After many false starts, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles finally heralded its luxury off-road brand - Jeep - into India at the picturesque Umaid Bhavan Palace in Jodhpur, a city known for its collection of the original Willys Jeep. For now, there are two models on offer - Wrangler and Grand Cherokee - both available as full imports.
The range starts with the more hardcore off-roader, Wrangler. This is available in a single 'Unlimited' trim and carries a price tag of Rs 71.5 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi. The vehicle is powered by the torquey 2.8-litre diesel engine with a top whack of 197bhp and peak torque of 460Nm, while power is sent to all four wheels via a five-speed automatic gearbox. The Wrangler is a five-seater with an 884 litre cargo bay. It's the more extreme off-road Jeep with a ground clearance of 238mm and a water wading depth of 760mm. It will be available with a hard or soft-top roof option.
The Wrangler will come with four optional packs. The Black Pack will include add-ons like black grille, tail-light guard and tubular bumpers among a couple of other features. The 'Outdoor Pack' will have a steel hood, spare wheel cover and side decals. For more individualisation options, there is a 'Protection Pack', while all the bling-loving Indians, can opt for the 'Chrome Pack'.
The more luxurious Grand Cherokee range will start at Rs 93 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, for the Limited variant, while the top-spec Summit variant will cost Rs 1.03 crore. Although the powertrain is the same in both - 3.0-litre V6 diesel mated to an 8-speed gearbox - the higher variant gets a more advanced all-wheel drive system that includes an electronic limited slip differential as against a two-speed transfer case in the lower trim.
Apart from larger 20-inch wheels as against the standard 18-inch alloys, the Summit variant also gets a larger touchscreen, dual-pane panaromic sunroof and more leather all around. However, the base version is feature-rich and packs in most of the luxury car goodies such as keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, ventilated seats and rear view camera apart from parking sensors. The only bit missing is the GPS. However, and more importantly, it does have Jeep's Selec-Terrain Vehicle Management System that allows the vehicle to respond to different kind of surfaces on its own, making it a more capable SUV. All safety features such as airbags, electronic stability control and hill start assist are part of the standard equipment list.
The Jeep range will max out with the crazy Rs 1.12 crore, 6.4-litre hemi V8-engined Grand Cherokee SRT, which boasts of a peak torque output of close to 630Nm and 475bhp of grunt. Enough to sniff the tailpipes of some sportscars being driven around in anger. Jeep does mention that this engine comes with 'Fuel Saver Technology' but we won't think too much about that. Considering the amount of power at its disposal, the four-wheel drive system is slightly tweaked from permanent all-wheel drive to an on-demand one. Practically, every mechanical aspect such as suspension, steering, brakes have been tuned for extreme performance. The SRT is loaded to the gills too when it comes to features inside the cabin. And apart from a loud-ish exhaust note, the SRT also gets a Harmon Kardon music system.
Jeep India will start operations with Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Delhi, with dealerships in Chennai and Cochin to follow later. FCA India boss, Kevin Flynn, said that the company is aiming to take the dealership count to 10, across 9 cities, in the next few months. He did admit that it is a tough market but said he was confident of the brand's success considering its long legacy and interest in India.
While there is bound to be an initial interest around the brand - which the company is trying to position as more of a luxury brand rather than off-road - Jeep will also be banking on the all-new small SUV that is slated for a global unveil next month. This one would be assembled in India, which will give Jeep a cost advantage. Currently, it faces an average 170 per cent import duties on its new launches, which has pushed prices up significantly for Jeep, just like other luxury brands.
This also makes it all the more challenging considering how tough and cut-throat the competition is in the luxury car segment, which is still significantly small compared to the overall Indian car industry. Yes, Jeep has been a late entrant. Now to see how much it makes up for lost time with its potent arsenal.
JEEP AT A GLANCE\:
Wrangler\: 2.8L, diesel, 143bhp, 460Nm, 5A
Grand Cherokee\: 3.0L, V6, diesel, 240bhp, 570Nm, 8A
Grand Cherokee SRT\: 6.4L, V8, petrol, 475bhp, 630Nm, 8A