The iconic Jeep brand has finally landed in India and what better way to celebrate the arrival than to have an off-road drive. Jeep organized India’s first ever Jeep camp for us media folk and prospective customers to experience the Jeeps in their natural terrain, the wilderness. Here are our thoughts:
The location and trail
The event was to happen in Delhi NCR. Since Delhi has no open area where an off-road even could have been created, a place in Gurgaon was chosen. The location for this event was a private farm in Bandhwari Village, a few kms off the Faridabad-Gurgaon road. Professional off-roaders from across the country had come and setup the track and were the driving instructors for the event.
They had a small location where they had setup artificial steps, to show the ease with which the Jeep climbs and descends and it also showed their ground clearance. The trail was a natural one with no man made obstacles. The various obstacles included mutliple ascent and decents, rock climbing, articulation, maneuverability test and a sand pit. So how did the SUVs perform?
The Grand Cherokee
First up, we took the Grand Cherokee for a spin. Now the GC is more of a luxurious off-road vehicle, so we thought we’d experience the off-road course in the lap of luxury first. The GC which is on sale in India comes in two variants, the Limited priced at Rs 93.64 lakhs and the Summit priced at Rs 1.03 crores, ex-showroom Delhi. Power comes from a 3.0 liter V6 making 240 Bhp and 570 Nm. We drove the top-of-the line Summit version.
The GC comes with permenant 4wd system and has various modes which can be switched between, based on the terrain upfront. The modes on offer are sand, auto, snow, mud and rock. There is a separate 4wd lock mode and hill descent control. For the first incline on sand, we chose the sand mode and put the SUV into 4wd low mode. This requires you to come to a halt and shift the gear lever into neutral before you can shift into 4wd low. The low mode is not meant to go fast in and is meant more for low end torque. This makes it easy to plough through the rough stuff. For the rock climb, we shifted to rock mode and the SUV gobbled up all the rocks that were thrown at it. The rest of the course was completed in ease.
One thing you realize in the GC after driving and being at the back is how comfy the SUV is. Even though we were going through rough patches, not once did we feel anything on the inside. This one will manage both the urban jungle and mild off-roading that most owners will put it through in complete ease.
The Wrangler on the other hand is a more hardcore and purpose built vehicle for off-roading. Sit inside and you immdiately feel it to be more rugged as opposed to the luxurious feel on the Grand Cherokee. The Wrangler sold here is the Trail-rated version, which means this Wrangler has been setup after having completed a series of gruelling tests which prove its off-roading capability. The Wrangler has an old school charm to it, which is what makes true off-roaders attracted to it. Another advantage of the Wrangler is that all the body panels can be removed to give the the occupants exposure to the outdoors. At Rs 71.59 lakhs ex-showroom Delhi, it is also the cheapest Jeep that you can buy in India currently.
The Wrangler is powered by a 2.8 liter diesel engine making 197 Bhp and 347 Nm. Now the Wrangler comes with the old-school 4wd gear lever, instead of the new electronic one. You can choose between 2wd, 4wd and 4wd low. That’s about it, there are no different modes, all you need to do is to put it into 4wd and it’ll go through whatever you have in store for it. After having driven the Cherokee, this one feels a lot more at home in the wilderness. The low-end torque on offer is immense and even a gradual dab on the accelerator is enough to keep this massive beast moving. Another good thing is that it has hill assist, which works on any terrain. Stop while climbing on a steep sandly slope and you can just continue moving forward without worrying about rolling behind. The course was a little challenging, but the Wrangler just gobbled it up with ease. This doesn’t feel as comfortable as the Cherokee, but that’s the charm of this vehicle that true off-road enthusiasts will understand.
Both the Jeeps are capable, in their different ways. While most people would rather choose the Cherokee given how luxurious it is and can tackle most of the off-roading (urban jungle and highway trips) that most customers will put it through, the enthusiast would still opt for the Wrangler given its old school ruggedness and charm.