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BUYERS GUIDE - WAGONS MEDIUM

JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE
Jeep's top-shelf wagon is now petrol and petrol hybrid only.

 

The 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee models were priced from $77,950 in three trim configurations: Night Eagle, Limited and Overland. A plug-in hybrid powertrain was offered on the late-2023 Summit Reserve 4xe model.

 

 

Diesel engines are out of favour with many North American based vehicle makers and Jeep is no exception. The petrol Pentastar powertrain was the only offering on 2023 models.

Standard equipment across the Jeep Grand Cherokee range included seat heating, Uconnect 5 navigation with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, powered front seats with power lumbar adjustment, height adjustable power liftgate, automatic LED headlamps, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Path Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Active Lane Management, Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (with cyclist detection), Drowsy Driver Detection and Traffic Sign Recognition.

The new interior had 4095 litres of total interior passenger volume (up116 litres over the previous generation) and 1067 litres of cargo space (+40 litres).

 

 

A new aluminium and steel unibody design mounted independent front and rear suspensions and, on Overland models, Quadra-Lift™ air springs with electronic semi-active damping. Maximum ground clearance was 276mm and aided 610mm of water fording ability.

For the first time ever on a Jeep Grand Cherokee, the front differential housing was bolted directly to the engine.

New for the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee was a front-axle disconnection feature. If the vehicle sensed that road conditions did not require all-wheel drive, the front-axle disconnect automatically put the Grand Cherokee in two-wheel drive, reducing drag on the driveline and improving fuel economy. Four-wheel drive automatically re-engaged when the vehicle sensed it was needed.

Also new for Grand Cherokee was a standard 10.25-inch frameless digital instrument cluster display with nearly two dozen different menus from which the user could select, including driver-assist technologies, such as adaptive cruise control, Drowsy Driver Detection and Traffic Sign Recognition.

 

 

Night Eagle

The Night Eagle specification included: Jeep Quadra-Trac I 4×4 System: black suede and leather bucket seats; eight-way power seats and four-way power lumbar for both driver and front passenger; heated first row seating; heated steering wheel; 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 Nav with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; 10.25-inch Multiview Display Cluster; six-speaker audio system; automatic LED headlamps; 20-inch gloss black alloy wheels; single-speed active transfer case; Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Path Detection; Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go; Active Lane Management; Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (with cyclist detection); Drowsy Driver Detection; raffic Sign Information; Height Adjustable Power Liftgate and Wireless Charging Pad

 

Limited

Limited specifications included: Jeep Quadra-Trac I 4×4 System with Selec-Terrain Management System; black leather-accented seats; eight-way power seats and four-way power lumbar for driver and front passenger; Driver Seat Memory; Heated First and Second Row Seating (outboard); Ventilated Front Seating; 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 Nav with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; 10.25-inch Multiview Display Cluster; nine-speaker Audio System; Second Row Window Shades; Ambient LED Lighting; Automatic LED Headlamps; silver 20-inch Alloy Wheels; Single-Speed Active Transfer Case; Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Path Detection; Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go; Active Lane Management; Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (with cyclist detection); Drowsy Driver Detection; Traffic Sign Information; Height Adjustable Power Liftgate; Wireless Charging Pad; 360-Degree Surround View Camera; Auto High Beam Headlamp Control and Digital Rearview Mirror

 

Overland

Overland specifications included: Jeep Quadra-Trac II Active 4×4 System with Selec-Terrain and Quadra Lift Air Suspension; black Nappa leather seats; Heated first and second row seating (outboard); Ventilated Front Seating; Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof; Nine Speaker Premium Audio System; Enhanced multi-colour ambient lighting; 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 Nav with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; 10.25-inch Multiview Display Cluster; Automatic LED Headlamps with Auto High Beam Control; Proximity Wake-up; 20-inch l Polished Aluminium Wheels; Two-Speed Active Transfer Case with low range gearing; Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Path Detection; Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go; Active Lane Management; Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (with cyclist detection); Drowsy Driver Detection; Traffic Sign Information; 360 Degree Camera and Hands-free Power Liftgate.

At launch, pricing for the 2023 Grand Cherokee ranged from $77,950 up to $98,450.

 

Grand Cherokee 4xe PHEV

 

 

The two-row-seating Grand Cherokee 4xe is the first Grand Cherokee  plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) variant. The internal combustion engine is a Stellantis, two-litre, turbocharged direct-injection, petrol engine.

The 4xe PHEV has combined torque of 640Nm and the 4WD system is Jeep’s Quadra Trac II, with two-speed transfer case and 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio, giving an overall 47.4:1 crawl ratio.

The Hybrid Summit Reserve 4xe test vehicle was was a top-spec model, with air suspension and all the ‘fruit’ and that, added to the cost of the hybrid powertrain, took its retail price to 130 grand. Ouch!

