2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4: Signature SUV shows plenty of life
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Jeep Grand Cherokee began with a crash in 1992 when then-Chrysler president Robert Lutz made a grand entrance at the Detroit Auto Show by driving the vehicle, with Detroit Mayor Coleman Young in the passenger seat, through a plate glass window to debut the SUV.
With a new generation of Grand Cherokee planned for 2010 release – a 2011 model-year vehicle – powered by a fuel-efficient V-6 engine under hood, this mid-sized unibody sports ute still has lots of life left in the current incarnation.
Assembled in Detroit, Jeep still utilizes its old German ties for its engine and transmission, though 61 percent of its parts come from the U.S. and Canada.
That German engine is a 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. The system pumps out a meager 215hp, but a roaring 376 lbs.-ft. of torque. For sheer power, an alternative is to opt for Jeep’s 4.7-liter V-8 and its 305 horses, though you can also splurge on a 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI that gallops out 330 horses and 375 lbs.-ft. of torque. Even with the 3.0-liter set-up that was installed in my press-fleet Grand Cherokee, you get all the power you need when called upon – the torque sees to that.
Several runs down a test strip showed that the Grand Cherokee can run with most sports utes, as I was able to coax my test ride from zero to 60mph in 8 seconds, en route to a 16-second trip down the quarter-mile.
EPA rated at 17mpg in city driving and 22mpg on the highway using low-sulfur diesel fuel, a full week of tests that featured interstate treks, township hops and a few off-road sojourns proved out the estimates as I garnered an average of 22.1mpg covering nearly 500 miles.
On the road, the 4660-lb. SUV delivers a confident ride. Handling is responsive and secure, sway is minimal, center of gravity is comparably low and this vehicle can perform off-road chores with aplomb.
There have been reliability concerns in the past with Grand Cherokee, but early reports show that these tendencies have been overcome in its current form, and my week of tests revealed no red flags.
The centerpiece of Grand Cherokee’s appearance is its signature seven-slot grille, but the body shape is also all Jeep with a squared-off demeanor that is angled enough to aerodynamically protect the sides of the vehicle from potential road debris. Giving the vehicle an aggressive and athletic look, a proportionately longer hood and greater distance between the center of the front axle and the base of the windshield emphasize the engine compartment and the vehicle’s source of power. Additionally, the Grand Cherokee name is integrated into the bodyside molding for a high-quality look and feel.
At 188 inches in length, 73.3 inches in width (85.5 inches including the mirrors) and 68.9 inches in height, the Grand Cherokee handles wind blasts without wavering and it earns its trail-rated badge by being a steady performer in the mud, dirt and uneven surfaces of off-road ordeals.
Stressing safety as a priority, Jeep Grand Cherokee scores well, as vehicle crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put Grand Cherokee at the top of its class with a perfect 5-star rating in front crashes for both driver and passenger, and 5 stars in side crashes for front and rear seats. Rollover tests garnered 4 stars. Safety features include advanced multi-stage air bags, supplemental side curtain air bags with roll detection system, enhanced accident response system, four-wheel brake traction control system, electronic stability control, anti-lock brake system with rough-road detection, brake assist, active turn signals, beltalert, LATCH for children), digressive load-limiting seat belt retractors and electronic roll mitigation.
Additional safety attributes include energy-absorbing steering wheel and column, head restraints in all outboard seating positions, knee bolsters, Parksense® rear park assist system, Parkview® rear back-up camera, rain-sensing wipers and Sentry Key® engine immobilizer theft-deterrent system.
Inside the attractive cabin is an elegance that may surprise those who have not driven upscale Jeeps. Adding refinement and functionality, the vehicle’s two-tone instrument panel features bright accents, a soft-touch surface and updated styling complete with light wood inserts, illuminated instrument cluster, two-tone leather with perforated inserts, heated front and second-row seats, power memory seats for driver, lumbar adjust for driver and front passenger, air conditioning with dual-zone automatic temperature control, remote keyless entry, Boston Accoustics premium sound system, Sirius Satellite Radio and navigational system.
Roomy and comfortable, interior measurements show 39.7 inches of headroom in front and 39.3 in row two; 41.7 inches of front legroom with 34.2 inches behind and 59.1 inches of shoulder room in the first row with 58.5 in the rear.
With a base price of $40,385, my test vehicle stickered out at $43,220 by way of the additions of Blue Pearl Coat exterior paint ($225), an upgrade to the 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine, 22-gallon tank and engine block heater ($1830) and destination charges of $780.
The 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a solid way for this generation to end its run, and you’ve still got two years before the next version is unveiled.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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