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Jeep Meridian Overland 4×4 Review

More comfortable, exciting, and capable than the BMW X1! Let me start this one by bursting a bubble— the Jeep Meridian and Toyota Fortuner aren’t direct rivals, as perpetrated by almost every auto journalist, influencer, YouTuber, and their uncles, in India. You can’t compare a unibody SUV to a body-on-frame truck, with the Rubicon vs […]

More comfortable, exciting, and capable than the BMW X1!

Let me start this one by bursting a bubble—
the Jeep Meridian and Toyota Fortuner aren’t direct rivals, as perpetrated by almost every auto journalist, influencer, YouTuber, and their uncles, in India. You can’t compare a unibody SUV to a body-on-frame truck, with the Rubicon vs Defender and LC300/Lexus500/Lexus600 vs Range Rover vs Maybach GLS600 being the only two exceptions. Now, you might ask why a Meridian vs Fortuner comparison isn’t an exception, then? Because, 1) the Rubicon and Defender have always been arch rivals, and the Defender has always been a body-on-frame vehicle.until recently, when it ditched the ladder-frame chassis and opted for unibody instead; and 2) those aforementioned uber-premium luxury 4x4s have always been marketed by their manufacturers as the go-anywhere-in-the-lap-of-utmost-luxury vehicles.
With the Meridian and Fortuner, Jeep and Toyota, respectively, make no such claims. The Meridian is an SUV with brilliant on-road manners and decent off-road ability, whereas the Fortuner is an SUV with brilliant off-road ability and decent on-road manners. And contrary to what reviewers of all kinds believe, the prospective customers of these two vehicles understand this crucial difference.
Meridian buyers won’t have the Fortuner, but crossovers like the Skoda Kodiaq, VW Tiguan, and BMW X1 instead in their radar. Therefore, while this review will focus on the pros and cons of the Meridian in isolation, it would occasionally mention a couple of these Europeans too for perspective.

Design and Presence
To some, the Meridian would appear like an enlarged Compass, while some may find it closer to the Grand Cherokee in appearance. That’s a win for the Jeep Meridian because both the Compass and Grand Cherokee are handsome vehicles, and so is the Meridian. It carries the aura of a good-looking erstwhile Bollywood star, who’s now married and has kids, but is still in amazing shape. He now travels the world with his family, doing full justice to the word “Overland” on his visiting card…
Size-wise, the Meridian is longer, and taller, than both the Kodiaq and X1. As such, this Jeep holds its own quite well in the presence stakes. I must also add that the Kodiaq is the widest car here, and the X1 is the slimmest. I now also remember that compared to the Meridian, which is a cinch to drive in crowded areas, I had to be much more careful driving the Kodiaq in similar situations, thanks to the latter’s extra width. It can be concluded that the Meridian has the perfect width for our conditions, including parking in tight confines as well.

Interiors
Step inside the Meridian and you’re greeted by a mix of suede and leather upholstery, which does look and feel premium. The best part is that the light brown (suede), brown (seats), and black (dash top) combination doesn’t get dirty too easily, which would come as big relief to those who, like me, will indulge in some window-down offroading with the Jeep Meridian.
The number of physical buttons, knobs, and switches also kept me happy, however, I just wish that Jeep should have given proper physical controls for the ventilated seats and for the camera too, especially when they even have a dedicated Screen Off button! To be fair, they are not buried deep into the touchscreen. The controls for the ventilated seats are placed at the top corners of the touchscreen (tiny icons on the left and right corners, for the left and right front seats, respectively, and my bad eyesight ensured that I could find them only after two days), and if you want to switch the camera on, it’s just two touches away. You first touch the icon that says “Vehicle” in the menu bar at the bottom of the screen, which takes you to the two camera options, namely Surround Camera and Rear View Camera. Click on either as per your preference. I always choose the Surround Camera.
Since I mentioned about the ventilated seats, please note that these have been the quietest, but NOT ineffective, ventilated seats that I have experienced yet. The same cannot be said about the air-conditioning though. It cools fine, but, in the worst Delhi summers that we are experiencing currently, I was running the AC at full blast, and it does get noisy.
However, the seats are supremely comfortable. I am obviously talking about the first two rows. The front seats are among the best in the segment, and the second row seats are second to none as well. There’s excellent underthigh support, and there’s sufficient shoulder room as well. However, thanks to the panoramic sunroof, anyone over six feet tall might have an issue, unless they slide their derriere a bit forward and sit in a position their mother won’t approve.
The third row seats are absolutely useless, and I won’t recommend asking anyone to sit there, unless of course you deliberately want to punish your children for not finishing their homework.
Treat this car as a five seater, and then its huge boot will accomodate all your overlanding paraphernalia.
Before I move on to the next section, I must mention that while there are no complaints with the build quality, fit, and finish, I was quite surprised to see that the middle headrest’s stitching was not in a straight line on our test car. Most might not even notice it, but those who will, especially if they have an OCD around such stuff, will feel a bit irritated.

