2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Expert Review:Autoblog
I've been driving a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee part-time for almost two years. My fiancée leases one and it is a decent hauler even with its base V6 engine and constant brake issues. The brand new, redesigned 2005 Grand Cherokee that was recently dropped off is a different beast entirely. Immediately you realize you're in a much larger vehicle.
Sure five inches might not seem like much but the hood definitely seems bulkier as it stretches out before your eyes. Maybe it needs to be that big to fit the optional 5.7 liter Hemi engine. Our tester comes with the Hemi but there is no Hemi badging on the exterior of the vehicle. There’s a “5.7 Liter” a “Limited” and the “Trail Rated” badges but no Hemi. I had to open the hood just to double check and there in big print was the word Hemi.
The other reason I had to open the hood to check was because the SUV sure didn’t make me feel like I had 325 horses at my command. At low speeds the transmission searches for the next gear, displays little torque and a sense of power only comes at higher speeds.
Inside the feel is overwhelmingly plastic. Much like the Dodge Magnum and Chrysler 300C there are huge chunks of plastic making up the dash and doors. The center console and leather seats are pleasantly of a higher class as are the improved gauges.
Besides the amazing sound system (I didn’t get a sticker with the tester but I’m guessing this is the Boston Acoustics set-up) I’m not impressed yet. But there are still a few more days of testing to come.
I have to admit this is one of the first times a test vehicle's stereo has me playing CDs while driving. Usually I listen to talk radio so I can hear the car underneath me. Not so with the Boston Acoustic 6-disc changer in the Jeep. I love this stereo. I played the new …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead record and the first Queens of the Stone Age album and both blew my mind.
The rest of the interior is equally well sound conditioned. I’ve read reviews that say highway noise was horrible but during a 20 mile jaunt on the local expressway the new Grand Cherokee seemed fine to me. Even wind noise didn’t invade the interior too much despite the boxier shape of the new model.
I’m still not loving all this plastic. It’s the kind of plastic you knock on and sounds hollow. That’s not what you want to hear in any new car, especially one priced over $30K. A reader wrote in that all cars are like this now. Well most Japanese cars aren’t. Somehow Scion can manage a decent plastic interior for almost a third of the money. Figure it out guys.
The center stack is much improved though. Our tester’s fake wood isn’t even that bad. Controls are well laid out but the environmental control for the airflow is to the far right of the console making it a decent reach for the driver. It would have been easy to rearrange the knobs so the passenger’s separate temperature settings were located there instead. What really bugs me is the nav system and LCD that isn’t a touch-screen. The navigation controls are cumbersome to say the least and I just gave up and left the neat, folder-like radio settings up on the display.
I definitely like the leather seats though. They’re supportive and firm but very comfortable. That’s an unusual combination. And the answer to my fiancée’s prayers was answered with the cup holder. Well sort of. In her 2004 Grand Cherokee the cup holders are so shallow those tall and skinny water bottles fall over every time you take a turn or hit a bump or sneeze. The new version has one deep holder and one shallow one. So the driver may partake in a nice refreshing bottle of water but the passenger is out of luck and left holding onto their own bottle.
I realize I haven't talked much about what I like in the Jeep Grand Cherokee yet but I just haven't gotten up the energy to talk about the positive. Bashing something is just so much easier. We've already tackled the plastic feel of the cabin but the gauges are really quite nice. There's a window that alerts you to warnings, mileage info and the compass and temperature as well. I love the compass and temp. Unfortunately our test vehicle overrides that info with the "Spare tire pressure is low" message.
I’m not sure if the spare tire pressure is really low or if the cold weather is fooling the system. If I owned the vehicle I’d hit a gas station, dig under the cargo area and fill the thing up with some air to check. Hopefully a car with 3,000 miles on it doesn’t really need air inflated into the spare. The more alarming monitor for you car buyers out there is the one below.
7.9 mpg average?! What?! That’s pathetic. I put 100 miles on the car, 20 on the highway the rest in the city. And even if my city driving is harsher than that of most of the country 7.9 is just disgusting. I didn’t even find the need for the Hemi in the performance area and certainly would opt for a V6 with this car. That’s a rarity you know, an automotive journalist wanting less power. But for practicality a smaller engine should be considered.
