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The all-new 1999 Grand Cherokee represents a significant shift in style and refinement and widens the gap between it and the ageing basic Cherokee models. With changes concentrated on style, comfort, safety and convenience, Jeep's flagship model moves in to challenge the leaders in the off-road vehicle market.
The new generation Grand Cherokee is manufactured in the United States of America. It features a longer, higher, wider body with a more rounded look, an elegant interior and a choice of six-cylinder or V8 power. It has an all-new four-wheel drive and transmission system, Quadra-coil suspension with an upgraded steering box and an integrated anti-lock brake system.
With the introduction of a V8 engine, the Grand Cherokee now widens its sights to include some of the larger off-road models, such as LandCruiser and Range Rover as fair competition.
The Grand Cherokee is available in two levels, the Laredo with a six-cylinder engine priced at $52,500 and the Limited with a V8 engine at $66,800. Standard equipment in the Limited, includes climate controlled airconditioning, anti-lock brakes, memory for the driver's seat, radio and mirror settings, alarm/engine immobiliser, cruise control, overhead console mounted trip computer, power mirrors with fold-back mode, ten stack CD player, alloy wheels, roof rack and power front seat adjustment. Some colours, Quadra-Drive 4WD system, power operated sunroof, heated front seats and taupe coloured trim are optional.
The main feature of this year's Grand Cherokee is the V8 engine in the Limited. The new 4.7 litre single overhead camshaft engine has a cast iron block and cast alloy cylinder heads with conventional two valves per cylinder and while it is new for this vehicle, it is certainly not the latest technology. Free flowing inlet and exhaust ports complement the tuned manifolds and the variable injection timing, and the 9.3:1 compression ratio of this engine allows it to run on standard unleaded fuel. Jeep claims this engine will operate for 240,000 km with regular servicing.
The basic 4.0 litre OHV six-cylinder engine fitted to the Laredo has been upgraded making it quieter, cleaner and more powerful. Power has been increased by 9 kW and torque reduced by 6 Nm.
A 3.1 litre, five-cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled diesel engine from VM in Italy will replace the previous four-cylinder unit later this year or early in 2000.
A four speed automatic transmission is standard on the Laredo and Limited models, as is the Quadra-Trac full-time four-wheel drive transfer case. As an option on the Limited, Jeep offers its version of traction control called the Quadra-Drive system that has the ability to keep driving even if only one wheel has traction. Vari-Lok differentials are part of this system and are sensitive to wheel speed differences rather than torque variations in contrast with limited slip differentials. Being an all-wheel-drive system, the only controls are the overdrive button on the main shift lever, and the separate shorter lever to select low range.
The four-wheel disc brake system has had an increase in disc rotor size, providing a larger braking surface, and combined with an anti-lock facility, brake performance is vastly improved compared with the last front disc and rear drum models tested.
The front suspension remains basically the same with revised suspension arms and coil springs. The rear, however, has an all-new three link coil suspension, designed to give a flatter ride with increased comfort.
Dual front airbags, adjustable head restraints at all seating positions, anti-lock brakes, automatic dimming interior mirror and tie down facilities in the cargo area all add to the overall safety of the Grand Cherokee. The main security feature is the combined engine immobiliser and alarm system controlled by the keyless remote and the electronic ignition key.
Large quad headlights, rounded corners and wraparound rear lamps help to give the Jeep a more modern dynamic style, providing a fresh and more competitive stance. The distinctive seven-segment grille has become Jeep's trademark and is a common theme running through all of its models.
Jeep has retained a monocoque or unibody construction for benefits in weight and agility, being one of the few all-terrain vehicle manufacturers that does not use a separate chassis frame. Jeep has sought to attain the optimum combination of strength in the body shell while still retaining its impact absorbing characteristics.
Because of its compact size and car-like driving features, Jeep has an appeal to those desiring a small step up to an off-road vehicle.
The front seats provide adequate space for both driver and passenger, with power adjustments in all directions, although there is no adjustable lumbar support in the driver's seat. The steering column is tilt adjustable. The rear seat is really only suited for two passengers in reasonable comfort, although the legroom is limited, and the centre position would be satisfactory for short distances only.
The automatic climate control air conditioning is divided into two zones, with separate controls to select the temperature for each side of the vehicle's interior. In addition, a dash mounted infra-red sensor detects the front seat occupant's body temperature, adjusting the air flow temperature to meet the perceived comfort level of both the driver and passenger. That's it in theory anyway!
Although the owner's manual claims it is not necessary to alter the settings once adjusted to the individuals requirement, I found after it was left standing overnight, the system had a mind of its own.
The leather upholstery is not everyone's ideal, however, the leather is soft and it does give the interior a plush look and feel, but the imitation woodgrain is a poor reproduction.
