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New Car/Review

Jeep

1999 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE LAREDO

By Matt/Bob Hagin

JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE LAREDO
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 27,770
Price As Tested                                    $ 33,190
Engine Type              SOHC 16-valve 4.7 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 287 cid/4700 cc
Horsepower                                   235 @ 4600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               295 @ 3200 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  105.9"/72.3"/181.5"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3964 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  20.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                      P225/75R16 OWL all-season
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                                 84-percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A
	 	 
	 
PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average                            15/19/16          
0-60 MPH                                        9.0 seconds
Cargo capacity                              72.3 cubic feet
Maximum towing capacity                         6500 pounds

* Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(Matt Hagin likes the fact that the Jeep Cherokee has been progressively upgraded since it was introduced in 1974. Bob Hagin notes that the original had a V8 offered as an option back then too.)

BOB - When Jeep first offered its then-flashy Cherokee wagon as an alternative for its more expensive Wagoneer 25 years ago, it set the stage for civilized, mid-sized sport/utility vehicles. The SUV label wasn't in common use then and the concept of offering a family-oriented four-wheel-drive all-weather machine that could take the kids to an out-of-the-way fishing spot was new and innovative. The Jeep name had been around a long time, but it was right around that time that it became a separate brand.

MATT - Although this new Grand Cherokee that we evaluated has only 125 parts carried over from the previous model, it's still easily identifiable as a Jeep. The company sold over a quarter-million of them last year and did so in what is probably the most competitive segment of the auto sales market. And that was a model that was getting pretty long in the tooth and dated. The Cherokee was one of the first SUVs that appeared with unit-body construction which is much different than a separate truck-based frame with a body bolted on top. This saves a lot of weight, of course, and makes the Grand Cherokee more car-like in its handling and ride than some of the others.

BOB - he body of this new Grand Cherokee looks a lot like the last version, but with the angular corners rounded off. It has a relatively short wheelbase at 105 inches, which makes it very maneuverable in mid-town traffic. The new body is four inches longer, however, and the track has been increased by an inch. These additional inches increase the interior dimensions a bit and there is now 73 cubic feet of cargo space. The extra size also tends to move the Grand Cherokee away from that somewhat lean look of the earlier versions. Also, the door sills have been lowered by an inch, which makes getting into and out of the Grand Cherokee a bit easier this year.

MATT - The Grand Cherokee has had some pretty spectacular mechanical changes this year too, Dad. The standard engine is still the 4.0 liter straight-six that's been under the hoods of Jeeps for a long time, but the optional V8 is an all-new 4.7 liter unit with a single overhead camshaft on each of the aluminum heads. It puts out 230 horsepower and a whopping 290 pound/feet of torque which is a lot for an engine this size. With the right optional Group IV towing package, its trailering ability is 6500 pounds. The transmission on the straight-six is the same four-speed automatic that was on the old version, but the new V8 has an equally new automatic that has two second-speed ratios. In effect, this makes it a five-speed, which is handy if the driver elects to take an off-road excursion through the brambles and over creek beds.

BOB - The Grand Cherokee V8 also packs a new traction control system. Jeep calls it Quadra-Drive, and it splits the torque between the wheels via a set of electrohydraulic pumps that sense the slippage of one wheel and shifts power to the ones that are still gripping. It's more sensitive and less complex than the older version. And thankfully, the Grand Cherokee is finally equipped with disc brakes on all four wheels and they're twin-pots rather than sliding calipers. This won't make a lot of difference on the highway but in mud, ice, snow and other nasty road conditions, the stuff that's thrown up on the brakes won't have so much monkey-motion brake hardware to cling to or corrode.

MATT - Surprisingly, Jeep has hung onto the solid live axle design up front, which is a throwback to the Jeeps of 60 years ago, but it's controlled by coil springs, which softens the ride. Jeep engineers stuck with this design because they felt it gives the Grand Cherokee more tenacity when it's used off-road.

BOB - It's a good thing those engineers didn't insist that we try out the Grand Cherokee off-road, Matt. The roughest and bumpiest terrain I want to traverse anymore is the torn-up main street of our hometown or the bump in front of our driveway.