What's New for 2006
Jeep expands the Grand Cherokee lineup for 2006 with the addition of a range-topping Overland trim level. It's been fitted with more standard luxury features and 5.7-liter V8. New standard features on all models include stability control and one-touch up-down front windows. Newly optional on the Laredo is the Quadra-Trac II four-wheel-drive system and an off-road package.
Jeep practically invented the sport-utility vehicle way back in the dark days of WWII, when the army needed a tough, maneuverable and lightweight vehicle capable of traversing the nastiest roads and trails on the planet. Sixty years later, Jeep is still going strong (thanks to resources from parent company DaimlerChrysler). And while its focus remains on building reliable SUVs with stellar off-road abilities, luxury and refinement have also been incorporated into the mix.
The first Grand Cherokee was introduced in 1992, and options like leather seats, a powerful V8 engine and an advanced four-wheel-drive system made it an instant hit with daily commuters and desert trekkers alike. Unfortunately, the original Jeep Grand Cherokee was a little crude in the fit-and-finish department. Improvements came on the second-generation JGC (1999-2004), but by then, family-oriented buyers had begun to expect carlike handling characteristics and spacious interiors -- attributes that this rugged Jeep SUV simply couldn't deliver as well as the Explorer.
Jeep engineers were determined to correct this on the latest version, which was introduced just last year. The current third-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee offers improved capability and nimble on-road ride and handling dynamics in a well-appointed package. The exterior design is unmistakably Jeep, thanks to the signature round headlights, seven-slot grille and trapezoidal wheel openings. However, the body was sculpted with hard edges and prominent lines to convey a more modern and muscular look, and designers spent countless hours in a wind tunnel in an effort to reduce wind and road noise. The nicely finished body panels are mounted on a platform that incorporates an advanced independent coil-over front suspension, four-wheel antilock disc brakes and available four-wheel drive.
The standard engine for this Jeep SUV is a 3.7-liter V6 borrowed from the Liberty. For those who desire more power than the V6 can muster, two different V8 engines are available, including a 4.7-liter V8 and a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with variable displacement technology. The refinement continues inside, where form is emphasized just as heavily as function. The seats are comfortably padded and available in cloth or two-tone leather, but interior plastic panels leave much to be desired. The chronograph-style four-gauge instrument cluster looks like it belongs in a luxury car, and a gated shifter borrowed from the Mercedes parts bin makes selecting the right gear a breeze. Overall, the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee offers more luxury and comfort than ever before, while maintaining the rugged character that made the Jeep marque what it is today.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Jeep Grand Cherokee midsize SUV is available in three trim levels: Laredo, Limited and Overland. Standard Laredo features include power windows and door locks, air conditioning, a power driver seat, split-folding rear seat, a reversible cargo floor with water-resistant storage and a CD stereo. The Limited model adds two-tone leather seating, a power front-passenger seat, automatic dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable pedals, rain-sensing automatic wipers, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a Boston Acoustics audio system with in-dash CD changer and MP3 capability. The Overland adds unique platinum trim accents, real wood trim, a navigation system, satellite radio and unique leather and ultra-suede seats. The navigation system and satellite radio are also available on the Laredo and Limited. Other options, depending on the trim level, include heated front seats, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, hands-free cell phone compatibility, a tire-pressure monitor, rear park assist and an off-road package with off-road tires, tow hooks and skid plates.
Powertrains and Performance
The Laredo comes standard with a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque, while the Limited is equipped with a 4.7-liter V8 capable of pumping out 235 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque. Optional on the Limited and standard on the Overland is a 5.7-liter V8, which produces 330 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. All three engines come standard with a five-speed automatic transmission. Laredo 4WD models are equipped with a full-time all-wheel-drive system, while Limited 4WDs utilize the more advanced Quadra-Trac II (optional on Laredo) that incorporates a two-speed transfer case. Finally, the optional Quadra-Drive II system (optional on Limited, standard on the Overland) combines a full-time two-speed transfer case with front/rear/center electronic limited-slip differentials. With the 4.7-liter V8, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is rated to pull 6,500 pounds.
Safety features include four-wheel antilock disc brakes and stability control. Side curtain airbags are optional on all models but the Overland, where they are standard equipment. The Jeep Grand Cherokee earned a perfect five-star rating in government front- and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the seats are firm and supportive, and the leather looks quite contemporary. Wood trim on the center console and door panels is very upscale, and two-tone plastic panels lend a modern touch to the surroundings, even if they are a bit hard. Panel fitment is good; window and door lock switches are comfortably within reach; climate controls are clearly marked and easy to use; and the chronograph-style gauge cluster adds European flair.
Smooth is the operative word when describing the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The suspension dampens imperfections in the road well, and the rack and pinion steering provides a solid and responsive road feel. The all-wheel drive grabs pavement with gusto and on tight roads this Jeep SUV is very nimble with minimal body roll. Even though the raucous 5.7-liter V8 provides gobs of low-end thrust, the 3.7-liter V6 and 4.7-liter V8 are smooth and provide more than enough power for most applications.