Road Test: 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Improving a modern classic is a huge risk

Allyson Harwood
Feb 16, 2005
Redesigning a vehicle like the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a blessing and a curse. It's a competent vehicle that needs some updates to remain competitive in the market--but it can be tricky to mess with the brand's best-seller (its sales are triple those of the Wrangler) without affecting what people love about the current model. (This doesn't take into account the die-hard off-roaders who cringe every time Jeep announces any changes.) The good news: Jeep met the challenge, managing to make nearly everyone happy.

The five-seat sport/utility comes in two- or four-wheel drive, with three 4WD choices. Quadra-Trac I provides full-time 4WD and is the closest to all-wheel drive of the bunch. It has an NV140 single-speed transfer case and works with a Brake Traction Control System for all-season capability. Quadra-Trac II provides the next level of off-road readiness, combining an active transfer case--the same one found in Quadra-Drive II--with BTCS. This system also uses Throttle Anticipate, which measures throttle movement to maximize traction before any tire starts to slip.
Photo 2/4   |   2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior View Dashboard
The ultimate 4WD system, however, is Quadra-Drive II. Its NV245 full-time transfer case works with Electronic Limited Slip Differentials (ELSD) in the front and rear that use electronically controlled clutch packs to control and instantly direct power to each axle as needed. The NV245 contains a center differential and its own electronically controlled clutch pack, which makes the 'case capable of everything from completely open to fully locked, with infinite possibilities in between. Quadra-Drive II includes Neutral, for use when being towed. While the limited-slips are designed for off-road use, they also work automatically in daily driving--the ELSD release the clutch packs in front to prevent crow hop and allow the wheels to rotate at different speeds in turns. Quadra-Drive II-equipped Jeeps use an electric T-handle lever to switch between 4-Hi and 4-Lo.
Photo 3/4   |   2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior View Trunk Space With Seats Down
For 2005, the Grand also receives all-new suspension systems in the front and rear. Replacing the live-axle Quadra-Link setup in front is a short- and long-arm independent suspension. The rear continues to use a live axle, now with tubular control arms and a track bar. Worried that IFS will ruin the Grand Cherokee's off-roadability? According to Jeep, front suspension travel is 10 percent better than it was in the 2004 model. The new front layout provides the typical advantages of IFS: a lower center of gravity, 100 pounds less unsprung mass, and a more comfortable ride.
Further aiding the ride is the new Dynamic Handling System (DHS), which uses an active stabilizer bar. Traditionally, stiff stabilizer bars are installed to improve a vehicle's handling, often at the expense of the ride. With DHS, the front and rear stabilizer bars are decoupled, except when the vehicle is cornering. The power-steering pump sends hydraulic pressure to the anti-roll-bar links to relax or tighten them. There are three vehicle sensors to determine when the bars are necessary. Like normal stabilizer bars, this system improves handling by reducing body roll in turns; however, we're told DHS doesn't adversely affect the ride in straight-line driving.
A major change for the Grand Cherokee is under the hood. Three engines are offered, two of which are new to this vehicle. The biggest powerplant is the 5.7-liter, 325-horsepower Hemi currently found in the Durango and Ram. It uses the Chrysler Group's Multi-Displacement System, which can deactivate half of the cylinders when driving conditions don't require V-8 power. This improves fuel economy, yet doesn't affect towing capability. The transition from eight-cylinder power to four happens in 0.04 seconds (40 milliseconds). The standard engine is now a 3.7-liter V-6, replacing the stalwart yet dated 4.0-liter I-6. Buyers who want something bigger than the six can buy the 4.7-liter that's been a part of this platform since the second generation was launched for 1999, except this year's 4.7 has more horsepower and torque than in the past and is now quieter. The 3.7 is backed by an all-new five-speed automatic transmission, and the V-8s both use the 545RFE five-speed auto, which offers dual second-gear ratios to help fuel economy.
Photo 4/4   |   2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Drivers Side Headlight
The body receives noticeable changes, but is still unquestionably a Grand Cherokee. For the first time, this Jeep receives round headlights that flank the seven-slot grille, aligning it more closely with the brand's signature front end. The body itself is more angular, and its sides more upright, than its hunkered-down predecessor. Rear taillights are now a combination of red and clear lenses, and lighter, more efficient moldings replace the previous side cladding. The redesigned interior has seats built for comfort during long-distance hauls. The gauges and instrument panel are new, and the cabin receives more storage pockets and bins. For the first time, the Grand's options include rear-seat DVD entertainment and a color navigation system with integrated AM/FM/six-disc CD/MP3 playback. The cargo area has a reversible load-floor panel, the plastic underside of which contains a large utility tray.
The Chrysler Group was careful to keep this sport/utility close to its off-road roots, while improving comfort, on-road ride and handling, power, and fuel efficiency. Even though the new Grand is five inches longer than the previous model, the platform is still too small to justify a third row of seats (those who really need the extra seating can get the 14-inch-longer Durango). Other than that, Jeep found a way to make this vehicle capable of competing with traditional SUVs and crossovers, and did it without sacrificing what makes a Jeep a Jeep.
What They're Saying
--Richard Truesdell

Truck Trend realizes some of the difficulties the Jeep product team faces with the introduction of the new model this fall. To see how this will play out among Jeep loyalists, we asked a number of them for their take on the redesign. Their answers surprised us, even though we sought out current owners on some of the most hard-core Jeep Web sites.