Apart from not wanting to damage such an expensive vehicle on our fire-trail test loop, we were put off by its wheel and tyre combination: 21-inchers, shod with 275/45 tyres that needed 40psi to keep the rims clear of obstacles. As a result, we didn’t do any off-bitumen driving, apart from a short towing stint on a muddy gravel road.

Also, the low-profile rubber gave the vehicle a firm ride on all but smooth bitumen. Why do auto companies keep bringing these stupid wheel and tyre combinations to Australia?

The steel temporary spare wheel supplied was another reason we didn’t venture far from civilisation.

Fortunately, we’ve driven Grand Cherokees off-road and know the capability of their height-variable air suspension and low-range gearing, provided they’re fitted with off-road rubber.

 

 

Speaking of height-variable air suspension, when we coupled up a Vista cross-over camper tailer, with its 160kg of ball weight, the 4xe’s rear air springs automatically raised the coupling height to an optimum 450mm point.

 

4xe powertrain

When you consider that the naturally aspirated engine choices in the Grand Cherokee have been the 3.6-litre V6 and 6.4-litre ‘Hemi’ V8, the 4xe model’s use of a relatively tiny two-litre four looks weird. However, this engine was designed for use with hybrid powertrains.

The 2.0L GME T4 Hurricane turbo engine is a 2.0-litre, in-line, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine, with direct petrol injection and 10:1 compression ratio. This engine is part of the Global Medium Engine (GME) architecture family created by the powertrain division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) – now part of the giant Stellantis Group.

The American version of this engine, made by the FCA US division, was introduced first in the 2018 Jeep Wrangler and a year later became available in the Jeep Cherokee.

This engine has a low-pressure, sand-cast, aluminium cylinder block, with cast-iron liners. In pursuit of optimal upper-cylinder cooling the engine block is an open-deck design that differs from the European closed-deck engine, as used in Alfa Romeo vehicles.

The 2.0L GME engine has a lightweight crankshaft that is offset from the cylinder bores. The crankshaft offset reduces cylinder wall side loading, because the connecting rod is more vertical during the power stroke.There’s also slightly longer piston ‘dwell’ during the combustion stroke and slightly longer piston stroke to bottom dead centre.

This offset-crank design isn’t new, having been a feature of some steam engines and hand-cranked American cars in the early 1900s. Henry Ford’s first V8, in 1932, also had an offset crankshaft.

The design is more thermally efficient than a symmetrical-crankshaft engine, but introduces serious balance vibrations. That wasn’t a problem, back in the early 1900s, when all roads were rough gravel and cars had bone-shaking suspension, but is an issue with modern vehicles. The balance and vibration issues have been largely eliminated by a low-friction, roller-bearing balance shaft.

The bore and stroke dimensions are ‘under-square’, at 84mm x 90mm, which is unusual for a petrol engine, but this donk was designed from the outset for turbocharging and coupling to a hybrid electric powertrain.

The engine block is also equipped with a variable-displacement, two-stage oil pump that provides high-pressure only under high-load engine operation and low-pressure oil during typical driving conditions. It also sends oil to the piston cooling jets, fitted in all four cylinder bores to control piston temperatures and reduce spark ‘knock’. Pistons are cast aluminium with four valve pockets and plasma-coated piston rings.

On top of the block, there is a cast aluminium alloy cylinder head. The 2.0 Hurricane head features four valves per cylinder, sodium-filled exhaust valves, a central injector, MultiAir valve-train with dual overhead camshafts (DOHC), high-tumble intake ports and a water-cooled, integrated exhaust manifold.

The intake and exhaust camshafts are driven by a low-friction, inverted-tooth timing chain and equipped with dual Variable Valve Timing (VVT). The engine uses hollow shafts with polished cam journals to reduce weight and improve durability.

The 2.0L GME T4 engine uses a direct injection system, with up to 2900psi in the high-pressure common-rail. This system injects fuel via multi-hole fuel nozzles inside the cylinders, providing better fuel atomisation and allowing for more precise fuel delivery than port injection.

A twin-scroll, low-inertia turbocharger, with an electronically actuated waste gate, is attached to the cylinder head, because the exhaust manifold is integrated into it. This water-cooled exhaust manifold reduces exhaust temperatures, improving turbocharger longevity and accelerating engine warming up.

 

 

Engine combustion air passes through a water/air charge-intake intercooler, with a separate cooling circuit. The cooling system also features a variable-flow water pump and an electric auxiliary water pump. The exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system is water-cooled as well.

Despite having very high power and torque delivery the engine can run on 91-octane fuel.

