How Grand Cherokee Has Driven Jeep Innovation

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Midsize SUV emerges as nameplate’s primary go-to-vehicle for innovation and cutting-edge features.

While most of the anticipation among Jeep fans is centered on the new 2018 Jeep Wrangler, it’s become crystal clear that gauging the future of innovation with the American nameplate lies with the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Take, for example, the Grand Cherokee Summit. Although the more premium model stays true to the American nameplate’s fundamentals, it also comes with a number of features most would expect to find on pricier luxury vehicles.

The idea of how the Grand Cherokee has impacted the evolution of Jeep became even more apparent at the 2017 Easter Jeep Safari. Specifically, it was the chance to compare a current Trailhawk with the Grand One Concept, a ’93 model of the Jeep restored as part of this year’s 25th Anniversary for the Grand Cherokee.

Whether it’s the Grand One’s “old-school” cassette deck, or its classic woodgrain accents, the contrast between the ’93 model and the current Grand Cherokee is startling when you have an opportunity to compare the vehicles together.

Mark Allen, head of Jeep design, said the Grand One is a great example of how Jeep has evolved over the years.

“There are four generations of Grand Cherokee now. And it was fun for us to grab a ’93 and look at the contrast. A — the size, it’s grown a lot. The technology is way more sophisticated than it was originally [as detailed in the interior photo of the Grand One Concept above]. And just the feel of it. Even though every Grand Cherokee kind of evolves a little bit, in 25 years it’s crazy to think how much it has changed,” said the Jeep design chief.

CHECK OUT: What Forum Members Are Saying About the Grand One

Even something as simple as the Grand One’s seat design compared to the current Grand Cherokee, showcases the drastic evolution of the mid-size Jeep over the past two decades, said Allen.

The Jeep exec also pointed out some of the innovation driving the new 707-horsepower Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Like the application of an all-wheel-drive system in the high-powered Jeep, unveiled at the 2017 New York International Auto Show.

In fact, when it comes to high-tech innovations, Allen said it was much easier to explore new ideas on the Grand Cherokee than the American nameplate’s more iconic Wrangler. That’s because of the history tied to the longstanding Jeep.

“When you talk about putting technology suites in a Grand Cherokee, no problem,” explains Allen. “But in a Wrangler, the conversation changes inside to, ‘Is that right for Wrangler?'”

However, Allen, who has worked on all four generations of the Grand Cherokee, did note that designing the Grand Cherokee comes with a unique challenge of its own.

“Every time we work on a Grand Cherokee, we take the wheelbase and we grow it and grow it. There’s a magical size. People don’t want that Grand Cherokee to get too big,” said Allen.

Of course, Jeep is revving up to debut a new Grand Wagoneer to appeal to those in need of a bigger option. And we expect that the forthcoming flagship luxury model will be packed with a lot of new Jeep innovations, as well.

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