Upgraded from Duster AWD to Jeep Meridian 4×4 AT: Initial impressions

The suspension is bumpier than my Duster, yet overall the ride quality of Meridian is much more comforting, thanks to great NVH levels and rock-solid stability.

BHPian shashankjain16 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Three years ago in 2019 I became an owner of a Duster AWD. It was an unconventional choice back then, given the car was already over it’s age. But I have not regretted choosing it for once. From Spiti to Ladakh, some of my most memorable trips have been done in that car.

With the Duster in Spiti in winters.

The land of high passes – Ladakh.

So why upgrade to a new car in just 3.5 years?

Well, multiple reasons:

  • I became a father and a sudden need for a safer car arose. Duster has two airbags and I know it’s not so stable during a crash. I knew it at the time of purchase, and I thought airbags and AWD’s ESP should do fine. But now, I could absolutely not compromise on safety.
  • Duster’s NVH levels were pretty bad and even after the entire car’s damping, and upgrading tyres, they still managed to get on my nerves.
  • I absolutely hate Duster’s engine noise.
  • I needed an automatic. I do a lot of driving on hills and frequent gear changes are really tiring.
  • Also, I needed a bigger boot, as my daughter’s luggage was getting out of control.
  • Lastly, for a simple reason, it was the right time to upgrade. I was doing decent in my career and my daughter’s responsibilities had not yet kicked in and had a fair bit of savings.

So the hunt for the perfect upgrade began somewhere around October. I set my max budget to 75lakhs initially but then my wife bought some sense in me and we looked at max of 50 lakhs.

Requirements:

My requirements were clear and I posted a Team BHP thread in the What Car section:

  • Ride Comfort for Long Drives – I am spoiled by Duster’s ride quality. The other day I sat in my friend’s Hector and found it so bumpy, it was off-putting. Also, I absolutely need an automatic this time.
  • Less Body Roll – for a comfortable ride in the mountains.
  • Superb NVH Levels – This is the biggest pain point with my current car. The poor NVH level spoils otherwise excellent ride quality. I have done the entire car’s damping yet the noise is just too much. I am okay with petrol if it gives better NVH levels.
  • Safety – Given now I have a daughter, the safer the car the better.
  • Reliability – I often do long drives to off-beat places in the mountains, including Ladakh and Spiti Valley. Even Duster AWD has its own reliability concerns with diesel injector failures, but my ownership has been fuss-free thus far.
  • AWD – Not sure about this now. Duster AWD has been helpful with some crazy trips we have done in the last 3 years. But we will be a lot more careful being parents and might not venture to unknown roads too often. Also, I think most trips we have done can be done with an FWD vehicle if driven carefully.
  • High Ground Clearance – My duster has 210 mm and it has served well everywhere. Lower ground clearance would be a pain on patchy terrains in remote areas.
  • Little Badge Value, if possible – I have had a long-standing dream of owning a luxury SUV, and I think this might be the best time. In future, my responsibilities and commitments will only grow, and I might not get the chance to spend so much on a car.
  • Long Ownership – I want to keep this car for the next 7 – 8 years unless I change upon a lottery and have enough money to throw at an even more premium car.

I watched numerous review videos and read entire Team BHP threads of multiple cars before even starting test drives. Somewhere around November I began taking test drives. My first one was Audi Q5. It was a short drive and couldn’t judge much from it. I asked for extended test drive from sales guy. He scheduled it without informing me. So, that didn’t happen. Then I lost interest in that segment all together.

Citroen C5 Aircross:

Likes:

  • Absolutely phenomenal ride quality.
  • Excellent NVH levels.
  • Solid build quality and premium-looking interiors.
  • Exterior design.
  • 230mm ground clearance.
  • Massive boot space.
  • Their sales team – gave me multiple test drives, one of which was almost 40 km long.

Dislikes:

  • Glaring lack of features – no 360-degree camera, no ventilated seats, no premium sound system, no seat memory (seriously?)
  • I personally hated the rotatory wheel-type manual adjustments of the passenger seat and lumbar support on the driver seat.
  • The 3 split rear seats – This was the real deal breaker. My wife just couldn’t find herself comfortable in the rear seat of the car. I was ready to make peace with the above dislikes but seating comfort was something that could not be compromised. If they had bench-like rear seats, I would probably have chosen C5 Aircross.

Hyundai Tucson:

Likes:

  • Loaded with features.
  • Diesel engine refinement.
  • Rear seat comfort – the best of all options I tried.
  • AWD system.
  • Hyundai Service network and reliability.

