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Quick Drive: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit

Kamil Kaluski November 10, 2011 First Impressions, Jeep Reviews 45 Comments

While it’s been out for over a year, this was my first time driving the Grand Cherokee, in this case the loaded “Overland Summit” edition. I don’t want to exaggerate here, but this thing is damn nice. Furthermore, it seems as though the new WK2 improved on every single issue the old WK had. The tight packaging of the WK has been expanded, in part probably due to ditching of the live rear axle, which also improved on the twitchy WK handling. The increase in the cargo and rear seat area means that the Grand Cherokee is now as functional and roomy as it looks.

Inside, the driving position is great, if not a bit short on headroom for those 6’2” and taller, with great visibility forward and to the sides. Rearward visibility is slightly reduced due to the thick pillars and a sloping roofline, but there are backup camera and sensors working as reversing aids. The dash layout is great, with the radio and HVAC mounted high in the console. The gauges are easy to read, with the on-board computer in between, controlled by the equally nicely positioned steering wheel controls. If there’s anything to be criticized is the slightly confusing and slow touch-screen “infotainment center”, as the kids call it these days. More knobs and fewer buttons would be nice too.

The Overland I drove was equipped the HEMI V8 and air suspension, which I spent a good 15 minutes watching as it raised and lowered the Jeep (fun for the whole family). It was also equipped with heated and ventilated seats (ventilated seats is a feature your slightly overweight body didn’t know it couldn’t live without), heated steering wheel (the whole wheel, not just the leather part), nav, dynamic cruise control, huge sunroof, and a bunch of other stuff. It was really nice, as in Range Rover nice. I got to be honest here, I am seriously considering the Grand Cherokee as the next family car. Where the Wrangler Unlimited was just cool, this is just more comfortable. I’ll take mine with the V6, coil springs, 2-speed transfer case, huge sunroof, in gray with tan interior. And a tow hitch. And 32″ M/Ts. And skid plates. And rock sliders.

  • Cherokee Owner

    You going to review the new SRT8 GC?

    • Unfortunately no, at least not in the near future.

  • jeepjeff

    Sounds like a proper Land Rover competitor. Nice. I'd have been overjoyed if the had dusted off the Grand Wagoneer name, but at the same time "Grand Cherokee" is a currently successful nameplate.

    (This also means it's too comfortable for my tastes… Of course, I think a Gen 8 Civic is too posh…)

    • pj134

      Isn't the Grand Wagoneer coming in the next few years?

      I checked, 2013, it'll have a couple extra seats. …

      • jeepjeff

        That's right, silly me, not googling first.

        • pj134

          I know your as interested as I am, hopefully there is some hope for us on the diesel front. A GC deisel may be here the next model year, but they don't think we'd "accept" a wrangler diesel.

          At least, if Autoblog is to be believed.

  • Alff

    It does look very nice. In my narrow minded way, I can't get past the fact that I could buy XJs for everyone in my extended family for the same price.

    • pj134

      On the side, it's only like two to six decade old TJs depending on which trim line you want.

  • Scandinavian Flick

    Not bad, for a soft roader…

    "the driving position is great, if not a bit short on headroom for those 6’2” and taller"

    Can someone explain to me how this is at all understandable or acceptable for something this large? I am 6'4", and it never ceases to amaze and appall me that so many large trucks manage to feel cramped. Is it the ever-increasing belt line, resulting in higher window sills, that necessitates a higher seating position to accommodate all you shorter plebeians? Why not make the seat more adjustable then?

    It's bad enough that I can't even fit in a regular sized bed, (I sleep diagonally on a Queen) but this shit severely limits my choice in cars. I'm not even that tall. I know plenty who are taller.

    • I hear ya. I am 6'2" and with the seat all the way down my head was about an inch from the roof.
      In addition to what you mentioned I see two more problems:
      – Sunroofs which take away from the headroom
      – The 30 or so electric motors that are required in the modern 12-way adjustable heated massaging seat.

      Whatever you, do not even attempt to sit in a E90 3-series BMW. Try a Porsche 911 or a Jeep Wrangler. 🙂

      • Scandinavian Flick

        They really need to option in a smaller, less electric seat on most cars. In my car, it's powered, but it's barely adjustable. Fortunately, this results in a somewhat lower seating position that just happens to be perfect for me. It's still a ridiculously tight fit with a helmet on though, and I have to drive in an awkward position when driving at a drag strip, track or autocross.

