There seemed to be a time when I couldn’t go shooting without at least one of my fellow guns pitching up in a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

If people wanted something that was a little bit less utilitarian than a Discovery, and didn’t mind a bit of ruched leather, it was pretty much the default choice.

And then, a few years ago, their sales fell off a cliff.

The good news for Jeep fans (and dealers) is that, according to Mike Manley, the British CEO of Jeep and the man tasked with turning their fortunes around, 2009 was the bottom of the trough.

The new Jeep Grand Cherokee, launched in the UK this summer, will be the lynchpin of their plans to rebuild the brand.

As Jeep is part of Chrysler, which has pretty much been taken over by Fiat, which also owns Alfa Romeo (pay attention at the back), the launch was held at Alfa’s legendary Balocco test track.

While we weren’t invited to see how quickly we could pedal a 2½ tonne SUV round perfect recreations of various 1960s Grand Prix track corners, they had laid on a sensible road route around Italy’s answer to the rice paddies and up into the hills.

Jeep Grand CherokeeThe Jeep Grand Cherokee looks smart; tidy without being remarkable, and with less automotive bling than a Range Rover Sport.

They had also prepared a totally daft off-road course, but more on that later.

My initial impressions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee were overwhelmingly positive.

It looks smart; tidy without being remarkable, and with less automotive bling than a Range Rover Sport.

The interior is much better than the old one, although some of the plastics are a bit, um, plastic.

No ruched leather, either… The oily bits are based on the as yet to be launched next-gen Mercedes ML, as Mercedes-Benz used to own Chrysler (I did warn you to pay attention) and as such it’s pretty state of the art…

To read the full review, including the latest news from inside the motoring industry, pick up the July 2011 issue of Shooting Gazette, on sale now!

Ben Samuelson is the managing director of PR and events agency Samuelson Wylie Associates. Follow him on Twitter.

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