Dislikes:

  • Ride quality – I tried multiple test drives and even took a fellow bhpian’s Tuscon for a spin. But for some reason couldn’t connect to the car and its ride quality.
  • Lack of buttons on the centre console – an ergonomic disaster.
  • Lower ground clearance.

Jeep Meridian:

Likes:

  • Luxurious interiors.
  • Solid build quality. Just by sitting in it and closing the doors, my wife said – “gaadi to solid hai!” (The car is a tank).
  • Massive boot space after folding 3rd row.
  • The button + touchscreen-based centre console.
  • The right combination of features – Meridian has all the necessary features like ventilated seats, and a 360-degree camera, but lacks features like ADAS which I thought I might not use much or use in warning more anyway.
  • The ride quality – I absolutely loved the planted feeling of the car at high speeds. Coming from Duster, I could feel a difference of night-and-day in high-speed stability.
  • Controlled body roll.
  • Steering feedback – light at low speeds and heavy at high speeds.
  • Good ground clearance.
  • An abuse-friendly, capable off-roader (or say soft roader).

Dislikes:

  • Rattling noises – the test drive vehicles had a lot of them.
  • Engine NVH levels – The diesel engine was not as refined as C5 or Tucson. But its sound was not so irritating as Duster. It was a grunt I could live with.
  • Jeep horror stories and reliability.

Why I finalized Jeep Meridian?

After first test drive, I was not much impressed with Jeep Meridian, because of rattling noises and engine noise. However, when I posted my experience on Team BHP (Jeep Meridian Review), I got feedback that it might be a problem with that particular vehicle as the demo vehicles go under a lot of abuse and off-road events. A fellow bhpian zepp1108 even invited me to join him during his PDI.

I promptly obliged. That day I drove another test vehicle which had 11k on ODO, much less than the previous one. Somehow, I could instantly connect with the car. The vibrations were there but not too much, and the NVH levels were not as good as C5 Aircross, but not bad either. And what an absolute delight was it to drive at high speeds.

At the back of my head, I was convinced that this was the car, but my wife was not there with me that day. So, the next week I scheduled another test drive and promised I would book if my wife liked the ride.

Sure enough, she was convinced on the second test drive. And we booked our Jeep Meridian Limited (O) 4×4. We also got a massive 3.2 lakh year-end discount, making it a sweet deal. It was a big day for us – buying a 40 lakh car was a big deal for us and I was rightfully afraid if I was making the right decision. That night I was having second thoughts, even thinking of cancelling and trying Tucson.

The car was in transit for 7 days and finally arrived of 29th December. I did PDI on the 30th, paid the amount, did the loan work and took delivery on 1st of January 2023. What a start to the new year:

Early hiccup:

When I came for PDI, I came to know the car was in July 2022 manufactured. I instantly became sceptical and bought the issue to sales person’s notice. He assured me that they had received the car in December only and even showed me an invoice from FCA India to Landmark Jeep. I did a quick search on TeamBHP and got to know that issue mostly was with cars parked in dealer yards. Factory cars are much better kept and also 6 months is old but not too old.

I clarified everything from invoice to warranty will start from the date of purchase. Finally, I decided to go with it. There wasn’t much time anyway as the year was ending and prices increased from January. Also, PDI had gone smoothly.

Niggles begin:

On the day of delivery, as soon as I sat in the driver’s seat, the electronic seat adjustment stopped working. They were working perfectly during the PDI 2 days ago. Finding this out I was smiling at my wife as if saying, “Kya musibat mol le li hai” (What have we got ourselves into!!)

Anyway, the team got into action straightway and after half an hour of trying different things, they zeroed in on a loose coupler. They got it fixed.

Now before I go into my experience with the car, let me answer a few questions that I had in my mind. They might help others make a decision.

Q. Why 4×4?

A. Yes, I would not use 4×4 99% of the time. But for those 1% times, I would use, would surely be memorable. I have very occasionally used my Duster’s AWD. But when I have used it, I have been to the most memorable places of my life. So, yeah 4×4 is definitely worth it as the experiences it gives are priceless.

