Jeep Grand Cherokee. Click image to enlarge
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This year marks the 70th anniversary of Jeep. Since its introduction in 1941, the Jeep brand has provided its owners with one of the most authentic off-road driving experiences of any vehicle ever produced. It has mastered more terrain and led more off-road adventures than any other recognizable automotive brand.
Referred to as the world’s first SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle), the Jeep Cherokee dates back to 1983. Actually, the very first time that the term SUV appeared publicly was ten years earlier, in a 1973 sales brochure for the Jeep Wagoneer, the predecessor of the Cherokee.
In the early 1980s, the Jeep brand was still under the control of AMC (American Motors Corporation) before being bought out by Chrysler in 1987. The Grand Cherokee arrived soon after, and was the first Chrysler-based Jeep product.
During the mid to late 1980s, Chrysler was intensely focusing on the production and design of its minivan line-up. As a result, the production of the Grand Cherokee was delayed, taking a back seat to the volume-selling minivan. The Grand Cherokee model finally hit showroom floors for the 1993 model year.
Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Click image to enlarge
The initial model was available in three trim levels: base, Laredo and Limited. The names represent well the conveniences that each trim level offered. The base model offered few creature comforts while the more mid-scale Laredo offered a full range of “power” conveniences offered as standard equipment.
The even more upscale Limited edition provided owners with all the power options, complimented by a standard leather interior, keyless entry, heated mirrors and seats. All three trim levels came with an optional power sunroof.
Engine choices at the time ranged between the 4.0-litre inline six to a 5.9-litre Magnum V8, with the most popular being the six-cylinder. A Country version of the Grand Cherokee was also offered between 1993 and 1997 equipped with the 4.0-litre engine and multiple additional trim levels.
The popular Command-Trac (part-time) four-wheel drive system, which was state-of-the-art in the early 1990s, was dropped for the Cherokee in favour of the Selec-Trac system, which had the option of full-time or part-time all-wheel operation. Exclusive to the Grand Cherokee was the Quadra-Trac system, offering full-time four-wheel drive capability.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. Click image to enlarge
The Jeep Grand Cherokee was clearly a hit with the buying public in its first five years of production (1993-1998), selling just under 1.5 million units worldwide. Minor tweaking ensued for both the interior and exterior throughout the ’90s, but big changes were on the way for the 1999 model. In fact, less than 130 bits and pieces of the 1999 Grand Cherokee were shared with the original model.
Both the 5.2-litre and the 5.9-litre V8 powerplants were replaced with Chrysler’s new PowerTech V8, producing 235 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. A new PowerTech inline six-cylinder engine was also available at the time and remained as an option until the 2004 model year.
The 1999 model was further equipped with Chrysler’s new “automatic” Quadra-Drive system. This new system could automatically control traction between all four wheels.