JEEPS seem to be all the rage at the moment with sales outpacing rivals and dealerships across the country doubling in the past few years.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee, available in a wide range of options, has been the jewel in the crown with old Jeep faithfuls and new converts bowed by its on- and off-road performance, rugged good looks and on-trend inclusions.
The Grand Cherokee range has had an update, inside and out, and Jeep has used the opportunity to release a 4x2 model of the Laredo, hoping to entice those drivers who have fallen in love with the idea of a four-wheel drive but will, in reality, never venture off the beaten track.
There is little doubt Jeep has put some thought into this new interior making some noticeable improvements on the last edition through the use of better quality materials and fittings.
It looks clean and modern making an art, we suppose, out of simplicity.
Our Laredo 4x2 was furnished with wide comfortable cloth seats that were easily adjustable and supportive in all the right places.
A Uconnect five-inch (8.4-inch in other Grand Cherokee models) touchscreen takes pride of place and is the platform for Bluetooth and audio streaming as well as the monitor for the reverse camera.
The stylish three-spoke steering wheel fits nicely in the hand and is fitted with audio, voice and cruise controls but annoyingly no volume buttons.
The updated instrument cluster with its new digital features adds interest while the black on black dash finds some reprieve with Frost Beige or Walnut brushed metal inserts.
Space is generous for front and back seat occupants. There are excellent storage options with plenty of cupholders and large door pockets with the cargo hold an impressive 782 litres, and almost doubling to 1554 litres with the rear seats folded.
On the road
The new generation Jeeps have a exchanged a dated five-speed automatic transmission for a cutting edge eight-speed variety which, when paired with the Laredo's carryover 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine, makes for a sterling combination.
There is power when you need it, although some persuasion is required over more challenging climbs, and some surprising nimbleness under foot in city confines.
The Laredo is not tuned for Australian conditions but the ride remains balanced and compliant.
At two tonnes this is still a big unit and you can feel it if you swing it hard around a bend or push it too quickly through a corner with the back often hanging out for a just a fraction too long.
Still, overall, the Laredo is an extremely pleasant and satisfying drive with an excellent turning circle and good manoeuvrability merely enhancing the experience.
Of course the 4x2 is not built for off-road meandering but such is the genetics of Jeep that it will still cope comfortably with dirt roads and unchallenging off-road obstacles.
What do you get?
Jeep is hoping to lure customers with its value-for-money inclusions and to that end the Laredo 4x2 comes with a host of functions including 18-inch alloys, auto headlights with auto dipping and beam control, Bi-Xenon HID headlamps, power folding heated exterior mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, reverse camera, keyless entry with push-button start, heated front seats and a Uconnect system integrating GPS, Bluetooth with voice recognition and a six-speaker audio system.
A five-star ANCAP rating comes courtesy of seven airbags, stability with brake assist and trailer sway control, traction control, electronic roll mitigation and rain brake support.
Without Jeep's legendary off-road capability the Laredo 4x2 will probably go head to head with the Hyundai Santa Fe (from $39,990), Ford Territory (from $46,990), Kia Sorento (from $37,490), Toyota Kluger (from $50,990), Holden Captiva (from $32,490) and the Mazda CX-9 (from $44,245)
The Laredo 4x2 makes perfect sense for many people who currently drive four-wheel drives that will never leave the bitumen. It's high driving stance and generous space specifications make it appealing for families. Not having the option of seven seats may be a disadvantage though.
Our test car stuck pretty close to the official 10.1l/100km but our week did feature a few long-distance trips. Jeep offers a three years/100,000km warranty with three years roadside assist.
Service intervals are at six months or 12,000km.
Jeep has made a few changes to sharpen the exterior and Laredo sports a reworked trademark grille, LED daytime running lights, a restyled tailgate and new bumpers.
The sporty stance and comfort offered by bulk gives the Laredo street cred.
You would think that the Laredo 4x2 would be a shadow of itself without the off-road bow in its quiver, but to be honest it retains enough of that Jeep edge to make it a real value-for-money option for those drivers who want the on-road advantages of a four-wheel drive but don't really need the all-terrain capability.
What matters most
What we liked: Sporty looks, nice road manners, generous inclusions.
What we'd like to see: Option of third row, uncluttered steering wheel stalk.
Warranty: Jeep offers a three years/100,000km warranty with three years roadside assist. Service intervals are at six months or 12,000km.
Model: Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4x2
Details: Five-door two-wheel drive large SUV
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Engine: 3.6-litre V6 petrol generating maximum power of 210kW @ 6350rpm and peak torque of 347Nm @ 4300rpm.
Consumption: 10.1 litres/100km combined
Bottom line: from $43,000