2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Performance
This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.
Reviewers feel that the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee delivers excellent off-road handling and good performance on pavement. Their only complaints concern the dated five-speed transmission, which Chrysler says will likely be replaced by a new eight-speed transmission within the next year or so.
- "On the paved roads around Moab, the Grand Cherokee did feel like a luxury car. The air suspension is pillow soft. The Grand Cherokee rides exceptionally well over rough terrain and could be one of the best SUV choices for urban pothole pounding.” -- Popular Mechanics
- "On pavement, the Jeep provides acceptable, but not engaging, driving dynamics. With the air springs, the car rides comfortably, closer to stiff than soft.” -- Automobile Magazine
- "On-road, where a large part of GCs will spend the entirety of their lives, our test vehicles were as well behaved as they were climbing Moab's stoic rock formations. That's not to say the new Grand Cherokee is thrilling, because it's not. But that's okay, since a luxury SUV's lot in life is to be sumptuous and innocuous, and that's what this Jeep is.” -- Car and Driver
Acceleration and Power
The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes standard with Chrysler’s lauded 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine, which puts 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque to the ground through an automatic five-speed transmission. An optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine makes 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, and is available on all but the base model.
According to the EPA, the Grand Cherokee with two-wheel drive and the V6 engine gets 17/23 mpg city/highway, while the two-wheel drive V8 gets 14/20 mpg. With four-wheel drive, the V6 gets 16/23 mpg, and the V8 gets 13/20 mpg. Though the two-wheel drive V6 Grand Cherokee’s fuel economy is mediocre for the class, the four-wheel drive V8’s fuel economy is pretty atrocious. It’s worse than a four-wheel drive Chevrolet Suburban 1500, which gets 15/21 mpg.
Test drivers find that the Grand Cherokee’s V6 engine has plenty of get-up-and-go for most applications, although speed demons say they’d still prefer the V8. Reviewers lament this Jeep’s dated five-speed automatic transmission, but an eight-speed is coming soon.
- "Jeep's new 3.6-liter V6 has enough muscle to allow Grand Cherokee to easily keep up with traffic and cope with nearly any driving situation. The V6 never feels sluggish, but even with the smooth, alert 5-speed automatic, it never quite manages to feel quick either.” -- Consumer Guide
- "Most folks will find enough power in the V6's spirited and smooth delivery and its five-speed automatic transmission.” -- Edmunds
- "At more than one mile above sea level in the hills surrounding Moab, Utah, we needed every bit of power to hustle our 4850-pound test vehicle. The power is adequate for most situations, but we'd like more for the uphill sprints, highway merges, and inviting roads. Our V-6 Limited model was also burdened by inconsistent behavior from the standard five-speed automatic transmission.” -- Automobile Magazine
- "However, the V6 model was not as quick off the line as we had expected. Perhaps it was the terrain or the elevation, but the acceleration was only modest until the revs began to climb. We prefer serious off-the-line grunt, so we'd probably opt for the V8 and take the small fuel-economy hit.” -- Popular Mechanics
Handling and Braking
Reviewers say the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee handles surprisingly well for an off-road SUV. They’re particularly impressed with the power steering, which they say strikes a good balance. A few test drivers mention that they wish the Sport setting on the Selec-Terrain dial made the Grand Cherokee sportier.
- "On the road, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee's suspension offers a comfortable ride while also providing a fair amount of cornering stability. The new Grand Cherokee basically rides and handles like any other modern crossover, an impressive feat considering its ample off-road ability.” -- Edmunds
- "The steering is accurate with good road feel and just enough power assist. Handling is reasonably car-like for an off-road-flavored SUV. Body lean is well controlled, though you have to slow down quite a bit before a fast turn.” -- Consumer Guide
- "Jeep tuned the steering perfectly, giving it a solid feel with a reasonable amount of resistance. Unlike Lexus, which tends to overboost its power steering, the Grand Cherokee wheel requires a little effort to turn, which mirrors the overall tautness of the suspension.” -- CNET
- "As we climbed in elevation and the roads became twistier, the Grand felt composed but, as you'd expect for a softly tuned vehicle, there was a measure of body roll on the tightest corners. Unfortunately, the Sport setting on the Selec-Terrain dial does not firm up the shocks. Perhaps this will become an option at some point.” -- Popular Mechanics
The 2012 Grand Cherokee might have the interior of a luxury crossover, but reviewers say it can still tackle trails like a true Jeep. There are three different four-wheel drive systems, depending on the engine and transmission you choose. Base Laredo and Laredo X models with the Pentastar V6 engine come standard with Quadra-Trac I, a four-wheel drive system with a single-speed transfer case. Quadra-Trac II is a full-time, all-wheel drive system with a two-speed transfer case that automatically engages four-wheel drive when it senses wheel slippage. This is optional on base models and standard on Limited and Overland models. Quadra-Drive II is the Grand Cherokee’s beefiest four-wheel drive system, and it’s optional on all but the base model, where it’s unavailable. Quadra-Drive II is a full-time four-wheel drive system with a two-wheel drive transfer case that adds an electronic limited slip rear differential for even burlier off-road performance.
Also available is an air suspension system, which can raise or lower the Grand Cherokee’s ride height by about four inches, and Selec-Terrain, a system that tailors the Grand Cherokee’s sensors and torque split depending on the type of terrain you tell it you’re driving on.
- "Despite its manners and polish, however, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee still upholds its reputation for off-road prowess.” -- Edmunds
- "The GC acquitted itself very well, a given considering the trails were custom-picked to showcase the SUV's abilities. Still, we easily conquered super-steep rock faces, craggy stair climbs, and sandy washouts-all with ventilated seats whirring under our butts.” -- Car and Driver
- "Difficult slick-rock climbs succumbed to the Grand Cherokee's electronically controlled traction aids just as readily as Hill Descent Control made inching down the other side a feet-flat-on-the-floor proposition. In fact, the electronics were so good we eventually shut some of them off just to have something to do besides steer.” -- Road and Track
- "The driving-assistance technology installed in the Overland Summit is among best in class.” -- The Washington Post
- "It's fairly astonishing that a vehicle as luxurious and refined as the new Grand can take on a very serious off-road trail and leave relatively unscathed-especially with such a long wheelbase.” -- Popular Mechanics