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Next-gen Jeep Grand Cherokee unveiled - more luxury, plug-in hybrid tech

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First seen in 1992, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is widely considered to have put the brand on the map, in an international sense. Yes, the Wrangler and Willys Jeep were known as off-roading icons, but outside of North America the brand didn't have much pull.

The premium Grand Cherokee has changed all of that. Nearly 30 years on, older models are still to be seen on South Africa's roads, their great big V8's burbling away. What made them so popular was their chunky styling, rugged off-road ability and decidedly plush innards.

However, the fourth generation has been around for quite some time now - and it was showing. 11 years in production meant that, despite facelifts and updates, the outgoing generation was no longer competitive. Yes, it could still cut the mustard off-road. But everywhere else? It trailed behind its European and Japanese rivals.

The new model promises to rectify all that was wrong with the outgoing model. Entirely new architecture, the option of a plug-in hybrid powertrain and an up-kick in terms of refinement and luxury has brought the Grand Cherokee back into contention.

As per the previous model, the Grand Cherokee has a number of trim levels which suits different customers. All trim levels - Laredo, Limited, Altitude, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit and Summit Reserve - receive the V6 as standard. If you want the V8, just four trim options are available - Trailhawk, Overland, Summit and Summit Reserve. Lastly, the high-tech 4xe derivative is only available with Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit and Summit Reserve models.

The interior is undoubtedly where the Grand Cherokee has taken the biggest stride. The older model, plush as it was, couldn't compete with the likes of BMW's X5 and Volvo's XC90. For example, all models are generously equipped with 16-way adjustable seats up front, with memory function. An updated touchscreen infotainment system now measures 10.1 inches and, in conjunction, digital instrumentation joins the classy cabin.

The traditional V6 and V8 powertrains will be made available. The 3.6-litre V6 'Pentastar' remains naturally aspirated, but still has a healthy output of 216 kW and 353 Nm of torque. The V8, measuring 5.7-litres, is slightly more powerful (266 kW) but has a healthy dose of extra torque, rated at 529 Nm.

Interestingly, the off-road brand will also be offering the aforementioned '4xe'. This uses a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine. That may sound rather small for such a large car, but it utilises turbocharging - and is paired with two electric motors. The result is an astonishing 290 kW and 637 N.m of torque. All three models use an eight-speed automatic gearbox which sends the power to all four-wheels.

While we're on the subject of the four-wheel drive system, the latest Grand Cherokee boasts some impressive fuel saving trickery. When driving, the Jeep can sense if four-wheel drive is not required. If the tech decides it's not needed, it can disconnect the front axle - putting the big brute into two-wheel drive.

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