As fitted in the Grand Cherokee 4xe Hybrid the engine is rated at 200kW at 5200rpm, with peak torque of 400Nm at 3000rpm. The electric motor ratings are 80kW and 237Nm and that torque figure is available from zero rpm.

 

Real world testing

 

 

We borrowed a Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe press vehicle and evaluated the hybrid system by plugging it in to our house mains at times when the rooftop solar was delivering plenty of amps, so it was as ‘green’ an electricity supply as possible.

We drove it mainly in the ‘Hybrid’ mode setting, letting the computer work out how much battery power and how much petrol power to blend. We drove it like that partly loaded and also with a 1.5-tonnes cross-over camper trailer behind. (The 4xe is rated to tow a 2.7-tonnes ATM trailer.)

Additionally, we drove around town in the ‘Electric’ setting that restricted it to electric motors only and managed between 43km and 56km range. Interestingly, when operating in Electric mode the petrol engine kicked in briefly, when sudden acceleration was needed, as when merging onto a freeway, or overtaking.

Another operational option was ‘e-Save’ that restricted the 4xe to petrol power only, saving the battery for driving in an anticipated zero-emissions inner city zone.

In the ‘Hybrid’ setting the Jeep blended petrol and electric power seamlessly, so the only time we were conscious of the petrol engine’s operation was under heavy acceleration with the trailer in tow. The little engine worked up quite a buzz, but performance was outstanding and more than matched competitor diesel grunt.

Our 160-kilometre towing loop was through flat and moderately hilly terrain, with cruise control set on successive speeds limits, between 80km/h and 110km/h. Fuel consumption stabilised at 10.6L/100km, which is excellent for a towing vehicle. At the conclusion of the loop there was still 40-percent battery charge.

Using the Electric setting for around-town short trips and Hybrid on longer runs – including our towing loop – the Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4xe averaged 8.4L/100km over our week-long evaluation. That made it easily the most fuel efficient 4WD wagon or ute we’ve ever tested – petrol or diesel.

We’re looking forward to the 4xe PHEV option becoming available on lower-priced Grand Cherokee models, because very few people can afford – or need – the Summit Reserve version.

 

 

Post 2014 models

 

The interior of the post-2014 Grand Cherokee featured a revised centre stack, with a new Uconnect 8.4-inch media hub touch-screen display. The new steering wheel design incorporated controls for managing radio, cruise control, telephone and voice commands. All Grand Cherokee models were fitted with paddle shifters mounted on the back of the steering wheel as standard equipment.

Fully electronic, the ZF eight-speed automatic featured on-the-fly shift map changing, with manual shifting capability and electronic range select, using steering-wheel paddle controls. A wide ratio spread allowed lower engine rpm in both stop-start and highway environments, and the additional ratios reduced the gaps between gears.

The Grand Cherokee was available with the latest version of the turbo-diesel V6 engine, which produced maximum power of 184kW at 4000 rpm – up 7kW – and peak torque of 570Nm at 2000 rpm – 20Nm more than the previous model.

Combined with the new eight-speed transmission, fuel economy on the combined cycle was a claimed 7.5 L/100km, which was a 10 percent improvement, despite the increases in power and torque.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee was available in Laredo, Limited, Overland and SRT specification levels, with the Laredo grade offering 4×2 and 4×4 variants for the first time.

The 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol engine was fitted as standard on all mainstream Grand Cherokee models – Laredo, Limited and Overland. The 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 engine was available on Laredo 4×4, Limited and Overland models, while the 5.7-litre V8 engine was available on Limited and Overland models. The high-performance SRT model was  powered by the 6.4-litre Hemi V8 engine.

Pricing for 4WD versions ranged from $52,000 to $87,000, which was very keen, considering the Grand Cherokee’s equipment levels.

Suspension and drivetrain systems were similar to those introduced on the 2011 models, as described below in Previous Models. On and off road dynamics
were also similar.

 

Trailhawk version

In late 2016 a Trailhawk verison
was announced in the USA and was released in Australia in mid-2017.

The Trailhawk had a unique version of Grand Cherokee’s Quadra-Lift air suspension with up to 274mm of ground clearance, along with Selec-Speed Control
with Hill-ascent and Hill-descent.

It mounted 18-inch, Kevlar-reinforced offroad tyres and featured red tow hooks front and rear. Skid plates and a Trailhawk-specific anti-glare bonnet decal
were also standard.

Inside, Trailhawk got a unique black interior with leather and suede seats, red accent stitching, brushed Piano Black appliques, gun-metal finish on all
painted interior parts and a Trailhawk badge on the steering wheel.

