The Jeep Meridian 4X4 Is A Road-Tripper’s Delight!

If the Meridian is a class act on road, then off-road it’s the star of the show. A superbly curated off-road track outside Chandigarh was a great opportunity to test the Meridian’s 4x4 capabilities. Whether it was crawling up steps, see-sawing over ‘axle breakers,’ scrabbling up and down steep slopes, wading through water troughs or raising an articulated wheel like a dog trying to mark its territory

The Jeep Meridian made its entrance into the Indian market at a rather convenient time in 2022; with the 7-seater market on the come up, the Meridian is the second product from the Jeep family that is meant to cater to a large market, sitting above the compass as the larger, roomier alternative. The Jeep Meridian promises to bring the sales volumes up for the brand, however, just the fact that it shares a platform with a successful product does not make the Meridian automatically a good car. So, what better way to test if the meridian is fit to take on the urban jungle than to take it on an adventure! How does the Meridian fare on a trip to the beach? Here are our impressions.

The Meridian is Spacious

The all-digital dashboard is carried over from the Compass, so you get a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster with multiple displays, a 10.1-inch infotainment system that has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 360-degree camera that is crisp and sharp as ever, and one of the better interfaces around.

There’s front ventilated seats, wireless charging, driving modes, USB Type C and USB Type A ports, and a panoramic sunroof, which bags all the must-have features that SUV owners want. However, given where the Meridian will sit in the SUV market, a few more gizmos would have been in order. There are no front parking sensors or any ADAS features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning but you do get a 360 degree camera . In terms of practicality, there’s enough space to store your stuff on long trips, but the door pockets are a bit shallow to hold a 1.0-litre water bottle and the middle row gets a little stuffy thanks to the slight lack of ventilation since it gets only one singular vent that is behind the center console.

The Meridian makes a better case for itself as a 5-seater, with the rearmost seats folded down to offer 481 litres of luggage space. That said, even with the third-row seats in place, there’s enough space for a couple of soft bags. A nice touch is the powered tailgate, which has the button inside the cabin and not on the tailgate itself, so you don’t have to reach up high to activate it.

The Meridian Is (Much) Bigger Than The Compass

With the Meridian, Jeep hasn’t simply bolted on a longer tail section to make a three-row variant out of the Compass, but creditably has re-modelled the entire car with a substantially longer wheelbase and new body panels. The Meridian is 4,769mm long, which is a good 364mm more than the Compass. A lot of that length comes from an extended wheelbase, which is a sizeable 2,782mm – 146mm more than the Compass. In fact, the Meridian’s wheelbase is the longest in its class, a tad more than even the Fortuner. And it’s the long wheelbase, along with the relatively short front and rear overhangs (critical for a Jeep’s off-road capability) that give the Meridian superbly balanced proportions. In fact, the Meridian is more Grand Cherokee-like than a stretched Compass, and that’s down to the rich detailing all round.

The two-tone roof with a blackened D-pillar and a chrome surround above the doors that nicely highlights the silhouette look very upmarket too, as does the slim rear tail-light clusters that are neatly integrated with the chrome strip. The Meridian’s smart set of 18-inch alloys and chunky 235/55 R18 tyres add to the road presence. The Compass was a good-looking car, and the Meridian looks even better. And looks in this segment is half the battle won.

The 2.0 Turbo-Diesel Feels Rather Strong

The Meridian comes with just one engine option, the same 170hp, 2.0-litre diesel that powers the Compass. But unlike the latter, the Meridian doesn’t get a petrol motor and is unlikely to get one soon. What you do get are multiple transmission options – the 4×2 gets a 6-speed manual gearbox, as well as the 9-speed auto, whilst the top-of-the-line Limited 4×4 only comes with a 9-speed auto, and that’s the one we drove.

A remapped ECU and different engine calibration have substantially changed the power characteristics of the tried-and-trusted 2.0-litre diesel in the Meridian. The power delivery is more measured compared to the Compass, which feels more responsive off the line. Jeep engineers say that they have opted for a more linear power delivery in the Meridian for a smoother drive. The fuel-injection timing too is less abrupt, which has marginally reduced noise levels.

