2008 Grand Cherokee New Car Test Drive
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a midsize SUV, like the Ford Explorer or Chevrolet TrailBlazer, but it offers superior off-road capability comparable to that of the upscale Land Rover LR3.
Outside, the Grand Cherokee is edgy and angular, clean and contemporary, uncluttered by body cladding. Yet it is instantly recognizable as a Jeep.
Inside, the atmosphere is light, comfortable, and enveloping, with lots of seat adjustments, and excellent outward vision around relatively slim windshield posts. Switches and controls are clearly labeled and easy to find and use. In back is nearly 70 cubic feet of cargo space.
A wide range of engines is available. The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is particularly good for towing or driving at higher elevations. The high-performance SRT8 model has a 420-horsepower 6.1-liter Hemi V8 and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. The smaller, 4.7-liter overhead-cam V8 gets 70 more horsepower for 2008 for a total of 305 hp; we found this engine works quite well. The 4.7-liter engine is offered in most states with E85 flex-fuel capability, meaning it can run on gasoline or up to 85 percent ethanol. The Grand Cherokee also offers a Mercedes-Benz-sourced 3.0-liter common-rail turbo-diesel (CRD) V6, which can tow up to 7,400 pounds (with proper equipment) and range 425 miles between fill-ups.
For 2008, Grand Cherokee benefits from minor interior and exterior design changes, as well as new entertainment and off-road and safety features.
For 2008, Grand Cherokee gets a revised front fascia and grille and a new headlight design with available high-intensity discharge headlamps.
For 2008, the instrument panel, steering wheel, center console, and armrests are revised, and the steering wheel adds a telescoping feature. The new entertainment options consist of Sirius Backseat TV with three child-oriented channels and Jeep's MyGig, a 20-gigabyte hard drive that holds songs, pictures, and navigation system map information.
Grand Cherokee was last redesigned for the 2005 model year. The current Grand Cherokee offers better handling than that of pre-2005 models, leaning less in corners. It rides better on all surfaces and its turning radius is tighter.
Hill-start assist holds the brakes on a hill to allow smooth launches. Hill-descent control uses the ABS to control the rate of speed when driving down steep hills. A trailer sway control system is available that applies braking pressure to individual wheels to help stabilize trailers during towing.
The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes in four trim levels.
The Laredo ($28,520) comes with a 210-hp, 3.7-liter V6 and a five-speed automatic transmission. Air conditioning is standard, along with cloth upholstery, power windows, power locks with remote keyless entry, eight-way power driver's seat, tilt-telescoping steering wheel, AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary input jack, driver information center, 60/40 split folding rear seat, an engine immobilizer, water-resistant storage compartment and 17-inch wheels. The 4.7-liter overhead-cam V8 and leather seats are available in option packages.
Laredo 4WD ($30,490) features Quadra-Trac I full-time four-wheel drive with traction control. Quadra-Trac II, which includes low–range gearing, is optional ($595) with the V6 and standard with the V8. Quadra-Drive II full-time active 4WD is optional ($795) with either engine. Quadra-Drive II has low-range gearing, traction control, and front, center, and rear limited-slip differentials.
The Limited ($35,965) comes with the 4.7-liter V8 and leather upholstery with heated first- and second-row seats. Also standard: rear obstacle detection; rear backup camera; automatic climate control; sunroof; Boston Acoustics six-speaker, 276-watt AM/FM/CD stereo with MP3 capability; power adjustable pedals; power passenger seat; leather-wrapped steering wheel; Sirius satellite radio with one-year subscription; memory function for the seats, pedals, and mirrors; automatic headlamps; rain-sensing automatic wipers; auto-dimming rearview mirror; HomeLink universal garage door opener; an upgraded tire-pressure monitor that displays the status of individual tires; adjustable roof-rack crossrails; and machined-face 17-inch aluminum wheels. For 2008, the stereo has Jeep's MyGig Entertainment System, which includes a 6.5-inch touch-screen and a 20-gigabyte hard drive to hold songs and pictures. Limited 4WD ($38,555) gets all that plus hill start assist, hill descent control, and Quadra-Trac II, with Quadra-Drive II as an option.
The Hemi is optional ($845) on both 2WD and 4WD Limiteds, and the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 is optional for both 2WD ($3050) and 4WD ($3700) models. Other options consist of rear DVD entertainment, 18-inch wheels, and, new for 2008, high-intensity discharge headlamps with auto leveling. Also optional this year are Jeep's MyGig Infotainment System, which adds a navigation system with real-time traffic and voice control to the MyGig Entertainment System, and Sirius Backseat TV with three child-oriented channels: Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
The Overland ($40,005) comes with the 5.7-liter Hemi, and adds a wood-and-leather steering wheel, real wood accents on the doors and console, two-tone leather and ultra-suede seats embroidered with the Overland logo, leather-covered console and armrest, the high-intensity discharge headlamps with auto leveling, the MyGig Infotainment System with navigation, a trailer-tow group, and chromed 18-inch aluminum wheels. Platinum accents highlight the exterior. Overland 4WD ($43,440) adds Quadra-Drive II.
The 3.0-liter diesel engine is optional for 2WD and 4WD Overland models, as are Sirius Backseat TV and rear DVD entertainment.
The SRT8 ($40,525) comes with a 6.1-liter Hemi rated 420 horsepower, a lowered suspension, its own electronic all-wheel-drive system, and run-flat tires. Distinctive bumper fascias and 20-inch wheels make SRT8 instantly identifiable. Inside are sport seats, special trim, and a level of standard features roughly analogous to those of the Limited model. Options can bring an SRT8 nearly up to the Overland level of comfort and convenience.
Options include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1,200); a sunroof package ($800); various trailer towing packages; UConnect hands-free cell phone link ($275); rear obstacle detection ($255); rear backup camera. A Skid Plate Group ($295) is available, along with an engine block heater ($40).