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.
Very enjoyable series Kyree…
Last year, my one daughter’s best friend bought a Grand Cherokee similar to yours but with 4WD. We had a party over at my house last summer/fall and had a bunch of cars in the driveway, I needed to move her GC out of the way.
I hadn’t been in a GC for several years and was absolutely stunned to see the level of goodness in that interior. I think hers is an Overlander or a Latitude, it was pretty loaded up, regardless. Normally, I would just get the car out of the driveway and put it on the street until we got the person out, who needed out. With her permission, I took the GC for a quick spin.
The GC drove strong and smooth, and I became a fan. I can see why so many people want these things (aside from the foul weather capabilities needed here in the upper Midwest), as it was one of the more pleasant SUVs I’ve spent time in.
Good choice, Kyree…
I’ve really enjoyed reading your series, Kyree!
It is clear you’re an articulate and intelligent young man. Happy roads to you and keep us posted with what’s next!
There is much appeal in a modern JGC. The Pentastar 3.6s I have driven have been sweet engines. I have yet to experience the 8 speed. You don’t mention odd shift logic, so perhaps they have improved from the 6 speeds I found to be tolerable at best.
I will admit to being a bit unusual, and even living in snow and ice country the 2WD version appeals to me because of simplicity and lower cost. I have gone over 40 years without needing 4WD and do not doubt that this Jeep would work for me just fine.
So this is an amusing coincidence. I’ve been seriously considering a Grand Cherokee and, in fact, I’ve got one I rented from Turo sitting outside my Airbnb right now.
Whenever I say to people, “I want a GC”, they always tend to go “Really, an FCA product?”. Then I explain I want the Overland with the air suspension and they get even more skeptical.
But the thing is, if you want actual off-road ability but a relatively refined on-road drive and a raft of luxury features, you really don’t have many options. There’s always a compromise — a rival Toyota (Prado here, 4Runner there) will probably be more reliable but it’ll have a worse interior and fewer features.
There are a few things that give me pause, however.
1) The Overland’s leather-wrapped dash can actually warp badly and it’s a relatively common occurrence, from my understanding. It is extremely expensive to fix.
2) The beautiful beige interior is much rarer here. I looked at a brilliant red Overland with the beige interior and it was the classiest Jeep I’ve ever seen.
3) I could just find a Limited with the luxury pack to get the features I want but it likely wouldn’t have the Quadra-Lift. And I’m not sure I love the on-road drive of lesser GCs – it’s not bad but it’s a bit truck-like. Full review pending.
4) The biggest concern I have are the engines. Perhaps V6/RWD is alright but I’ve heard the heavier V6 4WD is very sluggish. Though 0-60 times are similar to the diesel 4WD, the diesel seems to feel stronger off the line. To be honest though, the diesel doesn’t feel especially fast either so I can’t imagine what the 3.6 would feel like PLUS it’d get worse gas mileage.
I have a lot of respect for the Grand Cherokee and kudos to Jeep for still giving this truck genuine off-road ability. The interior is ageing but it’s still WAY nicer than a comparable Toyota. But I’m not sure if it’s the truck for me. I’ll have to test a 4WD Overland to be sure.
You had me going there for a while, knowing how short some of your previous vehicles have hung around as well as the fact that you don’t have a particular type or brand of vehicle that you stick with.
So yeah it wouldn’t have surprised me one bit if you did bring home that BMW, and you’ve just been keeping it a secret. It will be interesting to see just how long you do keep the Jeep, and if you do expand the fleet if it stays in heavy rotation once you’ve got over the new to me aspect of what ever addition you make.
I do get the need to scratch that new, at least to me, itch. I’m a little ashamed to say that in just under 1 year I’ve bought 3 vehicles, though 1 was for my wife and the 1 I just bought for myself is an addition to the fleet not a replacement.
