The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been setting a mid-size sport ute benchmark since its debut as a 1993 model. Blending varying degrees of legendary off-road abilities with a graduated list of on-road refinements, this five-passenger pinnacle of the Jeep lineup offers almost unlimited personalization possibilities.
There are seven official trims spanning a roughly $45K – $120K price range, starting with the entry-level Laredo and upgrading to Limited and Overland models before culminating with the Summit’s leather-clad luxury. Then there’s the Trailhawk, an off-road-oriented bush-basher while the other end of the performance spectrum features motor-muscular SRT and Trackhawk models, torque-monsters more suited for racetrack, dragstrip or promenade display.
Actually, Jeep Canada’s website offers eleven model categories once you figure in equipment and styling packages which, along with accessories and stand-alone options, combines for a dizzying array of choices.
With that in mind, although we had booked a Laredo, I searched out the back badge to see just what we were getting.
“Ah ha!” I thought. “It’s a North Edition.”
What better omen for a planned trip up north to join other “leaf-peepers” viewing fall colours? And an auspiciously added trailer hitch meant we could mount our bicycle rack and take E-bikes along for trail riding.
The Laredo ($46,745) starts with a healthy equipment list but, instead of working your way up the trim level ladder, picking the North Edition ($3,495) adds a Customer Preferred Package that ticks off most of the boxes on the commonly desired extras list. The Grand Cherokee’s standard 3.6-litre Pentastar VVT V6 engine offers practical power, making 295 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, enough muscle to earn a respectable 2,812 kg (6,200 lb) tow rating, not far off the 3,265 kg (7,200 lb) ratings of the optional V8 engines. The V6 includes auto stop/start (ESS) and fuel economy is rated at 12.7L/9.6L/100 km (city/hwy). Our mixed bag of driving earned a 10.9L/100 km (comb) average.
Power is translated through an 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic that shifts early and often, cruising at a low 2,000 rpm at a quasi-legal 120 km/h thanks to the default Eco setting. Pushing the Eco Off button or the Sport button for a more aggressive algorithm will raise shift points and bump the revs up by 1,000 rpm or so (with a corresponding gas pump penalty).
The power flows on to standard four-wheel drive in Canada and here’s our first North Edition upgrade – the Laredo’s Quadra-Trac I 4X4 system replaced by Quadra-Trac II, a 4X4 system allowing for up to a 100 per cent power shift to either axle and complementing the versatile Selec-Terrain Traction Management system with selectable driving/weather modes.
Other North Edition off-road performance add-ons include bigger 18-inch wheels wearing all-terrain tires, a full-size spare, skid plate protection under the underbody, transfer case, fuel tank and front suspension, Hill Descent Control, tow hooks, off-road display pages on the instrument cluster, even a Jeep Trail Rated recovery kit with D-rings, work gloves and a tow strap, all factors contributing to the earned Trail Rated badges on the front fenders.
Sure, with that kind of off-road potential, the suspension feels firmer than on some competitors but this is still a smooth cruiser when you’re highway hauling. A Protech II Group ($995), new to Laredo this year, adds Forward Collision Warning-Plus, Lane Departure Warning-Plus, auto high beams and Advanced Brake Assist complementing Laredo’s included driver assists.
Inside, North Edition upgrades include leather-faced heated front seats with perforated suede inserts, a heated steering wheel with audio/cruise control buttons, auto-dimming mirror, Mopar slush matts, active noise control, remote start and a bump up to the 8.4-inch Uconnect 4C Nav infotainment system with 506-watt amp HD radio and 9-speaker and subwoofer Alpine audio system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Sirius XM radio and apps, 4G Wifi hotspot and more.
FCA’s Uconnect is a favourite user-friendly systems and redundant audio/HVAC buttons and knobs save some scrolling, although I’d still prefer seat heater buttons to hunting and pecking through menus. But in total, the North Edition adds a nice balance of equipment and amenities to a cabin that is roomy for four, do-able for five in a pinch. The rear seat offers tilt but not slide seating, vent controls at the rear of the console and the 60/40 bench folds flat to bump cargo capacity from 1,028 litres to 1,934 litres.
The North Edition also adds a power liftgate to access that space and a rubber Mopar cargo area liner. There’s a slot for the cargo cover that I would want to add along with a cargo net, but the luggage area does come with tie-down points, grocery bag hooks, a 12V power point, the subwoofer and underfloor storage cubbies surrounding the spare.
The 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X4 is an excellent starting point in the mid-size sport utility market and the North Edition’s added amenities boost both capability and comfort.
And although it’s been nearly a decade since the debut of its current fourth generation form, the 2020 Grand Cherokee still catches your eye with contemporary styling, even in the demure shade of as-tested Walnut Brown.
Coming 2021 models will offer some equipment upgrades but Jeep Canada’s website was also showing significant discounts on a wide range of 2020 trim choices at the time of writing. A larger and improved fifth generation Grand Cherokee has been delayed by the pandemic but FCA is investing $1.6 billion to convert factory space for the all-new version, as well as for production of the new three-row full-size Jeep Grand Wagoneer and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models, all destined for debut in the near future.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.