The standard 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen included updated off-road info, showing wheel articulation and other vehicle 4×4 capability
features, such as suspension height and 4×4 and Selec-Terrain modes.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk models were available in Redline Red, Billet Silver, Bright White, Rhino, Granite Crystal, Velvet Red and Diamond Black Crystal.

In the United States, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk came with the Pentastar 3.6-litre V6 engine standard, and the option of EcoDiesel 3.0-litre V6 or Hemi V8. 

In December 2017 the world’s most powerful V8 SUV ever, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, was available in Australia, with 522kW of power and 848Nm of torque, courtesy of a supercharged 6.2-litre HEMI® V8 engine.

 

Summit version

In September 2019 Jeep Australia released the luxurious Grand Cherokee Summit V6 diesel model, with distinctive exterior styling and ultra-premium interior appointments.

The Summit featured a chrome and gloss black grille, 20-inch wheels finished in Platinum chrome and Platinum chrome exterior accents, including roof rails and badging.

The interior of the Summit
featured high-grade leather seats or optional quilted leather seats with detailed contrast stitching, and leather-wrapped upper and lower door panels, centre console and glove box.

A Harmon Kardon audio system with subwoofer and 19 high-performance speakers was standard.

An acoustic rear window and second row door glass were said to reduce noise inside the cabin by up to 10dB.

The Grand Cherokee Summit MY19 model started at $84,450 MSRP plus on roads.

 

2020 model

 

In October 2020 Jeep announced the MY20 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, with a supercharged 6.2-litre V8, delivering 522kW and 868Nm and 2.9 tonnes towing capacity.

With its ‘Trackhawk’ moniker we doubt many of these vehicles ever went off-road on their 20-inch lightweight forged alloy wheels with Pirelli P-Zero 3 Season tyres.

The top-shelf interior boasted a Signature Laguna leather-wrapped package as standard and fourth-generation Uconnect 215mm (8.4-inch) touchscreen, with Trackhawk Performance Pages, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

With forged aluminium pistons, powder-forged connecting rods and sodium-centred exhaust valves, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk was said to reach 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds.

On-road driving dynamics were achieved by a Selec-Track 4WD system, Bilstein adaptive-damping suspension, Brembo brakes and TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift control.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk could be yours in 2020, from $139,950.

 

Lifter issues

Since we tested the Grand Cherokee we heard of recurrence of the well-known Hemi V8 lifter problem. The hydraulic lifters that actuate the valve train can suffer from what appears to be lack of lubrication.

Our research indicates that the problem is a design issue and engines that are idled excessively or under-worked suffer most from the problem. The most authoritative cause we’ve come across is the shallow operating angle fo the lifters, reducing there amount of oil flow over the roller ends that bear on the camshaft.

In comparison, competitive pushrod V8s have more vertical lifter galleries, encouraging oil flow down the full length of the lifters. Also, the high-set position of the camshaft in the Hemi block reduces the amount of oil splash from the rotating crankshaft.

We asked FCA – Chrysler’s Australian parent company – for comment, but they refused to answer several emails.

We were assured by Chrysler that this problem had been fixed, but in late-2021 it appeared not. We heard of problems with late model Jeeps and Chrysler 300 cars suffering lifter failure – including a 2020 NSW Highway Patrol car.

 

 

2022 models

 

 

The US-market 2021 model year Jeep Grand Cherokee was available as a longer- wheelbase, seven-passenger ‘L’ version and was released in mid-2022 in Australia. The existing powertrains carried-over for 2022.

Three Jeep 4×4 systems and class-leading Selec-Terrain traction management system with five terrain modes continued, but with more off-road ground clearance and water fording capability in models fitted with Quadra-Lift air suspension and electronic adaptive damping.

Standard were a 254mm (10-inch) display screen, frameless digital gauge cluster, touchscreen radio and LED lighting.  Driver and front passenger seat massage and personalised climate zones are optional.

Quilted Palermo leather, open-pore waxed walnut wood trim and 21-inch wheels were part of the Summit Reserve Package.

The Grand Cherokee was said to be equipped with more than 110 advanced safety and security features, including L2 driver-assist systems with hands-on automated driving, 360-degree surround view and night vision cameras. 

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, windshield Head-up Display (HUD), digital rearview mirror, rear seat monitoring camera and an exclusive and premium 960-watt, 19-speaker McIntosh audio sound system were available.

The first Jeep Grand Cherokee L models were priced from A$82,250

Third-row space, increased cargo carrying capacity, more legroom in the second row and improved entry and exit were thanks to larger door openings.

Standard equipment across the Jeep Grand Cherokee L range in Australia iincluded seat heating, Uconnect 5 navigation with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leather-trimmed and powered front seats with power lumbar adjustment, height adjustable Power Liftgate, automatic LED headlamps, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Path Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Active Lane Management, Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (with cyclist detection), Drowsy Driver Detection and Traffic Sign Recognition.

