Get behind the wheel of a premium automobile and you want to feel that not only are you surrounded by luxurious design elements, but that it's all been thoughtfully engineered to deliver an exceptional experience. Luxury doesn't come from using better materials for a seat or upgrading the dashboard color scheme, it comes from thinking about what a premium driver seeks and ensuring that the vehicle delivers. With that in mind, I've been very curious about the Jeep Grand Cherokee, a rather expensive SUV. I was offered the chance to spend a week driving the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit 4x4 3-row SUV and was quite curious to experience luxury, Jeep style.
There really is a lot to like with the Jeep Grand Cherokee too, particularly for people who are loyal to the brand and want to upgrade their drive experience without leaving the fabled company. But after a week of driving the vehicle in the 'burbs, the city, and up in the mountains, it's clear that there are a lot of rough edges to this luxury experience.
Jeep loaned me a Silver Zynith [yes, that's how they spell it] Grand Cherokee L Summit 4x4 that definitely has curb appeal. It's not overtly enormous, but it's a full three-row SUV with cargo space behind the third row. With every seat up, there are seatbelts for 7 passengers: 2, 2, 3, though the back row is going to be pretty squished with even three little ones. Probably best for five + driver, so if you have a bigger family, you'll need to keep looking. You can see the seat configuration from this view through the rear cargo hatch:
There might be a configuration where the second row has space for three instead of the armrest, but that's not how this particular vehicle was configured. Note especially the surprisingly generous cargo room behind the third row seats. Most of the 3-row vehicles I've tested had almost no space if the third row of seats was in use, but Jeep added sufficient inches to avoid that problem.
Even more deluxe, you don't have to fuss with manually raising and lowering either second or third row seats, there's a handy button panel on the back right:
It really doesn't get any easier than this, and notice the handy 12V plug here too. That's in addition to the very generous array of power plugs between the driver's and front passenger's seats for the second row passengers:
Not only is that a 115V outlet, but there are also two USB-C and two USB-A ports, along with lots of climate controls to ensure you don't have your backseat passengers whining about how hot / cold it is. Very helpful!
As you would expect from a luxury edition, the rear seats also have built-in seat heaters, with the controls just below the up/down climate adjustments. The rear seats are quite comfortable too, with good legroom and wide seat designs:
Notice the diamond stitching on the door and seat panels too. These are the Nappa Leather Seats and they're very nice, but the diamond pattern is so dense that it's not actually particularly attractive. I know, that's a bit of a conundrum, but a single-stitch pattern or a bigger pattern would have looked more luxurious, this seems less uptown, more downtown. Not the effect that Jeep was seeking, I imagine.
On the up side, the optional McIntosh audio system was terrific, with speakers all over the vehicle, and a bright, solid sound that can shake your drive if you're so enthused. I admit, it did get me singing along to a few favorite songs as I drove down the highway. No surprise, though, it's powered by a staggering 950W amplifier.
Moving fully into the vehicle, the dashboard design is typical Jeep / FCA:
Lots of buttons, lots of shiny plastic surfaces. What I didn't notice until I was editing these photos is just how much dust these surface attract. You'll see, every close-up has plenty of dust on it, meaning that you'll either be dusting the interior of your Grand Cherokee regularly, or you'll have to get used to it so it doesn't bug you.
The main gauge display was really cool, with lots of animated information displays. Most obvious was that the vehicle changes drive height to maximize aerodynamics, so when driving slowly the speedometer and tachometer would move to the side and "Optimal Road Height Achieved" would flash on the screen. Zip along on the highway and it'd change again, for the best high speed aerodynamics. Pretty cool. You can see the default speedometer / tachometer display above.
Or you could switch to the fascinating, but highly distracting Grand Cherokee "Night Vision" mode:
I should note that this was during the day, so it was perfectly fine showing me this image even when it wasn't night. Not sure when this would be helpful since it's difficult to drive when you're staring at the main gauge cluster rather than out the front windshield, but it's definitely interesting. I would also be unsurprised if a zombie or two shuffled across the screen!
The infotainment screen, running FCA standard UConnect, features a 10.1" touch display that included both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. And that screen collected plenty of dust, as you can see below:
I appreciate all the power options - including HDMI in! - for the front row, but this overall climate control cluster seemed distinctly unluxurious, likely the exact same cluster and materials that would be utilized in an entry level Jeep too. Not a terrible thing, but with a premium pricetag comes premium expectations too.
Credit where it's due, however, the Qi wireless charging spot actually worked and continued to charge my iPhone 14 Pro while driving even on rough terrain. This may seem a daft observation, but it's the first vehicle I can remember driving where it could remain connected to my phone sufficiently to charge it wirelessly. Well done, Jeep!
True to its great Jeep heritage, the Grand Cherokee has lots of tough terrain driving modes and a height adjustment that helps compensate for heavy trailers (towing capacity is an impressive 6200 pounds). This is the center console cluster:
Notice both the 4WD Low and Hill Mode buttons. The dial to change gears? Meh, not a big fan, but lots of car companies have, um, shifted from having a regular shifter, so this might just be what we have to get used to in the newest vehicles.
What kept tripping me up, however, were odd design decisions that kept me feeling at least a smidge frustrated. For example, reverse into a parking spot and the Surround View Camera offered a great "overhead" view to ensure you were perfectly centered in your spot, but as soon as you shifted into drive, even without moving, the camera would turn off and you were left hunting through buttons to re-enable it. Why not have it stay active until you go over a certain speed?
There's also the poor fuel efficiency: I saw 19.7mpg for my few hundred miles of driving, which I suppose is pretty good for a three-row SUV with over 6,000 pounds of towing capacity, but just like a truck, it's important that buyers think through the consequences of this low mpg. The EPA fuel economy numbers suggest you'll spend $500 in fuel per year, but that has to be wrong: 20 gallons at the pump today will cost you over $75 and that's only going to get you around 400 miles or so. If the average driver hits 1,000mi/mo, it would actually cost an easy $200/month or $2200 per year to keep this in fuel. EPA estimates $2500 in gas over five years, I say that you're more likely to have spent $2500 before you have it 18 months.
Nonetheless, people love their Jeeps and there's a lot of brand loyalty. Well deserved, the company produces a lot of really fun and rugged vehicles with great eye appeal. Still, if you're looking to move up to a luxury 3-row SUV, it might behoove you to stretch your preferences and check out a few other well-known luxury brands. For the same $73K price tag, it might prove to be a better, more thoroughly luxurious experience.
2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit 4x4, powered by a 3.6L V6 with 8-speed automatic. Exterior: Silver Zynith. Interior: Global Black. BASE PRICE: $65,710. Options Included: Exterior paint package, Customer Preferred Package 23S, Luxury Tech Group V, 19-Speaker High-Performance Audio, Front Passenger Interactive Display. AS DRIVEN: $73,515.00.
Disclosure: Jeep loaned me the Grand Cherokee for a week in return for this candid review. Thanks, Jeep! This article also originally appeared on PlanetDave.com as 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit: A Quirky Premium Drive.