REVIEW: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland: Discovering the Overland, all over again

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AURORA | I feel like I’ve spent more time in a Jeep Grand Cherokee over the last three years than Taylor Swift has spent with any one of her 238 boyfriends I get to hear about over the radio.

I just don’t whine about the time I spend with my part-time spouse like she does.

Sure, there are quirks that I wish weren’t there. Like flyaway hairs I could be finding everywhere, like — What?! Why is there hair in my checkbook?! — never mind, I get it, a car is a faithful companion you learn and love.

I understand the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was the first identifiable vehicle that rolled off of Chrysler’s line after the company’s finances went through a tsunami of uncertainty. Jeep, as a brand, was wholly profitable even though the rest of the company under the Chrysler family umbrella siphoned money from it faster than a desperate housewife from Orange County.

That’s why the new Grand Cherokee was such a revelation when it was unleashed halfway through 2010. The fourth-generation Jeep looked different like a spinoff show without being wholly separate from the brand. If the rest of the Jeep brand looked like it was stuck in 1997, the new Grand Cherokee was Lisa Bonet in “A Different World” who visited her ungainly siblings on the car lot every once in a while.

Now, entering its 40th month on sale in North America, Jeep has only a few more little tricks to pull out of its bag to make the Grand Cherokee seem brighter or newer.

Like the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland.

For the most part, the Overland exists as an option down from the Overland Summit if you don’t want your Jeep to power through a brick wall while ventilating your rump and giving you an overhead perspective of the carnage above. The Overland lives to knock a few thousand dollars off the price of an Overland Summit — which starts at nearly $48,000 for four-wheel drive — to give buyers pause: “Am I going to have to pay room and board for my child’s last semester at college? Or will he move in with his girlfriend that I don’t really like by then? Which is really better, in my opinion?”

Even though your son might not be powered by such motivation, the Grand Cherokee Overland is. The standard 3.6-liter V6 is among Chrysler’s best and brightest. The V6 Pentastar engine produces 290 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, which is plenty for the 6,500-pound SUV. A 5.7-liter V8 Hemi is also available as an option ($1,695) but also packs the preferred transmission for both.

Which is to say despite having a standard V6 engine that packs enough gumption and frugality to power other Chrysler vehicles to 31 mpg (Chrysler 300) Jeep curiously mates the 3.6-liter engine to a 5-speed transmission that feels like a holdover from the last generation. What gives?

Nonetheless, the interior of the Grand Cherokee Overland is much more refined and up-to-date. The top grain leather and seating arrangement feels more akin to luxury than stripper Jeep, and the upgraded dash materials are worth forgetting that you’re driving a car that was developed more than 75 years ago to haul GIs from one muddy field to another.

Even better still, the Overland offers the same interior features as the Overland Summit, save a sunroof and stitching in the headrests, and even the same capability — which is to say, a lot.

A couple years ago, we were given the opportunity to take one of these “soft roaders” or 4-wheel drive luxury yachts off road to the proving grounds in Moab and proved once and for all that, yes, you can blast Ludacris and have your rump cooled while descending slick rock in a Jeep.

The Overland is built by Jeep to withstand 99.9 percent of everything you can throw at it short of a day trip to Chernobyl, without busting a gasket here or throwing a rod there. And if I had to answer the most commonly asked question I get about Jeeps in few words it would be this:

“I love Jeeps, but I hear they’re unreliable past 50,000 miles. Is that true?”

“Well, I don’t know about 50,000 miles, but I once hit an engine mount on red rock harder than an asteroid plummeting to the face of the earth and it seemed to be just fine. Does that work?”

That’s not to say there aren’t things I wouldn’t change. I’d ask for a new transmission here, a new navigation unit there, but for the most part the Grand Cherokee is as good now as it was more than three years ago when it first came out. I really believe that.

I would know. I feel like I’ve been in a Grand Cherokee longer than I’ve been in some pants I’ve owned over the same stretch.

Next year may see diesel in the Grand Cherokee for the first time in nearly a decade, and a few more special editions like this year’s Trailhawk, but for the most part, it’s the same.

And the same is still plenty good.

 

Aaron Cole is a syndicated auto columnist. He knows he’s wrong, he’d just rather hear it from you. Reach him at [email protected] or at @ColeMeetsCars 

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Nkele
Nkele
9 years ago

However, I find that my brand new grandcherokee overland 3.6L 2013 does not handle some terrains well on-road. It is very bumby. It has been to the workshop twice already in less than a month. road handling tends to be unsafe on uneven tarred-roads (slight uneveness though) and even worse on gravel, road-holding is a nightamre on the same uneven terrain. I have read a lot of reviews people praising overland’s on-road performance, but I think this praise is over-exagerated. So far, owning this car has only brought misery into my life. I may have to trade it in for an ML 4 months from now. The bumpiness is really uncomfortable and unbearable, resulting in a lot of health complaints like sore shoulder, painy neck, headaches and sore wrists. Perhaps it is only made for drivers with more phydical strength. I am a female driver, based in South Africa Johannesburg. I find that the Dealer tends to doubt concerns I am raising as I am woman and supposedly know zilch about cars. That is South Africa for you. However, problems were found and sorted, these were suspension issues – wheel alignment stuff. But hey, bumpiness persists. My old Dodge Journey 2.7 TR handled these terrains exceptionally well.