 

Pre-2014 Models

The new-shape Grand Cherokee was released here with petrol-only engines, until mid-2011, when a three-litre V6 turbo-diesel was added to the lineup. The vehicle was built on the Mercedes-Benz M-Class platform, having been designed during the eight-year existence of the merged Daimler Chrysler Group.

Three levels of equipment were available – Laredo, Limited and Overland.  The standard engine in Laredo and Limited was an upgraded Jeep petrol V6, with a claimed output of 210kW at 6350rpm and peak torque of 347Nm at 4300rpm. A 5.7-litre HEMI V8 was optional in Limited and standard in Overland, and had claimed output of 259kW at 5200rpm, with peak torque of 520Nm at 4200rpm.

Grand Cherokee Laredo and Limited had Quadra-Trac II active full-time 4WD as standard. Quadra-Trac II’s two-speed transfer case used input from a variety of sensors in order to determine tyre slip and take corrective action. The system used Throttle Anticipate to sense quick movement in the throttle from a stop and maximized traction before slippage occurs. When tyre slippage was detected, as much as 100 percent of available torque was instantly sent to the axle with the most traction.

Quadra-Drive, with an electronic rear limited slip differential, was standard in Overland and optional in Limited.

Laredo and Limited had independent coil-spring suspension, while Limited came with ‘Benz-designed multi-height air suspension that offered five height settings over a 100mm range. Quadra-Lift air suspension was an option on Laredo and Limited.

All 2011 Grand Cherokees also came with Selec-Terrain traction control that let the driver choose from five driving off-road parameters, for the optimum setting for different terrain. This feature electronically coordinated up to 12 different powertrain, braking and suspension functions, including throttle control, transmission shift, transfer case, traction control and electronic stability control (ESC).

Laredo ran on 265/80R18 rubber, while Limited and Overland had 265/50R20 tyres.

Equipment levels were high, with tyre pressure monitoring, fog lamps, keyless entry, auto HID headlights with self-levelling, auto-dip and wiper functions, auto windscreen wipers, power-fold mirrors, rear view camera, three power outlets,  roof rails, multiple airbags, eight-way power front seats with four-way lumbar-adjustment and Bluetooth standard.

Limited models picked up Jeep Memory for seats, steering column, mirrors and audio; leather seats; TPMS display and a premium sound system.

Overlands came with additional kit: frontal collision warning, powered tailgate, reversing warning of approaching vehicles, ventilated front seats, wood trim, optional powered sunroof, Quadra-Lift air suspension and navigation system.

In June 2011 the V6 diesel model was released, not with the previous 3.0-litre ‘Benz M-Class V6, but a new joint-effort engine by long-term Jeep diesel supplier, VM Motori and Fiat Powertrain. Fiat was Chrysler’s new partner, having replaced Daimler AG.

The 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine produced 177kW at 4000rpm with 550Nm of torque at 1800-2800rpm – 10 percent more power and eight percent more torque than the engine it replaced.

The engine incorporated a compressed graphite iron, 60-degree block with aluminium cylinder heads and a two-piece structural aluminium sump.

Bore was 83 mm and stroke was 92 mm.

The V6 turbo diesel engine was fitted with new-generation, 1800-bar injectors with new MultiJet II technology.

Even with its improved performance, fuel economy for the new 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine was a claimed 8.3 L/100km on the combined cycle, an improvement of 19 percent over the previous diesel engine. CO2 emissions (combined cycle) were also said to be reduced by 20 percent, to 218 g/km.

Our on and off-road testing showed that the Grand Cherokee is very similar to the Mercedes-Benz M-Class on which it is based. Even with air suspension and the off-road kit it’s not a severe-service off-road like LandCruiser or Discovery 3 and 4.

Jeep’s less than brilliant attention to RHD ergonomics continued in the 2011 model, with a foot-operated parking brake pedal intruding uncomfortably on driver’s left-leg space. M-B used an electric parking brake in the ML and we think Jeep should adopt that design as well.

In October 2012, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 was launched, with performance engineering from Chrysler Group LLC’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) team. It proved ideal for those to whom 0-100km/h in 5.0-seconds; 0-160-0 km/h in the mid-16-second range; a quarter mile in the mid-13-second range and  a top speed of 257km/h are important.

jeep trailhawk In March 2013 the limited-edition Trailhawk model was released. Based on the Limited diesel model the Trailhawk was kitted out with off-road options and distinguished by a unique colour scheme.

