Easy Drive: Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to drive the Ford Explorer, Jeep Commander, Mercury Mountaineer, and Jeep Grand Cherokee, for varying amounts of time. The Explorer and Commander experiences were shorter press preview drives, on routes chosen by the manufacturers to best showcase their vehicles. On the other hand, the Mountaineer and Grand Cherokee were in our office for about a week and I had the chance to drive them both in my normal daily environment for a couple of days.
The Mountaineer, Explorer, and Commander are all larger than the Grand Cherokee, with their extra room for three rows of seats. Ford has done a terrific job with the third row on Mountaineer and Explorer, and if I needed that space, I’d take one of those over the Commander. Commander uses the same wheelbase as the Grand Cherokee on which it is based, but is slightly longer overall as well as taller and wider than Grand Cherokee without being quite as large as the Explorer/Mountaineer. As a result, the Commander’s third-row setup is not as good as that of the FoMoCo products.
More Compact Grand Cherokee is Choice for Sports Car Driver
Being as pre-disposed as I am to smaller vehicles and not in need of something to carry more people than myself and my husband, of the four I have found the Grand Cherokee to be the most comfortable overall package. A bump to one of the V8s over the V6 our test car was equipped with would be nice, though. The V6 is adequate around town with no cargo, but more power is always appreciated on the road (if not at the pump) and with a full load, the V6 would leave us lagging behind a bit. Our Grand Cherokee Laredo is reasonably equipped, not holding all the bells and whistles but with enough equipment to not feel Spartan, including an item I can’t imagine buying another vehicle without: heated leather seats. The seats are part of an option bundle, however, and not standard on all Laredos. The Laredo package gets the basic of the three available AWD systems (Quadra-Trac I), but that system is plenty adequate for my needs, which are mostly limited to occasional dirt or poorly paved roads and inclement weather. Were we truly in the market for an SUV, this package would be on the short list, though admittedly the $33,555 price tag on our test car seems a bit high.
The Explorer/Mountaineer are quieter, but they are larger and they feel it. (The FoMoCo products have a footprint more than six inches longer than the Grand Cherokee, though the width is close.) If you need an SUV and don’t need the space to take seven people, the Grand Cherokee is a comfortable and pleasant option.
Perhaps, however, it no surprise that an owner of a TT coupe and a Miata is most comfortable with the smallest of these SUVs!