into the leather seating, the friend's response was immediate.
"Ah, this feels like my Jeep. I miss it. I'm going
to have to get another one." Remembering a favored
former set of wheels is one thing, but going beyond memory
into the next must-have mode is quite another. With the
total redesign of the Grand Cherokee for 2005, Jeep might
have pushed the magic "gotta have" button for
a lot of folks who strayed.
new ground-up iteration is classier, more capable (and a
tad costlier, depending on incentive wars) than the long-in-the-tooth
model it replaced. The Grand Cherokee look is still there
-- sort of -- but definitely cleaner and more refined. A
straight, high beltline underscores smaller side windows
for a more solid appearance. Subtly reshaped sides avoid
the splatter of off-road tire debris. Its face, as expected,
remains anchored by the sacrosanct seven-slot grille.
the excitement category, some unexpected guts are added
to the model. How does Grand Cherokee with an optional HEMI
V-8 sound? Yes, Jeep offers the legendary and much sought-after
5.7-liter powerplant as one of two new engine choices. Besides
that, count the changes: Two new transfer cases (for on-road
and off-road authority), all-new suspension, first-ever
rack and pinion steering for responsive turning, an all-new
five-speed automatic transmission. Power in the base model
Laredo comes from a 3.7-liter, 210-HP V-6, new for the Grand
Cherokee. Standard for the upmarket Limited is the upgraded
4.7-liter, 230-HP V-8.
amenities aren't missing either. It's immediately apparent
with just-right touches of wood and chrome, and with storage
and cupholders sensibly placed. Leather throughout, sunroof
and a drop down, headset-muting DVD, as tested, confirm
its high-toned status (with a sticker of $40,515). Lux also
comes from rain sensing wipers, smartly restyled instrument
gauges, six-speaker Boston Acoustics audio and a nav system
integrated MP3 player.
safety, there's an "energy management" body structure,
standard tire pressure monitors and optional side curtain
airbags. While we didn't have a chance to take it truly
off road, even rough pavement and gravel road handling was
smooth and responsive with the hint that authority was there
if one needed to transverse a ditch -- or a mountain pass.
Our take on the new Grand Cherokee? Crisp, responsive, a
joy to drive.