The Trailhawk was based on the Grand Cherokee Limited model that is already very well specified: 177kW/550Nm V6 three-litre turbo-diesel engine; five-speed auto box; 93-litre fuel tank; 3500kg towing capacity; Selec Terrain off-road programming; all the expected electronic braking and stability aids; tyre pressure monitoring; multiple airbags; electro-hydraulic power steering; hill-start and descent control; auto HID headlights; front and rear park sensors; three 12V outlets and heated front and rear seats.

You could have any Trailhawk colour scheme you like, as long as it was Bright White, with a large black and red bonnet sticker, black headlamp bezels, red recovery hooks, mineral grey mirrors, wheels arches, steel Mopar rock‐rails and grille, and Trailhawk badging. Inside were red stitching and anodised silver highlights, and black shiny leather and suede seats with inset Trailhawk logos.

‘Fruit’ included a powered tailgate with key fob control, powered sun roof, satellite navigation with reversing camera, heated steering wheel rim and Mopar rubber floor mats.

Off-road kit included Quadra‐Drive II 4WD system, off-road oriented 3.45 axle ratios (in lieu of 3.09); 230mm rear axle; electronic limited slip differential; Quadra‐Lift air suspension; 265/60R18 109T Goodyear Silent Armor (sic) tyres; 18 x 8.0 grey aluminium wheels; fuel tank skid plate; transfer case skid plate; front suspension skid plate and underbody skid plate.

No other wagon maker came close to delivering a package like that for less than $70,000.

The Trailhawk was optimised for off-road use and was shod with useful Goodyear rubber. Although necessarily ‘T’ rated these tyres had an A/T tread pattern and a 109 load rating, which was reasonable for occasional bush work. The grey wheel finish was an easier-maintenance option for bush work than polished silver. However, the standard spare was the normal temporary job, so those wanting to go off-road needed to budget for a swing-away spare wheel carrier, or a roof rack.

The Trailhawk’s engine bay was tidy, but crowded – there wasn’t even room for the vehicle’s starting battery – so it wasn’t possible to fit any under-bonnet accessories. Also, the engine air intake was a scoop above the left hand headlight and although it was fitted with a rubber splash shield the arrangement wasn’t ideal for deep water crossings.

Underbody protection on the Trailhawk was a comprehensive full-metal jacket that protected most components, so rolling the odd rock or tree branch underneath wasn’t likely to break anything, or drag wires or pipes out of place. The sill protectors weren’t full-on rock sliders, but they were firmly attached steel tubes that could take a mild hit from rock shelves.

The Trailhawk’s air suspension gave an excellent ride on all road surfaces and the electric power steering was pin-sharp. Handling was car-like, belying the fact that the Grand Cherokee tipped the scales at 2.7 tonnes, two-up and with a light load on board.

Fuel consumption over this 10-day on- and off-road test worked out just under 10 litres/100km, which is very good.
jeep trailhawk With the suspension height cranked up in off-road mode the ride quality was good on smooth surfaces, but like other air suspension systems – notably Discovery 4 and M-Class – it stiffened up considerably when the terrain became rocky or deeply rutted.

Like most top-shelf wagons the Trailhawk had a version of the off-road programming system pioneered by Land Rover in the Discovery 3. A console dial selects terrain options and a dashboard display advises if the suspension needs to be raised to make a terrain-type selection possible.

The Trailhawk handled typical fire trails with ease and hill descent control took over when engine braking was insufficient to hold downhill speed on steep grades. However, HDC wasn’t much use on our severe-grade, low-range test.

We took the Trailhawk to a demanding rock-shelf test course and it didn’t like this terrain at all. The suspension felt way too stiff and the dampers couldn’t control air spring reaction to deep depressions and bumps, even at crawling speeds. Traction control and the electronic rear diff lock worked overtime to maintain progress, while wheels lifted clear through lack of suspension travel. The suspension thumped loudly as it dealt with these low-speed undulations.

As Mercedes-Benz should do with the M-Class, Jeep engineers need to spend some time on the Grand Cherokee’s raised-air-suspension behaviour. (Land Rover has managed better with the Disco 4’s raised suspension, but then buggered up the off-road formula by fitting only 19-inch wheels to it!)

We suspect what the Jeep needs is a set of dampers that have electronically variable damping, to match the increased spring rate of the air springs when they’re pumped up to increase ride height.

 

Pre-2000 Models

 

Although not introduced to Australia until 1996 the Jeep Grand Cherokee was launched in the USA in 1992, sharing its four-litre, six-cylinder petrol engine with the monocoque Cherokee, but with body on frame construction. In 1994 side intrusion beams were installed and the base model was renamed SE. In 1995 all Grand Cherokees scored all-disc brakes and a passenger-side airbag was added for 1996, in a redesigned dashboard. A restyled grille and optional fog lamps distinguished the front end.

