2005 Grand Cherokee New Car Test Drive
The introduction of the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee represents a bold move by DaimlerChrysler. The 2005 Grand Cherokee is not a Jeep from the tradition of American Motors, but rather a Jeep from the Mercedes-Benz tradition, with a little Dodge Magnum attitude thrown in.
You can't mistake it for anything but a Jeep. Yet its proportions are completely different from before, with more steel and less glass, a laid-back windshield, the trademark giant wheel well flares, and a slickly angular body without the cladding of the previous generations; just one small spear. The D-pillar has been laid forward, which cuts into cargo space, but it sure looks cool. It's got a replaceable chin spoiler on it, and it looks mean. Inside, it's got nearly 70 cubic feet of storage and three modern, if not brand-new, powerplants.
Interior materials are dramatically improved over the previous model's, which left much to be desired. The atmosphere inside the new Grand Cherokee is light, comfortable, and more enveloping than the previous model, more bolted in than hanging on from the driver's perspective, with lots of seat adjustment, excellent outward vision around the relatively slim posts, and all the switches and controls clearly labeled and easy to find and use.
For the first time, a Jeep can be married to the engine that put Chrysler back on the map, the 5.7-liter Hemi. It's particularly good for towing or driving at higher elevations. However, we found the 4.7-liter V8 worked great. The standard V6 is a vast improvement over Jeep's old inline-6. A new suspension gives the Grand Cherokee much better handling, leaning less in corners, along with better ride quality. Its turning radius is tighter, too, good when driving off road or in crowded parking lots.
Jeep engineers have come up with a larger, edgier and more macho SUV with an engine that's among the most powerful in the segment. This is after years of being afflicted with old, weak engines and saddled with a small cargo compartment.
Jeep Grand Cherokee comes in two models, Laredo and Limited. The basic Laredo comes standard with a 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 and a five-speed overdrive automatic transmission. A 4.7-liter V8 or 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is available for both Laredo and Limited. Both V8s come with a five-speed automatic; both come with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
The Laredo ($26,130) comes with air conditioning, 17-inch tires and wheels, an eight-way power driver's seat, AM/FM/CD changer, a driver information center, 60/40 split folding rear seat, and remote keyless entry. Laredo 4x4 models ($28,100) come with Quadra-Trac I full-time four-wheel drive.
The Limited ($31,455) adds the 4.7-liter V8 engine and larger capacity automatic transmission, power adjustable floor pedals with memory, rain-sensing wipers, adjustable roof rails, eight-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery and trim (optional on the Laredo), HomeLink, MP3 capability for the entertainment system, Boston Acoustics premium sound with 276 watts of power, and adjustable roof rails. Limited 4x4 ($34,045) gets the Quadra-Trac II drive system.
Standard safety features include front smart air bags with four levels of deployment, brake-controlled traction control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Side curtain air bags are optional.
A Dynamic Handling System (DHS) is available as part of the Quadra-Drive II 4x4 system on late-2005 Hemi models. DHS reduces body roll, or lean, when cornering, resulting in sportier handling. An Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is also available, and comes packaged with the Hemi.
Options include GPS navigation built into the radio ($1,200), a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a trailer tow package ($255), Boston Acoustics audio, UConnect hands-free communication system ($275), Smart Beam headlamps that sense the available natural light and adjust accordingly, and rear park assist ($1,200). The traditional Off-Road package ($420) with tow hooks is available, along with chromed alloy wheels, and an engine block heater for winter trekking. Side curtain air bags are also available for the first time on Grand Cherokee.