2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD - Diesel Grand Cherokee vs. the World
An International 4x4 Showdown
Each year, the four-wheel-drive experts at 4-Wheel & Off-Road put the newest 4x4 trucks to the test--and they don't kid around. Each of the brand-new trucks is thrown into the desert sand, squeezed between mountain boulders, and forced to scramble up an incredibly steep hill covered with loose rocks--and that's just on the first day of a weeklong thrashfest. This was not our first 4x4 of the Year experience, but this year's test included the revised '08 Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0L CRD, so we had to see how it stacked up against the other new 4x4 SUVs on sale this year.
Because 4WOR only tests trucks with a Low range that are all-new or significantly revised, the other SUVs in the competition were the HUMMER H3 Alpha (V-8), Nissan Pathfinder (V-8), Jeep Wrangler Rubicon four-door, Jeep Liberty, HUMMER H2, and Toyota Land Cruiser. Below, you'll find specifications along with our diesel-skewed opinion of each wagon, but you'll need to pick up the Feb. '08 issue of 4-Wheel & Off-Road to find out which 4x4 wins their test.
2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0L CRD
Of course, this oil-burner is our favorite of the group, but we must try to be objective. The Grand Cherokee is a dream on the streets, with tight handling and tons of torque, but a lack of ground clearance means off-roaders must constantly slow to a crawl to avoid body damage. When obstacles are not in the way, the Quadra-Drive II 4wd system is absolutely awesome. The axles automatically lock as soon as slippage is detected, and power is seamlessly transferred to the corners with better grip-whether you're on- or off-road. Antilock braking and throttle control also play a role in the traction system but aren't intrusive like many of the other SUVs tested. In addition to having the best 4wd system in the test, the Grand Cherokee ate much less fuel than the other trucks, even averaging more than 16mpg in the dirt. Too bad it's only currently legal for sale in 45 states due to its emissions.
EngineDisplacement: 182 ci (2,987 cc)Type: V-6 DOHC 24-valvePower: 215 hp at 3,800 rpm Torque: 376 lb-ft at 1,600-2,800 rpmEmissions: Bin 10 (45 states only)EPA (CITY/HIGHWAY): 19 mpg
4WD System Type: Full-time 4WD/Low rangeFront axle: Limited-slip/electric lockerRear axle: Limited-slip/electric lockerTransfer case: NV245 electronic with limited-slipAxle ratios: 3.73:1Low-range ratio: 2.72:1Crawl ratio: 36.4:1
Hummer H3 V8
The Alpha badges on the side of the Hummer H3 mean it's packing an all-aluminum, small-block Chevy V-8 under the hood where you expect to find the wheezy inline-five-cylinder. The engine is rated at 300 hp, but if that's true, it's the wimpiest bunch of ponies we've met. We suspect the engine is programmed for good emissions and fuel mileage, not excitement (even though it wears a GM Performance Division badge). Along with the engine upgrade, the H3 Alpha gets stiffer torsion bars, revalved shocks, and a cast-iron front differential housing (instead of aluminum). Like the five-cylinder H3, the Alpha has a great push-button 4WD system that's easy to engage and well-geared for real off-roading. The added weight of the engine didn't ruin the handling, and the added power was definitely needed--we just wish the Alpha was allowed to use it.
Engine Displacement: 325 ci (5,328 cc)Type: V-8 OHV 16-valvePower: 300 hp at 5,200 rpmTorque: 320 lb-ft at 4,000 rpmEPA (city/highway): 14 mpg
4WD System Type: Full-time 4WDFront axle: openRear axle: Electric lockerTransfer case: BorgWarnerAxle ratios: 4.10:1Low-range ratio: 4.03:1Crawl ratio: 50.6:1
Nissan Pathfinder V8
Like the H3, the Pathfinder is another midsize SUV that desperately needed the power and torque of a V-8 engine. Now you can order the comfy new Nissan with the Titan's gigantic 5.6L V-8 between the front fenders. Of course, the power output is great compared with the V-6, but it's not much use in the dirt thanks to a 4WD system that uses antilock brake tap dancing instead of limited-slip or locking differentials. Unfortunately, this setup combined with the V-8 torque mostly causes severe peg-legging wheelspin followed by electronic throttle reduction. In other words, you lose power just when you need it, and all that wheelspin is wasted on eating the tires instead of moving the truck forward. Stick to paved roads, and the Pathfinder is terrific (except for its fuel economy). It has a smooth ride, plenty of power, and room for the whole family.
