Photos: DaimlerChrysler. Click image to enlarge
by Richard Russell
The changes beneath the skin are far more radical and make the 2005 Grand Cherokee an even more desirable and capable piece. The new version bristles with technology and engineering that ensure it not only continues, but adds to the Jeep legend in terms of sheer off-road prowess. But in a nice bit of development, the Jeep crew managed to endow it with a newfound level of refinement. The ride, handling and interior are all considerably improved.
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And Hemi devotees will be delighted. Yes, this Jeep has a Hemi engine – or at least it can be equipped with one, as was the case with our tester. A few seconds of wide-open throttle pretty much erases any doubt about the efficacy of this motivator. It also makes it clear this Jeep can stand a direct comparison with the latest hot SUVs from its parent company, and from other German marques.
The new Grand Cherokee is available in Laredo and Limited trim levels. A 3.7-litre V6 is the base engine. From there you step up in one-litre increments, to a 4.7-litre V8 and then the mighty 5.7-litre Hemi. All are mated to a new five-speed automatic transmission and equipped with a Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II or Quadra-Drive II four-wheel-drive system. All are full-time systems, but the Quadra-Drive II unit features a two-speed transfer case, electronically-controlled locking front, centre and rear locking differentials and electronic stability control.
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The suspension is new at both ends, resulting in improvements in both ride and handling. Judging by a brief experience on a serious off-road course, this newcomer has lost none of its legendary prowess in that respect. But the on-road behaviour is certainly of a new level of refinement. There is more wheel travel, which combined with more clearance benefits off-road activity, but it also allows more room to tune the springs and shocks for on-road use. The ride is firm but not abrupt or unpleasant. There is very little head toss over corrugated surfaces and whether on or off-road, the steering is much sharper and more linear. Handling has been vastly improved and you can now tackle the turns without Gravol.
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The Jeep heritage is based on ruggedness and off-road capabilities that only a few, more expensive vehicles can claim to match. The Grand Cherokee was launched in 1992 as the division’s flagship. There have been three redesigns since, and more than 2.2 million have found owners. A decade ago you could count the competition on one hand; today it seems as though every self-respecting car company has a slew of SUVs, including one at the top level. But only one carries the Jeep name. I could expound on all the new technology at work beneath the floorboards that enables the new Grand Cherokee to go places where you can hardly walk. But fewer than 10 per cent of buyers will ever even approach such conditions.
Instead we’ll just report that I had the test vehicle during a nasty winter storm and enjoyed the heck out of ferrying people around when they couldn’t get out of their driveways or streets. I went looking for conditions where we’d have to engage low range and get into a serious hunt for traction, but could not find any. I left it in drive through drifts that crested over the hood and not once did we even sense a need for concern, or more grip. When I deliberately tried to upset it, the new electronic stability control system stepped in to take over and rein me in, keeping it pointed in the right direction and at a speed reasonable for the circumstances.
While a few might venture off-road into conditions that would scratch the gorgeous paint, the majority of Grand Cherokee owners purchase one for the conditions mentioned above. That’s what the Grand Cherokee is all about – complete freedom from concern about the weather forecast and road conditions.
I enjoyed the Hemi but failed to benefit much from its multi-displacement system, likely due to excessive throttle use. Even on the open road for extended periods I couldn’t coax the beast into single digit fuel economy numbers, averaging 13L/100km on the highway. The switch from eight to four cylinders is literally undetectable, and in warmer conditions and under less aggressive use the system would likely reward a lighter foot. The switch to or from four cylinder takes less than 40 milliseconds and Jeep claims it can result in fuel economy improvements of up to 20 per cent.
The interior is a far cry from the old. The layout and use of materials is on a par with the most expensive luxury utes, as is the level of fit and finish.
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As a sign of how grown up and sophisticated the Grand Cherokee has become, our test vehicle boasted adjustable brake pedals, Boston Acoustic sound system, dual-zone HVAC, leather interior, rain-sensing wipers, a tire pressure-monitoring system that showed the spare needed some air and a neat reversible water-resistant cargo storage area cover. All this in addition to ABS, electronic stability and traction control, power everything, remote keyless entry, cruise, power heated and folding mirrors and a power sunroof. The option list contained a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, trailer-towing and off-road packages, side air bags and the Hemi, which is packaged with Quadra-Drive and the electronic differentials. All, in all, the option list bloated the $48,695 base price to more than $56,000. While steep, it’s considerable less than any luxury competitor capable of competing off road.
I’ve saved the best for last. The 2005 Grand Cherokee is thousands of dollars less expensive than the 2004, starting at $38,400!
Technical Data: 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited
|Base price (Limited)||$48,695|
|Options||$6,505 (5.7 litre Hemi V8 $1395; 17 inch chrome alloys $480; Infotainment system $1190; offroad group $395; Parksense $350; Quadra Drive $495; 6CD/Navigation system $2440; side air bags $460; tire pressure monitor $195; 17 in OWL tires $155; trailer tow group $415)|
|Price as tested||$57,815|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger mid-size SUV|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/Quadra Drive 4WD|
|Engine||5.7 litre V8 Hemi, OHV, 2 valves per cylinder|
|Horsepower||330 @ 5000 rpm|
|Torque||370 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm|
|Tires||P245/65R-17 Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain|
|Wheelbase||2781 mm (109.5 in.)|
|Length||4740 mm (186.6 in.)|
|Width||2141 mm (84.3 in.) with mirrors|
|Width||1862 mm (73.3 in.) body width|
|Height||1720 mm (67.7 in.)|
|Ground clearance||203 mm (8.0 in) (min.)|
|Cargo capacity||978 litres (34.5 cu. ft.) behind rear seats|
|1909 litres (67.4 cu. ft.) behind front seats|
|Fuel consumption||City: 17.0 L/100 km (16.6 mpg Imperial)|
|Hwy: 11.4 L/100 km (24.8 mpg Imperial)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|