What’s new on the outside?
First up, its looks. Some are of the opinion that it looks like the Compass and some say it borrows styling traits from the larger Grand Cherokee. In person, the Meridian looks big and is quite lengthy. The Jeep Meridian is based on the brand's unibody architecture. Yes, it does look like an extended version of the Compass with a long wheelbase. But there are more changes under the skin and the SUV is larger than its five-seater sibling. Also, the finer changes make it look different. Yet it's unmistakably a Jeep with its seven-slat grille up front flanked by sleek LED headlights with LED daytime running lights. On the side, the 18-inch alloy wheels get a more intricate detailing, thus lending it a striking pattern. Round at the back, it features slim wraparound LED tail lamps with a chrome strip in the centre. It's more slab-sided and upright, yet quite premium.
What’s new on the inside?
In terms of layout and design, the interior of the Meridian is similar to its sibling, the Compass. This is a good thing for it packs in all the positive traits. Taking centre stage is a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity. Then, there's a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel. This is a highly customisable display as we'd seen earlier with its introduction in the Compass facelift.
Let's shift our focus to the third row of seating that differentiates it from the Compass. Here you can see a one-touch tumble down middle seat function that allows access to the last row, which, by the way, also gets reclining backrests. There's limited legroom and headroom though enough shoulder room for two. Then, there are dedicated air-con vents for the third row adding to the comfort of occupants. The middle row with a 60-40 split does add to the versatility but doesn't get a sliding function. However, all these seats can be folded flat for a more than sufficiently large and flat cargo bed. Owners will be glad to know that they will also get some boot space with all the seats up.
What’s on the feature list?
The Compass was always a handsomely packed vehicle, and it wouldn't be wrong to expect the Meridian to have such features too. And it does in fact with more luxurious appointments. Some of the notable features include multi-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof and a powered tailgate. The SUV is also kitted out with a host of safety features. These include six airbags, a 360-degree camera, Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA), Fading Brake Support (FBS), Ready Alert Brake (RAB), Rain Brake Assist (RBA), Hill Start Assist (HAS), and Automatic Vehicle Hold (AVH).
What’s under the hood?
Powering the Meridian is Jeep's familiar 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine. It comes mated to either a six-speed manual or a nine-speed automatic transmission. But it will only be a diesel with no petrol engine option. This turbo-diesel unit puts out 168bhp of power and 350Nm of torque. Jeep claims that the Meridian can accelerate from 0-100kmph in 10.8 seconds and has a top speed of 198kmph.
Given the Jeep brand name and its off-roading legacy, the Meridian will also come in an all-wheel-drive option. We got a chance to take it off the road on a specially designed circuit and it did paste a smile across my face. The obstacle course included various parameters of ground clearance, articulation, traction, manoeuvrability, and water fording up to 16 inches deep slush or water. All of this helped test the SUV's 4x4 capability and I'm sure owners will be astonished by its climbing and descending abilities be it a rocky section or any challenging terrain that it may come across.
Competition and pricing
In India, the Jeep Meridian will take on the Toyota Fortuner. And that's a big challenge given the domination of this SUV in this segment. Nevertheless, it's a good bet for the carmaker to tap into the sales of the premium seven-seater vehicle segment. The only other such diesel alternative with all-wheel drive is the MG Gloster. If Jeep manages to price the Meridian competitively, it has a good chance to go up strongly and grab a decent chunk of sales from this segment. After all, the Meridian stays true to Jeep's off-roading legacy while being a good daily driver with a luxurious cabin.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi