Power is the yardstick by which many vehicles are measured, and the Grand Cherokee acquits itself well in this regard. Jeep's powerhouse 4.0-liter inline six, at 190 horsepower, is the yardstick. It kicks out 45 horsepower more than the five-speed Ford Explorer with the same displacement engine. However, 225 pound-feet of torque is only five pound-feet greater than that offered by the Explorer's V-6. As before, the new Cherokee is the hot-rod of sport/utilities. Our instrumented testing brought home a 0-60-mph time of 10.0 seconds, a click slower than the last XJ Cherokee Limited we tested in Michigan, but still fast compared to the 11.8 seconds we clocked for the Eddie Bauer Explorer in the same test (Sept. '91). It was incrementally weaker on the skidpad (0.78 g then, 0.75 g now) and also slower in the slalom (59.8 mph then, 59.3 mph now). Four-wheel Teves ABS on front disc/rear drum brakes returned a 128-foot performance in the 60-0-mph braking test. But with improved structural rigidity contributing a calmer demeanor throughout the operating range, the sum of the performance equation is a net gain.

Jeep continues to offer the versatility of three shift-on-the-fly drive-wheel systems, each with smoother engagement and disengagement modes. Command-Trac is the part-time four-wheel-drive system for use exclusively off-road, Selec-Trac can be switched from rear two-wheel to all-wheel-drive for on- or off-road, and the best system, Quadra-Trac, with which our tester was equipped, a full-time all-wheel-drive scheme. Quadra-Trac is a seamless, transparent drive system with a low-range for crawling over fallen logs and up steep hills.

Chrysler interior systems improve with each new product, and are quickly becoming the models for the industry. The upgrade in the Cherokee's interior is a case study of improvement, beginning with the standard driver-side airbag, a first in a sport/utility. Ergonomically, the differences between the XJ and the new ZJ are like night and day. Details abound, like the improved tactile feel of switchgear, the positive engagement of the four-speed automatic transmission, and the generous improvements in interior space. The Grand Cherokee wheelbase is 4.5 inches longer than the XJ model. By moving the aft wheelhouses rearward, 4.8 inches of additional rear hip room were gained.

When the '84 Cherokee debuted, it effectively turned the work-a-day sport/utility sow's ear into a rayon purse, a big improvement, but not yet all the way home. The '93 Grand Cherokee is finally the silk purse. By all indications, the ball is now in Ford's court.