What we like
Powerful engines for towing
Large and practical interior
What we don’t
Frequent and expensive servicing
None of the engine options are economical
Some reliability issues
Graham Smith road tests and reviews the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee as a used buy.
The Jeep’s distinctive grille, dating back to WWII, is hard to ignore. One of the most popular models to sport the seven-bar grille on our roads was the big, attractively styled WK Grand Cherokee launched here in 2011.
There was plenty to like about it plus plenty of ways to order it. The variants were Laredo, Limited, Overland and SRT and engine options were V6 and V8 petrol plus a diesel.
Inside the big wagon, there was accommodation for five. It was comfortable and kitted out with just about every feature today’s buyer could want.
The engines were a new 3.6-litre V6 producing 210kW, a 250kW 5.7-litre Hemi V8 with all the get up and go expected of a big lusty bent-eight, plus an even bigger 344kW 6.4-litre V8 if that wasn’t big enough. As might be expected the V8s were thirsty, but sadly so was the V6.
For those more interested in fuel economy there was the 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, perhaps the best all-round choice.
The transmission available at launch was a five-speed auto. That was joined later in 2011 by a six-speed auto, and by 2014 an eight-speed auto was in use.
“There have been some horrifying stories about Jeeps over the years, but our survey of WK Grand Cherokee owners paints a different picture.”
It wouldn‘t be a Jeep if it didn’t have four-wheel drive and the WK was well equipped in that area with its Quadra-Trac II drivetrain that easily handled most road conditions.
For anyone wanting to delve deeper into the bush there was the optional Quadra-Drive II with an electronic limited-slip differential that was able to allocate torque between individual wheels for even greater off-road capability.
Both systems came with switchable Selec-Train traction control, which could be dialled in to suit whatever road conditions you might encounter.
In a sign of the times, Jeep optioned a rear-wheel drive Laredo in a 2013 update to appeal to townies who had no intention of ever going beyond the city borders.
There have been some horrifying stories about Jeeps over the years, but our survey of WK Grand Cherokee owners paints a different picture. By and large they are happy and eager to praise their cars.
Few told us about issues they have had with their WKs, but those who did have complaints were happy to dismiss them as insignificant and quickly sorted by Chrysler.
A couple reported problems with the diesel particulate filter on their cars, but in every case it was fixed with a software update. All praised the towing ability of the Grand Cherokee, as well as the fuel economy, comfort and reliability.
One thing that cropped up a couple of times was the cost of servicing, which some thought was excessive. That can be fixed by seeking out a reliable independent mechanic to do the work. With the end of the warranty in sight for many WK Grand Cherokees it’s not crucial to use dealers for servicing.
When checking a WK Grand Cherokee prior to purchase it’s important to inspect for damage from off-road use. The four-wheel drive Grand Cherokees are very capable off-roaders and although most will have never been used that way they should nevertheless be checked.
If possible, get the car up off the ground so you can get underneath it for a thorough check; if you can’t then get down on your knees and check it the best you can.
Check for a service record to ensure the car you’re buying has been properly maintained.
Also check for recalls and make sure the car you are buying has had the relevant rectifications carried out. One recall related to the automatic shifter, which could indicate it was safely in Park when it in fact wasn’t and could roll away.
Another related to the left front brake caliper, which could rupture under heavy braking and present the driver with an accident hazard.
Michael Cemm: Our Laredo turbo diesel can be summed up as fast, frugal, faultless and extremely comfortable.
Robert Bryce: My V6 Limited has done 38,000km and there have been no problems or warranty claims. It is the best new car I have ever owned by a long shot.
Paul Gardiner: We bought our Limited diesel based on the 3.5-tonne towing capacity, the great torque of the diesel motor, and the claimed 7.5L/100km economy. After 30,000km, I have no complaints; it tows a two-tonne caravan effortlessly, is great on fuel, and comfortable. Gets the tick from us.
Jeff Green: My diesel Limited has just clocked up 50,000km, much of it towing a 3.0-tonne off-road caravan, and I’m very happy with it. It tows effortlessly, the engine is great, the gearbox is smooth, and the economy is great. It could do with more footwell room, I don’t like the foot-operated park brake, there’s not a lot of storage space in the cabin, and the fuel filler is too small for high-flow pumps.
Garth Tighe: We towed a small off-road caravan from the Gold Coast to the tip of Cape York and back last year with our Laredo diesel and it handled everything we threw at it. The engine goes like a rocket, the economy’s good, and it didn’t develop any rattles. My only complaints are the high and frequent cost of servicing, and the steering has too many turns lock to lock.
Elvis Pillon: Our Overland diesel was fantastic, great for long range touring with the family, a boot full of luggage, and at times the boat hanging off the back. It was an absolute gem that never let us down in the 66,000km we did in it.
Graham Hair: We have an Overland diesel, which is comfortable and tows a full-sized caravan well. The only issue we have had is with the DPF filter, which was sorted out with a software update. We don’t like the cost of servicing.
Andrew Ross: My experience with the V6 Laredo has been satisfying and I would rate it as probably the best all around vehicle I have owned. It is comfortable, smooth and quiet with more than adequate power for my needs, and also returns good fuel economy. I have had some problems, quickly rectified by the dealer. There have been two or three software updates which initially stemmed from a flat battery caused by electrical components not shutting down when the vehicle was not in use. A more serious problem surfaced last year during an extended trip on the mainland when a malfunction light activated and it would intermittently stop and then start again. Diagnostic tests revealed a cracked cylinder head. Chrysler repaired it and provided a loan car despite being out of warranty. I love my Grand Cherokee and would certainly consider another.
Capable, comfortable and reliable towing wagon that gets the owners’ tick of approval.
Jeep Grand Cherokee 2011-14
Price New: R750,000-R1100,000
Laredo 330 000- 450 000
Limited R400 000-R 500 000
Overland R 330 000 – R700 000;
SRT R650 000- R1000 0000
Safety: 5 stars (4 before July 2013)
Engine: 3.6-litre V6, 210kW/347Nm; 5.7-litre V8, 259kW/520Nm; 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, 177kW/550Nm, 6.4-litre V8, 344kW/624Nm.
Transmission: 5 and 8-speed auto; 4WD (FWD from 2013)
Kia Sorento 2011-14 – 4 stars – Well built, smooth and reliable. Ticks all the SUV boxes.
Toyota Prado 2011-14 – 4 stars – A well-earned reputation for off-road ability, a class benchmark.
Nissan Pathfinder 2011-14 – 3.5 stars – Solid off-roader with good towing capacity but isn’t so great on the road.