I have mentioned before that I am a fan of big, bold vehicles and the quintessential SUV; I have also mentioned before how much the Jeep brand, and the Grand Cherokee in particular, impresses me and truly changed my perspective on the comfort, practicality and ease-of-use for such big vehicles. When it comes to SUV’s and off-roading prowess, there is none that quite has the heritage and legendary status as that of Jeep.
The combination of strength, power and beauty is a hallmark of the brand. At New Vaal South, the Fiat, Alfa and Jeep (as well as Dodge and Chrysler recently) brands are proudly showcased at the uniquely located Dealership in Eastcliff, Johannesburg. Headed by Dealer Principal Andre Potgieter, who has almost 30 years of experience in the motoring industry, Andre has been dedicated to the Alfa, Jeep and Fiat brands for 12 years. As a true petrolhead (and admitted fanatic of memorable cars) Andre loves the excitement of being in the motoring industry. Stating that no two days are ever the same, the Dealership at New Vaal South strives to create similarly unforgettable experiences for their clients. Having started as a sales consultant around 27 years ago, Andre tells the story of how he was given the best training in how to deal with clients, how to prioritise their needs and give them the best possible service. Listing the Jeep brand as his big passion, he laughingly states that loving Jeep is almost a spiritual experience. Andre is confident in his Dealership’s ability to win the Dealer of the Year title, and notes that he aspires to continue investing in his Dealership.
According to Andre, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is the best value for money vehicle in the big SUV market. The fact that every feature possible (which you would have to pay for additionally in competing brand) is included standard on this vehicle is what Andre believe underscores the quality and dedication to client satisfaction. Jeep has been creating value-for-money, reliable and phenomenal vehicles since 1941, and this heritage is personalised on each Jeep purchased today (seen in the little Jeep insignia on the headlights of the Grand Cherokee).
Citing team dedication, interdepartmental unity and loyalty as the secret weapon to this dealership’s success, Andre believes that with passion and honesty, their care for their clients become evident through service, and as always, the team of friendly motoring enthusiasts at the dealership, welcome me with anticipation. Jeep vehicles have a tendency to overwhelm you with their extremely good-looks and sheer, colossal presence – and the Grand Cherokee is no different, with its beautiful new-style grille (still maintaining the famous slotted look) and sweeping arched lines. The Grand Cherokee doesn’t even have to move to generate the feeling that it owns the road, and I can almost feel the Jeep infusing me with confidence.
Tony Pinho is the Sales Executive for New Vaal South, and has been in the industry since 1979 – a whopping 39 years of service, which started off with him as junior salesman, that has culminated in him serving out his passion through his favourite brand. Having once deviated to another brand, Tony returned to Jeep as he believes there is no other vehicle that compares. With a strong desire to grow in the industry, Tony believes that being loyal and truthful to your clients is the key to being successful and is what makes this Dealership so special. His opinion of the Grand Cherokee is that it is the best motor car ever made, with comfort that is second to none. With a huge grin, he tells me that he personally drove the vehicle from Johannesburg to Durban on a quarter tank of Diesel, achieving 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres (as opposed to the general 9.2 litres per 100 kilometres his clients cite) – this is impressive to note on such a massive vehicle and powerhouse 3 litre diesel engine.
With two variants, the Limited and the Overland, the former being the entry-level model and the latter as the top-of-the-range variant, the Grand Cherokee was recently promoted at the Mall of the South where the brand was showcased. Slipping into the cabin (via Keyless Enter-N-Go) is a treat on its own – thinking back to the nervous anticipation I felt when driving a Jeep for the first time, I remember being in awe of the magnificent interior. The attention to detail is phenomenal, down to the wood-inlay, signature trim and stitching on the leather seats. The first thing I note is how spacious and roomy the cabin is. To be honest, I have a slightly anxious feeling, considering how big the Grand Cherokee actually is. Nonetheless, I am cradled in comfort and opulence in the driver’s seat (which I have to note it heated). Despite being somewhat overwhelmed, the dashboard, instrument cluster and 8.4-inch infotainment system is extremely user-friendly and logical, and I soon shrugged off the feeling of intimidation. I loved the exceptional 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system (being Indian and all), noting that every other technological must-have and want-to-have is in place, with all the most modern features as standard.
Despite the size of the vehicle that had somewhat intimidated me initially, I find myself feeling fully in control and assured as I take the mighty beast out on the road. The Grand Cherokee comes with an 8-speed Automatic transmission and 3 litre Multijet II Diesel engine that releases a husky growl, and yet – as a TurboDiesel – a surprisingly low CO2 emissions rate. Offering a clean and refined powertrain, the engine provides fantastic performance, yet optimal fuel economy too. With the on-board Eco-mode engaged, the Grand Cherokee automatically seeks to lower fuel consumption by altering the shift-schedule of the transmission. It drives like a dream, to say the least. It is not at all heavy and lumbering as I would have thought, and is wonderfully agile and responsive. Even parking is easy, thanks to park-assist, leaving me feeling both accomplished and a little smug.
The Grand Cherokee is not simply a luxury SUV – it is a refined, sophisticated 4×4 with legendary off-roading capabilities, although I almost forgot about that part of its personality, being so wrapped up in lavish comfort. The Grand Cherokee offers enhanced traction through the Quadra-Trac II or Quadra-drive II 4-wheel drive system, which works in tandem with Selec-Terrain and Quadra-Lift air suspension systems unique to Jeep vehicles, which raises the vehicle to a maximum height of 280mm, giving you ample ground clearance to really tackle the rough terrain head-on. Although I didn’t take the opportunity to release the beast on a proper off-road track (choosing instead a beaten path nearby that was, at the very least, not tarred), I would assume the sense of confidence and capability remains the same when bundu-bashing. Although Sat Nav is only standard on the Overland variant (together with a beautiful sunroof), both variants have arm rests and cupholders and an all-leather interior.
Driving the Grand Cherokee on urban roads is equally as satisfying as I would assume running it through it’s paces in harsher terrain would be. It feels, to me as the driver, that there is very little this vehicle cannot take on. It moves with effortless assertiveness through traffic, navigates jostling gravel roads and rocky dirt-paths with ease, all the while keeping me in superb comfort. It is no wonder that the Grand Cherokee has the reputation it does: it is the most awarded SUV in history, coming out on top in all categories, not the least of which is its unparalleled safety features, powerhouse engine, and magnificent design.
In support of this vehicles capabilities, New Vaal South hosts 4×4 training Events every second month to all the clients who purchased Jeep vehicles in the two months prior. Invited to Bass Lake, where clients are presented with a half-day of 4×4 training, the philosophy of wanting to promote and enhance family time is underscored by these events which bring families together. Qualified trainers are on the scene to issue certificates of completion, and a lunch is also served at the end of the day; I cannot imagine any better way to equip, empower and invest in clients than this.
I mention to the team at New Vaal South upon returning the Grand Cherokee to them that as far as test-driving experiences go, this has definitely been one of my favourite. The Grand Cherokee is for sure everything I had imagined it would be, and so much more. Bringing our visits to a close, Andre proudly notes that each vehicle sold at this Dealership is underscored by fantastic service plans and warranties that seek to ensure customer satisfaction at every level. As winners of the Aftersales Dealer of the Year for 2017, New Vaal South is sure to live up to this promise.
Click the link for more info: New Vaal South
Journalist: Desh Bechan
Reporter: Inge Stols
Editor: Belinda Anderson