Q. Why not –

  • Jeep Compass – Small car, small boot. very low ground clearance. Trailhawk was only option I wanted to go with, but it was already around 36 lakhs including discounts. I found Meridian with its extra space, reportedly better NVH and comfort, to be better suited for my needs.
  • Fortuner – Too bulky, high seating body roll, bumpy ride, pale interiors. Moreover, I was appaled by attitude of Toyota dealership. I went of a test drive at IJM Toyota and got an answer “Sir fortuner to naam se bikti hai, iski test drive nhi hoti.” (Fortuner sales for it’s name, we don’t give its test drive).
  • Kodiaq – Non-availability, not even for a test drive, 7 lakh premium over Meridian, doesn’t come as a rugged vehicle. Didn’t have confidence on durability of dynamic suspension on tough mountain terrains
  • Tiguan – Missing features, petrol mileage, also I called VW dealer in Gurgaon to take a test drive, but it went to IVR and got disconnected. There is no direct way to call even the dealer.
  • MG Gloster – Too bulky, 4.9-meter long vehicle, BoF body roll, the looks not to my taste, also 47 lahks on an MG vehicle felt just too much, although it was loaded with tech.
  • XUV700 – 2 years waiting? Seriously? Also lower ground clearance.
  • Scorpio N – Abysmal Boot space, even after folding the last row, 1-year waiting. I just didn’t have energy to join the mad race around Mahindra vehicles.

Q. What about reliability?

A. Initially, I was concerned with Jeep’s reliability. But then I thought there are only a handful of brands with rock-solid reliability, and those brand’s car was not fitting my criteria. Also, I know people in my circle happy with their Skoda’s (1,25,000+ km without issues), and Jeep compass owners that were happy with their cars. So, I took a risk of going with my heart than my brain. I did the same with my Duster AWD even though there were multiple reports of its diesel injector failures, but my 50,000 km+ ownership has been absolutely niggle free.

Also, I am not selling my Duster as of now. So, I have a backup vehicle in case Meridian spends significant time in workshops. Worst case, if the car turns out to be a lemon, I would sell it with an (expensive) lesson learnt.

Q. Why 7 seater for a small family?

A. Simply because of lack of choice. There aren’t many 5-seater vehicles in this segment. And those that are weren’t matching my requirements. Meridian’s 7th row is a joke anyway, and we are going to use it mostly for luggage space.

Initial ownership review:

Likes:

  • Rock-solid stability at high speeds, excellent highway cruiser, triple digits are effortless.
  • Excellent NVH levels – outside noises are well-kept outside.
  • Luxurious interiors with a good combination of colours and materials.
  • Physical buttons for essential features such as AC controls, volume, etc. These important buttons should be considered as a safety features by manufacturers these days.
  • Smooth automatic gearbox – gear changes are not felt.
  • Well-controlled body-roll.
  • Lights are very good and help illuminate the road at night.
  • Loaded with all the essential features – ventilated seats, 360 camera, automatic headlamps, panoramic sunroof, wireless Android Auto/Apple Car Play, etc.

Dislikes:

  • Engine can get boomy when accelerating hard.
  • Engine vibrations are not fully insulated and are felt on the steering wheel and in the cabin. They will increase as the vehicle ages.
  • Already feeling rattling noises (although very minor right now and mostly on bad roads). Due to excellent NVH levels, even minor rattles can feel loud.
  • Wind noise starts creeping in above 100 km/hr.
  • Lack of front parking sensors.
  • Bumpy ride at lower speeds – there can be a lot of swinging on bad roads, and these swings are hard (not as soft as Duster).
  • Niggles and issues – On the day of deliver our electronic driver seat adjustment stopped working. Haven’t faces any other issues since, but keeping fingers crossed.

Exterior:

The car looks elongated from the sides mainly because of its design. It’s hardly 7 cm longer than XUV700:

I love the Grey colour, as it provides the right mix of elegance and ease of maintenance. (Although my favourite was Maroon, my wife had the final say here):

I like the rear – doesn’t look too busy or trying to do too much:

The front looks smashing as usual. You can easily make out a Jeep from a crowd of cars:

The wheel wells have decent travel. Tucson has limited travel, making me doubt its articulation and off-roading ability:

Much has been said about the placement of the boot closing button. But I think it’s a wise design decision. The car is tall and the close button on the tailgate may be difficult for short people’s reach. Also, If you want to close using tailgate…

You can press the open button again:

I love the extending concave shape of OVRMs, which provide extra visibility and reduce blind spots:

Lights are phenomenal, and provide excellent visibility both during low and high beams:

Interiors:

The cabin feels luxurious and beautiful. A perfect combination of colours and design:

I like the placement of the infotainment screen at near eye level. I can make a quick glance without moving my head and away from the road for long. In Tucson and in my Duster, it is integrated into the centre console, which forces me to turn my head and look down.

