2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee

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2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee

This 2002 review is representative of model years 1999 to 2004.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

New models and improvements help keep Grand Cherokee competitive.
Pros:
  • New high-line trim
  • Hotter V8
  • Handy size
Cons:
  • Fuel-thirsty V8s
  • Side-to-side rocking
  • Narrow rear-door openings

A new upscale model, along with items such as a hotter V8 and adjustable pedals, should keep the Jeep Grand Cherokee competitive in the 2002 model year.

The handsome, fun-to-drive Grand Cherokee once was considered the type of sport utility BMW would build. But then BMW unveiled its first sport ute for the 2000 model year. Called the X5, it turned out to essentially be a high-performance, all-weather combination sport ute/station wagon.

In contrast, the Grand Cherokee has more cargo room and Jeep's traditionally impressive off-road prowess. Although solidly built, it's had various long-term reliability issues.

Major Redesign
The Grand Cherokee, which debuted as an early 1993 model, was given a $2.65 billion redesign for 1999. It got such things as a larger body and a modern 4.7-liter overhead-camshaft V8, although the venerable pushrod inline 6-cylinder was carried over with improvements.

An ultra-responsive 5-speed automatic transmission with a second overdrive gear was added for 2001 models with the 4.7 V8. But one wonders how many Grand Cherokee buyers cared about such new items as the industry-first hydraulically driven engine-cooling fan, which slightly raises fuel economy and allows better air conditioning performance at idle.

Competition keeps heating up in the sport utility market, so Jeep has provided more visible changes and higher profile features to its 2002 Grand Cherokee lineup; it continues with base Laredo and higher-line Limited trims with rear- or 4-wheel drive.

New Top-Line Trim
Added is a top-line Overland trim, which comes only with Jeep's top 4-wheel-drive system: Quadra Drive. The Overland has minor exterior cosmetic differences from other Grand Cherokees, along with a more posh interior featuring leather/suede trim and redwood accents.

Hotter V8
The Overland also has a 260-horsepower version of the Grand Cherokee's smooth, quiet 235-horsepower 4.7 V8. The more-potent version of the engine also is offered for the Limited. Until now, the most powerful Jeep was the 1998 hot rod 5.9 Limited, which had sizzling acceleration with its old-style 5.9-liter pushrod V8 generating 245 horsepower.

While heavy, the Grand Cherokee is no slug with any of its engines. But the hotter V8 is a good idea because even the 235-horsepower version provides average acceleration above 65 mph even with just a driver aboard—especially in heavier 4-wheel-drive form.

Best Fuel Economy
The 195-horsepower pushrod 6-cylinder is hooked to a regular 4-speed automatic transmission and provides adequate acceleration. It uses regular-grade gasoline and allows a rear-drive Grand Cherokee to deliver the best fuel economy: an estimated 16 mpg in the city and 21 on highways—or 16 and 20 with 4-wheel drive,

Those actually aren't bad numbers for a midsize sport ute that weighs approximately 4,000 pounds. The lightest Grand Cherokee is the rear-drive Laredo at 3,786 pounds, while the heaviest is the 4,364-pound, equipment-loaded Overland.

Fuel-Thirsty V8s
The 260-horsepower V8, which requires premium fuel, gets a few miles per gallon less than the regular version, which uses regular-grade gasoline but has a healthy fuel appetite. The hot-rod V8 provides an estimated 14 mpg in the city and 19 on highways with rear-drive and 13 and 18 with 4-wheel drive.

For what it's worth, a quarter-turn fuel filler cap that was new for 2001 will help owners get away a bit faster from filling stations.

Other new Grand Cherokee features include available side curtain airbag head protection in collisions for front and rear outboard occupants. They're standard in the Overland.

Power-Adjustable Pedals There also are available power-adjustable accelerator and brake pedals; they move 3 inches rearward of the standard pedal position to allow more driver comfort and to let shorter drivers move back farther from the steering wheel. The pedal position is incorporated into the "his-and-hers" memory setting, along with seat position, radio station selections and mirror settings.

Also new are rain-sensing windshield wipers (also standard for the Overland), improved air conditioning and—importantly—a new tire pressure monitoring system. Also, the Laredo and Limited get new wheels.

Top Four-Wheel-Drive Systems
The Grand Cherokee's Selec-Trac, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra Drive are among the top 4-wheel-drive systems.

Selec-Trac allows a shift into rear-drive, and all allow 4-wheel-drive to be engaged on roads at highways speeds. Low-range gearing helps give the Grand Cherokee sparkling off-road performance.

Quadra Drive combines the Quadra-Trac II transfer case and Vari-Lok progressive front and rear axles. It allows virtually a 100 percent transfer of developed engine torque to a single wheel on or off road to keep the Grand Cherokee moving while maintaining driver control when a traction situation looks almost hopeless.

Fun to Drive
All Grand Cherokees are well equipped and fun to drive, although the ones with a V8 are smoother and swifter. The rather heavy power steering is precise. Thankfully, the constant small steering corrections needed for a 1999 model I tested no longer are required.

Annoying Rocking Motion
The ride is surprisingly good, although the Grand Cherokee still doesn't even have an independent front suspension. Jeep insists on keeping solid front and rear axles to retain good off-road abilities. However, rough roads occasionally cause side-to-side rocking of occupants. Brake pedal feel is good, and stopping power is good. A handy size makes it easy to maneuver.

The Grand Cherokee is one of few sport utilities in its class to use a unibody design, which allows a roomier interior. Big outside door handles and a fairly low floor facilitate reaching the quiet interior, where there's decent room for four 6-footers. But rear-door openings are narrow and the back windows don't roll down all the way.

Gauges can be quickly read and controls work smoothly. However, sound system controls should be larger. Front cupholders are nicely located and there are small storage pockets in the front doors. Vision to the rear is a bit limited, but there are big outside mirrors.

Folding Back Seat
The tailgate raises smoothly on struts, as does the hood, and its pop-up upper glass area is handy for quickly tossing small items into the fairly large cargo compartment. The cargo area has a wide, moderately high opening. And the entire back seat folds forward to significantly increase cargo space.

While more attractive than ever, the Grand Cherokee could use a good dose of BMW reliability

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BB03 - 9/1/2014 1:58:36 PM