Nuts & Bolts: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Bottom line: The Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the best midsize SUVs on the market. It stacks up well against the likes of Range Rover’s Land Rover series or the Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent marks in all three, on road and off — as long as you keep in mind that off-road driving, for most of us, should not be about speed.

Head-turning quotient: Attractive, stately, strong — it gets its share of attention.

Body style/layout: The Grand Cherokee is a midsize, front-engine, four-wheel-drive luxury SUV with four side doors and a rear hatch and lift-lock capable rear window. The Grand Cherokee comes in four basic iterations — base Grand Cherokee Laredo; Grand Cherokee Limited; and top-line Grand Cherokee Overland, all offered with a standard rear-wheel-drive or optional four-wheel-drive transmission. There fourth choice is for the few among us whose passion for power and speed exceeds any concern for fuel economy — the four-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee SRT8 with a 6.4-liter V-8 engine (465 foot-pounds of torque, 470 horsepower).

Engine/transmission: Standard equipment includes a 3.6-liter, 24-valve V-6 engine with variable valve timing (260 foot-pounds of torque, 290 horsepower) mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually.

Notable optional feature: Jeep’s “Quadra-Lift” air suspension system can vary vehicle ride height from 6.6 inches to 10.7 inches. Get if you plan to do any serious off-road driving.

Capacities: Seats for five people. Cargo capacity with all seats upright is 35.1 cubic feet. With rear seats folded down, maximum cargo capacity is 68.7 cubic feet. The Grand Cherokee Limited can be equipped to carry a payload weighing 1,900 pounds and tow a trailer weighing 7,400 pounds.

Safety: Standard equipment on the Grand Cherokee Limited includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear); four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; electronic-brake force distribution; electronic stability and traction control; side and head air bags; and dusk-sensing headlamps.

Price: Without options, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with four-wheel drive is listed at $39,295. Dealer’s invoice price on that model is $37,059. Price as tested is $43,725, including $4,640 in options (onboard navigation; backup camera; rear parking proximity warning system; power panoramic glass roof; adaptive cruise control; towing equipment) and an $825 destination fee. Dealer’s price as tested is $40,836. Compare with Mercedes-Benz midsize M-Class, which shares some platform and other components with the Grand Cherokee; Land Rover Range Rover LR2; Ford Explorer XLT; and BMW X-3 and soon-to-arrive X-1.

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