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Page 1: Intro
SANTA BARBARA, CA – After spending the day driving the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee in a variety of settings ranging from winding two-lane roads to gnarly off-road courses and wandering among the four-wheel-drive faithful gathered for the first annual Camp Jeep California, we are left with three distinct impressions: · First, that buying a Jeep is more than just a mere financial transaction. It’s more akin to being inducted into a secret society.
· Second, that the card-carrying members of this club will likely be thoroughly delighted with this all-new version of the company’s flagship SUV.
· Third, and to our way of thinking most significant, that this much improved 2005 Grand Cherokee has the goods to bring many new members into the fanatic Jeep family.
First introduced in 1992 as an uptown cousin of the no-frills Cherokee, the midsize Jeep Grand Cherokee received its last major update in 1999. To say a lot has happened in the sport-utility vehicle category since that time is a serious understatement.
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Page 2: Crowded Field
Of course, the Jeep brand and the Grand Cherokee nameplate have an advantage in that they are rightly perceived as quintessential off-road vehicles, while the Grand Cherokee is a great way to get to the boonies and back in comfort and style. Despite those strengths, the outgoing Jeep Grand Cherokee came up a little short when compared to newer sport-utes and crossover vehicles. While utterly capable off-road, the second-generation JGC’s on-pavement performance and cramped back seat left it at a distinct disadvantage in the very areas that most impact the way the majority of SUV buyers typically use their vehicles.
Jeep product planners have addressed this with the redesigned 2005 Grand Cherokee by keeping intact all that was good about previous generations while adding the paved road ride and handling characteristics the vehicle needs to remain competitive. While it may not seem to be a revolutionary redesign at first glance, the result of their efforts is nothing less than the best Jeep Grand Cherokee ever.
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Page 3: Space Jeep
This growth spurt helps address one of the most significant shortcomings of the outgoing model, namely the complete lack of rear seat legroom. While not exactly spacious, designers managed to make the new 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s passenger compartment much more accommodating while still keeping the exterior dimensions compact enough for easy maneuverability in tight quarters. Perhaps for fear of alienating its legions of loyal followers, the changes to the third-generation 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s outward appearance are rather subtle.
The most notable exterior tweaks include a bolder version of Jeep’s trademark seven-slot grille, flanked by rounded quad-look headlamps that flow nicely into the sculpted leading edge of the hood. More pronounced fender flares with squared-off edges give the body a muscular stance while helping to protect the sides of the vehicle from mud and other trail debris.
While the Jeep aficionados we met seemed to like this updated exterior, the overall package strikes us as a little bland, which makes us wonder whether it will be distinctive enough to catch the eye of upscale SUV shoppers, folks who may well put a higher value on an appealing form over “Trail-Rated” function.
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Page 4: Interior
Once you settle in behind the wheel, a standard power-adjustable driver’s seat makes it easy to find a comfortable driving position, especially when paired with the Limited’s standard power-adjustable accelerator and brake pedals. Head and legroom are spacious up front, though a small hump on the right side of the transmission tunnel will leave front seat passengers searching for creative places to put their feet.
While driving, you’ll discover that the cabin is a surprisingly quiet place, very much in keeping with the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s upscale image. Engineers did extensive wind tunnel testing, fine-tuned mechanical components such as axle assemblies, and used additional sound dampening material, weather stripping, and thicker side door glass to achieve a level of refinement we’d normally expect to see in better luxury sedans.
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Page 5: Passengers
Because we all seem to be packing more tools and toys these days, Jeep has added a number of interior trays, bins, and cubbyholes designed to hold cell phones, MP3 players, and the like. The storage bin in the center console armrest, while not especially large, includes a handy organizer for loose change and room for a handful of CDs.
For larger cargo, there’s 34.5 cubic-feet of space with the 60/40 split-folding rear seat raised and in use, and 67.4 cubic-feet with both sides of the back seat folded down. The process of going from passenger-carrying to cargo-carrying mode is made simpler by rear seatbacks that automatically tuck their headrests under as they fold forward to make a flat load floor.
