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Bayou Drive

From New Orleans to Avery Island in the new Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit

Author Eric Benson Illustration Brett Affrunti

Price: $48,195

Price: $48,195

A drive from the potholed streets of New Orleans’ Bywater district to the rutted roads of Avery Island is a serious test for any vehicle’s shocks. The Summit’s Quadra-Lift air suspension easily took on craters that would tear apart lesser rides.

Our Jeep might not have quite matched the sleek Ferraris and Bentleys in NOLA for NBA All-Star Weekend, but it didn’t look totally out of place with its classic seven-slot, chain-mesh-covered grille, chrome side mirrors and striking black finish.

The Summit is a whole lot of SUV, so it takes a beast of an engine to power it. On a bayou causeway near bucolic Avery Island, home of the famed Tabasco factory, we gunned the three-liter V6 EcoDiesel engine, going from 0 to 60 in just under eight seconds.

On the way to Avery Island, we stopped in Morgan City to grab some crab cake po’boys for the road. The sandwiches made for precarious grub in a car this nice, but we managed to keep the hot sauce off the dark brown, leather-upholstered bucket seats.

The Grand Cherokee’s new eight-speed automatic transmission brings a touch of F1 to the SUV. Built by the German ZF Group, it’s the same gearbox found in BMWs and Rolls-Royces. Whether upshifting on Route 90 or winding around bayou roads, we were always in a responsive gear.

Navigating the highways and spur roads on the way out of NOLA can be tricky. The Summit’s Blind Spot Monitoring, which notifies the driver when a vehicle is in an adjacent lane, was a comfort, especially driving west on Route 90 alongside massive semis from the nearby shipyards.

As fans of HBO’s “True Detective” know, the swamps of Acadiana are not where you want to run out of gas. The Jeep’s cavernous 24.6 gallon tank and fuel-efficient diesel engine (25 mpg on the highway) ensured we got nowhere close to empty on the spooky, serpentine roads.

The Jeep’s Uconnect system is total geek chic, with a WiFi hotspot, a smartphone integration system, and OnStar-style vehicle health reports—very useful tools as you wind your way through the dirt roads of Avery Island’s alligator-packed Jungle Gardens.

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