Rear visibility also is no great asset for this new, larger Grand Cherokee. Luckily the side mirrors are huge as is the rear glass so it’s only a problem during those moments on the highway when you need to change lanes. Oh wait that could be a big problem. Even the front pillars have huge handles on them obstructing the driver’s view.
But otherwise there is a lot to like about this SUV and I promise to get into it tomorrow.
The new 2005 Grand Cherokee does two things a heck of a lot better than the previous generation. One is the improved ride and handling that I'll tackle tomorrow. The other is the vastly superior cargo set-up. No there's nothing revolutionary like a third row of seats or hidden trunk/cooler. But there is a lot of added ease of use and simple ergonomics involved.
After more than a year in the 2004 Grand Cherokee I hate having to flip the seats down. You have to remove the headrests, flip up the bottom of the seats, then flip the backs down. What a pain. And most of the time when you’re doing this you either have groceries, or it just happens to be raining or your dog is tugging at the leash. Thankfully Jeep has fixed all of those problems. Now all you have to do is pull a handy cord and the seat folds flat. That’s all.
For that along the Jeep gets my big endorsement. There are also enough hooks in the back cargo bay to figure out any
assortment of bungee chords, nets or rope depending on how kinky you get with your gear.
For all the press surrounding the new Jeep Grand Cherokee the real world results are pretty simple to sum up. It's better than the previous generation but not for all the reasons we're being given. Sure the improvements to ride, rigidity and performance are remarkable but it sure isn't nimble. And I'll say again the V8 engine might not be needed for the casual driver.
I’ve read elsewhere the highway noise is horrendous. I wish I could find the review that mentioned that because the SUV seemed to cancel out road noise extremely well and wind noise didn’t invade the cabin either. The new Jeep is a road warrior like the new ads say. I didn’t test it off-road so those looking for more data on how rugged it is will have to go elsewhere. Sorry.
The car’s steering was crisp and had much more feel than our 2004. The SUV still felt a lot bigger though, and it didn’t handle parallel parking as well as the 2004 does. City bumps were noticeable and the rigid frame translated the imperfections pretty exactly but not without some jolts through the seats.
But really what wins me over is the cargo capacity and how easy it was to get the rear seats down as I showed everyone yesterday. The nicer center stack and controls were also needed improvements. And if it was a purchase I’d probably go with cloth interior and the bare basic Laredo so the plastic wouldn’t seem as glaring as it does in this $39,805 version(estimated price from me building a similar version online, no sticker was provided with our vehicle). I built a Laredo too with nothing but a sunroof as an option and the price came to $29,865. And that’s with $2,000 in rebates. But Jeep is popular enough that with the new styling and improved ride that it will probably sell a lot of SUVs at that price, even if the Grand Cherokee isn’t perfect.
New Car Test Drive
New models complete recently redesigned lineup.
The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee lineup features two new models, the luxurious Overland and the high-performance SRT8. The Grand Cherokee was completely redesigned for 2005, and is bigger, more modern, and more powerful than previous versions of this iconic, midsize SUV.
The edgy, angular body is devoid of cladding and is proportioned differently from earlier Jeeps. It looks new and contemporary, but people instantly recognize it as a Grand Cherokee.
Interior materials are dramatically improved over the previous generation's, which left much to be desired. The atmosphere inside the latest Grand Cherokee is light, comfortable, and more enveloping than the previous model; from the driver's perspective it's more bolted in than hanging on, with lots of seat adjustment, excellent outward vision around relatively slim windshield posts, and with all the switches and controls clearly labeled and easy to find and use. In back is nearly 70 cubic feet of cargo space.
A more sophisticated suspension gives the current Grand Cherokee much better handling than that of pre-2005 models, with less leaning in corners, along with better ride quality. Its turning radius is tighter, too, good for crowded parking lots.
All four available engines are modern. The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is particularly good for towing or driving at higher elevations. The SRT8 has a 420-hp 6.1-liter Hemi and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds. The smaller, 4.7-liter overhead-cam V8 works quite well, however, and the standard overhead-cam V6 is a big improvement over Jeep's old overhead-valve inline-6.
