Did you ever meet someone who didn’t impress you at first, but after a while you became great friends?
That’s the way I felt about the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. It didn’t wow me right off the bat. It’s hard to say why. It doesn’t have the latest styling that Hyundai is flashing these days. I haven’t heard my friends saying, “I just have to get one!” It’s not that my expectations were low, they were simply missing. The Grand Cherokee was going to be just another car sitting in the driveway for a week.
The Grand Cherokee simply snuck up on me. Take the engine. The 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 puts out 290 horsepower. Not too much, not too little. There is an optional 5.7 liter V8 that gives you 360 horsepower. While I’m sure I’d love the extra kick, the V6 didn’t bother me. The Pentastar V6 engine with its variable valve timing is a workhorse for Chrysler and it works just fine for me. Maybe it was the eight speed transmission? Chrysler claims it has better fuel economy, quicker acceleration and smoother shifting. Mileage is OK for a big SUV, 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. I found myself averaging 19 mpg which seemed about right.
Driving the car just feels good. Of course that’s not a surprise when you remember that it shares bits and pieces with the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. That partnership with Chrysler may have died several years ago, but some of the technology lives on.
Inside it has plenty of room. You’ll find 68.7 cu.ft. of cargo space with the seats down, and 35.1 cu.ft. with the seats in place. And the passengers who sit there will find a reasonable amount of leg room (38.6 inches).
The shifter takes a little getting used to. Instead a of a mechanical shift that moves from P to R and then D, the Grand Cherokee Laredo has a fly-by-wire system. You’re simply tapping forward or backward to get from park to drive. You’re changing gears, but mechanically the shifter always ends up in the same place. I have a feeling that the longer you use it the more you’ll accept and even like it. One week just wasn’t enough for me.
I like the fact that you could choose between an analog or digital display for the speedometer. Surprisingly, I found I liked the big numbers of the digital display. The one thing I didn’t like was that the radio only had four presets. I’m sure you’ll get more when you pay more, but I thought that was a bit disappointing even for the base radio.
The Grand Cherokee Laredo is the base model in the Cherokee line-up. From there it moves up to the Limited, Overland and SRT8 models. You can even get the Grand Cherokee in Trail Rated editions with low-range four-wheel drive. While I’d love to test the SRT8 model (that must be one beast of an SUV), once again, the base Laredo did not make me feel like I was missing out. The Cherokee Laredo’s starting price is $28,795 and my test car only added a bit more to come in at $31,285. The basic warranty is three years or 36,000 miles.
There are plenty of SUVs in the $30,000 to $40,000 price range. It’s the sweet spot for decent sized vehicles that deliver decent value. I also know there are plenty of contenders who will offer more than the Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. But when you consider you’re buying more than just a car, you’re gaining a loyal friend you will like even more after many miles, the Laredo turns out to be a reasonable choice.