2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The long-awaited, redesigned new Jeep Grand Cherokee has Chrysler's famous HEMI V8 and a whole lot more. However, the lack of a third-row seat can be a deal-breaker to some potential buyers in its market.
The Grand Cherokee is the flagship of the iconic Jeep line, and the redone 2005 version should again move to the top of the list in the upscale midsize sport-utility market and command front-row spots at country clubs.
There were few Grand Cherokee competitors when it was introduced as an upscale, car-like 1993 sport ute with Jeep's famous off-road abilities, although it had plenty of rivals when it debuted as a redesigned 1999 model. And it has even more for 2005.
Traditional Off-Road Prowess
Jeep says some 60 percent of owners of its World War II-style Wrangler account for most Jeep off-road use, but 45 percent of Jeep Liberty owners do the same thing. Almost 25 percent of Grand Cherokee owners go off-road.
The 2004 Grand Cherokee wasn't changed much since redone for 1999 and needed improvements for better road use. It had imprecise steering, a suspension that caused "head toss" and a body with old-fashioned side cladding. It hung on as a prestigious vehicle, but was mostly living on past glory.
Better Quality Promised
The Grand Cherokee again comes with rear- or 4-wheel drive. Base prices range from $26,130 to $28,100 for the two lower-line Laredo trim levels and from $31,455 to $34,045 for the two high-line Limited trim levels, which have lots of chrome, wood and two-tone leather seats.
More Substantial Look
Although slicker, the styling is boxier. New, slight body extensions—or "eyebrows"— over front headlights provide a contrast to the flat body planes. Also, taillights are larger.
The front naturally has Jeep's prized signature 7-slot grille and round headlights. And trapezoidal wheel arches maintain Jeep design continuity.
Different Exterior Size
However, there's nearly the same passenger room as in the 2004 Grand Cherokee. Four tall occupants fit, but the center of the rear seat is too hard for a fifth. Large outside door handles are easily gripped, and the step-in is OK for a midsize sport utility. But rear door openings should be wider for easier entry and exit.
Better visibility is provided by a low hoodline. A front spoiler helps deliver improved aerodynamics for less wind noise and slightly improved fuel economy. The Grand Cherokee's .41 drag coefficient would be high for a car, but large outside mirrors don't provide noticeable wind noise in the quiet interior at highway speeds, and the mirrors are handy during lane changes.
Three New 4-Wheel-Drive Systems
The old 195-horsepower inline 6-cylinder engine has been replaced by a smoother 3.7-liter 210-horsepower V6 from the Jeep Liberty, while the 4.7-liter 230-horsepower V8 has been carried over from the 2004 Grand Cherokee.
New to the 2005 Grand Cherokee is Chrysler's 5.7-liter HEMI V8, which generates 325 horsepower and gives the Grand Cherokee a fire-breathing engine with a storied reputation matched by no American V8. The Grand Cherokee's hits 60 mph in just 7 seconds with the HEMI, and that's moving fast for a fairly big, heavy sport ute.
Cylinder Deactivation System
But the Grand Cherokee is no fuel miser with any engine. Estimated economy with the 3.7 V6 is 16 mpg in the city and 21 on highways. Figures are 16 and 20 with the 4.7, and 14 and 20 with the HEMI. However, my test Grand Cherokee HEMI provided only 11 mpg in town and 17 on the highway despite the Multi-Displacement System and mostly moderate driving.
The 3.7 and 4.7 engines require only 87-octane fuel. Jeep recommends 89-octane gasoline for the HEMI, with 87-octane being "acceptable."
The 3.7 is hooked to a new 5-speed automatic transmission, while the carryover 5-speed automatic for the 4.7 and HEMI V8s has been improved for better shifting, while increasing the Grand Cherokee's towing ability.
Both transmissions provide manual shifting for the first time on a Grand Cherokee to give a driver control to match on- or off-road driving requirements.
Better Steering and Suspension
Front suspension wheel travel also has been increased for a more supple ride, and there's a new five-link rear suspension with a track bar for improved handling.
A new Dynamic Handling System also sharpens handling. Jeep says it minimizes the traditional compromise between ride and handling. An Electronic Stability Program helps maintain vehicle directional stability during severe driving maneuvers on any type of surface.
Large Shoes a Problem
A rear hatch with separate-opening glass facilitates loading cargo, although the load floor is rather high. While somewhat shallow, the cargo area is large. Rear seatbacks easily flip forward and lay flat to enlarge it, and rear headrests conveniently tuck out of the way.
Controls are nicely positioned and large enough for easy use. Cupholders are designed to avoid spills, but most interior storage areas are small.
The Grand Cherokee is nicely equipped, but options include a satellite radio, a Boston Acoustics 6-speaker audio system, DVD rear entertainment, rear-obstacle detection, a navigation system, power adjustable pedals, heated front seats and an off-road package. Safety items include front and rear side-curtain airbags.
The new Grand Cherokee erases major faults of its predecessor and promises to increase sales of this attractive sport utility.