Overall, 2006 Grand Cherokee retains the rugged spirit of the Jeep brand, combined with engineering and quality control closer to the Daimler-Benz tradition.
The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes in four trim levels:
The Laredo ($27,165) comes with a 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 and a five-speed automatic transmission. The 4.7-liter overhead-cam V8 is optional ($720 with 2WD, $1,340 with 4WD). Cloth upholstery is standard, but leather bucket seats are available ($850) when ordered with other options. Air conditioning comes standard, along with one-touch power windows, power locks with remote keyless entry, eight-way power driver's seat, AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary input jack, driver information center, 60/40 split folding rear seat, an engine immobilizer, water-resistant storage compartment, and 17-inch tires and wheels. Laredo 4WD ($29,135) features Quadra-Trac I full-time four-wheel drive. Quadra-Trac II, which includes a Low range, is optional ($620) with the V6 and standard with the V8.
The Limited ($33,415) comes with the 4.7-liter V8 and leather upholstery. Also standard: automatic climate control; Boston Acoustics six-speaker 276-watt AM/FM stereo with six-CD changer and MP3 capability; power adjustable pedals; power passenger seat; memory function for the seats, pedals, and mirrors; automatic headlamps; rain-sensing automatic wipers; electrochromic rearview mirror; HomeLink; tire pressure monitor with display; adjustable roof rack crossrails; and machined-face 17-inch aluminum wheels. Limited 4WD ($36,005) gets all that plus Quadra-Trac II. The Hemi is optional on both 2WD and 4WD Limiteds, and when ordered on the latter comes with Jeep's latest Quadra-Drive II full-time active 4WD.
The Overland ($39,240) comes with the 5.7-liter Hemi, and adds a wood-and-leather steering wheel, real wood accents on the doors and console, two-tone leather and ultra-suede seats embroidered with the Overland logo, leather-covered console and armrest, side airbags, DVD-based navigation, Sirius Satellite Radio, a ParkSense reverse-parking sensor, a trailer-tow group, and platinum-clad aluminum wheels. Other platinum accents highlight the exterior. Overland 4WD ($42,230) adds Quadra-Drive II.
The SRT8 ($39,300) comes with a 6.1-liter Hemi rated 420 horsepower, a lowered suspension and its own electronic all-wheel-drive system. Distinctive bumper fascias and 20-inch wheels make SRT8 instantly identifiable. Inside are sport seats, special trim, and an level of standard features roughly analogous to the Limited's. Options can bring an SRT8 to Overland levels.
Safety features that come on all Grand Cherokees include an electronic stability program (ESP) with roll mitigation, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) with brake assist, traction control, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and front air bags with four levels of deployment. Side curtain air bags are optional ($560).
Options include GPS navigation built into the radio ($1,200), a rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1,200), sunroof ($800), a trailer tow package ($255), Boston Acoustics audio, UConnect hands-free communication system ($275), Smart Beam headlamps that sense the available natural light and adjust accordingly, and ParkSense rear park assist. An Off-Road package ($420) with tow hooks is available, along with chromed alloy wheels, and an engine block heater.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is considered a midsize sport utility. It's smaller than a Ford Explorer. Yet compared with pre-2005 models, the current Grand Cherokee is about five inches longer overall, four inches longer in wheelbase, 2.5 inches wider in track and a bit lower in profile.
This makes it more stable than the previous generation models. In appearance, it is at once more modern and more square-edged. With its higher waistline and smaller windows, it is looks more assertively American.
While conventional SUVs, such as the Dodge Durango, are built on a separate frame like a truck, the Grand Cherokee uses an unusual construction scheme Jeep calls Uniframe, a close marriage of a welded steel unit-body and underlying front and rear modules. This is an extremely sturdy and rigid concept developed back in Jeep's days with unit-body pioneer American Motors. The Grand Cherokee has earned a five-star safety rating in both front and side impact tests from the federal government.
