2003 Grand Cherokee New Car Test Drive
The 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee, flagship of the Jeep brand, offers a better ride, improved brake pedal feel, and easier steering effort over last year's models. Also new are enhanced interior features and child seats that are easier to install. Power adjustable pedals are now available for all models.
Jeep built its reputation by building the genuine article, the real deal. Jeep vehicles offer serious off-road capability to match their tough looks. The luxuriously appointed Grand Cherokee along with the nimble Wrangler are the basis for Jeep's reputation for off-road prowess.
The Grand Cherokee can prowl canyons and crevasses, negotiate steep slopes, and slog through slippery mud. Yet it's civilized enough to satisfy buyers whose idea of high adventure is a visit to Builder's Square without a blueprint.
Introduced nearly a decade ago, the Grand Cherokee was extensively redesigned in 1999. In 2002, Jeep released the flagship Overland model, which combines plush suede leather seat inserts with a full complement of off-road equipment, including skid plates, a raised suspension and limited-slip axles.
Three models comprise the Jeep Grand Cherokee line: Laredo ($25,665); Limited ($30,510); and Overland ($37,070). The Sport model has been discontinued.
Laredo and Limited come standard with rear-wheel drive, but we recommend looking elsewhere if you want a two-wheel-drive vehicle. Four-wheel drive is the soul of the Grand Cherokee. However, it does add $1970 to the price of a Laredo, and $2430 to the Limited. Four-wheel drive is standard on the Overland.
Grand Cherokee's standard power plant is a 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine with overhead valves, rated at 195 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque. The standard transmission is a four-speed automatic.
A 4.7-liter overhead-valve V8 is an option on Laredo and Limited. It develops 235 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, and comes with a five-speed automatic transmission.
A high-output version of the 4.7-liter V8, with 265 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, is standard on Overland and optional on Limited. It comes with the five-speed automatic transmission plus Goodyear Wrangler Eagle ES P235/65R17 tires.
Four-wheel-drive systems vary by model. Four-wheel-drive Laredos use Jeep's Selec-Trac system, whose planetary center differential sends a fixed proportion of torque to the front and rear axles. Manually selecting the low range locks the center differential for maximum traction. Limited-slip differentials are available for both front and rear axles.
Standard on four-wheel-drive Limited and optional ($445) on Laredo, is the Quadra-Trac II on-demand transfer case, which incorporates a progressive, speed-sensing torque transfer coupling that varies torque automatically between the front and rear axles, depending upon which has more traction. A low range is standard on Limited, optional on Laredo; and limited-slip axles are available.
Overland models use Jeep's Quadra-Drive, optional on Limited ($550). Quadra-Drive combines the Quadra-Trac II transfer case with Vari-Lock axles, which use hydromechanical torque-transfer couplings between the wheels. Jeep claims the Quadra-Drive system can send nearly 100 percent of engine torque to a single wheel when necessary.
Also standard on Overland is the Up-Country Suspension Group ($435 on Laredo, $290 on Limited), which includes heavy-duty springs and gas-pressurized shock absorbers, skid plates and P235/65R17 all-terrain tires.
For 2003, the Overland comes with satin-silver aluminum wheels and metallic-painted side rock rails. Inside you'll find an exclusive Dark Slate suede leather interior with redwood burl accents and 'Overland' embroidered floor mats. Ceiling-mounted side-curtain air bags are standard.
Laredo comes with a high level of luxury equipment, including a six-speaker Infinity sound system with CD player, six-way power driver seat, tilt steering, and every imaginable power accessory. Limited adds automatic dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel audio controls, fog lights, universal garage door opener, heated mirrors, a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat, a memory function for the driver's seat and mirrors, and leather upholstery. In addition to the heavy-duty items mentioned above, Overland comes with a 10-disc CD changer and express-open power sunroof.
All Grand Cherokees stop with four-wheel-disc brakes and ABS.
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