Those who thought sport utility vehicles were going the way of the dodo were wrong. SUVs haven't died off amid higher gasoline prices.
To the contrary, Jeep's flagship SUV, the Grand Cherokee, just posted its best June sales in the United States since 2005 and is up 38 percent so far this year from the year-ago period, when sales already rose impressively from 2010.
Buyers find the 2012 Grand Cherokee is an American-built, handsome and comfortable five-seater that offers a surprisingly refined and free-of-wind-noise ride on pavement while retaining its off-road chops.
It's also a recommended buy of Consumer Reports; the magazine predicted it would have average reliability.
Fuel economy isn't great, though. The best rating the 2012 Grand Cherokee receives from the federal government is 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway. This is for a two-wheel drive model with V-6.
But because the Grand Cherokee's gas tank is so big – holding 24.6 gallons – this SUV can go upwards of 460 combined city/highway miles on a single tank.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a base, 2012 Grand Cherokee Laredo with 290-horsepower V-6, two-wheel drive and automatic transmission is $28,120.
The lowest starting retail price for a 2012 Grand Cherokee with four-wheel drive is $30,120 for a base Laredo with the 290-horse V-6 and automatic transmission. Jeep offers two V-8s, too, starting at $37,115.
Steering in the tester had good on-center feel and was neither too light nor too heavy. Many bumps on pavement were expertly managed.
The V-6 power came on smoothly and steadily in the tester. Peak torque of 260 foot-pounds at 4,800 rpm moved the vehicle forward confidently.
Gas mileage in combined city/highway travel in the 4X4 test model was 18.7 mpg, which is just under the government's estimate of 19 mpg.
The 2012 Grand Cherokee with 3.6-liter V-6 was part of a multi-vehicle safety recall at Chrysler last fall. Dealers replaced some engines because debris in the engines might cause a failure of a connecting rod bearing. This could lead to engine seizure and the potential for a crash.