Laredo models come with a body-colored grille and bumpers, black door handles, and contrasting-color bodyside and sill moldings. Limited models present a somewhat flashier appearance, with a chromed grille, bright inserts in the bumpers, body-color door handles, and Platinum bodyside molding.
The Overland is distinguished by mesh-texture grille inserts between its traditional vertical grille bars, which are Platinum in finish; Platinum accents also appear on the bumpers, side molding, roof-rack side rails, liftgate light bar, side-view mirrors, and wheels, while sill moldings are body-color.
Jeep reached deep into its heritage to revive the Overland name. First built in 1903, the Overland automobile was the earliest ancestor of the Willys. Willys played an instrumental role in the development and production of the World War II-era Jeep, but was also the first automaker to seriously envision a civilian market for a military-style utility vehicle. The Willys Jeep debuted in 1946 and had its name shortened to just-plain Jeep in the early 1960s. Although the Jeep brand has passed through several owners since then, its lineage remains unbroken.
The SRT8 has a monochrome look all its own, relieved by bright accents at the belt level and bodyside and accented by enormous five-spoke, 20-inch forged aluminum wheels. Functional air ducts in its more bluff front bumper fascia improve brake cooling. The rear bumper is cut out to accommodate dual four-inch exhaust tips, and the extended side sills are claimed to enhance downforce. SRT8 is available only in Bright Silver, Brilliant Black or Inferno Red. It looks hot, very sporty. Our silver 2006 SRT8 drew a lot of admiring glances when we drove it around Los Angeles, a place where vehicles don't garner attention easily. When we pulled up to a posh restaurant, the valets insisted in posing it in front, a position usually reserved for Ferraris and such.
The Grand Cherokee interior was completely redesigned, beginning with the 2005 models, and it's significantly improved. The two-tone, dark-over-light-over-dark instrument panel and door trims; vinyl grains; and materials and finishes are generally much richer and better looking than in the previous generation. That's good because the previous generation wasn't that great. The new interior is far better organized, lighter in feeling and color, and altogether roomier than the previous version, which had been around since 1993.
We found the seats to be larger and cushier than in any previous Jeep, with supportive contours. There's more travel in the seat tracks, allowing more legroom for tall drivers. There's also increased headroom, which adds the feeling of extra space to the interior.
The instrument panel has no more of that pasted-together, black-plastic look of the last generation, but is a real, cohesive design with a nice combination of shiny plated parts, matte-finish plated parts, and a first-rate instrument layout. A four-gauge instrument cluster with LED illumination features black gauges with brilliant red pointers. On the Limited model, the gauges are surrounded by chrome rings. The handbrake lever has a spindly, low-quality feel to it, however.
The 2006 Grand Cherokee Overland model enhances these interior improvements with high-contrast two-tone Ultrasuede seats featuring accent stitching and embroidered Overland logos; plus real wood trim on the steering wheel, instrument panel, door panels, and gear selector. Even the center armrest is leather-upholstered, and unique colors are employed in the instrument cluster.
The SRT8, on the other hand, goes for the high-tech racer look with deeply contoured sport seats, and lots of carbon fiber and aluminum trim. Unique blue-accented gauges include a 180-mph speedometer plus oil pressure and oil temperature readouts in the center stack. The sport seats offer lots of support, with deep side bolsters, but drivers with larger frames may find them too narrow.
The cargo area features a reversible load floor panel that flips over on itself to create a shallow container, for more versatility in the rear storage compartment.
The navigation system, which integrates the audio system and other functions, is a handy feature. It has a nice display, generates crisp maps, and does a good job of directing you to your destination, both visually and audibly. It isn't as easy to program as similar systems are on Acura and Lexus vehicles, however. There's a separate Enter button, annoying because intuition suggests pressing the toggle switch down. Also, it kept defaulting to the daytime brightness setting. Auto did not seem to automatically switch it to the nighttime setting at night, so we had to manually program this. We had to reprogram this each time we restarted the car and this could not be done while underway, meaning we had to stop to fix it, inconvenient when traveling on a busy L.A. freeway. The daytime setting is so bright at night as to be distracting.
Similarly, Chrysler uses a separate Set button for pre-setting radio stations, which seems unnecessarily difficult. Setting these on most radios is a matter of holding down the desired preset.