If anything, the Meridian’s performance feels a bit blunted compared to the Compass, a result of the extra 110kg of weight and softer engine calibration. In isolation though, the Meridian doesn’t feel underpowered in the least. The torquey 350Nm diesel gives you a nice tug from low speeds, all the way to the 4,500rpm redline. But whilst the Meridian feels strong and has enough oomph, it doesn’t feel particularly sporty, and that’s down to the rather lazy 9-speed gearbox.

Like in the Compass, this 9-speeder is in no hurry to swap cogs and is slow to react during both, downshifts and upshifts. As a result, the Meridian is not a very sporty or engaging SUV and feels happiest cruising all day long. The Meridian is, in fact, a brilliant highway car, the punchy diesel engine coupled with tall gearing makes long-distance drives ever so effortless, and the brilliant dynamics play more than a supporting role.

The Ride Is Nap-Worthy

The Compass is known for its ride and handling, but the Meridian takes it up to an altogether different level. Stability on any surface is simply phenomenal and the way the Meridian flattens any road is astonishing. You really don’t have to worry about broken roads, or flinch when you hit a pothole or are forced off a narrow road by an oncoming truck. The Meridian’s beefy independent suspension, which comes with Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) and Hydraulic Rebound Stoppers (HRS), just soaks it up. 

There is an underlying firmness to the ride, which isn’t buttery soft, but unlike the Compass, which had a hard edge, the Meridian’s suspension set-up has more compliance. Also, the Meridian has less vertical movement than the shorter-wheelbase Compass, and hence, passengers too feel more settled.

The confidence the Meridian gives you though corners is amazing too. There’s minimal body roll, the steering is accurate with lots of feel, and the big Jeep resolutely holds its line. The brakes too are progressive and it’s the predictability of the Meridian, the fact that it won’t behave erratically or throw up any surprises when the road surface suddenly changes, that really wins your heart. There’s simply no other SUV in this category or even a segment above and below that rides and handles with such aplomb.

If the Meridian is a class act on road, then off-road it’s the star of the show. A superbly curated off-road track outside Chandigarh was a great opportunity to test the Meridian’s 4×4 capabilities. Whether it was crawling up steps, see-sawing over ‘axle breakers,’ scrabbling up and down steep slopes, wading through water troughs or raising an articulated wheel like a dog trying to mark its territory, the Meridian did it all without breaking into a sweat. I didn’t even need to select ‘4×4 low’! You get multiple drive modes (Sand/Mud, Snow and Auto) but most owners will stick to the default Auto setting, which maximises traction automatically depending on the surface you’re driving on.

The Meridian In A Nutshell…

The Jeep Meridian did not fail to impress us when it came to its off-roading abilities and outright comfort. however, it did fall slightly short in the third row department considering adults would be a tight fit. That being said, The Meridian is a highly capable SUV whose blend of on-road and off-road dynamics is unmatched. This makes it a brilliant car for long distances, irrespective of how good or bad the road surface is. Performance is adequate, but you do wish that with an increase in size and weight, came an increase in power and performance. There is no petrol option either, which would preclude a section of buyers who have moved away from diesel.

The well-built and well-equipped cabin has the added versatility of a third row, but the space on offer doesn’t make it practical for adults. The selling point of the Meridian is its Jeep DNA. It looks terrific and has a delightful, tough feel. And if you want to play mountain goat, it easily can. What’s also impressive is how good a city slicker the Meridian is. It’s easy to punt around narrow roads and doesn’t feel cumbersome like the Fortuner.

Available in two variants, Limited and Limited (O), the Meridian, which has no direct competition given its unique set of talents, has the makings of a winner. Priced competitively from Rs 29.90 lakh to Rs 36.95 lakh (ex-showroom, India), it undercuts the Fortuner by quite a margin. And like we said, with the Endeavour gone and the Kodiaq not available, there is little choice in this segment. At this price, with its great ride and handling, tough build and off road prowess, the Meridian is a good buy.

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Bhavneet Vaswani
Bhavneet Vaswani

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