On the other hand some of my vehicles have ended up hanging around for a decade or more. Those mostly however have been pickups and vans that don’t see front line duty. We do however still have the 2003 Mountaineer we bought new as the family truckster that was moved from front line duty several years ago.
Kyree, I’m glad you’re pleased with your Jeep. I love my 2014 Grand Cherokee Summit V8 4×4, and haven’t felt the urge to replace it (likely I will pass it down to my daughter when she wraps up college). I have about 72,000 hard Chicagoland miles on it now, but it still looks and drives beautifully. The leather interior has held up well, and cleans up easily.
Mine has the annoying “toggle” shifter like yours, which I’ve gotten used to but don’t like. I’m also not a huge fan of the center stack controls with the seat heaters/coolers buried in submenus. But other than that, I find it very easy to use.
Mechanically, there have been no issues save for one: the steering pump failed at about 62,000 miles, but it was replaced at no charge under Jeep’s extended powertrain warranty. Other service needs are minimal: the computerized maintenance reminder really does seem to base services on driving conditions not just miles (stop-and-go city driving in winter prompts earlier service visits than highway miles in summer). I’ve put on one set of tires, and shockingly, even with the 5.7 V8 gas mileage isn’t really that bad, likely due to the 8-speed transmission.
The other thing I really like about the Grand Cherokee is that you can “dress it” up or down: it can haul mulch from Home Depot or get valeted at a fancy restaurant, and is equally at home in either environment. Here’s a fun picture of my Jeep doing its work. My daughter had a dog daycare business, and here she is with the Jeep and a few of her “customers” (Chloe in the back and Spencer in front), on a very harsh Illinois winter day. Perfect Jeep duty!
Thoroughly enjoyed your series–thanks for sharing. Like other COAL series, it was interesting to be along for the ride. Funny how much we all have in common when it comes to decisions, experiences and our perceptions of our first cars and then how we mature and make different decisions as time goes on.
Thanks, Kyree, for sharing with us this enjoyable series. Please share with us any new rides you get.
A great series that finally answered some questions that I had about your series of vehicles and the GC is a very nice rig, I looked at one a couple of times over the years as well and always enjoy them when I get one as a rental. They seem to be just the right size, look, equipment, and price, no wonder they are as popular as they are.
Hang on to it, it’ll be hard to beat unless going in a completely different direction but even if the itch strikes, force yourself to wait a week or two before actually making a change, often the urge subsides….
Hi Kryse ,, The Gen Grand Cherokee. So much riding on it. Still built at Jefferson North. AMC had a Mini Van in 1977. It was a panel van like the Pacer,,ya know .Had solid rear panels like the Pinto Cruising Wagon. Same ,,Pacer bell bottom frared wheel lips. It was a show car push mobile. Somebody on Grassroots Motorsports, is building a Rambler wagon with a Lexus V8. cheers -)
It’s always fun when something is priced wrong and you grab it up before it’s discovered. I’ve never been lucky enough to find a car priced incorrectly, but I’ve bought $700 VCRs(Back when they were still pretty expensive in general) for $350, A couple of rusty guns that weren’t rusty, just loaded up insaide and out with jeweler’s rouge, and a few tools that were sold by people who didn’t know what they had on Ebay. One item sold new for $270, and for some reason, a slightly used one was up for auction and had no bids on it with literally minutes to go with a $15 opening bid. I put in a $20 max and got it for $15 and $10 shipping. I wondered if it had some problem, but nope, it worked great and is the best deal I ever got on Ebay. The cheapest deal on the same item since then is $99+ shipping on one that looks like it was used and abused.
Hi Kyree, I just wanted to let you know that I have greatly enjoyed reading your contributions to this site and TTAC. Grand Cherokees are very popular in my locality and your article explains the reason why — they offer good comfort and capability for a sensible price. Easy on the eyes, too! I hope yours serves you well, and can’t wait to hear more about your ownership experience.
In the meantime between car purchases, could we get an article about Honey? She is absolutely adorable! (I admit I’m a dog lover even more than a car lover)