Jeep Grand Cherokee 75th Anniversary Edition Review
The Grand Cherokee, with its well appointed interior and sleek profile, may be a far cry from the original Willys Jeep, but like every Jeep model in 2016 the Grand Cherokee is offered in a special 75th anniversary model for the diamond anniversary of the brand that ultimately pays homage to that first Willys rig.
This special edition Jeep is produced in limited quantities and offers unique styling cues not found on standard Grand Cherokees. Whether the special edition is worth the price of admission is another question, so we spent some time in what’s arguably the sexiest of the Jeeps to see if this package is up to snuff.
The Willys originated as a military service vehicle for World War 2 that was later repurposed for civilians. Throughout the years that original Willys concept has been modified multiple times, and the soul of that first vehicle lives on with the current JK Wrangler that is still available in a two-door configuration and can covert into a lidless SUV.
Jeep has always prided itself in maintaining that core ethos in its models (even if some of its compact SUVs seem blasphemous). Jeep focuses on retaining capability, durability and that open-air freedom that early Jeep models built into the name. But when it comes to the Grand Cherokee, let’s not kid ourselves: the GC is far more luxury family SUV and far less hard-core trail rig. That said, the Grand Cherokee is surprisingly more capable than many would expect, especially the guys shouting at us in pink Jeeps during our recent trip to Sedona, Arizona. (Quick tip for visiting Sedona: look up our friend Nena Barlow at Barlow Adventures so you can actually rent a Jeep and drive it on some cool trails yourself versus having a tour guide drive you around in a pink Jeep.)
After a long day on the highway on our road trip adventure out from Southern California to Sedona, we were ready to hit some dirt. We made our way to one of the most well known trails in the area, Schnebly Hill Road. Our Grand Cherokee Limited 75th Anniversary test model is fitted with Jeep’s Quadra-Trac II 4WD system, so it features both a low-range setting and downhill assist control. Our Grand also is fitted with the Selec-Terrain system as well, allowing the driver to select the most appropriate terrain setting for the conditions and the Jeep helps control wheel spin accordingly.
Our 75th Grand Cherokee model also features the Quadra-Lift air suspension system, so as we stopped at the trailhead to Schnebly Hill we shifted were able to increase the ground clearance of the Jeep from the normal ride height (8.1 inches of clearance) past Off-Road 1 (or OR1, which provides an additional 1.3 inches of clearance) up to the peak Off-Road 2 (OR2) setting for a full 10.7 inches of ground clearance. The added clearance helps considerably, because Schnebly Trail has enough rocks and ledges on it to make a pretty SUV with low ground clearance ugly in a heartbeat. Keep in mind, the OR2 setting for the Quadra-Lift air suspension is intended for off-road use and will only allow the vehicle to remain in OR2 under 20 or so mph, because once it surpasses 25 mph it will automatically drop the rig down into OR1.
So as our friends in the pink Jeep asked us sarcastically “Is that Trail Rated?” we nodded yes and kept pace with their modified JK Wrangler on the trail, eventually stopping to snap a few photos on the trail (and leave them to their guided tour… in pink Jeeps). Schnebly isn’t the toughest of trails but it certainly is a bumpy one, as it is nearly completely covered in sections by round, almost river-bottom-like rocks. Our trail options were a little limited due to closures from recent rains, so the bouncy and bumpy Schnebly was our best bet to get some trail time in on our trip. Fully aired up, and fortunately on 18-inch bronze-colored wheels and not the optional 20s, our Grand Cherokee marched confidently along on the trail. It wasn’t the smoothest of rides, to be honest, as the suspension rebound of the Grand when the air suspension is maxed out in OR2 can be a bit obnoxious every time we came off a rock on the trail, but it was surprisingly adept at handling the trail with no real struggle. Although more aggressive tires, and a little air let out of them, would certainly offer a little better ride, we were happy to test this rig just as it is in stock form.
Ground clearance was never an issue over the rocks and rocky ledges, which is an important consideration for such a well-equipped SUV, especially if someone not very adept at off-road driving wants to hit the trails. When we found a few mud holes from the rain the previous night, the Grand Cherokee is sporty enough to blast through the red dirt holes with confidence. Although a little bumpier ride than we’d like, overall the Grand Cherokee handled the moderate challenge of the trail fairly well, and even in a few of the tougher sections we never felt the SUV was outmatched. Jeep takes the Trail Rated badge seriously, and although the Grand Cherokee won’t have chops like a Wrangler, it’s certainly up to the challenge for some occasional trail runs.
