My 2016 Chevrolet Cruze was a great deal in terms of the out-the-door price, and it did exactly what it needed to do. But I didn’t love or even possess affection for it the way that I thought I would. In retrospect, I don’t think it projected the maturity that most of my other cars had, especially in that ostentatious Kinetic Blue color. Finally, I decided I wanted something that sat higher off the ground.
So, I began looking around online to see what there was, and conducted some test-drives. Honestly, most of my candidates were new compact crossovers. I checked out the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, 2018 GMC Terrain, and 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan–all of which were brand-new designs for that year. I also looked at the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport (which is midsize, not compact), 2018 Kia Sportage, and refreshed 2019 Jeep Cherokee.
But, we are now eight articles in. You guys know what I’m like. The thing that always runs through my mind is, “What can I get pre-owned for the same price as a new appliance?” And that led me back online, and in particular, it took me to Carvana, for the second time.
When it comes to nicer stuff, Carvana is a curator of what I call Ugly Duckling cars. By that, I mean that a large portion of the cars in their inventory aren’t optioned optimally. They’ll have trucks without 4×4, base-model luxury sedans, sports cars without key options and appearance packages, and SUVs in garish or unpopular colors. I suspect they get these rather inexpensively, on their end.
And that, my friends, is how I came to own a rear-wheel-drive Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Well, it wasn’t quite that unceremonious of a purchase. When I began to look at Carvana’s Grand Cherokee stock, most of it wasn’t exactly competitively priced. There was a low-mileage 2016 Grand Cherokee Summit listed at $32,000. Okay. That was about the same as the one at the Lexus dealer down the street…and I could go and buy the local one that same day. The whole Buy Your Car Online thing wasn’t especially alluring for me, because dealerships don’t intimidate me.
But there was one in particular that was priced well below the market. It was a 2015 model, with a grey exterior and black interior. It had the base 3.6-liter V6 and 8-speed automatic. This Jeep was the Overland trim, which got you the all-important HID/LED headlights, 20-inch wheels keyless access, remote start, satellite radio, navigation, heated and cooled front seats, power liftgate, panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats, memory settings for the mirror, steering column and driver’s seat, 9-speaker system with subwoofer and heated rear seats. It had a couple of other options: a DVD player with dual rear screens and the towing package (which also included a load-leveling rear suspension and a full-size spare). The only detractors were that (a) it was RWD, and (b) the listing said it had 86,000 miles on it. And Carvana had priced it accordingly.
I was merely curious at first (no way was I looking for a car with 86,000 miles to start), but when I thumbed through the picture gallery, I saw that the instrument cluster actually read 42,000 miles and change. That’s a big discrepancy. But if it really had 42,000 miles and the pictures weren’t just juxtaposed with those of another car, that was a far more reasonable figure, and it made the price especially attractive. Even if it was RWD and not AWD. So I went ahead and reserved it before some other buyer clued in, then called Carvana customer service. The car was located in Frisco, TX, some three hours away, and they actually put hands on it and said that, yes, it only had 42,000 miles. The phone agent also assured me that they would fix the clerical error on the listing, but also honor the price I’d secured it at.
So after going through Carvana’s process—they like to be absolutely certain that you have the funds or financing to buy the car before they spend their time and money shipping it—the Grand Cherokee arrived at the end of the week. And I even bought Carvana’s warranty, which was competitively priced, I thought, and didn’t exclude much. I was looking forward to seeing the cool Carvana flatbed, but the delivery agent called me and let me know that they were short on trucks that day. He said that he could drive it to me and then have his wife pick him up, since he lived in Edmond.
When he pulled up, I was impressed with what I saw. The Grand Cherokee looked handsome with its metallic paint and fresh car wash. Taking possession of the car was seamless and took all of five minutes, after I did a brief walkaround and drove it around the block to make sure there was nothing glaringly wrong with it. There wasn’t. So I signed the paperwork. Then, I offered to drop the delivery driver off at home (instead of having him wait on his wife or an Uber) where it turned out he and his son had a lifted Wrangler JKU and made a hobby out of restoring old classics. Neat!
Now, time for one of my long-winded history lessons:
The fourth-generation “WK2” Jeep Grand Cherokee debuted in 2010 as a 2011 model. While the Jeep brand led development of the platform, I suspect it was the final collaboration under the DaimlerChrysler marriage, because the 2012-2019 Mercedes-Benz M/GLE-Class and 2013-2019 GL/GLS-Class both utilized the same architecture. The WK2 also got an internal platform sister in the Dodge Durango, which had previously been on Dakota-derived BOF architectures.
The early 2011-2013 Grand Cherokee was a clear evolution of the styling established by its “WK” predecessor, but was improved in every measurable metric. The interior, however, was worlds apart. It exceeded the fit-and-finish of some much pricier American SUVs, including the contemporary Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. As far as powertrains went, you either got a new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, or a carryover 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with 360 hp and 390 lb-ft. I’m not really going to go into the SRT models here.