Performance, Ride, Handling, and Fuel Efficiency
I shall talk about the ride quality first, which is astounding, and I am not exaggerating one bit. There’s absolutely nothing in this segment that comes close to the sublime ride quality of the Jeep Meridian. Its cousin, the Citroen C5 Aircross is an exception, but even that can’t match the Jeep’s high-speed composure. That’s something I had mentioned in my review of the C5, and there I was comparing it to the Compass. The Meridian is a few notches above the Compass in low-speed ride quality, while still matching its high-speed dynamics AND ride quality at those speeds. Let that sink in for a minute.
It must be clear by now, then, that just like the Compass, the Meridian also handles brilliantly! For perspective, it handles better than not only the Kodiaq and Tiguan, but than the latest BMW X1 as well! What a time to be alive! For those not in the know, the original E84 X1 was a terrific handler; the subsequent ones have lost their supremacy. In fact, what’s further made driving the latest X1 a comparatively sterile experience is BMW’s decision of selling only the front-wheel-drive models in India.
Fret not, the all-wheel-drive layout of the Jeep Meridian allows you to indulge in some terrific sideways action, and that’s with the traction control switched on… Again, what a time to be alive!
Now let’s talk about performance although you would have gotten a pretty good idea about it already. If you haven’t, I’ll break it down for you. See, any AWD vehicle that can go sideways on tarmac, despite grippy rubber, means that it has all the performance that you would ever need. Therefore, while its zero to hundred times might not give you a kick, the Meridian will never leave you flustered, or hunting for power, at any point in time. Overtaking on highways do not require much planning, and even the responses at varying speeds in city traffic are quick enough to let you take advantage of that gap, opening up in traffic momentarily, before an auto-rickshaw-on-NOS darts into it.
In fact, the excellent NVH levels,.coupled to the linear power delivery (thanks to the 9-Speed Torque Converter), deceive you into thinking that you’re not going fast enough. You are, trust me. Or you can trust the speed cameras when you get fined for speeding.
But I don’t think you’ll be buying the Meridian for speeding. You’ll be getting it to cruise comfortably on the highways, which it does as effortlessly as it rides. It does 100 km/h at just a whiff above 1,500 rpm, again thanks to that 9-speed gearbox. For perspective, the Fortuner with its much bigger and powerful engine, takes around a 100 rpm more because it has a 6-speed torque converter.
Not exceeding 100 km/h on empty expressways will give you around 16 km/l but the fuel efficiency figure in the city will always be a single digit (between 7 and 9), thanks to, again, for the third and final time, the 9-speed gearbox, which, keeps you between 2nd and 6th cogs in the city. Forget 8th and 9th, you’d seldom see even the 7th gear in the city. If you must know, you can manually shift into 9th only at 99 km/h, whereas in the regular D mode, it would automatically shift into 9th at 94-95 km/h IF you keep a light foot on the throttle.

OFFROAD
It’s a Jeep, so its review won’t be complete if we don’t talk about its off-road ability. The Meridian is fantastic off the road, provided you don’t attempt any obstacle that has an angle of anything over 20 degrees. Why? Because the front bumper is so promiscuous that it wants to kiss every hump in sight. It’s not a problem on the road though, as the front bumper is still high enough to clear even the worst speed-breakers we have on our roads. But, off the road, you will have to back off on anything and everything that appears to be steeper than those speed-breakers.
Everywhere else—sand, mud, slush, rocks—the Meridian fully justifies its Jeep heritage. Unlike most other all-wheel-drive systems, this one’s behaves like a permanent four-wheel-drive system off-road, because unlike the terrain modes on other vehicles, the Meridian’s not only alters the throttle response, but also increases the brake lock differential’s intensity in Sand/Mud mode, heavily limiting wheelspin and sending torque almost instantly to the wheels that have more traction. Just like in the Grand Cherokee! Also, don’t use the Snow mode even when you are driving in snow—again, just like in the Grand Cherokee, then!
The Sand/Mud mode is the best for all your offroading needs. Please note that selecting Snow and Sand/Mud modes automatically activates the 4×4 Lock function as well. Alternatively, you can choose 4×4 Low, which again lights up the 4×4 Lock switch automatically. Please also note that 4×4 low isn’t a set of low range gears in a separate transfercase here. It just chooses the first gear, which isn’t available for onroad driving in the regular Auto mode. On the road, the vehicle always starts in the second gear. No, you should not use 4×4 Low or 4×4 Lock on the road.

Verdict
At an ex-showroom price of under 40 lakh rupees, this top-end Jeep Meridian Overland 4×4 is similarly priced as the top-end Skoda Kodiaq 4×4 L&K variant (that’s a petrol though), and around 12 lakh rupees less expensive than the less powerful BMW X1 diesel. The Jeep is more powerful than both; rides better than both, and also edges them in handling. But, off the road is where the Jeep leaves them, especially the BMW, in the dust. That makes it a steal at this price!

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