San Francisco: Jeep's Grand Cherokee, a
major player in the midsize, upscale sport utility derby, gets a new suit of clothes this
year, which, without sharing a single body panel with the past model still conveys the
same rugged image.
Introduced in 1993, the
Grand Cherokee is the luxurious outgrowth of the Jeep Cherokee. That model, which arrived
in the mid-1980s as a late American Motors product, helped revolutionize the sport utility
market. The new versatile Grand Cherokee can weather the challenging Rubicon Trail in the
Sierras, get respect at the Silverado Country Club, and still pull carpool and soccer
practice duty too.
Jeep sold an eye-popping
267,000 Grand Cherokees in the 1997 model year. So, why change a good thing? The answer,
of course, is to sell even more Jeeps in a rapidly changing marketplace.
DaimlerChrysler created an
all-new Grand Cherokee by thoughtfully refining the beloved form, with a more laid-back
windshield and nose, and more sophisticated styling in the interior. It still wears the
familiar seven-slot grille, squared off fender lines and lower body cladding. The wheels
remain large, wide and rugged-looking.
In the remodeling, a little
stretch in back allowed relocation of the spare tire to a flat position under the rear
cargo floor, freeing up more cargo space. Mechanically, the four-wheel-drive technology
got the once-over as well.
The Grand Cherokee's target
buyer is 42-44 years old, with a household income of $80,000 - $115,000, who is willing to
spend $35,000 for a sport utility vehicle. One can assume that many purchasers are also
married with children.
My Limited model came
loaded with such niceties as heated seats, automatic temperature control with separate
driver and passenger adjustment, 11-position tilt steering column (with leather-wrapped
wheel), an overhead console with 14 programmable features and readouts, and more.
The steering wheel audio
controls are sensational. Mounted on the back of the steering wheel, they facilitate
effortless changes of volume, function, seek, scan, and CD track selection. Your eyes
never leave the road.
The '99 Grand Cherokee has
won two prestigious awards so far, including the "Truck of the Year" award from
the North American International Auto Show in Detroit and Four Wheeler magazine's
"Four Wheeler of the Year." An all-new 4.7-liter V8 engine helped Four Wheeler
make their choice, as did the new Quadra-Drive four-wheel-drive system.
virtually 100 percent transfer of torque to a single wheel while driving on-or off-road,
giving maximum control in any situation. Speed-sensing differentials on both axles and in
the transfer case make this possible.
My tester, in Deep Slate
Pearl Coat, came with the base 4.0-liter straight six. Despite all the excitement about
the new 230-horsepower V-8, this engine provided 195 horsepower and never felt better.
Fuel mileage of 16 city, 21 highway isn't especially remarkable, but for pulling two tons
of comfort down the road, it's not bad. Real mileage for the week, per the car's built-in
trip computer, was 15.4 mpg, and it used regular gas!
In the upper echelon of
medium-sized sport utilities, the Grand Cherokee is a real contender. And for serious
off-roading, it's one of the best. By Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name: Four Wheeler of the Year
Topic: '99 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Word Count: 530
Photo Caption: '99 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Photo Credits: DaimlerChrysler PR
Series #: 1999 - 23