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Lightweight unibody construction, excellent on and off-road manners, optional V-8, standard ABS, dual airbags, lots of standard equipment
Spare tire hogs cargo area, engines hog gas, not as roomy inside as some competitors, price climbs rapidly as options are added
Available Grand Cherokee SUV Models
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A 5.9-liter V8 making 245 horsepower and 345 pound-feet torque powers the Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited, making it the mightiest of all Jeeps. With the addition of the 5.9, the putrid Orvis model dies. Two new colors and "next-generation" airbags round out the changes.
For years, the Ford Explorer has been the best-selling sport-utility vehicle in this country, but in 1992 a new challenger called Grand Cherokee arrived to try and wrest the sales crown away from the champ. It was not successful. However, it did outsell every other sport utility on the market, and became the Explorer's biggest threat.
Indeed, this Jeep has the most car-like feel of sport utilities, and is among the most stable on pavement. In fact, with the optional 5.2-liter V8 pumping away under the hood, the Grand Cherokee becomes the Porsche of sport-utes. Equipped with a dual airbag system and four-wheel antilock disc brakes, Grand Cherokee buyers have a long list of equipment to wade through, including three different drive systems (2WD, part-time 4WD, full-time 4WD), four different trim levels (Laredo, TSI, Limited, 5.9 Limited), and a host of luxury and convenience items.
The exterior is all hard edges and angles, but is instantly recognizable as a Jeep product and looks rugged. A retro touch we could do without is the location of the spare tire. The Grand Cherokee doesn't have tiny tires, and the cargo area is among the smallest in the class to begin with, so why is the tire in the cargo area? It should be under the cargo floor, mounted under the truck or placed on a rack on the liftgate. Otherwise, we have few quibbles with this sport-ute.
Jeep included several perks with the Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited for 1998 (the Ferrari of sport-utes). Mechanical changes are limited to a torque-monster 5.9-liter V8 engine and free-flowing exhaust system, reducing back pressure by 25 percent and making the big engine a little easier on gas. The interior sports "premium calf's nap grain" leather seats, a new Infinity 180-watt, 10-speaker audio system, 60/40 folding rear seat with armrest, and leather trim on the doors, armrests and console. The 5.9 Limited is nothing if not organic. The 5.9 Limited exterior is treated to a body-colored side molding, hood louvers, a front grille with a silvery mesh and 16-inch aluminum wheels.
Last year, the TSI model debuted, sporting specific alloy wheels, monotone paint in a choice of three shades, dark blue pinstriping, leather seats, high powered audio system and more luxurious interior trimmings.
Unfortunately, just as Jeep caught up to and surpassed the Explorer in comfort and safety features, Ford went and squeezed a V8 under the Explorer's hood. Last year, Ford began offering a new overhead cam V6 engine in the Explorer, which puts out 20 more horsepower than the Jeep inline six. The Ford also has more room, a more comfy rear seat and a lower price tag. Plus, you don't have to load cargo around a big ol' tire in the back. The verdict? For around town family hauling, we prefer the value-packed Explorer XLT. But for speedy fun and off-road prowess, the JGC Laredo V8 gets our vote.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.