Driving up and down the North-South highway in the complete security and comfort of a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Tripitaka had his work cut out for him when the lord Buddha asks (tells?) him to go fetch the scriptures from the West. Along the road, he picked up the Monkey King, Piggy and Sandy and from there, the adventures began.
Oh, how he’d wished he had a powerful 3-litre V6 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4×4 vehicle with him. It would have made the journey westward a lot more comfortable for sure, although that would make the spiritual test rather obsolete.
But unlike the travelling monks, my wife and I, with two little monkeys in tow, had the luxury of taking that ride with us. For a week, we’ve got a bright white beauty, the Grand Cherokee, that pulsates muscle and might on the road, and it was awesome.
We had one large luggage, a cabin-sized one and an accompaniment of shoe bags, snack bags and a standbag with 14 golf clubs that the voluminous 35.1 cu ft of available space with the 60/40 split rear seats up. Fold them down and there’s a generous 68.7 cu ft capacity. That’s a whopping 994 litres with seats up and 1,945 litres if I kick the two naughty girls out!
Put in perspective, that’s 180 litres of extra trunk compared to the Volkswagen Touareg, 220 litres more than an Audi Q7 and 240 litres more than the new BMW X7 with the backmost seats (7-seater configuration) folded down. As an added touch that promotes both safety and privacy, a pull-down cover easily shields the contents within from prying eyes and gives a neater outlook.
All in all, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited really does pack well for a road trip. Drive-wise, its 8-speed paddle shift auto transmission transitions well with fuel consumption of 10.2 litres/100km.
In layman’s words, I drove it from Jeep’s showroom in Chang Charn road to Bukit Indah’s Aeon Mall (for lunch), before powering up north to Genting Highland, spent three days there, drove back down to Kuala Lumpur, did four days of city driving and only decided to get gas on-route to Malacca with still slightly less than a quarter tank to go. Unbelievable.
Performance On The Road
Road trips can be very trying, especially if like me, you’re the only one putting the hours behind the wheel. But I really do enjoy driving endlessly across the Causeway, and in this case, springing up 1,865 metres above sea level. It is all very therapeutic.
I also love zipping through tarmac at average speeds too illegal for print but suffice to say, being well into the 40s and with family in tow, there are other considerations to take into account that lets me ease off the throttle these days.
Stability, ride comfort and safety becomes key but when needed, that muscular push that brings the Grand Cherokee from 0-100 km/h in 9 seconds can be appreciated. It is a big boy after all and easily ‘King of the Road’ so the Myvis and Sagas had better make way, and they did.
A Complete Ride
The kids loved the roomy back-row and it is where they make their ‘bed’ along the five-hour journey up north, and where they play myriad games with each other or tuck away to a corner reading a book, or just watching the trees go by. Bedroom, library, playground all in one and most importantly, peace of mind for us parents up front.
Joyce enjoyed the 19-speaker Harman Kardon high-performance sound system and via the in-car Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen system, our Spotify playlists makes for many a sing-along sessions for better or for worse.
Known as ‘Uconnect’, Jeep’s interactive in-car system offers intuitive features like voice recognition, navigation, climate control and so much more. Also, the customisable 7-inch Multi-View Display on the dashboard offers a quick and easy glimpse at important vehicle systems and driving information.
Due to an unexpected delay – I had to make a pitstop as I was falling asleep – we hit the KL toll-gate right at peak hour and got caught in a massive traffic jam as we weave our way across almost standstill traffic towards the Seremban highway.
Climb A Mountain
When we finally found ourselves at the foot of Mount Ulu Kali where the newly-renovated Resorts World Genting is sited, darkness has shrouded the mountain from view as we begin our ascent. While most people are used to selecting between ‘Sports’ or simply ‘Auto’ drive mode, there is one key feature when trying to climb up or for that matter, come down a mountain.
With Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction management system, there are five settings – Snow, Sand, Mud, Rock and Auto – that coordinates 12 vehicular systems, including throttle control, transmission shift, traction control, transfer case and electronic stability control, to tackle any extreme situation that the car enters into.
Ascending Genting was not actually difficult and even in ‘Auto’ mode, the car handled more than sufficiently without having to worry about power loss and control when taking on steep and sharp bends.
But it’s the descent that showcases the car’s 4WD capabilities. Coming downhill, most cars burn rubber as they work the brakes extra time to maintain stability. With the Grand Cherokee Limited, it was easy once the powerful low gears kick in to hold the car steady however steep the slope is.
