2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Since its introduction in 1992, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has earned quite a reputation, as it blends on-road civility with off-road ability without forgetting about the luxury quotient demanded of a modern sport-utility vehicle. The third-generation takes all of these attributes and ramps each up a notch or two, especially when it comes to power and performance.

Here, in North America, the Grand Cherokee’s various engines can be described very simply – ample (the base vehicle with a 210 horsepower 3.7L V6), plenty (a 4.7L V8 with 235 hp) and outrageous. The latter puts the fabled 5.7L Hemi engine under the Grand’s hood. Along with instantaneous throttle response – which tends to be the case when you have 330 stallions and a stump-pulling 369 pound-feet of torque on tap – comes one of the meanest sounding exhaust notes around. It’s not a Ferrari-like wail when at full chat, but more a throaty burbling that tells the world you mean business.

The Europeans and Aussies, who are just now getting the Grand Cherokee, earn a fourth engine that’s best described as outrageously smart. Not only does this thing out-torque the Hemi (!!!), it consumes less fuel that the base V6 gas engine!

The pride of the Jeep family, at least for my money, is the totally new 3.0L V6, turbocharged common rail diesel (CRD) engine. Now, this thing has to be driven to be fully appreciated. While it only (a word I use advisedly) puts out 218 hp, it twists out a phenomenal 376 lb-ft of torque anywhere between 1,600 and 2,800 rpm. Indeed, as a package it is so good it makes the 4.7L V8 gas engine seem lackluster and the V6 positively wimpy – it runs to 100 kilometres an hour in 9 seconds flat (which is a full half second faster than the 4.7L V8) while sipping an average of 10.2 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres. The 4.7L V8 and Hemi engines suck back 14.9 and 15.4 L/100 km respectively (for the sake of clarity all figures are European fuel economy numbers).

It is also eerily quiet in operation – so quiet, in fact, it moved my driving partner to suggest it was smoother and quieter than Nissan’s highly rated V6 engines, which is high praise indeed.

On a challenging off-road drive the diesel’s prodigious torque and easy-going demeanour really burst to the fore – it burbles up impossibly steep grades, even when just off idle, and on the way down brings a ton of engine braking. It also seems to make the best of Jeep’s wonderful Quadra-Drive II full-time, all-wheel drive system.

Under normal circumstances the QD-II’s electronically-controlled transfer case divvies up the power 48/52 front to rear. It can also run with the centre differential in the fully open position (this allows the Jeep to be parked without crow-hopping) or be fully locked, which splits the power 50/50. When the power reaches the front and rear axles, the left-to-right distribution of power is again looked after by electronically-controlled clutches with the same unlock/lock ability – a real-world equivalent of a diff locker. The net result is that even when three wheels loose all traction, the fourth is still able to power the Grand on through the muck and mire, which makes it one of the most adept off-road systems available.
The really good news is that all this electronic wizardry works equally well on-road. Factor in a body that’s 60% stiffer in both bending and torsional rigidity than the outgoing model, a double wishbone front suspension and a five-link rear suspension, and the Grand Cherokee has a very poised feel to its drive, especially considering the ground clearance and higher centre of gravity at play.
While the Grand is no sports car it will haul around a corner at a great rate of knots in a flat and unflustered manner, which is more than can be said of most its competition. Now this is particularly true of the European versions of the Grand Cherokee, as they earn stiffer springs, firmer damping and larger anti-roll bars. These simple modifications take a decent package and give it some real edge without killing ride comfort. It is good enough it should be sold in Canada as the sport package.

The Grand Cherokee also comes with all the mandated safety stuff. Along with a mitt-full of airbags (including drop down side curtains), there’s an effective set of anti-lock brakes, which do a good job of hauling the heavy Grand (2,169 kilograms) to a halt, traction control and an electronic stability control system. The latter not only looks after unwanted over/understeer, it steps in to reduce the risk of rollover – if the system senses the Jeep is about to roll it applies the anti-lock brakes in an attempt to steer it out of trouble.

The latest Grand Cherokee is a complete package, as it is highly civilized on-road and unbelievable off-road. Add the new 3.0L common rail diesel to its long list of credentials and you have the future of the SUV. The bummer in all of this good news is that the diesel in not scheduled to come to Canada – it should as it trades nothing in terms of power and performance and yet takes a much smaller chunk out of Mother Nature.