Although Jeep’s luxury-liner doesn’t look radically different from the 2004 model at very first glance, the 2005 is an all-new model from the tires on up.

The body is a new Uniframe construction with aluminum hood, removable air dam, new fascias, new grille and bodyside mouldings. Headlights are now round, which will become a Jeep trademark across the board. Flatter lines, especially in the rear, underscore the Grand Cherokee’s size; it’s got a longer wheelbase than the 2004 model, and it’s wider, with a lower hood line for improved visibility.

A new independent front suspension replaces the old straight axle, and rack-and-pinion steering replaces the old recirculating ball. The solid rear axle now has five links.

Engine choices are all-new, as well, and there are three of them: a 3.7-litre V6, 4.7-litre V8, and a 5.7-litre Hemi V8 with multi-displacement system (MDS) that seamlessly deactivates four cylinders under light loads for improved fuel economy. Finally, there are three four-wheel-drive systems: Quadra-Trac I full-time 4WD, Quadra-Trac II active full-time 4WD, and Quadra-Drive II active full-time 4WD with front and rear electronic limited slip differentials.

The Grand Cherokee comes in two lines, Laredo and Limited; 2004’s Overland is gone. The Laredo includes manual air conditioning, cloth seats, 60/40 folding rear seats, eight-way power driver’s seat, CD player with six speakers, cruise control, tire-pressure monitoring system, power mirrors, variable intermittent wiper, intermittent rear washer/wiper, 17-inch wheels and Quadra-Trac I.

The Limited adds dual-zone automatic climate control, memory seating system, auto-dimming rearview and exterior mirrors, power adjustable pedals, heated leather seats, six-disc CD player, power sunroof, and Quadra-Trac II.

The Grand Cherokee’s improvements make for considerably improved road manners, with a luxury ride that’s almost floaty. The V6 lacks the power of some V6-powered rivals, including the cheaper Nissan Pathfinder and the slightly more expensive Toyota 4Runner; the Jeep’s smaller V8, at 235 hp, doesn’t measure up to GMC Envoy’s 275 hp inline six-cylinder or Honda Pilot’s 255 hp V6. You need to option up to the Hemi to get some real grunt.

Unfortunately, the redesign didn’t open up much interior space; the Grand Cherokee is still a tight fit inside. Fold the rear seat on both vehicles, and the Dodge Magnum station wagon offers 118 litres more cargo space. And it’s a car.

The Grand Cherokee is built in Detroit, Michigan and Graz, Austria.

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