A person looking for a rugged, off-road capable SUV that is capable of serving double duty as a comfortable highway cruiser.
Comparable models in this class:
Chevrolet Trailblazer, Ford Explorer, GMC Envoy, Hummer H3, Mercury Mountaineer, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. The 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee is clearly more refined yet more trail-worthy than the vehicle it replaces. This was obvious the moment a handful of auto writers scooted through the mountain roads above this coastal California town recently on a preview drive.
The real surprise, however, came when we tackled a very serious off-road trail on a private ranch in the Santa Ynez mountains later that morning. The bigger, more refined Grand Cherokee scrambled up a dry, craggy road as easily as a mountain goat. We crawled over the ridge and down into a deeply rutted arroyo that tested this SUVs mettle to the max. The Jeep twisted, tilted and three-wheeled its way through this section like a ballet dancer in super-slow motion.
Almost no Jeep owner is going to give his car a workout like this because it is easy to ding the body or rip off a bumper covering, but the folks at Jeep were intent on demonstrating just how rugged their new baby is. A Jeep, after all, has a reputation built on off-road capability, so the vehicle has to be able to perform even if buyers rarely, if ever, demand as much.
The 2005 goes on sale this fall. Base prices start at $26,775 for a two-wheel drive Laredo, $28,745 for a four-wheel-drive Laredo and $34,690 for a four-wheel-drive Limited. The Limited with the Hemi starts at $37,860. A completely loaded model will be about $40,000.
Redesigning the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a step taken with the utmost care. Not only does it have a completely new look, but it also has three engines and three four-wheel-drive systems. Even though it is slightly larger, it does not have a third-seat option. A larger Jeep Commander, out sometime next year, will have a third seat.
The restyled Grand Cherokee is slightly more angular and less rounded than the current model. The trademark seven-slot grille is larger, and the dual headlights have subtle character lines that taper back through the hood. The windshield has a steeper slope, the hood is proportionally longer and the sides of the body have been designed to protect the vehicle from debris picked up by the tires. The body looks shrink-wrapped around the mechanical pieces.
The Grand Cherokee has always been one of the smaller full-size SUVs. The wheelbase, now 109.5 inches, has grown substantially. While overall length is up 5 inches to 186.6, it is still short enough to give decent off-road maneuverability. The extra length results in a bigger interior.
Three engines are available: a 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6; a 235-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8; and the 330-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. The Hemi bristles with power, but it has a multi-displacement system that shuts down four cylinders when full power isnt needed. I could never detect when the engine was running on four cylinders or eight. Electronics enable the system to switch in 0.04 seconds, so it is essentially seamless.
The base 3.7-liter V-6 takes the place of the previous 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder. This engine, first introduced in the Liberty, has more peak power than the 4.0, and provides more than adequate performance. It has a new five-speed automatic transmission.
The Hemi is the most fun, of course, because the Grand Cherokee really flies when you want it to. It is capable of towing 7,200 pounds, and it performed extremely well on the off-road trail.
The 4.7-liter V-8 has been revised with dual knock sensors, composite valve covers and structural improvements to reduce noise and vibration.
An electronic stability program will be offered on the Grand Cherokee for the first time. Hemi models can be equipped with a hydraulically controlled active stabilizer system that reduces body roll in turns yet provides a smooth ride on straights.
Three four-wheel-drive systems are offered on the 2005. Quadra-Trac 1 is an all-wheel-drive system whose transfer case does not have an extra-low gear for off-road use. This system splits power almost equally between the front and rear wheels, which gives good traction in mixed driving. Quadra-Trac I provides traction control by using the brake system. This system works without having to be activated by a switch. It appeals to those who might otherwise buy a two-wheel-drive, entry-level model.
Quadra-Trac II is the next step up. It has a transfer case with an extra-low gear.
Quadra-Drive II uses the Quadra-Trac full-time transfer case and electronically controlled differentials for maximum traction. The extra-low gear has a 2.72:1 ratio. A lever on the console activates Quadra-Drive electronically.
Inside, the new Grand Cherokee feels more luxurious and comfortable than before. It has a two-tone instrument panel, new door trim and new finishes. Headroom is greater, and the seats have longer tracks for more travel. Convenience items such as a navigation system, rear-seat DVD player, Boston Acoustics audio package and rear parking sensors are optional.
Our one-day drive gave us a chance to sample the new Jeep in a wide variety of conditions, and it handled each one with skill and comfort. This new Jeep appears to be the real deal, but well wait for a regular test drive to find out for sure.
Feedback Do you have any feedback on the Grand Cherokee Limited? Any opinions or experiences ofyour own? We would love to hear from you. Clickhere to send us your comments