Jeeps are like old friends for us. The friendship began some two decades ago when we came to know a Jeep Cherokee (XJ). We owned a couple of those, including a last model year ’01 Jeep Cherokee Limited that we regret abandoning to this day.
Fast forward about a decade and a couple of Grand Cherokees later, and we find ourselves in the new, limited edition 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude. First impressions are that this is the best Jeep product since that old Cherokee. We intend to document our long-term experience over the coming months and years, but the following is an initial Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude Review after some 500 miles.
The Grand Cherokee Altitude is essentially a Grand Cherokee Laredo "+". It's received gloss black exterior upgrades, 20” wheels, leather-trimmed perforated suede seats, and an 8.4 inch touchscreen radio. Heated front seats + steering wheel, auto start/stop, power liftgate, and a few other positive convenience features we’re probably forgetting also come standard as part of the Altitude package. (Full specs on Jeep.com.)
Engine & Transmission
We’ve got the V6 engine (290 hp), and the standard 8-speed automatic transmission, which is a total revelation after the last generation’s 5-speed transmission.
After a long-term ’12 Grand Cherokee Laredo, we knew from the first drive in the Grand Cherokee Altitude that Jeep finally hit on a proper engine-transmission combination.
It’s also notably more fuel efficient. With the old 5-speed we were lucky to eke out 17 mpg in the city. We’re effortlessly 19 mpg+ in “eco mode” with the 8-speed. We expect similar improvements when it comes to highway and back road use.
We’re fans of the perforated suede seats with the leather trim. They keep your core planted where it should be, but at the same time offer some additional, welcome comfort in the bolstering. That’s a subjective preference, admittedly, but it’s the same seat material combination you’ll find in a variety of German performance cars, so it’s no doubt got some function and appeal.
Our interior gripes have to do with the gear lever and 8.4 inch touchscreen.
We’re a bit conflicted with the gear lever. It opens up a very convenient cubby as pictured here – perfect for cell phone, wallet, etc. – but at the same time it requires some conscious effort to engage the desired gear. We’ve missed reverse for neutral, park for reverse, etc. on more than one occasion. Okay, it’s not rocket science and we’ll get used to it, but nevertheless something that we’re having to think about and get used to more than we’d like.
With regard to the 8.4 touchscreen radio, we don't love it yet, but admittedly have no substantive complaint. Like any new piece of technology it will likely just take some getting used to.
Overall ergonomics and driver comfort are spot on and the cabin is typical Grand Cherokee quiet. Just an overall nice place to be.
Handling & Performance
Like the 8-speed transmission, the 20” wheel + tire combination makes a real difference from the driver’s seat, and will positively influence your day-to-day enjoyment of the Grand Cherokee Altitude.
The shorter tire sidewall, and slightly wider footprint have injected some sharpness, life, and tactility into the big Jeep’s handling. Steering response and feedback are very favorable, and stability through corners is much better than with the base Laredo's 17” wheel + tire combination.
We are sensing less compliance over bumps with the 20” wheels than the 17”, but it’s a welcome exchange for the far more favorable handling dynamics.
All in all, we have overwhelmingly positive things to report about the Grand Cherokee Altitude so far.
More to come.