        I actually had a loaner E90 328i for a couple weeks. It was definitely a tight fit vertically, but I got a non-sunroof model, so that probably helped. I also rented a brand new Wrangler in San Diego, and that thing was a blast, and indeed, super comfortable. It's nice to know that the 911s are comfortable, (they are on the short list of "must drive, possible buy") since I already know I don't fit in a Boxster. (A friend owns one, and I can't physically drive it…) Must be those taller Germans…

        • jeepjeff

          My understanding is that pretty much every vintage of 911 has a surprising amount of headroom and an upright driving position.

          (I really want to drive one, too, but I seriously don't have the money to fall in love with one…)

      • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

        You tall guys should sit in a LWB W126 Mercedes to experience proper front seat room.

        • Scandinavian Flick

          Yes, quite. Similar vintage Cadillacs are also quite proper.

          • FuzzyPlushroom

            Indeed. And you already know of Volvo 240s (albeit only with the seat adjusted quite far down) and, to a slightly sunroof-mandated lesser extent, 740/940/960s. I'm not that tall, though – 6', 32" inseam.

    • pj134

      Why don't you go play basketball?

      Hops in first gen Miata and drives to the well forested and unkempt park with many low branches where the limbo tournament is being held.

      Honestly though, If I can manage to hope into my sisters former Jetta, which was a manual, and be able to drive it in her seating position, which was as far forward as mechanically possible and as high as possible, how can there be any issue in really any car? I'm 5'11", so not ridiculously short, but not really tall either.

      • Devin

        Interestingly, I'm not that much taller than you, but I can't even get into my 5'3" mother's car without moving the seat. I think my seat has been at the full back position in everything I've owned, most of my height is in my legs.

        • pj134

          I had to train myself, to be honest. I worked in a wash bay and customers were bitching about their seat being in a different position, so I never moved the seat. My sister is 5'1" or 5'2" but I could still manage it. Couldn't get too far without adjusting it, but could definitely drive it. I sacrificed my knees to many an SL and SC though.

        • jeepjeff

          My wife is like that. She's 5'6" and all leg, so our hip joints are at exactly the same height (I'm 6'0" and pretty normally proportioned). The nice part is we both like the same seat setup, so switching drivers on road trips is just a quick hop out and run a lap around the car.

          I like the seat back, down and upright, but I'm still close enough to average that I fit in basically everything. (Which is good, because I like small cars.)

      • Scandinavian Flick

        Why don't you go suck a whole bag full of… Oh, you were just mocking me. Never mind. Carry on.

        I'm fairly convinced that it gets exponentially harder to fit with each additional inch. TWSS
        There are different reasons that I don't fit in any given car. Head room is the first to go, and in some vehicles it comes down to leg room. My first step when getting into any car is to move the seat all the way down and all the way back. It usually stays there…

        • pj134

          Do you sit upright or do you have a little lean?

          • Scandinavian Flick

            Due to back issues, I try to sit as upright as possible. Driving manual transmissions kinda forces you to ditch the lean as well.

      • FuzzyPlushroom

        If the Jetta's clutch pedal is in the same relative location as the New Beetle's, there you are. Whenever I drove my mother's car, I had to be an inch or two closer than I'd have liked, with my knees bent to a slightly uncomfortable angle, to be able to fully disengage the clutch without moving the rest of my body.

    • Design to the 50th percentile can be blamed for most of this. The average American is 5' 7" to 5'9", then giving everyone a leeway above and below captures most people. But I suspect as manufactures standardize their models for global platforms, they are setting their mean at a point that fits a greater majority we don't find the majority of Americans in.

      • Scandinavian Flick



      • pj134

        Interesting information on height averages:

        By country, Men under 20: …
        By Ethnicity: (different ethnicity are under the links)

        So, over 6'3" and you're taller than more than 95% of men according to data from 88-94. There you have it.

        MORE STATS!

        • Scandinavian Flick

          Hmmm, the Scandinavians are definitely high on the charts at 3rd and 4th… That explains me, I suppose. :-/

          • Yeah, sorry guys. In a mass manufactured world it is difficult not being in the "norm." I expect that as we continue to get taller, at least domestically we will have to shift the 50th percentile up. I read something somewhere in a journal that said North Americans were about 2" inches taller than the 50's just based on nutrition and the lack of spine compressing work.

