2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4 x 4Posted on March 2nd, 2008
Full-sized sport-utility vehicle for active, off-road lifestyles
By Nina Russin
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a full-sized sport-utility vehicle that a small person can feel comfortable in. Step-in height is exceptionally low: the Grand Cherokee is as easy to enter as a passenger car. Power adjustable pedals with memory are standard on the Limited model. A tilt and telescoping steering column lets smaller drivers maintain a safe distance from the front airbag. This isn’t to say that the Grand Cherokee isn’t roomy enough for larger men: simply that a small woman doesn’t feel as if she’s driving a big man’s car.
A Mercedes-Benz common-rail diesel engine and five-speed automatic transmission give the Grand Cherokee exceptional fuel economy. The EPA rating is 17/22 miles-per-gallon city/highway, but during my week-long test drive, I averaged about 21. Because diesel engines develop torque at extremely low speeds, the Grand Cherokee is ideal for towing. With the 3-liter diesel engine, it can tow up to 7400 pounds: more than double our minimum ALV standards. And a range of 425 miles per tank of gas means that one can drive from Phoenix to Los Angeles, and still have enough fuel left for rush hour traffic.
The 2008 model is basically a carry-over from the previous year with refreshed interior and exterior styling, standard seventeen-inch wheels on the Limited model, and a couple new options: Sirius rear seat television, and high intensity discharge headlamps. Heated first and second-row seats are now standard on the Limited grade, as is the tilt and telescoping steering wheel with vehicle information controls, and integrated second-row headrests. The test car has the optional MyGig entertainment center that holds up to a hundred hours of music in the hard drive.
Diesel that doesn’t feel like diesel
The three-liter diesel engine has power and performance indistinguishable from a gasoline engine. Throttle response is instantaneous, even during hard acceleration. Using the low sulfur diesel fuel, the engine reduces carbon dioxide emissions by thirty percent compared to gas-powered cars.
The five-speed automatic transmission shifts seamlessly, with a minimum of hunting on hills. There is very little shift shock. The gate shifter allows the driver to keep the lever in drive for automatic gear selection, or shift manually.
I drove Grand Cherokee about four hundred miles, including a trip between Phoenix and Tucson. While a lot of the driving was on major highways, the annual influx of tourists, a rodeo and major golf tournament in Tucson made for bumper-to-bumper traffic that lasted for miles.
The car’s ergonomic and quiet cabin keeps stress levels in traffic to a minimum. Visibility is excellent all the way around: the Grand Cherokee is one of the few new sport-utility vehicles without a thick, obstructive D pillar. Backing in and out of parking places is a snap using the optional rear backup camera and audible warning system. The optional MyGig system includes real-time traffic through Sirius satellite radio.
The standard suspension is an independent front axle and live rear end with stabilizer bars on both. The solid rear axle makes the Grand Cherokee better suited for towing. Live rear ends can tend to chatter at high speeds, but the set-up on the Grand Cherokee feels pretty compliant.
Rack-and-pinion steering gives the car above average cornering and steering feedback. In the past, engineers shied away from rack-and-pinion set-ups on off-road vehicles because they lacked durability, but the components on new cars are robust enough to handle rough trails.
The Grand Cherokee is one of Jeep’s trail rated vehicles, meaning it conforms to internal engineering standards for off-road traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation and water fording. The test car comes with a two-speed transfer case that provides exceptionally low gearing for uneven terrain: the low four-wheel drive gears engage by pressing a lever on the center console. Hill descent control and hill start assist help the driver to maintain directional control going up and down steep hills without relying on the brakes.
The Grand Cherokee has 9.2 inches of ground clearance: plenty to clear any obstructions on the trail. It also has a full-sized spare, and all-terrain tires. An engine block heater that comes with the convenience option package heats up the glow plugs for the diesel engine when temperatures drop below freezing.
The Grand Cherokee’s interior has all of the necessities for active adults: storage pockets and bins of various sizes, lots of power outlets, available GPS navigation, and a generous, configurable cargo bay. There are three twelve-volt power points and a 115-volt inverter so both rows of passengers can use and recharge electronic devices.
Temperature and audio controls are easy to reach from either front seating position. Small cubbies in the floor console hold electronic devices: there are two, twelve-volt outlets at the base of the center stack. The floor console also has two large cupholders. A large bin under the center armrest has an integrated change holder. All four doors have map pockets.
The overhead console has a sunglass holder and two, good-sized reading lamps. An optional power moonroof on the test car lets fresh air into the car and extra light into the second-row seats.
While the second row holds three passengers, two will be more comfortable on a long trip. A fold-down second-row armrest has an integrated bin that holds maps, paper pads, or small electronic devices. The 115 volt inverter is located on the back of the center console.
The Boston Acoustics premium sound system, standard on the Limited grade, includes a MP3 plug-in and a one-year subscription to Sirius satellite radio.
Front seats are easy to adjust using electronic controls, and provide good lower lumbar support. Seat heaters for the front and outboard second-row seats have separate settings for the seatbacks and seat cushions. The steering wheel has controls for the center information display in the instrument panel, that includes tachometer readings, distance to empty, average fuel consumption, etc.
Spacious cargo area
The Grand Cherokee easily meets our bicycle friendly standards: the spacious cargo area is easy to load, with plenty of hooks and tie-downs for smaller items. A reversible cargo floor includes a small storage shelf: there is a shallow storage bin below the cargo floor as well. The liftgate glass can open separately for loading smaller items in back. Second-row seats fold flat to extend the load floor for larger items. Roof rails and cross bars are standard on the Limited grade. Towing capacity with the diesel engine is 7200 pounds.
Five star safety
The Grand Cherokee received the government’s highest safety rating for front and side impact collisions, and four out of five stars for rollovers. Standard safety features include antilock brakes, traction control, front, side and side curtain airbags, electronic stability program, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Base price on the Limited grade is $38,555, not including $695 destination charge. The 2008 Grand Cherokee is on display at Chrysler dealerships nation-wide.
Likes: The Grand Cherokee is one of the few full-sized sport-utility vehicles that smaller drivers can feel comfortable in, with a low step-in height, tilt and telescoping steering wheel and adjustable pedals. It’s off-road capability, versatile cargo area and abundance of power points make it a perfect choice for people with active lifestyles.
Dislikes: Second-row passengers do not have separate climate controls.
Model: Grand Cherokee Limited 4 X 4
Base price: $38,555
As tested: $41,055
Horsepower: 215 Hp @ 3800 rpm
Torque: 376 lbs.-ft. @ 1600 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Not available
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 17/22 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $695 destination charge.
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