The new Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited is simply the best handling big Jeep ever.
For years, the ride and handling on road was mediocre – no more. It's a long distance cruiser with a smooth ride, just as good on road as belting through the boonies. Of all the sports utility vehicles around, this was the one born for rock and rill.
Around the big sweepers, the Grand Cherokee handles better than many car-based SUVs. It demonstrated a touch of understeer (the desire to go straight in curves) while cutting into the line of the curve.
A lot of the improved handling can be traced to the full-time four-wheel drive called Quadra-Drive II. It can detect tire slip and redistribute engine power to the tires with traction. Sometimes it will even anticipate low traction and adjust.
There's a bit less weight on front wheels thanks to a smaller engine – a 3.0L V-6 turbo diesel.
It packs a fairly modest 215 horsepower, but like all diesels has a lot of low-end torque, or power, to the wheels. That helps in towing and produces a respectable 0-60 mph of 8.9 seconds.
For the horsepower hungry, there are a 4.7L V-8 of 235 horsepower and a 5.7L V-8 of 330 horsepower. But neither approaches the fuel economy of the turbodiesel – 20 city and 24 highway with a range of 425 miles.
That diesel is similar to the Mercedes-Benz Bluetec and comes from Berlin as well. It's the first diesel offered in full-size SUVs, Jeep says. The five-speed automatic transmission is from Germany as well. It can be shifted manually if you're towing anything (Grand Cherokee can haul up to 7,400 pounds). There is little diesel burble or clouds of smoke from the new and improved engine.
The oil burner adds $3,700 to the Grand Cherokee base price of $37,770 and contributes to the $42,910 tag for the tested vehicle.
|Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited
•Engines: 3.0L V-6 turbodiesel; 3.7L V-6; 4.7L V-8; and 5.7L V-8
•Dimensions: 110" wheelbase; 187" length
•Base price: $37,770; As tested $42,940
•Fuel economy: 20/24 mpg (diesel)
The engine snuggles into a somewhat longer Grand Cherokee hood whose design emphasizes more distance between the front axle and the base of the windshield. It's the rear-wheel drive stance that lends a more elegant length to the hoodline.
The front end retains the signature seven-slot grille – chrome in the Limited and body-colored in the Laredo model.
Inside there's lots of imitation wood and chrome rim trim. Jeep says brand new to the model are "color-keyed interior color cup holders." We've been waiting for that.
Most importantly, the radio has two knobs – one for power and volume and the other (the right-hand one) for tuning. Another technological breakthrough.