Carlo Malacon, 2WD 1995 Laredo: "I'm disappointed that the Grand Cherokee is still small, preventing it from being competitive with SUVs like the Ford Explorer. However, I believe being different can be better. The Grand Cherokee offers style, power, and luxury that other SUVs in the same segment don't offer. I do wish DaimlerChrysler had invested some money into redesigning the 4.0-liter I-6 engine. Sadly, DaimlerChrysler eliminated the solid front axle, another Jeep feature."
Dave Barnhill, 1999 Limited: "DCX chose to maintain the status quo by offering subtle changes to exterior design rather than following the radical design departure. By offering enhanced mechanical upgrades, such as the 5.7 Hemi, the new Quadra-Drive II system, DVD, and the gorgeous new interior, it will please existing Grand Cherokee owners, who have owned Jeeps for more than 30 years, while attracting buyers that may have been considering competitive SUVs with options that aren't available on the current model."
James Hefelfinger, second-generation Grand Cherokee owner: "It may be a bit premature, but I'd suggest the Touareg is the competition. Most midsize SUVs, such as the Explorer and TrailBlazer, are biased toward highway cruising, but the Volkswagen Touareg, with its trick air suspension, has shown a bent toward actually being off-road capable while still having excellent on-road manners. Obviously, the price point is in the Jeep's favor, but the VW has set the marker for independent-suspension capabilities."
With an expected worldwide production volume in excess of 300,000 units annually, the Grand Cherokee is an important part of DaimlerChrysler's efforts to expand sales outside of North America, particularly in Europe where it remains the best-known U.S. automotive brand. The next Grand Cherokee, especially when equipped with the Hemi, looks like a formidable package that will further expand the vehicle's wide appeal.
{{{2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee}}}
SPECIFICATIONS
Location of final assembly Detroit, Michigan
Body style Four-door SUV
EPA size class Multipurpose vehicle
Drivetrain layout Front engine, RWD or 4WD
Airbags Dual (std), side curtain (opt)
POWERTRAIN
Base engine {{{90}}}-degree V-6, cast-iron block, alum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.66 x 3.{{{57}}}
Displacement, ci/L 226/3.7
Compression ratio 9.6:1
Valve gear SOHC, 2 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 210 @ 5200
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 235 @ {{{4000}}}
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy 16/21 (mfr est)
Optional engine 90-degree V-8, cast-iron block, aluminum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.66 x 3.41
Displacement, ci/L 287/4.7
Compression ratio 9.0:1
Valve gear SOHC, 2 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 230 @ 4700
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 290 @ 3700
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy 14/20
Optional engine 90-degree V-8, cast-iron block, aluminum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.92 x 3.58
Displacement, ci/L 345/5.7
Compression ratio 9.6:1
Valve gearOHV, 2 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm325 @ 5100
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm370 @ 3500
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy14/21
Base transmission W5A580 5-speed automatic
1st 3.59:1
2nd 2.19:1
3rd 1.41:1
4th 1.00:1
5th 0.83:1
Reverse 3.16:1
Optional transmission 545RFE 5-speed automatic
1st 3.00:1
2nd 1.67:1 upshift, 1.50:1 kickdown
3rd 1.00:1
4th 0.75:1
5th 0.67:1
Reverse 3.00:1
Axle ratios 3.07:1 (3.7), 3.73:1 (4.7, 5.7)
Transfer-case models NV140 (3.7), NV245 (4.7, 5.7)
Low-range ratio 2.72:1 (NV245)
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Wheelbase, in 109.5
Length, in 186.6
Width, in 84.3 (at mirrors)
Height, in 67.7
Track, f/r, in {{{62}}}.0/62.0
Headroom, f/r, in 39.7/39.3
Legroom, f/r, in 41.7/35.5
Shoulder room, f/r, in 59.1/58.5
Min ground clearance, in 8.0
Approach angle, degrees 34.1
Departure angle, degrees 27.1
Load floor height, in 32.1
Curb weight, lb 4010 (est)
Cargo volume, cu ft 67.4
GVWR, lb 5400 (est)
Max towing capacity, lb 7000 (est)
Fuel capacity, gal 20.8
CHASSIS
Suspension, front SLA independent, coil springs, coil-over shocks, upper and lower control arms, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rear Live axle, link-coil w/track bar, stabilizer bar
Steering type Power rack-and-pinion
Ratio 15.8:1
Turns, lock to lock 2.9
Turning circle, ft 37.1
Brakes, front 12.9-in vented disc, ABS
Brakes, rear 12.6-in vented disc (four-channel ABS std on 4WD)
Wheels, in 17x7.5
PRICE
Base price (est) $29,000 (2WD), $31,000 (4WD)

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Jeep Grand Cherokee

Fair Market Price
$29,757
Editors' Overall Rating
Basic Specifications
MSRP: $29,995
Mileage: 17 / 25
Engine: 3.6L V6
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