Cruising in Comfort
The Grand Cherokee is not too shabby on the trails, but it’s certainly far more comfortable on the road. On our way out from SoCal to Arizona, we had hundreds of miles to feel it out to find the good and bad. On the plus side, the Grand offers a very smooth ride with confident handling and precise turning. I’d stop short of calling it sporty on windy roads, but it does feel somewhat sporty at least thanks to its eight-speed paddle-shift transmission. Some additional horsepower would go a long way in this department, though. There are three engine options for the Grand Cherokee, including the 3.0-liter VM Motori EcoDiesel, the 5.7-liter HEMI and the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. In spite of its $50,010 sticker price, we had the latter of the three on our rig, and while the V6 is a decent engine and one we’ve praised in the past on other vehicles (such as the Wrangler, since it was a welcome improvement over the sluggish 3.8-liter V6 it previously used), we felt like we simply wanted more power at times. There’s ample acceleration to zip onto the freeway, enough power for confident highway passing, and pretty good dead stop acceleration, but it feels like the 290-hp V6 engine (which is rated at 295 when the SUV features the dual exhaust) doesn’t quite complement the sport-minded feel of the rest of the vehicle.
We would like a little more oomph out of the engine, but the reality is that the HEMI won’t provide as good of fuel economy and comes with an added cost ($3,295 more). The EcoDiesel engine will be the most expensive engine option of the bunch (about $1200 more than the HEMI) but it will also offer the best fuel economy (it is rated up to 30 mpg highway). But those upgrades come with a price. During testing, the Pentastar V6 was decent on fuel consumption overall, as we averaged 21.2 mpg over the course of the entire trip, which is right in line with the 21 mpg combined 18 city/25 highway rating. Our best combined fuel economy for the trip was 21.93 mpg.
Green with Envy
What’s great about the 75th anniversary version of the Grand Cherokee is that it pays homage to the original Willys in the form of a rich green paint color called Recon. We liked the color as soon as we saw it, as it’s a shade that’s both unique and classy looking at the same time – not necessarily easy to do with green. There’s also plenty of body-color-matched parts, such as the fascias, grille and door handles, along with bronze edging on the grille, badges, front tow hooks and more. Casual passerby comments echoed these sentiments, as we received multiple compliments about the unique appearance of our test vehicle during our time with it.
But there’s more to the anniversary model than paint color. Inside, the leather-trimmed bucket seats feature both heating and cooling functions, along with electronic adjustment for both driver and passenger. The 8.4-inch Uconnect navigation screen offers GPS, satellite radio and Bluetooth connection. The nine-speaker sound system with subwoofer helps keep the tunes lively on the road or the trail. For such a long road trip, we even used the adaptive cruise control a few times during our drive and appreciated the features for the long stretches of highway. The Quadra-Lift air suspension certainly aids the off-road performance of the Grand Cherokee, but it also offers improved aerodynamics on the highway with Aero mode, which can help with fuel economy along with on-road handling.
Although we didn’t have the opportunity to tow with our Grand Cherokee, Jeep rates the SUV at a maximum tow rating of 7,400 lbs. (on HEMI or EcoDiesel). For our Pentastar V6-equipped rig, the maximum rating is 6,200 lbs., and our vehicle was fitted with a Class IV receiver hitch and seven- and four-pin wiring harness.
After a week with our 2016 Grand Cherokee Limited 75th Anniversary model, we came away liking the rig overall but also having a few small gripes. The luxury SUV is certainly versatile, offering a nice ride on the road and the ability to tackle the trails as well. We’d like the suspension to offer a little more cushion off of the highway, but we appreciate the simplicity to raise and lower the vehicle’s height with the simple push of a button. The interior of the 75th model is classy and stylish overall, and the exterior styling of the Grand, along with its unique Recon paint scheme, makes the SUV a head-turner wherever it goes.
The starting U.S. MSRP of the Jeep Grand Cherokee 75th Anniversary edition is $36,775 for 4x4 models (plus $995 destination), although our sticker price was up at $50,010 (which includes the destination charge). Some of those costs could be pruned down, but we’d have a hard time spending $50K and not having either the HEMI or EcoDiesel on the rig. Although we really dig the Recon paint, the 75th model is also available in Brilliant Black, Bright White, Billet Silver and Granite Crystal.
If you’re looking at the Grand Cherokee, the 75th Anniversary model gives you another option to consider and we’re told it will be offered until the end of the year. The package provides a unique take on a vehicle you’ll run into frequently on the road – and this one has just enough unique styling that you won’t look exactly like the others on the road.
Test Vehicle Specifications
2016 Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4 75th Edition
Engine: 3.6L Pentastar V6
Horsepower: 290 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 260 lb.-ft. @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic
Curb Weight: 4,875 lbs.
Height: 69.3 in.
Overall Width: 84.8 in. (width at mirrors)
Length: 189.8 in.
Wheelbase: 114.8 in.
Ground Clearance: 8.6 in., 10.4 in. (OR2)
Approach Angle: 26.2 degrees, 36.1 degrees (OR2)
Departure Angle: 24 degrees, 27.1 degrees (OR2)
Breakover Angle: 19 degrees, 22.8 degrees (OR2)
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: 6,500 lbs.
Towing Capacity: 6,200 lbs.
Payload Capacity: 1,270 lbs.
Fuel Tank: 24.6 gal.
Seating Capacity: 5
Axle Ratio: 3.45
MPG Rating: 18 city, 25 hwy, 21 combined
Aver. MPG (tested): 21.2 (combined)
Price (as tested): $50,010