The 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee forever changed American tastes in sport-utility vehicles. That first Grand Cherokee proved that handsome styling and luxury car comfort didn’t have to come at the expense of the brand’s legendary off-road prowess. It was a huge success and spawned dozens of rivals. Indeed the luxury SUV market has changed a lot since the 90s. So, can an all-new 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee still make waves?
While riding the crest of the original luxury SUV wave, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has since been swamped by a host of formidable copycats. So a total makeover was long overdue.
Despite higher gas prices, when it comes to luxury SUV buyers, bigger is always better. So the mid-size 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee has grown, but only modestly so. Wheelbase is up 3.6 inches, while overall length gains 3.3-inches. Enough for a larger interior, but not enough to add third row seating, or hamstring its ‘‘Trail Rated’’ off-road heritage. Wrapped around a traditional Jeep seven-slot grille is a beefy new cladding-free body that, except for the round headlights, is sharper, flatter, with more upright lines. More in tune with Jeep’s go-anywhere image than its aerodynamic predecessor.
Serious go-anywhere power comes from the newly optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine with 330-horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque. But, this Jeep Hemi is also a responsible SUV. It includes Chrysler’s Multi-Displacement System that shuts off four cylinders during highway cruising to save gas. A carryover 4.7-liter overhead-cam V8 is standard in the Limited. It still pumps 235 horses, but torque jumps 10 to 305 pound-feet. The base Laredo gets its 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque from the Jeep Liberty’s 3.7-liter V6. All use a revised 5-speed automatic transmission.
Full-time four-wheel-drive systems include Quadra-Trac I with a single-speed transfer case, and Quadra-Trac II with an active hi-low transfer case. The Quadra-Drive II ‘‘system’’ takes that active transfer case and adds front and rear Electronic Limited Slip Differentials with computer-controlled hydraulic clutch packs. Perfect for both serious off-roading and managing the slickest on-road conditions.
On the new Grand Cherokee’s unitized chassis hangs a major departure in suspension. Gone is the Jeep’s classic solid front axle and ball-type steering. In its stead is a new independent upper and lower control arm suspension, with fixed boost rack-and-pinon steering. At the rear the solid axle gains a 5-link support system. All told, no matter the road or terrain, the ride is smoother with more wheel travel and less side-to-side jiggle, and it retains tight spot agility with a 37.1 foot turning diameter. Also new is an available Dynamic Handling System. DHS is an active roll-bar system that makes the flatter cornering Grand Cherokee even flatter, as we found out on the roads and trails around Santa Barbara, California. Our test Grand Cherokee Hemi could really get up and go. Zero to 60 in 7 seconds flat, and tow 7,200 pounds.
On the highway, you barely notice the Multi Displacement System shifting between four and eight cylinders. EPA fuel economy ratings of 14 City and 21 Highway for the 5.7-liter Hemi are actually better than the 4.7 V-8. The new suspension and steering deliver a much sportier feel. Brakes, all-disc with ABS, were well up to their tasks, too. And while the very quiet ride has firmed up a bit, it is still plush enough to keep high-end soccer moms happy.
The Grand Cherokee’s cleaner interior will also please the demanding driver. Luxury has taken a nice step up in fit and finish, materials, and features, while the overstuffed but spongy seats of yesterday have been replaced by firmer, more European accommodations. And with the Limited model’s 8-way power driver’s seat and power adjustable pedals, a comfortable driving position is just a switch away. Available hi-tech features include side curtain airbags, Sirius satellite radio, DVD-based navigation, and a rear seat DVD entertainment system.
The rear cabin has nearly 10-inches more hip room than last year, yet leg room is little changed. Like the front seats, cushions are flatter and firmer. The 60/40 split back folds flat to maximize cargo space, which surprisingly is less than last year. 34.5 cubic-feet seats up, and 67.4 with the seats down, a loss of about 4-cubic feet.
But pricing numbers have also dropped. $26,775, or over $1,600 less for the base Laredo 4X2. Laredo 4X4 starts at $28,745. The top Limited 4X4 goes for $34,690, a savings of about $1,000. While adding the Hemi V-8 will take $37,860 out of your sport-ute budget.
The 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee wrote the rules of premium sport-utility vehicles. Its combination of luxury sedan comfort and off-road prowess became the standard by which rivals are measured, and there are a lot of them. Still, with smart Hemi power, sportier handling, sharp new styling, more refined interior, and only a little more girth, we think that this 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee will continue to make waves, leaving snobby imitators in its wake.
Engine: 5.7-Liter Hemi V8
Torque: 375 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 7.0 Seconds
EPA Mileage: 14 MPG City 21 MPG Highway