A new steering wheel contained cruise-control switches and a centre horn pad. Front and rear shoulder belts gained height adjustment. This was the first Australian-market Grand Cherokee.

In late 1998 the newly merged DaimlerChrysler Group was in high spirits when the 1999-year model was released, with only 127 carry-over parts from the previous Grand Cherokee.

The new Grand Cherokee had the same wheelbase, but with 25-mm wider track and was 100mm longer, 50mm higher and 75mm wider than the 1998 model.

Engines were an all-new petrol 4.7-litre V-8 PowerTech, with 172kW and the proved 4.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine, reworked to produce 145kW.

A new electronically-controlled transmission greatly improved shift refinement. It featured a novel alternate second gear ratio of 1.67 or 1.50, depending on speed and throttle position.

An All-New Quadra-Drive 4WD system was built around a Quadra-Trac transfer case that incorporated a progressive, speed-sensing torque-transfer differential and front and rear Vari-Lok axles that had also had progressive, speed-sensing torque transfer differentials.

The anti-lock braking system incorporated electronic brake distribution (EBD). By the end of 1999 some two million Grand Cherokees had been sold, mainly in North America, but in mid-2000 there was a recall of 474,000 of them, built between 1997 and 1999, to replace and relocate the air bag control module.

In June 2000 the V8 PowerTech engine was introduced to the Grand Cherokee entry -level Laredo – previously available only in the top-of-the-range Grand Cherokee Limited.

The V8 engine in the Laredo was the same as that in the Limited, with 162kW of power at 4700rpm and 390Nm of torque at 3200rpm.

The introduction of the V8 Laredo brought the model lineup for the Grand Cherokee to three: Laredo 4.0 litre six-cylinder, V8 Laredo and V8 Limited. The Laredo was also available with Quadra-Drive four-wheel-drive system as an option.

Pre-GST pricing was Grand Cherokee Laredo 4.0 Six Cylinder $53,500, V8 Laredo $57,400, V8 Laredo with Quadra-Drive $59,950. Grand Cherokee Limited V8 $67,950 and Grand Cherokee Limited with Quadra-Drive $70,500.

In early 2002 the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland model was introduced, with a high output version of the standard 4.7-litre V8. Producing 190kW – 16 percent more power than the standard V8 – with 425Nm of torque – an eight per cent increase– this engine gave the Grand Cherokee Overland a top speed of 207 km/h.

The HO engine was mated to a new Jeep five-speed 545RFE automatic transmission, with two overdrive ratios.

Grand Cherokee Overland was distinguished by machined-rim, five-spoke 17×7.5 aluminium wheels, body-colour exterior fascia panels, a body colour grille, rock rails to protect the sills and a bright-finished exhaust pipe. Overland was also fitted with skid plates to protect the fuel tank, transfer case and front suspension.

Inside, equipment included a power sunroof, suede and leather seat trim, embroidered “Overland” floor mats, 10-way powered and heated front seats and real red wood trim, side curtain airbags for front and rear outboard occupants, increased height headrests and a centre lap-sash seat belt and headrest on the rear seat.

Quadra Drive and Vari-lok axles were standard.

RRP was $75,490 plus on-road and dealer costs.

In 2003, the Grand Cherokee Overland, Grand Cherokee Limited and Grand Cherokee Laredo received a 2.7L common-rail direct injection (CRD) turbo diesel engine option. The Mercedes-Benz 2.7L CRD engine provided 120kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm of torque at 1800 to 2600 rpm, and was paired with an electronically controlled, five-speed automatic transmission.

The 2.7L CRD turbo diesel engine had estimated fuel economy of 8.1L/100 km on the extra urban cycle, 12.5L/100 km during city driving and 9.7L/100 km on the combined cycle.

With this powertrain enhancement Jeep Grand Cherokee offered customers the choice of the 2.7L CRD I-5 diesel engine, Power Tech 4.0L I-6, Power Tech 4.7L V8 or the Power Tech 4.7L High-Output V-8. P ricing for the diesel option was odd: a $900 extra cost on the Laredo model (diesel retail was $59,890), but only a $100 extra cost on the Limited model ($69,890) and a $2600 reduction on the Overland model, compared with the high-output petrol V8 model (diesel retail was $74,890).

Our on and off road testing showed that the ‘Benz diesel and auto box combination worked as well in the Grand Cherokee as it did in the Mercedes-Benz ML270, so performance was brisk on-road and very strong off-road.

However, the transmission in the Grand Cherokee was marred by a traditional long-throw automatic box shift lever, with a button that needed to be depressed for every manual downshift. The 4WD control lever was heavy in action and sited between the driver and the main lever – a legacy of the Jeep’s left-hand-drive origins.