Engine Displacement: 5.6LType: V-8 DOHC 32-valve(variable timing)Power: 310 hp at 5,200 rpmTorque: 388 lb-ft at 3,400 rpmEPA (city/highway): 14 mpg
4WD SystemType: Part-time 4WDFront axle: OpenRear axle: OpenTransfer case: Univance XN-k electronicAxle ratios: 2.94:1Low-range ratio: 2.63:1Crawl ratio: 29.6:1
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
The Wrangler is like the X Games version of the Grand Cherokee. It has solid axles front and rear, a body-on-frame design, and plenty of sharp edges inside to remind you this is no luxury SUV. The Rubicon models are built for off-roading and come standard with 4.10 gears, electric locking differentials, and a heavy-duty 4.0:1 manual transfer case. The ground clearance, shock tuning, and gearing are perfect for trail riding and rockcrawling--too bad the 3.8L minivan engine under the hood can't keep up. The beloved 4.0L inline-six-cylinder was sacrificed to the emissions gods, so the newest generation V-6 Wrangler (JK) is forced to rev higher whenever torque is needed. Now just imagine how it would perform with 376 lb-ft of diesel powered twist at just 1,600 rpm instead of 237 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.
Engine Displacement: 230.5 ci (3,778 cc)Type: V-6 OHV 12-valvePower: 202 hp at 5,200 rpmTorque: 237 lb-ft at 4,000 rpmEPA (city/highway): 16 mpg
4WD System Type: Part-time 4WDFront axle: Electric lockerRear axle: Electric lockerTransfer case: NV241 manualAxle ratios: 4.10:1Low-range ratio: 4.0:1Crawl ratio: 73.1:1
Long story short: The Liberty was the only truck no one picked for the drive home-it was assigned. While this all-new Liberty is much more refined than the first generation of econoboxes, it's still an underpowered mini SUV that's not much use off-road due to the lack of ground clearance and the highest crawl ratio of the group. You can hope this new Liberty will be redeemed by the addition of a diesel engine under the hood, once again, but don't hold your breath if you live in the U.S.
Engine Displacement: 225.8 ci (3,700 cc)Type: V-6 SOHC 12-valveTorque: 235 lb-ft at 4,000 rpmEPA (city/highway): 17 mpg
4WD SystemType: Full-time/part-time 4WDFront axle: OpenRear axle: Limited-slipTransfer case: NV256 electronicAxle ratios: 3.73:1Low-range ratio: 2.72:1Crawl ratio: 28.8:1
Haters of the H2 call it a Chevy Tahoe with a boxy body slapped on top, but it's better described as a Silverado 2500HD without the option of a diesel engine. Although you still can't order an oil-burner in the H2, it will now get to rap-video shoots faster thanks to a larger and more powerful 6.2L gas V-8 with variable valve timing that's backed by a six-speed automatic transmission with a Manual mode. Unfortunately, the extra power has been sapped by 3.73 gears, which are now standard issue instead of 4.10s. That means the big Hummer should get better mileage on roads but is not as much fun in the sand because the engine must lug more to keep the tires spinning. The 4WD system now uses the same crummy twist knob found in the GMT900 trucks but works fine once it finally engages. The electric locking rear differential is helpful, but the H2 needs a front locker if GM wants it to steal Jeep sales.
Engine Displacement: 376 ci (6,162 cc)Type: V-8 OHV (variable exhaust) 16-valvePower: 393 hp at 5,700 rpmTorque: 415 lb-ft at 4,300 rpmEPA (city/highway): N/A (GVWR is more than 8,600 pounds)
4WD SystemType: Full-time 4WDFront axle: OpenRear axle: Electric lockerTransfer case: BorgWarnerAxle ratios: 3.73:1Low-range ratio: 2.64:1Crawl ratio: 39.6:1
Toyota Land Cruiser
What can you say about an SUV that costs about $70,000? It rides nice? Well, it should. It's got all the bells and whistles? That's expected. So what makes the Land Cruiser special, other than being part of a long tradition of capable factory SUVs? How about a computer brain and a traction system that can make it climb a supersteep and rocky hill without the driver ever having to touch the pedals? Crawl Mode is incredible, but not much fun (unless you like getting into bad situations). By constantly tapping the brakes when a wheel slips, the Cruiser is able to maintain forward momentum in extreme situations. Ground clearance and expensive bodywork are usually the only things standing between the driver and a major obstacle. Of course, for the price of one Land Cruiser, you can buy two diesel Grand Cherokees, lift one into the sky for serious off-road abuse, then lower the other one and install SRT suspension parts for canyon carving on the commute to work.
Engine Displacement: 345.6 ci (5,663 cc)Type: V-8 DOHC (variable intake/exhaust) 32-valvePower: 381 hp at 5,600 rpmTorque: 401 lb-ft at 3,600 rpmEPA (city/highway): 15 mpg
4WD SystemType: Full-time 4WDFront axle: OpenRear axle: OpenTransfer case: JF2A Axle ratios: 3.91:1Low-range ratio: 2.62:1Crawl ratio: 34.1:1