The seating position is high, much higher than my Duster. I like the feeling of sitting above a lot of cars on the road:

I am glad they kept the necessary buttons and didn’t go all touch screen way like Tucson and C5 Aircross:

The quality of the 360 degree camera is excellent:

I have made a shortcut to the 360 camera in the status bar. Gives me one-touch access to it in tight situations. I have it always on during bumper-to-bumper traffic:

Can anyone tell me what this option does? It surely doesn’t do away with the 80 and 120-speed chimes:

Also how to permanently turn Auto-Stop/Start off? It turns on at every engine restart:

This is the default position of the rear seats, space will mostly be used for luggage:

Got AmazeFit mats from a local shop. I paid Rs. 7000 for them (all three rows). The quality is good but I am not sure if I overpaid for them:

The cup-holders can also hold 1ltr bottle (Bisleri):

Have installed 70mai dashcam both front and back. Ordered from Amazon, self-installed:

Tyre pressures can vary greatly based on temperature and load:

Fuel efficiency after 400 km (mix of highway and city):

The rear legroom is excellent for the five-footers like me:

The massive sunroof makes the interior so much more spacious. I dream of driving on Ladakh roads with an open sunroof!!!

Some panel fittings are not perfect:

At a mall parking, I was pressing this button to open the boot but it didn’t work. Later I came to know that it works only in Park mode. But I didn’t need to open the boot as guards glanced from the rear mirror and that was enough for them:

First road trip:

We had taken the delivery on Sunday and for the entire week, I was itching for a road trip! Every morning I used to take the car for a spin for about 20-30 km on Sohna Expressway.

Finally came Saturday and we decided to go to Amrik Sukhdev for lunch. The total road trip would be above 200 km, covering a stretch of city traffic, then extended run on Western Peripheral Expressway:

At the end of the trip, I was more than happy with my choice. I had decided to go for Meridian for the sole reason of driving pleasure, and it scored perfect on it and how!

Here are my impressions:

  • The suspension is bumpier than my Duster, yet overall the ride quality of Meridian is much more comforting, thanks to great NVH levels and rock-solid stability.
  • NVH levels are excellent – although the engine can get boomy when accelerating hard, it is mostly quiet during sedate driving, and at high speeds. Road and wind noises are also very well contained. During my drive yesterday, the cabin was so quiet I was hearing a strange clinking sound from the back seat. I asked my wife and she identified it to be the clinking of zips of our bag.
  • At high speeds, the car doesn’t bounce around like the Duster. It is extremely planted on the road. I was able to glide over highway expansion joints at 100 km/hr speed with confidence. On my Duster, perhaps due to soft suspension, the car would bounce too much and force me to slow down on the same joints.
  • On Western Peripheral Expressway, I touched 120 km/hr and it still felt like the car was going slow, it wasn’t even sweating. From steering feedback to braking and planted road manners, everything works to give you confidence at high speeds.
  • Overtaking wasn’t an issue, unlike some reviews pointed out due to the underpowered engine. In my opinion, as a leisurely driver, the engine has enough grunt in it for the car. Not sure how will it perform at full capacity though.
  • My daughter slept peacefully during both the onward and return journey. She would often wake up in the Duster. So, that itself made 40 lakhs well spent.
  • I am absolutely in love with the convenience of the automatic gearbox. I haven’t driven any other automatic car, so cannot really compare on shifts and all. But I can say that gear changes are not felt, the car responds predictably to throttle inputs. I had zero learning curve, I was operating it as if I had been driving it for ages.
  • It is easy to over-speed in the car. Excellent suspension and NVH levels don’t make you realise the speeds you are doing. On city roads, I was doing 60 km/hr on roads with a limit of 50 km/hr. I had to cautiously slow down multiple times. On the expressway, I was able to do 100 km/hr effortlessly.
  • The car is not punchy and takes its own time to accelerate. But when pressing the paddle hard, it downshifts, making it easy to do highway overtakes. The engine gets quite boomy at high RPMs when the gearbox downshifts.
  • Body roll is very less which I fell is even lesser than Duster. Sharp turns and high-speed manoeuvres can be done with confidence.
  • The music system is excellent, more than adequate for my taste.
  • Wireless Android Auto is a huge convenience. Now I don’t have to fiddle with cables every time I get into the car.

Overall:

The main reason I chose Meridian was its balance of ride quality and off-road capability. And on those front, I am absolutely loving the car. I am already planning multiple long road trips in it.

The only thing I am with is that car doesn’t give up on me and leave me stranded in the middle of nowhere. Minor niggles and issues I am okay with as long as the car keeps running and munching miles.

Side Note: Minor rattles:

I was hearing a minor rattling noise from the left side second-row door. When I went to collect my number plate, I informed the landmark Jeep guys. They tightened some nuts on the door and that seemed to have solved the issue for now.

On bad roads, there is a noise coming from doors, which seems like the moving of a heavy object against something. Not too intrusive, but it’s there. Let’s see how it ages.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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