The 7- seater SUV market has been on fire, with Alcazar, Safari, and XUV 700 on one end and Fortuner, Glouster, and Kodiaq on the other end of the oscillating needle. Jeep
Like the pendulum had been biting for its time to hit the gong, that gong is called- Meridian, which can also fill the gap left after Ford Endeavours’ departure. Finally, the seven slate grille is in complete harmony with the Meridian’s seven seats. To be on point, it’s a cocktail of Compass and Cherokee with bits of Wrangler thrown and that recipe in itself is a great mix and will get to each of it ahead.
It borrows the powertrain, infotainment system, and the underpinnings from the Compass. It gets the extra two seats from the Cherokee with a softer suspension setup and larger departure angle increasing its off-roading capabilities and drawing inspiration from Wrangler. There are three powertrains and two trims on offer, and I drove the Diesel AT 4X2 and 4X4 on the tarmac and a well-curated trail set up by Jeep near Chandigarh.
Let’s start with the base model, which Jeep likes to call “Meridian Limited”, a 4X2 without a panoramic sunroof, ventilated seats, absence of driving modes and a split analogue and digital instrument cluster. In my time on the tarmac, it did go comfortably without any body roll and with the tail wagging out in corners in a secure way. Despite it being a 4X 2, it did climb nasty patches in two attempts, whereas our support car in front, a compass 4X4, climbed and crossed in one go. This model will be cheaper and can be a practical seven-seater family haulier.
Seating and Space
The third row is suitable for kids, but adults will find it uncomfortable for longer rides. It’s a one-touch tumble of the second row but with a firmer hand. The back seat in the third row is adjustable, and the third-row passenger can unfold the second row to exit the car without any help. There are roof-mounted Air-Con vents for keeping you cool which have a separate blower and evaporator, but the overall seating is cramped, and the low roof further complicates things. Let’s just leave the third row for kids, luggage, or tent equipment. The absence of the panoramic sunroof in the Limited 4 X2 variant further makes it a difficult space to spend time.
Once you step into the second row, you will appreciate the legroom and headroom on offer, with Mckinley perforated leather, but sadly the backrest is not adjustable. With Seats folded down, it gets 481 litres of boot space, and the powered tailgate switch is placed inside, so you don’t have to reach out to the sun with bags in your hand to close the boot lid.
Ride & Handling
This is the most exciting part of the Meridian, and it takes the ride and handling capabilities of Compass to another level. It’s a long wheelbase, and the suspension is tuned and set up so that it glides through most of the potholes and will fight any uneven surfaces to deliver a pliant and smooth ride. Jeeps’ Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) suspension system is one of the world’s best suspension setups, and it plays its part to perfection along with the Hydraulic Rebound Stoppers (HRS).
At corners, the Meridian is in total control, and unlike the Fortuner or shorter wheelbase Compass, passengers sitting in the car won’t be dancing around and feel more tucked in their seats. The body roll is minimalist, and the steering is precise – simply one of the best ride qualities out there as an SUV, and once floored, it’s not the quickest but gets the job done. Highway cruising is its strong point, and seldom will you take it off-roading, but if you do, it will do almost everything the Trailhawk can do, and that’s a great thing to know in the back of your mind.
After driving the 4X2 version on the tarmac, I took the 4X4 into an offroad trail set up by Jeep, and it did everything except somersaulting itself. It started with climbing stairs like in movies, tumbling on dug up large uneven holes, sideways driving, descending from semi cliffhangers and water wading. Most of these you do without engaging ‘4X4 low’ or changing the driving mode, Meridian senses the surface, and its traction control activates itself to the required level. Its’ departure angle is better than the Compass, and the wheel articulation over rocky patches and how it balances itself is simply mind-blowing. So in case you decide to take a shortcut from the highway through unknown terrain, most likely, you will come out on the other side without any sweat and any scratches. Here are the offroad measurements that I experienced and can vouch for – 32-degree extreme step, Water wading 16 inches higher, 29-degree extreme drop, and 30-degree exceptions slide tilt. Not that you will measure it before sticking your wheel in it, but Meridian did surprise us as a 7 seater SUV.
It’s the same all-digital dashboard taken from Compass too, and you get a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. The 4X2 variant or limited gets two analogue dials that look more Jeep-like, and the 4X4 variant gets an all-digital cluster. It’s the same 10.1-inch infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in both the variant and a 360-degree camera that is precise with a crystal clear display.
Wireless charging is standard in this variant, and you get USB Type C and USB Type-A ports. The 4 X4 variant gets the panoramic sunroof which changes the cabin experience and makes it more luxurious. It gets ventilated front-row power seats but misses adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and front parking sensors but gets LED projector headlights that can light up 200 meters ahead. Yes, it also misses on front row massage seats, but you can go off-roading for that experience 🙂
Engine & Braking
It’s a solo 2.0- litre diesel engine option for now that produces 170hp and 350 NM of torque, but you get multiple transmission options – the 4×2 gets a 6-speed manual gearbox and 9-speed AT and the top variant “limited” gets 4×4 and comes with a 9 -speed AT. The engine has been calibrated differently to make the power delivery more linear, and it feels more responsive, even though the ECU has been remapped. Though a higher configuration of engine option would have been the cherry on the cake, still, it propels the Meridian from standstill to 100kmph in 10.8 seconds [claimed ].
The braking setup comprises all-around disc brakes, which are beefed up braking tech like Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA), Fading Brake Support (FBS), and Ready Alert Brake (RAB) and Rain Brake Assist (RBA). The brake pedal is solid and is responsive under hard braking. Meridian does not lose ground and stays on its course. This could be because of the higher centre of gravity, larger wheelbase of 2782mm, and the correct tyre size of 18-inch.
It will remind you of the Grand Cherokee from the rear and Compass from the front, and they both are beautiful looking vehicles. Meridian looks imposing, and interiors also feel pretty upmarket. There are the right amount of chrome strips on the exterior, and finally, the seven-slots seven-slot grille matches up with the seven seats on offer. The D pillar is blacked out, and the roof is two-tone, making the Meridian look very premium.
Meridian offers a commendable package of comfortable highway cruising and a capable offroader, it looks good, and engine performance is satisfying. With its seven seats or 5+2 seats, it just needs to put the correct price tag on itself to shake up the segment.
Price – Rs 29.90 lakh (Limited MT FWD)
– Rs 32.40 lakh (Limited (O) MT FWD)
– Rs 31.80 lakh (Limited 9AT FWD)
– Rs 32.40 lakh (Limited (O) 9AT FWD)
– Rs 36.95 lakh (Limited (O) 9AT 4X4)