Jeep Grand Cherokee

What is It?
Chrysler 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 330 horsepower/375 pound-feet 545RFE five-speed automatic

What We Like
Passing a slow-moving vehicle is a dream in the 2005 Grand Cherokee: Step hard on the throttle, and the gearbox almost instantly drops a couple of cogs and the Hemi thrusts you into your seat. The engine's multidisplacement feature also is a plus: it drops a few cylinders when in cruise mode and is quick to activate the entire octet when power is needed. Kudos to Chrysler for putting in a five-speed with the AutoStick manumatic function, which permits near-instantaneous downshifts when the driver deems a lower gear's necessary. The slush box's range of programming is excellent: Shifts are strong and authoritative when under full throttle, yet sedate and mannerly when driven with a light touch.

What We Don't Like
Fuel economy isn't the Hemi's strong suit. For example, feathering the throttle on the highway, the best mileage the Jeep could muster was barely 16 mpg. Driving a mix of highway, city, and mountain roads brought in a 12.8-mpg average. Dipping a foot into the throttle, well, you could practically watch the fuel gauge drop. The 5.7 could use more grunt in the upper rpm band--it starts to wheeze around five-grand--and the AutoStick was a bit slow to respond to downshift commands.

How It Works
The 5.7-liter Hemi may be a thirsty traveler, but having 375 pound-feet of twist at the touch of a toe is a wonderful feeling. When we added weight to the cargo area, the G.C. merely shrugged it off as routine. Like any hi-po V-8, there's some lope in the idle, and the exhaust note draws the attention of nearly all vehicles that pull beside the Grand Cherokee. The Hemi and 545RFE tranny is a great combo, so long as you can afford to fill the fuel tank.