The Jeep Meridian is the first three-row SUV from the off-roader specialist in India. Developed as a model primarily for Latin America and India, the Meridian promises a lot, in a segment that is beginning to open up. And this is the Stellantis Group’s effort to expand the Indian portfolio from Jeep. In fact there is what you may call a product offensive that’s on, with India getting four locally made Jeeps by the year end – that’s the Compass, Wrangler, Meridian, and even the flagship Grand Cherokee that will arrive by the festive season. The departure of the popular Ford Endeavour also leaves a gap in the full-size off-roader market, and therefore an opportunity for Jeep.
The Meridian is a 3-row, longer wheelbase version of the FCA small wide 4X4 LWB platform. This of course also has the Compass and Commander on it, as well as the newly launched Alfa Romeo Tonale crossover. The Commander is in many ways the same car as the Meridian – and sells in Latin America. But the Meridian gets its own name and positioning for two reasons. The first is the Commander name has Mahindra antecedents in India. And the second and more vital reason is that the Meridian is better appointed, more featured packed and overall more upmarket than the Brazil made Commander. I am in Chandigarh to drive this car, and the smooth tarmac this union territory offers is an absolute delight. We then also managed to get into some twisty roads across the Himachal border, to get a comprehensive feel of the new car.
Also Read: Jeep Meridian Bookings To Open In May 1st Week; Deliveries To Commence In Mid-June
The Jeep Meridian is in many ways the same car as the Commander that is sold in Latin America, but this one is a more premium product
Performance and Engine
The first thing that grab you are the suspension and ride quality. Supple, firm and very well-tuned, the suspension gives you the right blend of SUV feel, with comfort – as it does well to keep minor bumps and small potholes from reaching your rear end! Now, you might say that it’s a lot like the Compass – but that’s bound to be the case. More important is the comparison the rivals, it’s not going to feel anything like the Toyota Fortuner for example. And that is the car it really has to go after, isn’t it? It also shares the Compass’ 2-litre turbo diesel engine with the option of a 6-speed manual or 9-speed automatic gearbox. It does not get the petrol option like its sibling.
The Jeep Meridian SUV gets the Compass’ 2-litre turbo diesel engine with the option of a 6-speed manual or 9-speed automatic gearbox
The engine is familiar and the surprising bit is that its state of tune and digits are identical to the Compass diesel. That is a bit odd, as I expected that to be differentiated between the two models. The same is true of the gearboxes. The logic of sharing the Compass’ engine is understandable from the business case perspective. But the power will seem lacking given the weight difference between the two cars. The weight difference between the diesel 4×4 auto and the manual is around 112 kgs. The 4×4 auto weighs in at 1890 kgs. You still get a lot of grunt, torque is not the problem. It is that 168 bhp that sticks out like a sore thumb. I would have wanted this to be more powerful car, for another reason. Jeep is trying to say that this is the most sophisticated option to what exists in the segment, and so more power would be important to communicate that sense of luxury and refinement. That to me, is a bit of a miss, since it’s not like there is another niche variant that’s more powerful.
The Jeep Meridian’s diesel engine comes in same state of tune as the Compass – 168 bhp and 350 Nm of torque
The thing is that this is also being pitched as a driver’s car and not just a chauffeur driven one. And there again, I feel having additional power and a swifter initial acceleration would have been gold. And a direct play against the Toyota Fortuner. But for now this is all we get. The Jeep Meridian’s alter-ego, the Commander does get a 1.3 turbo flexfuel engine in Brazil, which makes 182 bhp. The Compass also has more powerful 2 and 2.4 litre Tigershark petrol engines in other markets. But for now Jeep does not see a business case, and therefore a reason to launch a petrol variant of the Meridian in India.
The diesel 4×4 auto version of the Meridian weighs in at 1890 kgs, making it 112 kgs heavier than the manual version
Ride and Handling
I do like this stiff steering and so the weighted feel on this one is great, especially on the hill roads that I’ve also been driving on. It’s only in really dense traffic though that you might find it a little too hard but you know what, that’s a personal preference. I for one, I’m quite happy with it. The car’s handling is also good – and there the big difference between it and its ladder-on-frame counterparts will make it shine. And that’s where the Jeep Meridian has a clear edge. The Meridian has a monocoque shell, lending it a tauter feel. There is minimal to no body roll, and the car feels quite planted and assured. The car does have frequency selective damping that helps with better cornering.
Unlike most of its competitors, which get a ladder-on-frame chassis, the Jeep Meridian has a monocoque shell, resulting in better handling
I’m also spending some time in the back for a little while Shams is driving, and it does feel very comfortable in the rear as well. So on the whole, it is just this little lack of power that’s going to be the one Achilles heel. Because especially when you have a full load we got lots of people in the car. That’s when you will feel it even more. But the suspension feels comfy at the rear too.
|Length||4769 mm||4405 mm|
|Wheelbase||2782 mm||2636 mm|
|Height||1698 mm||1640 mm|
|Width||1859 mm||1818 mm|
Jeep Meridian is 364 mm longer, 41 mm wider and 58 mm taller than the Compass, and it gets a 146 mm longer wheelbase as well.