Speaking of the cargo area, the floor features a built-in plastic tray meant to contain messy items; a nice touch, though its small size limits its usefulness. In back, a wide-opening liftgate makes getting at your gear a snap, while plenty of tie-down points help keep the load secure.
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Page 6: New Engines
Those who feel the need for more power will want to check out the 4.7-liter V8, which returns to the line-up this year with a number of minor improvements. An option on Laredo models and standard equipment on Limiteds, this engine delivers 235-horsepower and 305 lb.-ft. of torque while returning EPA estimated fuel mileage of 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. Without question the most exciting new engine choice here is the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 we love so dearly in other Chrysler group products. With 330-horsepower and 375 lb.-ft. of torque, this monster motor provides great gobs of power on demand. The engine also features Chrysler’s Multi-Displacement System (MDS) that imperceptibly shuts down four of the engine’s eight cylinders under low load situations to help improve fuel economy and just as subtly reactivates them when you need the extra juice. With EPA fuel economy estimates of 14 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, the system helps the big V8 deliver surprisingly respectable mileage for an engine with this much oomph.
Ultimately, we think most buyers could live quite happily with any of these powerplants. But because towing capacity varies so dramatically between the three – 3,500 pounds with the 3.7-liter V6, 6,500 with the 4.7-liter V-8, 7,200 with the 5.7-liter Hemi – we suggest going with one of the V-8s if there’s likely to be significant amounts of heavy lifting in your new Jeep Grand Cherokee’s future.
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Page 7: Drivetrains
Jeep offers four different ways to put power to the pavement. The first, and we suspect least popular, is the rear-wheel-drive set-up that comes standard on both Laredo and Limited. The remaining full-time four-wheel-drive choices start with the simplistic QuadraTrac I. With a single-speed transfer case, this system is designed for maximum ease of use by buyers requiring no more than sure-footed traction on slippery roads rather than serious off-road capability.
Those who’d like to go play in the dirt with their new Jeep-driving buddies will want to opt for the middle-of-the-road QuadraTrac II system. A two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing provides serious grunt in off-road situations, while Jeep’s Brake Traction Control System helps to keep you from spinning your wheels when the going gets tough.
The final four-wheel drive choice, the QuadraDrive II system, combines a two-speed transfer case with sophisticated electronic limited-slip differentials designed to instantaneously send power to the wheels with the most traction. QuadraTrac II and QuadraDrive II also feature a neutral position to facilitate towing on all four wheels, such asbehind a motorhome or other vehicle.
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Page 8: On the Road
This new suspension design also pays big dividends when it comes to handling. While the Grand Cherokee is no sports car, we found it inspires a level of confidence on winding roads that’s relatively uncommon in such vehicles.
If you consider yourself a driving enthusiast, you’ll want to put off buying a Grand Cherokee until the optional Dynamic Handling System (DHS) becomes available on Limited models equipped with the 5.7-liter Hemi in mid-2005. This innovative system, which will likely be offered as part of a “sport” package with upgraded shocks, springs, and tires, uses a hydraulically-controlled “active” stabilizer bar to deliver all the handling benefits of a stout anti-sway bar without the harsh ride quality normally associated with such hefty hardware. As a side benefit, Jeep engineers say the system should also allow for increased suspension travel in off-road settings. We were able to compare two identically equipped Grand Cherokees with the standard and DHS suspensions on a closed course and we can tell you the difference is dramatic. Dare we say the system, which is undergoing final tweaking, should make this one of those rare SUVs that is just as long on “sport” as it is “utility.”
Further enhancing the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s pavement performance is a new rack-and-pinion steering system. Steering feel is much more precise, with little of the vagueness that plagued the old recirculating ball set-up.
Rounding out the package are larger 12.9-inch disc brakes up front, ably assisted by 12.6 -inch discs in the rear. The combination makes for powerful stops with good, easy-to-modulate pedal feel. Four-wheel antilock brakes are a welcome standard safety feature on all models.