Storage space is considered adequate, though not generous. The glove box is only medium in size, each front door and both front seats have pockets and the console compartment is a reasonable size. Two cupholders are provided in the front and two in the rear of the centre console.
The luggage area is quite roomy with a retaining net on the floor for light items and tie-down points in the floor for larger items. A retractable cargo blind enables items in the rear to be kept out of sight. The rear seat is split 60:40 enabling longer luggage, etc. to be stowed without sacrificing the whole rear seat area. A further storage facility is provided on the roof rack, which has adjustable cross bars to suit varying size objects.
The driver's cockpit is a fiddler's delight, with a multi function computer in the overhead console. By pressing the ‘menu' and ‘step' buttons a variety of information and settings can be selected to suit the individual's needs. Items such as outside temperature, direction of travel, low fuel warning, service interval, fuel consumption, distance to empty, elapsed trip time and various locking features can be readily accessed, reset and displayed on the overhead screen.
If that is not enough, the power mirrors, driver's seat and radio pre-set positions can be selected to suit the driver's individual needs and placed in memory to be selected on ‘his' and ‘hers' buttons mounted on the right front door panel.
In spite of the multi adjustments on the driver's seat and the tilt adjustable steering wheel, I was not able to find a position that was entirely to my liking. The left turn signal and the right light stalks are the most obvious controls with American origins, although one of the air conditioner controls and the transmission selector are marked on the left side and not easily seen from the right.
The 4.7 litre V8 engine offers more than ample power for all occasions. It is quiet and smooth responding instantly through the four speed automatic transmission and Quadra-Drive system. The transmission shift quality is overshadowed somewhat by the harsh downshift sometimes experienced after coming to a halt.
Some tyre noise was evident on sealed surfaces due to the tread pattern of the Goodyear Wranglers fitted, and a slight transmission drive noise was evident on overrun in our test vehicle at 90 plus km/h.
Steering feel and response is improved over previous models, though not to the ‘rack and pinion like feel' claimed by Jeep. Even for a four-wheel drive vehicle the ride quality was rather choppy, and although there was a high degree of confidence when cornering and it did hang on tenaciously, a considerable amount of body roll was evident.
Brake performance is quite impressive, with the larger four-wheel discs incorporating ABS and electronic brake distribution bringing the Limited to a halt in less than thirty metres, without any increase in pedal pressure or any sign of brake fade.
With the extra power, Jeep has increased the towing capacity of the Limited model to 3040 kg. Its compact size and performance should improve its towing ability although fuel consumption may be of concern.
The combination of full-time four-wheel drive, low centre of gravity and anti-lock brakes, created an atmosphere of safety and stability when driving on gravel surfaces. When braking heavily under these conditions, I believe the Jeep's brake system is not as confident as most other vehicles of this type fitted with ABS.
Jeeps have always been good in the rough, having had more years than most to gain the experience needed to put a reliable off-road package together. Approach and departure angles are quite generous and the engine braking is good for an automatic transmission.
The ground clearance and wheel travel appear less than the last Jeep models tested, placing some limitations off-road. The front seats did not provide good side support in situations where extensive side movement was experienced. The slippery nature of the leather upholstery added to this problem. These areas would only deter the more serious adventurers, as the Jeep's ability would more than satisfy the average leisure jaunt.
The under bonnet layout is typically American, with very little order in the placement of hoses, pipes, etc. The large V8 engine has literally been shoehorned into the space provided making access to most items a difficult task.
Regular servicing has been scheduled at 12,000 km intervals for vehicles on normal use and every 5,000 km for those under severe operation. Manufacturer's warranty is three years and 60,000 km.
Jeep has made an obvious effort to raise the standard of its top-of-the-line all-terrain vehicle, making it a more viable alternative to the high standard of off-roaders available in the luxury segment of that market.
Jeeps are renowned for their ability off the beaten track and the latest Grand Cherokee is no exception. With the improvements applied to aesthetics and equipment, particularly in the Limited model, its appeal has increased considerably and its suitability as an all-terrain family vehicle may well meet the needs of many part-time four-wheel drive adventurers.
Test vehicle supplied by DaimlerChrysler Australia-Pacific P/L.
|Model||Grand Cherokee Limited|
|Price of vehicle tested||$66,800|
|Country of manufacture||USA|
|Warranty||Three years, 60,000 km|
$52,500 - Laredo
|Number of cylinders||8|
|Engine size||4.7 L|
|Induction||Multipoint fuel injection|
|Claimed max power (kW)||130 kW @ 4600 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||301 Nm @ 2400 rpm|
|Wheel size||15 "|
|Type||Power assist recirculating ball|
|Turns to lock||3.2 m|
|Turning circle (measured)||11.4 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||2090 mm|
|Fuel capacity||78 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||1730 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||4.4 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||6.3 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||7.3 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||8.8 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||13.6 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||17.8 L/100km|
|Average on test||17.3 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||28.4 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||69 dB(A)|