A Mercedes-Benz for about the same price as a Jeep? Our instinct is to grab the Mercedes for the greater prestige, luxury and quality that it offers, though the 2013 Grand Cherokee deserves consideration in this faceoff for its performance and generous helping of luxury trappings.
The four-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee starts at $44,000 and can top $50,000 when loaded with features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, a rear entertainment system and 5.7-liter V-8. It also is the roomier and more off-road capable SUV, plus it has some Mercedes-Benz genes because it was developed during the DaimlerChrysler era and is related to the Mercedes M-Class. A 2014 Grand Cherokee received a minor styling refresh and new eight-speed automatic transmission, said to increase highway gas mileage by 2 mpg on the V-6 and 1 mpg highway on the V-8; a diesel version is also new for 2014.
The four-wheel-drive GLK has an enticing base price of around $39,000, but that doesn't include leather seats. Adding leather and features such as a navigation system, blind spot monitoring, adaptive headlights and cruise control can boost the price to as high as $54,000.
Where Mercedes trumps Jeep is in quality and reliability. Both the Grand Cherokee and GLK were among SUVs with the fewest problems in their respective classes in the 2012 J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, which measures things that go wrong in the first 90 days of ownership. As a brand, however, Mercedes had fewer problems than the industry average, and Jeep had more. Jeep ranked 30th out of 32 brands in Power's 2012 Vehicle Dependability Study, which measures problems in the third year of ownership, and Mercedes ranked sixth. Jeep ranked 33rd out of 34 brands in the 2011 VDS, and Mercedes was eighth.
To be fair, those low dependability ratings are from the 2008 and 2009 model years when Chrysler was owned by private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, which relentlessly cut costs at the expense of quality to squeeze more profit out of a struggling company. Under the current Fiat ownership, Chrysler's quality appears to be improving, so Jeep may well do better in future surveys.
However, if you're talking about roughly the same amount of money, we would rather spend it on a Mercedes than on a Jeep.
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