A plus for the Jeep was the opening tailgate glass – handy for dropping shopping into the cargo area, without having to lift the tailgate.

The Jeep VariLok self-locking diffs worked more effectively with a steady stream of diesel torque feeding them than they did with petrol power.

The Jeep’s heavy steering action was fine for freeway trips, but loaded up annoyingly in the twisty stuff. The Jeep also suffered from too-reactive suspension action that saw the body – and the bodies inside – moving around excessively on rough surfaces.

Braking in on all surfaces was powerful, with well-modulated ABS action. Our on and off road testing resulted n an economy figure of 11.54L/100km.

For 2004 the Grand Cherokee was given a facelift, with a new front fascia and grille and Overland and Limited models also featured round fog lamps. In mid-2005 the Mercedes-Benz V6 3.0-litre common-rail diesel (CRD) from the M-Class was slotted into the Grand Cherokee, replacing the previous Benz-sourced five-cylinder and offered a 33 per cent increase in power and 28 per cent increase in torque. With Bosch high-pressure fuel injection (1600+ bar), a variable geometry turbocharger and four-valves-per-cylinder, the V6 put out 160kW, with peak torque of 510 Nm, available from 1600 rpm.

The 2005 Grand Cherokee featured Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system, which combined a full-time-4×4 transfer case with three electronic limited slip differentials (ELSDs). The system detected wheel spin and distributed engine torque to the tyres with traction. The previous model Jeep Grand Cherokee used VariLok hydraulically-activated clutch packs that worked fine in constant-friction, on and off road conditions, but were found wanting on variable-friction surfaces.

The new NV245 active transfer case included a centre differential coupled to an electronically controlled clutch pack that operated between an open state and fully locked, with variable torque distribution in between. The low-range gear ratio was 2.72:1.

Automatic torque transfer front-to-rear was achieved through the centre ELSD and automatic lateral torque distribution via the front and rear axle ELSDs that also had electronically controlled clutch packs.

Our testing showed that the V6 Jeep Grand Cherokee handled most on-road and off-road situations very well, but for tough off road work it needed more ground clearance.

The front-axle ELSD released during turns to allow normal operation of the differential and prevent system wind-up and binding. The rear axle ELSD din’t release totally when low-range was selected and this action showed in a definite ‘slip and grip’ action by the rear tyres during tight turns.

Controls were uncluttered and straightforward to operate, except that the park brake lever was left of centre, closer to the passenger seat and its operation felt awkward – typical of Jeep’s continued poor RHD conversion process.

The height adjustable driver’s seat provided a good driving position. Visibility to the sides and rear was good, but the rear-view mirror obstructed the view to the front of the vehicle on some downhill off-road sections.

In 2006 Jeep released a high performance Street and Racing Technology (SRT) version of its flagship Grand Cherokee, with a claimed 0-100 km/h time in the low-five-second range.

Running 20-inch wheels, performance-tuned suspension and Brembo brakes, and priced at $85,990, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 was powered by a 6.1-litre HEMI V8, with 313kW and 569Nm – 30 per cent more power than the 5.7-litre HEMI.

On the eve of the collapse of the merged DaimlerChrysler, in early 2007, Jeep added a 3.7-litre V6 petrol power plant to the Grand Cherokee range. The 3.7-litre V6 produced 148kW of power and 315Nm of torque, and contributed to the Laredo’s new RRP of $51,990.

Chrysler got on with the business of pretending it had never heard the word ‘Daimler’ at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, where the 2008 models were previewed.

The 2008 Grand Cherokee picked up a MyGIG Multimedia Entertainment System that could support built-in navigation, reversing camera display, along with hill start assist (HSA) and hill descent control (HDC), Trailer Sway Control and an improved 4.7-litre V8 that was said to have 30 percent more power and six percent better fuel economy. The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 scored high-intensity discharge (HID) auto-levelling headlamps.

Rear view camera, rear park assist, rain-sensing wipers, memory seats and mirrors and iPod connectivity were standard on Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited models.
The 2008 Global Financial Crisis couldn’t have come at a worse time for Chrysler, still struggling in the early post-DaimlerChrysler era. To gain financial support from US Congress the company had to disclose its future product plans, including the specifications of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was based on the Mercedes-Benz M-Class platform.

Against this background there was little excitement over the 2010 announcement of the return of the Overland badge to the outgoing model, in a release limited to just 50 vehicles.

Bush Modifications

Live-axled Jeep Grand Cherokees – all pre-2011 models – could do with ground clearance increases, but this a difficult task, thanks to the short leading and trailing arms used by Jeep. Height increases can lead to quirky on-road handling, so modify with care.

Jeep makes an off-road pack for post-2011 models that incorporates underbody protection plates.

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