different ration being selected was the dash display changing numbers. However, there were times where it seemed stuttery, unsure and invariably it was after coming off a kerb with the tiller having being turned. It was, oddly, more noticeable in the Limited. Both came with steering column and tightly fitted paddle shifts (which also operate when the descent control is engaged), indeed they were the only way of shifting manually. The shifter itself is fully electronic, requiring a lever to be depressed to move out of Park to Reverse etc and it’s not exactly intuitive or user friendly, all too often requiring, as there’s no definable gate but simply a back and forth motion, a look at the backlit display on the top of the lever to see just what had been selected and a move back to what was desired.
The Laredo comes with a choice of two and four wheel drive with both offering Jeep’s off road choice system, operated by a dial. There’s Mud, Snow, Rock and Sand plus Hill Descent Control. The Auto setting is that, allowing the Grand Cherokee to adapt to the road conditions. Towing is good with up to 3500 kg with the diesel, 2800 or so with the Pentastar 3.6L. Economy steadied on both at around 13L/100kms.
It’s a comfortable environment; the Laredo has cloth seats and the Limited has heated leather pews. There’s plenty of room inside, with rear seat leg room never compromised by the eight way electrically operated fronts. The Limited coughs up two position memory seating with both having electrically manipulated lumbar support. They’re grippy, supportive and never felt uncomfortable. Facing the driver is a TFT LCD (thin film transistor liquid crystal display) screen, in full colour and offering a swag of info for the driver, including a fully digitised speedo, driving modes, fuel usage and trip meter centre screen flanked by TFT display screens with fuel water and tacho highlighted by a mechanical red needle. Both vehicles supplied have, in the centre upper dash, an eight inch touchscreen showing radio, navigation (in Limited and above) controls for the heated seats, Bluetooth and more. Audio can also be played by the CD (centre console arm rest) and auxiliary input. Dual zone HVAC and audio controls are located, sensibly and ergonomically laid out, directly underneath. Rain sensing and automatically variable speed wipers, valuable during the heavy rain experienced during A Wheel Thing’s tests, worked a treat.
The steering wheel (electrically adjustable on the Limited) has audio select and volume controls on the rear of the tiller, although well placed they’re not exactly intuitive; on the front right is the cruise control with the left having arrows and an OK button with no clear indication of their usage. They are used to switch between the dash displays….The rear seat has a 60/40 split with the cargo space a sizeable 782L which ramps up to 1554L with the one touch seats folded plus a rechargeable torch. Load strips are added in the Limited, as are USB ports near the rear aircon controls (heated rear seats too) plus an electronic rear load gate. The interior colour is black upon black yet isn’t oppressive or overdone, with plastics of a high quality, fit and finish matching while the Limited provided gets a full length glass roof (standard size sunroof optional on the Laredo) operated by switches overhead.
There’s rear cameras for both, parking sensors on the Limited plus guidance as well when reversing; a nifty touch is the electric mirrors swivelling downwards to provide yet another visual backup when reversing. Naturally there’s plenty of storage spots throughout and there’s shopping bag hooks in the rear, cargo cover, plus the subwoofer and darker rear windows in the Limited. Folding mirrors, keyless start and entry complete the picture.
The Clothing Store
It’s been an evolution of the design for Jeep over the past couple of model cycles, with the 2013/14 look the cleanest yet. A standout is the use of LEDs for the DRLs (daytime running lights), indicators and rear lights. A simple yet highly effective system is shutting off the DRL surrounding the left or right indicator when used. It’s a clean, smooth design which manages somehow to shrink the bulk of the Grand Cherokee’s 4.8m length and 1.7/1.8 (depending on drive spec) height. 18 inch polished alloys are shod with Michelin rubber on the Laredo, 20 inch five spokes wrapped around with Kumho rubber on the Limited. Chrome accents highlight the window frames, front dam fascia and doorhandles around the Limited. It’s a bluff, no nonsense look that’s trim and sleeker than previous models.
On The Road
Bluntly, the ride quality of the Laredo is crap. Too short in the front suspension travel especially over school zone sized speed humps (feels as it the top of the suspension will rip out from their mounts), a spongy and wallowing rebound from bumps, massive lack of wet weather grip from the 25/60/18 Michelins, plough on understeer in turns, and pulling through six inch deep gravel and mud puddles. Disappointing performance.
The Limited has the same front suspension issue, naturally, yet feels more secure, better planted and more direct in the steering, with a slightly firmer yet more comfortable ride overall from the 265/50/20 tyres. Both exhibited the odd stutter, as mentioned, in acceleration coming off a kerb and took a few seconds before the electronic brain could make up its mind what the situation was.
On the freeway both ride flat, the Limited less prone to pogoing than the Laredo; the steering is fairly direct with just a hint of vagueness on the straight ahead. With the lesser sidewall flex from the Kumhos there’s less tendency to roll around on the rim and ads to the better ride quality. The turning circle is a touch over eleven and a half metres, not bad for such a big vehicle with a wheelbase just shy of three metres and overall width of a touch under two.
Off road the Laredo did what one expected of a Jeep; it held on across gravel, mud and some rocky surfaces but did lose its way in the aforementioned depth. The approach angle is reasonable at 26 degrees as is the departure of 24 and the traction system seems to work pretty well.
Succinctly: I’d take the Limited over the Laredo 24/7. For my usage and driving style the Laredo’s ride quality simply doesn’t cut it. The Limited’s technical additions and ride over the Laredo also weigh the scales heavily in favour of the better specced model but there is a price to pay. The Laredo kicks the tin for $46K while the Limited is a seemingly hefty $10K more.
Worth it? Absolutely. For details head over here: http://www.jeep.com.au/grand-cherokee#models