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New Car Review


by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Jeep Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 38,175
Price As Tested                                    $ 39,355
Engine Type                            5.9 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 360 cid/5899 cc
Horsepower                                   245 @ 4000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               345 @ 3200 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  105.9"/70.7"/177.2"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4232 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    23 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/70R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 84 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.45


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            13/17/14
0-60 MPH                                        7.1 seconds
Payload                                         1150 pounds
Towing capacity                                 5000 pounds
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

When Chrysler took a bunch of journalists (myself included) to test the new Jeep Wrangler on the famed Rubicon Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains recently, I was amazed to see several Jeep Grand Cherokees, each carrying a family of four, were scheduled to join us.

They were only slightly modified with skid plates and larger tires, and each pulled a small off-road trailer. The trip took its toll on those Grand Cherokees, but only in the form of superficial scrapes, scratches and dents. True to the Chrysler top brass claim, "Any vehicle named Jeep must be able to handle the Rubicon trail."

OUTSIDE - Grand Cherokee comes with new names this year. The Laredo is the entry-level model, followed by the TSi. Two Limited models are differentiated by what comes under the hood. And other than the wire mesh behind the grille, the 5.9 Limited looks much the same as the Orvis model did last year. New exterior features on the 5.9 Limited include a pair of functional louvers cut into the hood, a beautiful set of five-spoke alloy wheels and a restyled roof rack. It's available in three different colors: Bright Platinum, Stone White and a new color, Deep Slate. The standard tires on the 5.9 Limited model are Goodyear Wrangler all-terrains, sized 225/70R16 and a full-sized spare tire with a matching alloy wheel is also standard. They provide excellent grip both on and off-road, and are relatively quiet on the highway.

INSIDE - Although it's quite capable of handling the rough stuff, this Grand Cherokee has luxury squarely in its sights. The seating is ultra-plush - maybe a bit too soft - but comfortable. The dashboard is stocked with all the necessary gauges and controls, which are simple to read and reach. Faux wood trim wraps the shifter handle, sweeps up the dash, and cuts across the top of each door panel. The Limited version of the Grand Cherokee 5.9 is loaded with nearly every available feature. Some of that standard equipment includes climate control, a full length center console, sun roof, power windows, door locks, mirrors and front seats, leather upholstery, and a high powered AM/FM/cassette/CD system.

ON THE ROAD - The news for 1998 is that Grand Cherokee is more powerful than ever before. Joining the inline six-cylinder and the 5.2 liter V8 is a 5.9 liter (360 cubic-inch) V8 that develops a healthy 245 horsepower and 345 lb-ft of torque. That's 25 horses and a whopping 45 more lb-ft of torque than the 5.2 liter (318 cubic-inch) V8. Chrysler claims a nearly 25 percent reduction in exhaust back pressure from a new, larger exhaust system. Also new is an electric cooling fan and a 150 amp alternator. The acceleration is surprisingly quick, 0-60 mph in just over seven seconds. The throttle action, however, is a bit "touchy," so the vehicle jumps quickly while pulling away from stoplights until you're used to the feeling. It can haul a 5000-pound trailer with the optional tow package, but curiously, even with more horsepower and more torque, the 5.9 liter version is rated to tow 1500 pounds less than the 318.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Underneath Grand Cherokee is a combination of sedan and truck. It uses a unit body platform, which allows the floor to be low, and makes entering the vehicle easier. It also is supported by coil springs to give it a soft ride. The truck components underneath are the front and rear solid axles, certainly tough, but not nearly as responsive as the vehicle would be with independent front suspension. Its all-wheel-drive system is called Quadra-Trac, and essentially needs no input by the driver, unless a low transfer case range is necessary, where a floor-mounted lever is the control. This year, to aid steering responsiveness, a torsion bar inside the power steering system has been added. With over eight inches of ground clearance, it will handle relatively serious off-road maneuvers without ruining the undercarriage. Braking duties are handled by disc brakes at all four wheels, with a standard anti-lock braking system (ABS).

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS and side-impact protection are standard.

OPTIONS - The towing package adds $245, while skid plates and tow hooks cost $209 extra. Our tester had a $40 engine block heater.