But FCA didn’t rest on its laurels, so 2014 brought an extensive facelift to the Grand Cherokee. There were new fascias front and rear, and the electronics were redone to take advantage of newer hardware seen on the Charger, 300, Ram 1500, and Journey. Jeep also added a diesel option, a 3.0-liter turbo V6 good for 240 hp, 420 lb-ft, and up to 730 miles of range between fill-ups. All three engines were backed by a new 8-speed ZF automatic, which you controlled via a monostatic gear selector, also developed by ZF and shared with some Audi models.
In 2016, Jeep revised the base Pentastar V6 with direct injection and start-stop, resulting in small fuel economy and power gains, and reverted to a conventional gear selector. In 2017, the Grand Cherokee underwent further styling updates, with a subtly-modified front fascia and modified “Grand Cherokee” lettering on the sides. Jeep also added new colors and some packages (including the Trailhawk) that came with blacked-out lights, badging, wheels, and trim. In 2018, almost all FCA cars, including the Grand Cherokee, got redesigned infotainment systems with flat, modern graphics in place of the skeuomorphic look. Base versions came with an all-new 7-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system, while nicer ones came with a redesigned 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system, with optional navigation. Both included Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
So…this meant my 2015 Grand Cherokee was among the earlier facelifted models and that it had the weird monostatic gear selector. I got used to it in short order, but it also annoyed me, because sometimes it would fail to let me shift gears. Another thing I found weird was the easy entry/exit feature. When you turned it off, it would slide the seat back and tilt the steering wheel up, but not telescope it in, like most other cars with such a system. And sometimes, it would forget to either move the wheel out of the way when I turned it off, or forget to move it back into place when I started the car up again. It was like competing electronics and modules were booting up in the wrong order, causing certain things not to work the way they should.
Niggles aside, the Grand Cherokee had quite a bit it got right. The seats were all-day comfortable. The instrument panel had a large 8-inch display front-and-center with large, crisp and legible graphics. The 25-gallon tank meant that I didn’t need to stop at the gas station all that often, especially if I stayed in town and didn’t go on any road trips. The back seats split 60/40 and reclined so that my guests weren’t restricted to a particular back position, and no one ever complained about either the ride quality or the rear-seat legroom. Mom was particularly smitten with it when she visited and I let her drive it. And I myself really like the audio system, and the large subwoofer in the cargo area.
Around Christmas of 2018, I decided to drive the Jeep from Oklahoma City to Northern Florida to visit some friends, and then to Atlanta to spend the holidays with family. I made the first leg in about 18 hours feeling tired, but not outright fatigued, and the journey back home in 12 or 13 hours. The whole time, the Grand Cherokee felt simultaneously stable and nimble and kept me comfortable. It was a cushy ride, although I would have appreciated it if mine had included the adaptive cruise control system. I even made use of the Travel Link subscription from when the car was new, which included a nifty weather map application that let me know what sorts of storms I was driving into.
In early 2019, and in the dead of winter, I started to notice that my heat didn’t quite work right. It took forever to heat up and would alternate between hot and lukewarm air. I endured this for all of two weeks thinking that maybe I was crazy, before I began to notice the syrupy scent of coolant, and finally dropped into the dealership. I was hoping it wasn’t anything like a cracked heater core, and fortunately it wasn’t. The radiator itself had a leak in it, so the local dealership replaced it under my Carvana warranty. They did give me a 2018 base-model Dodge Journey, which was the sorriest penalty box I’ve driven in a long time, least of all because the 4-cylinder model still has a 4-speed automatic. Thankfully, I had the Grand Cherokee back in a few weeks.
In March, I went gaga over a low-mile 2016 BMW 435i xDrive M Sport Coupe at the local BMW store, and was in the financing office before I realized I didn’t really want that as a daily driver. What I had was that new (to me) car itch. Instead, I decided to treat the Grand Cherokee to new tires, which were quieter than the OEM ones. and a full interior/exterior detail. Honestly, it made it feel like a new car.
There’s really not much else to report on the Jeep. It’s been a faithful friend over the last 11 months and 22,000-odd miles since I purchased it. I know that’s not saying much, but you all know how quickly I fall out of love with cars. It’s been with me through road trips, and family obligations, and getting to and from the office, and carting Honey (my dog) places. And that’s why I still have it. Currently, I’m looking for a good bike rack for the towing hitch, so I can start bicycling again. The one thing that bothers me is the 20 miles per gallon average, but that’s exactly what it promises to deliver, and it doesn’t bother me enough to get rid of it at this time. And despite still having the warranty and it being an FCA product, I’m not all that concerned about repairs or reliability. For now, the Grand Cherokee is just right.
So this is a positive end for my Cars of a Lifetime series. I’m sure the Grand Cherokee isn’t the last car I’ll buy. I’ll probably buy something alongside the Grand Cherokee, like the aforementioned 4 Series, but for now this is it. Thanks for sticking with me, everyone, and hopefully you’ll see a lot more of my writing here in other categories.