Here we have the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee, our choice for the Truckin's 2005 SUV Of The Year. Now, loyal Truckin' reader, as you read this, you may be reaching for your phone to consult the mental experts about our sanity and why we chose a Jeep, but rest assured, the Jeep Grand Cherokee really is this good. Also, before you complete the phone call to those doctors in white jackets, read why we chose the Jeep Grand Cherokee as our SUV of the Year.
Jeep is evolving as brand and is poised to introduce vehicles that go beyond the hard-core off-roaders that consumers are used to seeing. With more highway-oriented vehicles on the horizon, Jeep continues to refine its lineup, while still producing true off-road vehicles - attaching the Trail Rated moniker to those that remain rugged enough for off-road use. 330
For 2005, the Jeep Grand Cherokee retains its Trail Rated badge and has a re-engineered platform with an all-new suspension and powertrain, including the 5.7L Hemi with Multi-Displacement System (MDS) as the top motor. In the Grand, the Hemi boasts 330 hp at 5,000 rpm and a muscular 375 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, which was enough to make the Grand Cherokee the top finisher in our acceleration tests. Other engine choices include the 3.7L V-6 and 4.7L V-8, all backed by five-speed automatic transmissions. Three 4WD systems are offered, but our tester came with the top-of-the-line Quadra-Drive II with an industry-first front and rear Electronic Limited Slip Differentials. This system makes the Grand as capable as a mountain goat off-road.
The new independent front suspension with coilover shocks is a huge step forward over the old solid axle and improves wheel travel by 10 percent, which should make this change easier for solid axle loyalists to stomach. Together, the improvements to the front suspension save weight, improve handling, lower the center of gravity, and allow for more precise steering. The rear retains a solid axle, but now it is a five-link setup with track bar for improved ride motions. With comfortable seats and supple suspension, the Grand rated high on most of our staffers' lists as their choice for a long trip.
A newly chiseled body is also meant to bring the Grand further upscale in refinement, adding a more contemporary look to the Jeep family styling. Little touches, such as the removal of body cladding in favor of sculpted body sides have been added. Our only complaint about the new look is the styling of the rear side glass, which looks more like a Pacifica and less like a Grand.
The interior was also among the best in the group with an almost Lexus-like feel. Classy two-tone colors and quality materials create a luxurious and inviting cabin on the Grand Cherokee. The optional navigation system was easy to use, and incorporated an excellent sound system and the first OEM application of Sirius satellite radio we have seen. Testers did, however, note the fast rake of the windshield and the low seat height that contributed to an almost too-car-like seating position. While the Grand isn't a huge SUV, the cargo area is more than adequate for most uses and is easily accessed through the large rear opening.
If the Grand Cherokee still hasn't convinced you that it deserved to be winner of the SUV of the Year award, just wait until the aftermarket takes off with the new Hemi applications. We should warn you: A special 400-or-so-horsepower 6.1L SRT-8 version of the Grand is due out next year. So stay tuned; this revitalized company isn't like any Jeep you have ever seen.