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Used Cherokee not so grand

As if the present turmoil in the auto industry isn't scary enough, potential purchasers of Chrysler have to be mindful of the Jeep Curse.

As if the present turmoil in the auto industry isn’t scary enough, potential purchasers of Chrysler have to be mindful of the Jeep Curse.

Should another company swallow Chrysler with the goal of acquiring the storied Jeep brand, the new corporate owner could become the latest in a long line of automakers to have snagged Jeep and choked.

Consider Jeep’s succession of owners: Kaiser took over originator Willys-Overland in 1953; American Motors consumed Kaiser Jeep in 1970; Renault purchased AMC Jeep in 1982; then Chrysler bought the franchise in 1987.

Daimler-Benz acquired Chrysler in a “merger of equals” in 1998, undoing the deal nine years later.

Despite the brand’s ruinous reputation, the vehicles themselves continue to sell in big numbers, chief among them the Grand Cherokee – the luxury Jeep AMC dreamed up before passing the curse along to Chrysler.

CONFIGURATION

Launched in early 1992 as a 1993, the Grand Cherokee took the shape of a five-door wagon exclusively.

The first models were motivated by a 190 hp 4.0 L inline six cylinder dating back to the 1964 AMC Rambler. Optional were two V8s: a 220 hp 5.2 L and a 5.9 L making 245 hp, both from the Dodge truck line.

Chrysler made sure its unibody SUV was an all-terrain Jeep.

The wheelbase was kept short to reduce the likelihood of getting hung up on rocks. It incorporated generous approach and departure angles, as well as decent ground clearance.

The second-generation Grand Cherokee retained all the same dimensions when it arrived in 1999. The old Rambler motor soldiered on, making 195 hp and 230 lb.-ft. of torque, while the pushrod V8s were replaced by a new SOHC 4.7 L V8 making 235 hp.

The new Grand Cherokee also kept its front and rear live axles for better articulation over boulders, and added optional limited-slip differentials that could allocate torque to any of its four wheels as part of Quadra-Drive.

The interior was well appointed, but backseat legroom remained in short supply. A higher load floor compromised cargo capacity.

The redesigned third-generation 2005 Grand Cherokee grew in every direction including wheelbase (by 8 cm) to improve the ride and cabin legroom.

Engineers replaced the GC’s solid axle up front with an independent design and rack-and-pinion steering. The rear axle remained, but grounded by five links to keep the wheels tracking straight and true.

The venerable straight-six was finally replaced by a more powerful 3.7 L V6, while the 4.7 L V8 got a remapped power curve. Chrysler’s 5.7 L Hemi V8, making 330 hp and 375 lb.-ft. of torque, was a new option.

Three distinct four-wheel-drive systems were available: Quadra-Trac I used a full-time, single-speed transfer case; Quadra-Trac II used a two-speed (low range) case with a electronically controlled central clutch pack, while Quadra-Drive II added hydraulic clutch packs to the front and rear differentials.

All models featured a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift gate and antilock four-wheel disc brakes.

As if one Hemi-powered Jeep wasn’t enough, the 2006 SRT8 offered a 425 hp 6.1 L V8, sport-tuned suspension and grippy Brembo brakes. To assuage eco-minded drivers, Chrysler added a 215 hp 3.0 L V6 turbodiesel option for 2007.

ON THE ROAD

The six-cylinder model hustled to 96 km/h in 9.5 seconds – not bad given its weighty four-wheel-drive machinery. The 4.7 L V8 was decently quick (96 km/h in 7.7 seconds) and considerably more refined than the old truck-based V8s.

The 5.7 L Hemi in the latest generation was even quicker, taking just 6.8 seconds to reach highway speed. The rare and thunderous SRT8 could do it in an awe-inspiring 4.5 seconds.

Unfortunately, no matter which gas engine, owners reported dismal fuel economy, guzzling as much as 22 L/100 km – judged too gluttonous for such a small truck.

The Mercedes-sourced turbodiesel was the lone exception. With 376 lb.-ft. of torque on tap, it was enough to propel the Grand Cherokee to 96 km/h in 7.9 seconds while returning mediocre, but definitely not great, fuel economy.

WHAT OWNERS REPORTED

Drivers were impressed with the GC’s handling, tomb-quiet interior and car-like road manners.

But it’s hard to ignore the litany of mechanical problems owners posted on the Internet.

The second-gen Grand Cherokee’s short-lived front brake rotors were the subject of numerous complaints.

Chrysler made a caliper upgrade kit available, but some drivers had better luck with name-brand aftermarket components.

Other mechanical headaches included leaky transfer cases, differentials and engine seals, as well as faulty transmissions, electrical glitches and air conditioning woes.

The 2005 and newer GC had an odd problem with water flooding the transmission. Turns out air conditioning condensation would dribble down the filler tube and compromise the fluid, turning it into a strawberry milkshake. Worse, the transmission would shift hard.

”Transmission clunks, cannot be driven at 110 km/h since the tranny can’t make up its mind,” complained the owner of an ’06 model on the web.

Rainwater can breach the sunroof and A-pillar and pool on the floor. Other problems included short-lived water pumps, starters and air conditioners, as well as a peculiar stalling problem.

”Engine light is the only thing that works!” wrote one exasperated owner.

Sounds like the Jeep Curse extended beyond the boardroom to the assembly line.

We would like to know about your ownership experience with these models: Porsche Cayenne, Toyota Sienna and Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute. Email: toljagic@ca.inter.net.


  • Used Cherokee not so grand From: Young, Richard Sent: Tuesday, August 24, 2004 5:22 PM To: Photodesk Subject: Images of Jeep Liberty Diesel and Grand Cherokeee Please move these images of 2005 Jeep Liberty CRD (Diesel) and Grand Cherokee to Cascade. Credit: DaimlerChrysler Canada thnx Richard Young Staff Editor, Wheels Toronto Star 416-869-4255 Letters to Wheels: wheels@@thestar.ca Pictures to Wheels: photodesk@@thestar.ca Fax to Wheels: 416-865-3996 <><><>

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