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Jeep Meridian first drive review: India now gets a potent 7-seater off-roader

When it comes to SUV makers, there are very few brands that can match the Jeep’s legacy. The iconic U.S.-based automaker entered India in 2016 with the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee SUVs importing through the CBU route and later launched the India-made Compass 5-seater premium SUV. 6 years down the line, they are now upping the game with a new 7-seater SUV called Meridian. We recently went to Chandigarh to drive the SUV and here’s our Jeep Meridian first drive review- 

Design

The Jeep Meridian is essentially based on the Compass 5-seater SUV, but unlike Compass being a C-segment SUV, the Meridian is a D-segment SUV and the changes are quite visible. In fact, Compass and Meridian hardly looks like each other, barring few elements like the signature 7-slat grille of the Jeep.

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Everything else is new, right from the headlights, to bumper, alloy design, rear and overall dimensions as well. The Meridian is 4,769 mm in length, 1,859 mm in width, 1.698 mm in height and 2,782 in wheelbase. The Meridian gets 18-inch diamond cut dual tone alloys. All in all, it’s among the most premium looking SUV, but still lacks the bulk as against full size SUVs like the Fortuner.

Cabin

Unlike the exterior, the cabin of the Jeep Meridian resembles that of the Jeep Compass in every possible way. However, the biggest addition in the Meridian as against the Compass is the additional row of seating. The middle seats have one touch drop function for easy movement in the rear-most seats.

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Not let’s address the elephant in the room, how spacious the rear-most seats in the Meridian. In all honesty, the Jeep Meridian is not a 7-seater, but a 5+2 which means sitting two adults at the back will be task especially for long distances. The third-row seats are for the kids at best. 

The quality of the Jeep Meridian is top-notch and the car feels premium from the get go. The 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system is a delight to operate and gets latest Uconnect connectivity. It also gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both wireless and 9 speaker sound setup.

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Other features include a 360 degree camera, a fully digital instrument panel, panoramic dual pane sunroof, auto tail gate, among other features. In terms of safety, the Meridian gets 6 airbags, TPMS, electronic parking brake, hill start assist and more.  

Performance

The Jeep Meridian is powered by only a 2.0-litre Multijet diesel engine producing 170 HP and 350 Nm of torque. It’s not directly comparable to big 7-seater SUVs, but the engine is refined, and amply powerful. You get a new 9-speed automatic gearbox along with a 6-speed manual option.

The Meridian is available in both 4×2 and 4×4 drivetrains and also gets Selec Terrain (for AWD variant). Despite its sheer size and length, the steering feels nimble to operate, however, is on bit heavier side for city driving. The independent suspensions do their duty pretty well and the car feels planted and plush.

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There’s hardly any body roll in the car thanks to a not so tall structure, and the NVH levels are mostly under control, barring certain times when you are pushing the car too hard. Everything else is in its place and the Meridian feels like a driver’s car, both on and off the road.

Off Roading

The highlight of the Jeep Meridian is its off-road prowess. Although it doesn’t get the Trailhawk rating as the Compass (which we are anticipating will be added soon), the SUV is being made to conquer almost all the terrains with ease. It has a Ground Clearance of 203 mm, Approach Angle of 20 Degree and Departure Angle of 22 Degree.

We performed stairs climbing, water fording (gets 16-inch water fording depth), steep climbs, near vertical descents, axle benders among many other off-roading tasks in the Meridian and nowhere it felt out of its comfort zone. In fact, there were very few moments when we had to use AWD and Selec Terrain system to get past the challenges set for us.

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Verdict

The Jeep Meridian comes out to be a quintessential SUV that manages to full a big void between premium 5-seater SUVs and full-size 7-seater SUVs. What also goes in favour of the Meridian is Jeep’s off-roading DNA and its ability to go anywhere. Luckily for us, we tested the off-roading prowess of Meridian extensively and came of pretty impressed. The only thing remaining to be seen is the pricing, which can be north of Rs 35 lakh (on-road), and that can sway away a small batch of potential buyers, but what other options have they got?

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