Capability and comfort should always be drop-dead gorgeous.
A celebrity on a talk show once described Oprah’s apartment overlooking Lake Michigan. It was completely furnished in white. Subtle details in the finishes, shapes and textures defined its luxury. “She lives like that,” the actress said.
This was years ago so I don’t recall who the celebrity was, but I’ve never forgotten her words. Luxury isn’t simply having something expensive or exclusive; it is in the thoughtful and complete details, an experience without compromise, refined and delightful. It lets you live like that.
That is the experience of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit.
Who This Car is For
- Singles, couples or small families with older kids
- Buyers for whom style is a critical factor
- Drivers who drive off road or need 4 wheel drive
- Buyers who appreciate the capability of a Jeep but also want luxury
- Buyers who may not want a luxury ‘badge’
- Drivers who appreciate a larger SUV
- SUV buyers who don’t need a third row
- Buyers who are not afraid of getting a beautiful car dirty
What This Car Costs
- Base price for Summit: $47,590
- Grand Cherokee base price: $30,395
- Summit California package, which includes exterior details including premium 20” wheels, body-colored sills and front grille: $995
- Leather wrapped interior package, which includes leather door panels, leather covered dashboard and quilted leather seats: $4,995
- HEMI V8 engine: $3,795
- Destination charge: $1,095
- Price of the model we drove which is second-from-the-top of the line: $64,970
Capability, Elevated: True Luxury For a Discerning Driver
During my test drive people kept asking me who the buyer of this car is. Truthfully, this isn’t your usual adventure-seeking Jeep owner’s Jeep.
The Summit will appeal to buyers who live in upscale suburbs of cities like New York, Chicago, Boston and Detroit. She faces a grueling winter season in which 4WD can often mean the difference between getting out of your driveway and being stuck at home.
Or, she may have a second home in Aspen, Jackson Hole or Nantucket where true 4 wheel drive capability is as much a necessity as a chic car.
The Summit will also appeal to buyers who have a low-key sense for luxury: she wants the luxury but not the badge; a more expensive car may just be too showy for her. The Summit answers this need nicely.
Don’t miss this: If the Grand Cherokee Summit is not your style, see our review of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
Luxury Details Pamper and Protect You From Rough Roads
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit might be one of the most elegant and luxurious SUVs on the market, and it might be one of the best deals considering its price. You could easily pay more and get less.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit takes the Grand Cherokee experience, already luxurious and capable, to another level. Here are the details that impressed us:
- The leather package covers every surface in leather, from the dashboard—the leather extends all the way to the windshield—to the inside of the door pockets
- Awesome heated front and rear seats
- An amply sized leather wrapped steering wheel with a hefty polished wood insert
- A heated steering wheel that heats up fast and hot. This was awesome
- White quilted seats and door panels
- Reclining rear seats
- Panoramic sun roof
- Rain sensing wipers
- Adaptive high beam headlights—some are better than others and this is one of the best
- Lane keep assist
- Household plug on back of the center console
- Park assist automatic parking
- Keyless remote and push button start
- Remote start
- Sport driving mode and paddle shifters
- Harman Kardon premium sound system
- 8 Inch UConnect infotainment system with in car wifi
And Yet, This is Still Thoroughly a Jeep
And that is what I liked best. The model I test drove had a V8 HEMI 360 horsepower engine: powerful, capable and a solid performer that never leaves you wishing for more power. I can only imagine how it takes care of challenging conditions such as a steep, snowy hill, a rocky back road or a soft sand trail. On the mostly highway and suburban driving I did—and truthfully, this is how most Jeeps are driven—I really appreciated the confidence to merge on to the highway and easily get up to speed.
I did get a chance to put the paddle shifters to the test, though. Not, as you might think, in a performance driving situation but on a long steep downhill descent. Cars ahead of me were riding the brakes to maintain control. Not me. I could downshift as needed to regulate the car’s speed. If I were towing a trailer this would have been a godsend.
Another thing I appreciated was the standard-style gear shift. Some Jeep models come with a fixed position gear shift, which pops into a central position when you shift into gear. The Grand Cherokee Summit does not; you get a solid feeling of shifting gears and easily know if you’re in reverse, drive or park.
The Largest Jeep is Big. Really Big
From a distance the Grand Cherokee Summit looks like a standard-issue Jeep. Until you stand next to it. It’s big. The high ground clearance may inspire shorter owners to install running boards. I’m 5’8” and found it easy enough to get in and out by sliding into the seats which were exactly at hip level. If I were an inch or two shorter I’d appreciate running boards (and, they would look really nice).
But its size is not unmanageable. This is still a 5 passenger SUV, so it’s not overly long or wide. I found it easy to drive and loved the visibility from my high perch over traffic.
If its height isn’t enough, the Summit edition comes with an air suspension system that allows you to lift the car higher if needed; this could come in handy in soft sand or snow or on a rocky road. You can also lower the car a bit for loading cargo and passengers.
Ample Rear Leg Room and Back Seat Comforts
The Jeep’s size translates to a comfortable rear seat. It’s not huge but it’s fine. I hopped in and had plenty of leg room and appreciated the reclining rear seats—making the back seat even more comfortable. The outboard seats, behind the driver’s and passenger’s seat, are heated, there are two USB ports and a household plug on the back of the center console. Back seat passengers should have no complaints.
Kids in Car Seats? You Might Want to Rethink the Summit
The back seat is amply sized for child car seats and the reclining seats and wide opening doors make installing and adjusting them easy. However, I might look at a different Grand Cherokee model if car seats are an everyday necessity.
The rear seats are quilted leather with monochromatic stitching which could be hard to clean or even become discolored from a mess such as fruit juice or chocolate. Also, child car seats can leave an imprint on leather upholstery, and with the softness of the Summit’s leather, that risk may be greater.
Cruise Control AND Adaptive Cruise Control?
So this one is a head scratcher: Jeep features both cruise control AND adaptive cruise control. If you make the mistake of setting cruise and think the car will adjust its speed in traffic, it won’t, you have to select the ACC control. They look similar, though the ACC icon has a car imposed on a speedometer and is next to the gap adjust settings; the regular cruise control option simply has a speedometer icon.
Live That Life and Have a Bit of Cash Left Over to Pay For It
I won’t say that the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a bargain, but it is well priced for what you get: luxury and capability that accommodates a sophisticated buyer’s demands. So if you’re dreaming of living that life, one filled with exclusive details and a car capable of commanding even the most exclusive roads, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit may be the perfect SUV to get you there.
What We Loved
- Beautiful interior details, including leather as far as the eye can see
- These seats. Jeep’s seats are the best
- Quilted white leather upholstery
- Panoramic sun roof
- Heated seats and a heated steering wheel that heats fast
- Safety technology including adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitors
- Semi-autonomous self parking —this car parks itself!
- Tons of great safety technology
What You Need to Know
- EPA Estimated fuel economy is 14 city/22 highway; we averaged about 20 MPG on the highway and 16 in the city
- Apple Car Play/Android Auto is not an option; we tried out voice activated navigation which worked fine with an exact address but could be uneven otherwise
- Almost all controls and features are accessed via the touch screen, including heated seats, which can be distracting. Set your options before putting the car in gear
- This is a big car; buyers may want to consider adding running boards
- Seating for 5 but more comfortable for 4
What We Listened to in the Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit
The blend of luxury and capability inspired us to listen artists just as accomplished and polished as it is.
Disclosure: Jeep provided the Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit for my test drive; opinions expressed are all my own.