Managing Tight Spaces
Apart from trying to wriggle out of traffic jams without letting the motion sensors drive you crazy, parking a car as big as a Grand Cherokee can be mind-bogglingly stressful, especially within the confines of antiquated indoor parking spaces in Malaysia.
Multi-storey parking was built in a time when cars were much smaller and the mini-buses the size of a typical MPV today. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is no typical MPV.
Once I got used to the turning radius and become more or less aware of the space surrounding this large SUV, all that was needed was to find creative ways to squeeze myself in. Even getting to parking gantry requires careful navigation, let alone reversing into lots with limited width space.
The Grand Cherokee however, handled each situation with panache and its reverse camera coming to the rescue in more times than I could account for. And when you see other large vehicles parked inside, you know that it is doable.
Other than that, zipping in and out of the city’s myriad and convoluted one-way roads are made so much more at ease when in the commanding position of this tall four-wheel-drive.
One stormy night, as we took to Jalan Alor looking for supper, the rains came down hard, the roads were at places flooded making driving through them hit-and-miss for most passenger cars. But with 20-inch wheels, the Grand Cherokee drags through the road like nothing was there. I only had to be conscious of the people walking along the pavement and not spray my ‘blessings’ on them.
When we finally returned to the hotel, I was hardly flustered so I gave the big boy a tap of approval after parking and smiled to myself, glad that I had him for company this week.
Did I mention that the Jeep Grand Cherokee is fuel efficient? Because it is. Filling up to the brim, we then drove the two-hours necessary to get to Malacca. It was Saturday night and we were looking to hit Jonker Street with our tummies empty, and ready to devour anything that takes our fancy along this famous weekend walking street.
Littered with people, we had to make two extra rounds around and circumnavigate 15km worth of hard traffic before arriving at our heritage hotel sited conveniently and parallel to the famous weekend walking street, Jonker Walk.
But eventually, we got there and checked in, before taking a two-minute stroll to the landmark Geographer Café, which is in the middle of the festivities and a great starting point to explore the vicinity.
The soaring vocals of a local songstress draw bystanders to the Geographer as she swoons her melodic finest from within its ancient walls. Walk further down towards north of the bustling street and before long, a galeforce of ‘uncles’ crooning Hokkien songs atop a large ‘Gei-Tai’ (Chinese for song-stage, or a place where people typically performs during Chinese festivals) hits you with a wave of nostalgia and piercing might.
Caught in between a conflux of old and new – a gourmet coffee house known simply as “Backlane Coffee”, a hip shopping parlour called “Jonker Gallery” intertwined amongst stalls selling local delicacies such as ‘Muar Otak Otak’, ‘Oyster Omelette’, ‘Carrot Cake’, barbecue seafood and popular desserts like ‘Putu Piring’ and fruit candy sticks – weekend nights in Jonker is a neverending stream of activity and liveliness.
In the day, before packing it home, a drive past the same street that just the night before had been crammed with human traffic, has now taken a different sort of life. People are still walking along its pavements enjoying the shops that had been closed the night before and experiencing Jonker’s day-time delights.
A stall selling duck feet with beer – a nice snack for the daring – at night now peddles ‘Wanton Mee’ noodles. A Mamee museum is a great place for kids to create their own cup noodles and take home this crunchy snack. Even the local Family Mart convenience store has become a tourist stop with its own seating on the second level to serve dine-in customers.
By the time we pulled out of the thrall of Malacca’s cultural and gastronomical delights, the Grand Cherokee had picked up a trail of fun and adventures along a trail that is nearly 1,000 kilometres long.
Homeward bound and with just the traffic of the Second Link to get past, this has been an eventful and rewarding journey, especially for me, the driver. Instead of returning tired, it was with a smile that longs for another adventure with the Jeep Grand Cherokee that fills my dreams later that night.
Penang, here I come.
To enjoy a complimentary weekday overnight test drive or weekend drive, simply register for a FREE junior golf workshop conducted by the Singapore Golf Association (SGA) at JEEP’s showroom.
Date: 6 July 2019 (Saturday)
Time: 9 am to 1130 am
Location: JEEP, 1 Chang Charn Road S(159630)
• US Collegiate golf
• High-performance training
• Parental expectations
• Life of Touring Pro