Today's Jeep Grand Cherokee represents a big improvement over pre-2005 models. It maintains mountain goat capability in rugged terrain yet it's much better on the road where most of us spend most of our time.
The Laredo comes standard with Chrysler's 210-hp 3.7-liter V6, borrowed from its sister trucks, the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Ram, with its own five-speed overdrive automatic transmission. The 3.7-liter uses single overhead cams and replaces the old, overhead-valve 4.0-liter inline-6 that was in the last Grand Cherokee. The V6 gets an EPA-rated 17/21 mpg City/Highway, only slightly better than the V8s on the highway but significantly better when poking around town.
The 4.7-liter V8 is terrific. This modern, overhead-cam engine is a paragon of power and smoothness for around-town and highway driving. It has a broad torque band, a lovely sound, and electronic throttle control (drive-by-wire) that's easy to use and precise in tricky downhill off-road situations. If you don't live in the mountains and don't usually tow anything, this engine might be your best choice. The 4.7-liter V8 produces 235 horsepower at 4500 rpm and 305 pound-feet of torque at 3600 rpm. It's EPA-rated at 14/20 mpg.
The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is a thoroughly modern engine, featuring twin spark plugs, direct ignition, and electronic throttle control, though it is an overhead-valve design. The 5.7-liter Hemi produces 330 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 375 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 14/21 mpg. Note that it delivers much stronger torque yet more than matches the fuel economy of the 4.7-liter. Torque is that force that propels you from intersections and helps you tow trailers up long grades. The slightly better fuel economy on the highway is at least partly thanks to the automatic cylinder deactivation feature, which shuts down four of the engine's eight cylinders whenever it detects a steady-state cruise condition and then reactivates them on demand. DaimlerChrysler claims this can improve fuel economy by up to 20 percent.
Both V8 engines get a heavy-duty five-speed automatic transmission with a direct fourth gear for towing. Both this transmission and the five-speed automatic that's mated to the V6 feature the Chrysler/Mercedes-Benz manual override function.
The Grand Cherokee offers a nicer ride and better cornering than any other Jeep in history. We don't recommend flinging 4500-pound SUVs into corners, but the Grand Cherokee can encourage this sort of socially unacceptable behavior because it's easy to drive and rewarding within the limits of its tires.
These ride and handling benefits are the result of the Grand Cherokee's newly developed five-link rear suspension, independent front suspension, and rack-and-pinion steering. Two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions use the same independent front suspension. Front suspension travel is increased by almost 10 percent over the previous Grand Cherokee. It's coupled with a lighter, more compact and more precise power rack-and-pinion steering that's reasonably quick and accurate, and nicely weighted. New steering geometry yields a tighter turning circle, important off road as well as in crowded parking lots or when making a U-turn.
There's plenty of understeer dialed into the handling, good for a vehicle this tall and this heavy where you don't want directional changes to happen too quickly. There seems to be a more flatfooted, glued-down attitude with this big Jeep, with far less body roll than in the previous generation. Jeep built roll into the old model, and it paid some comfort dividends off-road. But this one is just as comfortable on- and off-road without it. The current Grand Cherokee chassis is also much stiffer and stronger than the previous version, with nary a squeak or a rattle in our experience with it.
Tow ratings for the Grand Cherokee are 3,500 pounds for the 3.7-liter V6, 6,50.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is an icon among sport utility vehicles and this latest-generation version is far better than older models. It looks wonderful. It's powerful and quiet at the same time. It offers good space efficiency and comes loaded with standard and optional features.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw filed this report from Santa Barbara, California, with Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 2WD ($27,165); Laredo 4WD ($29,135); Limited 2WD ($33,415); Limited 4WD ($36,005); Overland 2WD ($39,240); Overland 4WD ($42,230); SRT8 4WD ($39,300).
Options As Tested
side airbags ($560); 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with Quadra-Drive II and front and rear electronic limited slip differential, Sirius Satellite Radio, sunroof, ParkSense rear backup system ($2,745); navigation system ($1200), trailer tow group ($255).
Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4WD ($36,005).
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