    • Feds_II

      I'm 5'9", 180 lbs. The whole world is designed to accommodate me. Take that, statistical outliers.

    • Tiller188

      Right there with you — I also check in at about 6' 4", and I'm amazed at the number of cars that I just can't find a good driving position in. I also have a pronounced hatred for sunroofs — partly the engineer in me looking at the potentially leaky, mechanically complex, stiffness-robbing extra weight sitting right up on the top of the car, and partly just being annoyed at the intrusion into the space where my head wants to be.

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    It's been gone from my hands since 1999, but I still miss my old ZJ.

    In limited, V8, Quadra-Trac trim, it was the near-perfect Colorado Front-Range machine.

    High-teens MPG was the only problem.

    I drove a new one recently, someone else's rental, and it didn't seem "right". Would likely be different if it were equipped the way I want it, though.

    Still needs a diesel, however.

  • If I was in the SUV market, a Grand Cherokee would be high on the list. My parents had a '98, and I drove that thing into the ground. It didn't help that my dad bought it from one of his motorbike friends who's nickname was "Squid." That was embroidered in the dash mat.

  • The new GC and Magnum are the first IRS-equipped SUVs that I'm allowing myself to take seriously…if only because I trust Mopar to deliver when it comes to proper truck/SUV drivetrain and suspension.

    …and yet, it's a Mercedes chassis.

    Still, provided they show decent reliability over the next couple years, I'd consider a used one as a family truckster if the role opened up.

    • pj134

      I do believe I read somewhere that it was originally pillaged from Chryslerco designs for the next GC at the time. Kind of like the SLS being a Viper.

      Just they hid the GLK being a Chrysler platform better than they hid the SLS being the former idea of the next viper platform.

      • The SLS and GLK are news to me. What Chrysler platform is the GLK tied to?

        It's a myth that the R-class and Pacifica were the same, despite so many similarities in end product.

        • pj134

          The word is the platform was being developed, Daimler was heading out and decided they decided to take a couple for the road. The SLS without a doubt is based off of what was originally intended to be the next generation Viper. You will hear both sides of the coin for the GLK/GC. Some say Daimler took anything they could grab, and that platform was originally being designed by Chrysler for the next Grand Cherokee and tied up in development by Daimler until Chrysler could get to it again and come out with their competitor a couple years later. Who knows.

          • Devin

            I thought the ML and GC were tied together, rather than the GLK and GC? The GLK is also a bit smaller, so I wouldn't be surprised if it was intended to replace the Liberty.

          • Ah, yeah…you meant ML, not GLK.

            GLK = compact Crossover, actually based on the C-class platform (according to Wiki).

            It's funny how massive a corporate culture disconnect there was between Chrysler and Daimler.

            • pj134

              It was what I had heard. I apologize for the garbage in, garbage out.

              • Devin

                Mercedes has a lot of SUVs, it's easy to get confused.

  • craigsu

    Let's color coordinate that grill or at least black out the mesh. That thing's way too shiny for my tastes.

  • BTW, the suspension pics, unaltered, taken free-hand, at night. I impressed myself.

  • Feds_II

    Honestly, I have a top-of-the-line GC in my fantasy garage. If I had FU money, there would be a couple of very focused sports cars and couple of cool classics; and a GC to drive in bad weather, or when I felt like getting muddy, or towing the boat, or moving a few people around, or it was too hot, or it was too cold, or there was more than a 30% chance or rain…

    Hells, who am I kidding? I'm all growed up and shit. I'd drive the GC daily and just have the fun cars in a well lit garage so I could drink beer and look at them.

    • pj134

      Amen to that last line.

  • Michael

    I drove a 2012 Grand Cherokee as a rental car on a recent hunting trip to South Dakota. It was a base model, cloth seats, V6, 4×4. It was the nicest rental car I've ever had, and I came away thinking, "I'll buy one of these in a couple of years on the used market". It got 24 MPG, rode great (we put several hundred miles on it), had room for 3 men, 2 big gun cases, luggage, etc. We all came away impressed. I couldn't pay new money for a loaded up model like in the OP here, but a base model V6 4×4 fits my needs better anyway and will be affordable pretty soon. If I can convince my wife to replace her BMW X3 with a GC… … …

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