2004 Grand Cherokee New Car Test Drive
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a classic. Introduced more than a decade ago and redesigned five years ago, it lacks the refinement found in the latest wave of SUVs. Yet our 2004 Grand Cherokee drew admiring glances and comments everywhere it went. People were fawning over it. Granted, it was an Inferno Red Overland model. Granted, the 2004 models feature a new front fascia that updates and freshens the looks. The point is, people still love the Grand Cherokee even though it's been a familiar site for some time now.
And they continue to buy them. Grand Cherokee ranks among the best-selling SUVs in America. Jeep sells about 220,000 Grand Cherokees a year. That's a whole big bunch. Grand Cherokee sales outrank such popular nameplates as Tahoe, Suburban, Yukon, Expedition, and Durango. And the imports don't even come close. In one month, September 2003, Jeep sold 16,410 Grand Cherokees, which would not be a bad half-year for the Mercedes M-Class or BMW X5. This drives other manufacturers crazy. The marketing people for every SUV sold in America list Grand Cherokee as a competitor simply because Jeep sells so many of them.
Why is Grand Cherokee so successful? For starters, everyone knows what it is. The Jeep Grand Cherokee combines luxury with impressive off-road capability. It served as a symbol of success throughout the 1990s. You could park a Limited with gold wheels and matching gold pinstripe in your driveway and everyone would know you'd achieved the American dream.
Grand Cherokee is a solid vehicle that can go anywhere. It can tackle steep slopes, slog through mud, and plow through snow. It's reasonably quick with the available high-output 4.7-liter V8. It was completely redesigned for 1999. It has been continuously revised since for improved ride quality, easier steering effort, improved brake pedal feel, and increased safety and convenience.
Grand Cherokee is luxuriously appointed yet competitively priced. Its interior is attractive and tastefully trimmed in handsome wood. Its list of features looks impressive. MSRPs range from $26,980 for a six-cylinder 2WD Laredo to $38,995 for a 4WD Overland with a V8. Rebates of $3,000 and zero-percent financing can sweeten the deal.
But there's no question that this is a dated product. Hordes of new SUVs offer a smoother ride, better handling and more refinement. Grand Cherokee has a relatively rough ride. Its new navigation screen is relatively small (though the system itself is modern and the screen works great for displaying radio stations). Its radio buttons are small, fussy and hard to operate. And in many other ways it does not feel like a contemporary product. Also, most SUV buyers confine their driving to paved trails so go-anywhere capability is not a priority.
An all-new Grand Cherokee is on the horizon for the 2005 model year. Until then, the current model strives to deliver the American dream.
Jeep has expanded the Grand Cherokee line to five for 2004: Laredo ($27,260), Limited ($32,190), and Overland ($37,015) continue. A new Special Edition model has been added along with a new Freedom Edition. All come standard with two-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 and it would be a crying shame to order one without it. Four-wheel drive is available for all five models: Laredo ($29,230), Special Edition, Freedom Edition, Limited ($34,620), and Overland ($39,275).
A 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine comes standard on the Laredo, Special Edition, Freedom Edition, and Laredo. This inline-6 with overhead valves is rated at 195 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque. The six-cylinder comes with a four-speed automatic. A 4.7-liter overhead-valve V8 is available that 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, Special Edition, and Freedom Edition models. The V8 comes with the five-speed automatic transmission plus Goodyear Wrangler Eagle ES P235/65R17 tires.
Laredo, the base model, comes with a high level of standard equipment, including a six-speaker Infinity sound system with CD player, cloth upholstery, a six-way power driver seat, tilt steering, cruise control, and power windows, mirrors and locks.
The new two special edition models are essentially packages added to the Laredo. These packages may vary, so what you see on the dealership lot may not exactly reflect what we're able to report here. The Special Edition features the monochromatic exterior design cues of the Limited model, plus fog lamps and an AM/FM/ cassette/10-disc CD audio system with Infinity speakers. Special Edition 4WD models are upgraded with the Quadra Trac II transfer case. The Freedom Edition adds high-back cloth seats with Jeep logo embroidery on driver and passenger seat backs and chrome tow hooks.
More luxurious is the Limited model, which adds leather upholstery, automatic dual-zone climate control, fog lights, universal garage door opener, low-back bucket seats, and other features. A 10-way power adjustable driver's seat, a memory function for the driver's seat and mirrors, and other features are available in option packages.
Overland adds 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 embroidered floor mats. Overland comes with a 10-disc CD changer and express-open power sunroof. Ceiling-mounted side-curtain air bags are standard.