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Page 9: Safety
In the category of nice-to-haves, you’ll find the optional ultrasonic rear parking assist, which alerts the driver to unseen obstacles behind the rear bumper while backing up. Those who do a lot of night driving may also want to check out the new SmartBeam headlight option that runs the high beams for maximum visibility until sensors detect the headlights of an oncoming vehicle
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Page 10: Well-Equipped
Limited models add a long list of luxury amenities including polished aluminum wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, four-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, power-adjustable pedals, rain-sensing automatic wipers, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, and a 276-watt Boston Acoustics audio system with in-dash six-CD changer. Major options include the 5.7-liter Hemi V8, heated front seats, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a navigation system, Sirius satellite radio, an Off-road package (skid plates and tow hooks), and chromed aluminum wheels.
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Page 11: Your Money
To put those numbers in perspective, Chrysler’s marketing folks tell us the entry-level 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo includes $300 worth of additional standard features and yet is priced nearly $1,800 less than last year’s model. The Limited version has a similar value-oriented story to tell, with $700 of additional content and a price tag that’s $1,000 lower than that of the model it replaces.
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Page 12: Seal the Deal
As for joining the Jeep fraternity, we rubbed shoulders with lots of friendly folks at Camp Jeep California but still came away feeling like something of an outsider. Which leads us to suspect that they only teach you the secret handshake after you’ve signed on the dotted line.
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Page 13: FAQs
Though there are a number of other very good choices in this midsize SUV category and price range, we think this new version is worthy of inclusion on any shopper’s test-drive list and is a particularly good choice for buyers looking for a sport-utility vehicle that’s equally capable both on and off the pavement.
Is the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee a good value?
Laredo models start at $26,775 for the two-wheel-drive version and $28,475 for the four-wheel-drive. Limited editions start at $32,100 and top out at about $40,000 for a four-wheeler with all the bells and whistles. To put those numbers in perspective, Chrysler’s marketing folks tell us the entry-level 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo includes $300 worth of additional standard features and yet is priced nearly $1,800 less than last year’s model. The Limited version has a similar value-oriented story to tell, with $700 of additional content and a price tag that’s $1,000 lower than that of the model it replaces.
What is the best thing about the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee?
Of all the improvements Jeep engineers made to the 2005 Grand Cherokee, none is more impressive than the truck’s new independent front suspension. Combined with a revised rear suspension, this set-up does an admirable job of soaking up the bumps to create a refined ride that’s well suited to the vehicle’s upscale character.
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Page 14: Writer's Notes
Price Range: $26,775 to $40,000 (estimated)
Engine Size and Type: 3.7-liter V6; 4.7-liter V8; 5.7-liter V8
Engine Horsepower: 210hp at 5,200 rpm; 235hp at 4,500 rpm; 330hp at 5,000 rpm
Engine Torque: 235 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm; 305 lb.-ft. at 3,600 rpm; 375 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm
EPA Fuel Economy (3.7-liter V6): 16 city and 21 highway
EPA Fuel Economy (4.7-liter V8): 14 city and 20 highway
EPA Fuel Economy (5.7-liter V8): 14 city and 21 highway
Max. Cargo Capacity: 4,254 lbs. (Laredo 2WD V6) to 4,735 (Limited 4WD with 5.7L V8)
Max. Towing Capacity: 3,500 lbs. (with 3.7L V6); 6,500 lbs. (with 4.7L V8); 7,200 lbs. (with 5.7L V8)
Max. Seating Capacity: 5
Competitors: Buick Rainier, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Ford Explorer, GMC Envoy, Honda Pilot, Isuzu Ascender, Kia Sorento, Land Rover LR3, Lexus GX 470, Lincoln Aviator, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Mercury Mountaineer, Mitsubishi Montero, Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan Xterra, Saab 9-7X, Toyota 4Runner, Volkswagen Touareg
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