Substantial proportions, and upmarket looks. That is the first impression you get when you look at the Meridian. And it is differentiated enough from the Compass – a good thing – because that is going to be the inevitable comparison. The Meridian is 364 millimetres longer, and has a 146 millimetre difference in wheelbase over the Compass. I like the pattern on the alloy wheels and you get just two trims – so two options. Black or two-tone alloys, an option of two-tone roof, and unlike the Compass, a more upright seven-slat grille and slimmer headlamps. That is more in keeping with the styling the new Grand Cherokee or Wagoneer have brought in globally.
Unlike the Compass, the Jeep Meridian gets a more upright seven-slat grille and slimmer headlamps
There’s a lot of chrome on the headlamp surrounds, grille, and even a thick slat running horizontally on the tailgate. The latter enhances the big car impression, and makes the slim and horizontal taillights stand out. But yeah give me blacked-out elements over chrome any day – or maybe even a dark or smoked out metal look! Most people will love it though, in the Indian context.
Cabin and Tech
The Jeep Meridian SUV is equipped with a 10.1-inch touchscreen, 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster, ventilated power seats in front and a few other comfort and tech feature
An intentional effort has been made to swank up the cabin of the new Jeep Meridian to give it upmarket feels. The quilted leather-finish seats, and the colour palette in rich dark tones, do convey that to a certain extent. The plastics – especially on rear doors and around the sides of the cabin could have been better though. The panoramic sunroof, 10.1-inch touchscreen, 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster, ventilated power seats in front, power tailgate, and a few other comfort and tech feature are borrowed from the top spec Compass to good effect. Most features are standard. There will be two trims – the Limited and Limited Option. The latter is obviously better loaded. The Meridian is also a connected car, and has Jeep’s Uconnect suite with features like geofencing, remote door lock/unlock, etc. The car has an in-built sim from Jio, with free data services for 3 years. It gives you access to a variety of entertainment and navigation apps. The Meridian also has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, besides a wireless phone charger.
The Jeep Meridian is also a connected car, and gets Jeep’s Uconnect suite with features like geofencing, remote door lock/unlock, and more.
The all-important third row is what many of you want to know about. I posted a picture on social media and that kind of tells the whole story. The single function, one-handed tumble down second row seat folding works just fine. But getting in is still a bit clumsy (to the third row i.e.). Half an inch shy of 6 feet, and yet I know I’m not the tallest person in our group. The result, is that I am supremely cramped for space, and legroom is compromised. My knees point skywards, and I can’t even begin to get under-thigh support as a result! The big problem is that the second row seats do not slide forward, like on some three-row cars. So you cannot play with extra legroom for adults or bigger folks. I can do fairly nothing back here, and if row two reclines their seat, I am toast! So this third row is definitely not for adults, and certainly not for long distances. For kids though it would be fairly comfortable, and you do get dedicated roof-mounted AC vents, and cup holders back here. The seat itself is well constructed and it’s seatback is fairly comfortable. It’s the seat bottom cushion or the lack of it, that is the problem.
Jeep Meridian SUV Review
So row three is not for grown-ups but will serve large families with little kids quite nicely. The Isofix child seat anchors though are only in the second row. Safety is standard on both variants, right from ISOFIX to 6-airbags, You also get tyre pressure monitoring, and a 360-degree camera.
The Jeep Meridian we drove came with 4X4 – the Jeep Active Drive 4X4 system as seen on the Compass – making the off-roading pretty effortless
Jeep has set up an off-road trail with help from Event Solutions – a company that curates off-road experiences. Of course while the Meridian will have front wheel and 4 wheel drive variants, my test car has 4X4 – the Jeep Active Drive 4X4 system as seen on the Compass – making the off-roading pretty effortless. Selec-terrain with sand/mud, snow and auto drive modes is standard on the 4X4 variants. What’s nice is we’re not just going into like an obstacle course that’s been set up to simply check wheel travel/articulation or approach and departure angles. What we are instead doing is literally going off-roading. We’re doing a cross country drive through the woods. And to me, personally, that’s always fun. But it’s also the better showcase of the car’s capability.
Selec-terrain with sand/mud, snow and auto drive modes is standard on the 4X4 variants
The course is technical and also involves quite a few kilometres of driving in the rough, some steep inclines, sand banks, water crossings, and yes – even some of those zones specifically set up to display the car’s articulation. This is the part that’s a lot of fun, where, you know you have to bring some of your own skill into play as well. But you also know, it’s just staggering what the car will do for you. Be it hill descent control, or the 4×4 the Meridian does it all very well.
The Meridian is expected to launch by June and we expect prices to stay between ₹ 31 and 40 lakh
The Compass starts at just over ₹ 18 lakh and tops off at ₹ 31 lakh for the Trailhawk. The Meridian is expected to launch by June and I expect prices to stay between ₹ 31 and 40 lakh – given it boasts 82 per cent local content. But if it needs to really take on the diesel Toyota Fortuner head-on – which is similarly priced – Jeep will do well to go very aggressive on pricing. start at ₹ 31 lakh and top off at 35. Given what I have experienced on the Jeep Meridian, I will say this – don’t be fooled by its very swish, upmarket, and very urban looks. It is a true Jeep, and will give you a good mix of on and off-road capability.
For the latest auto news and reviews, follow carandbike.com on Twitter, Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.