San Francisco: The
archetypical Jeep may be the rock crawling, go-anywhere Wrangler, based
on the vehicle that helped win World War II. But today, the top of the
Jeep heap is the Grand Cherokee. Designed to fit in at the country club
or on backcountry off-road venues, the Grand Cherokee offers comfort and
amenities that Beetle Bailey can only dream about.
The Grand Cherokee
debuted as a 1993 model and got a substantial redesign in 1999. This
2005 Jeep is all new. The new Grand Cherokee uses a new body side to
window proportion, with taller door panels and slimmer windows giving
the impression of strength and protection. The new face integrates round
quad headlamps into the hood, alongside the traditional seven-slat Jeep
grille. The new tail lamps lean forward along the side of the vehicle,
echoing the forward tilt of the tailgate. While the overall impression
is the same as the old model, every detail has been reinterpreted.
The Grand Cherokee’s
new interior wears sharper edges along the dash and doors. Every surface
is grained in various coordinated styles, and textured metal accents
look contemporary and luxurious. The SUV-standard front pillar handgrips
are cleverly integrated into the pillar itself. The white on black
instruments reminded me of a diver’s watch.
The attractive central
console bulges sideways, upwards, and outwards. This design conveys
power, like Popeye’s post-spinach muscles. The operation of the dials
and switches is decidedly more upscale now. The seats are far more
comfortable than before. One minor omission is the windows do not have
an automatic power up feature, even for the driver.
You can now select from
three engines, including the mighty Hemi V8. You can pick one of three
different four-wheel-drive systems, or skip them and opt for two-wheel
drive. Numerous options are available for you as well.
The base engine is a
3.7-liter V6, which has served admirably in the smaller Liberty model.
It offers an adequate 210 horsepower and 235 lb.-ft. of torque. It
replaces the venerable 4.0-liter inline six that dates back to the
brands American Motors years.
The middle engine in
the family is a 4.7-liter V8, which is what my Bright Silver Metallic
test car had (for $1,340). It has been updated, with dual knock sensors
and improved noise, vibration, and harshness suppression. This hardy
power plant puts out 230 horsepower and more importantly, 290 lb.-ft. of
torque, 55 lb-ft, more than the V6. My tester got 14.3 miles per gallon
using the recommended regular fuel. EPA ratings are 15 city, 20 highway.
For real power, you can
order up the corporate 5.7-liter Hemi V8, which churns out 325
horsepower and 370 lb.-ft of torque. My experience with this engine in
other Chrysler division vehicles has been very grin inducing.
If you want the
simplest kind of all-wheel-drive, with no extra buttons or levers to
activate it, the Quadra-Trac I system works just fine. The transfer case
splits engine torque 48 percent front, 52 percent rear, and the Brake
Traction Control System helps keep the car in line on slippery roads by
automatically modulating brake pressure to the wheels.
The Quadra-Trac II
system has an active transfer case that uses input from sensors to
determine how much the tires are slipping and automatically compensates
for it. The system also has Throttle Anticipate, which can sense if you
step hard on the gas pedal and can correct tire slippage automatically.
The Quadra-Drive II
system is the most sophisticated, and includes a 4-low gear for true
off-roading. It employs electronic limited slip differentials front and
A new front suspension
improves the ride and handling in the 2005 Grand Cherokee. Also, the
steering response is better with rack-and-pinion rather than the
old-fashioned recirculating ball system. And, of course, the new Jeeps
wider track and longer wheelbase give it a bigger, safer footprint on or
My test car had just
over $10,000 in optional equipment, so even though it was the lower
level Laredo model, it was really more like the upscale Limited, but
without the Limited’s chrome grille. It also, surprisingly, lacked
automatic climate control. But it did have a $3,355 package with leather
seats, power heated outside mirrors, a leather wrapped steering wheel, a
power sunroof, steering wheel audio controls, and a 276-watt Boston
Acoustics Premium Sound system.
My car also had the
rear seat DVD system ($1,200), with a fold down screen on the ceiling.
Other options, like power pedals ($120) were handy, as was the $1,500
navigation system with its sharply rendered screen. With other items too
numerous to list, the options pushed my car up to $38,155 from the
original base price of $28,100. The base Laredo starts at just $26,875.
My test unit had Sirius
satellite radio, a wonderful and worthwhile investment if you like a
variety of programs and hate radio commercials. It cost just $195 to
install, and the first year’s monthly fees are included. If you want to
hear Bluegrass or Jazz or even endless news reporting you need to check
out this new kind of radio.
The new Jeep Grand
Cherokee is upgraded and improved in hundreds of ways, and while it has
become even more practical and comfortable, it retains the Trail Rated
standards that make you feel secure wherever you may drive it.
Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Jeep Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
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