By Lou Ann Hammond, Wed, 3 Nov 2004 08:00:00 PDT
Today's market is beseiged with SUVs. One has to wonder why a company would make another SUV that seats five. Because it's Jeep and Jeep in known for off-roading and the Grand Cherokee has been a good seller since its inception in 1993.
The Jeep sherpas showed us what they are known for - climbing the dirt and rocks, traversing narrow hairpin curves on one and a half wheels. The Grand Cherokee has earned its "trail rated" badge on the newly designed 2005 model.
It's an interesting twist for Jeep, which is owned by Chrysler, which is owned by the German company Mercedes-Benz. Jeep is known for off-roading. The Grand Cherokee is supposed to be Jeep's flagship vehicle, but only 25 percent of Grand Cherokee owners go off road. About 45 percent of Liberty owners go off-road. It's the squirrlely little Wrangler, the skinny little brother of the Grand Cherokee that has 60 percent of its owners climbing the Rubicon's of the world.
At this point the Grand Cherokee needed a complete redo It got it. The steering is more precise, a front suspension was revised to make it more supple. A body that is boxier, more aggressive looking. The Grand Cherokee looks more like a Jeep with its seven-slot grille and round headlights.
The new Grand Cherokee rides on a 3.6-inch longer wheelbase and is 5.3 inches longer overall, 1 inch wider and 1.7 inches lower, with a wider track for added stability.
There are three engines available; the baby bear engine is brought in from the Jeep Liberty and produces 210 horsepower out of a 3.7 liter V-6. The middle bear is carried over from the previous Cherokee, clawing 230 horsepower out of the 4.7 liter V-8. The G-spot amplification comes in the form of Chryslers best marketed "that thing got a hemi in it?" advertising. campaign. The 5.7 liter Hemi V-8, couple with a multi-displacement system, growls out 325 horsepower V-8.
Complimenting the three engines are three new four-wheel drive systems; Quadra Trac1,which uses a single speed transfer case for full-time four-wheel drive; Quadra Trac II, which adds a low range gear and the big bear Quadra Drive II, which adds limited slip differentials. A rear wheel drive is also available.
The new Grand Cherokee has a two-tone instrument panel, lots of cupholders and even more storage slots. There's a funky bulge in the passenger side that makes me feel like my knees are going to jam into it, but I was assured it actually prevented just that problem when there was an accident. The front seats are comfy all day long. Leather is an option on the Laredo seats. The top-of-the-line Limited is accessorized with two-tone leather.
There are few SUVs that are still trying to stay SUVs. Look for this Jeep Grand Cherokee to go head-to-head with the new Landrover LR3.