Used 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review

Edmunds expert review

Still a charmer in terms of overall performance, looks and features, only a spotty reliability record prevents us from giving the JGC our whole-hearted endorsement.

What's new for 2002

More power for the 4.7-liter V8 and three new trim levels (SE, Sport and Overland) are on tap for this year. Also, several important safety and convenience options such as side curtain airbags, power-adjustable pedals, a tire-pressure monitoring system and automatic windshield wipers debut this year.

Vehicle overview

Those looking for a mid-size SUV that is equally apt at bouncing over rocks as it is plying local shopping mall parking lots should certainly check out Jeep's Grand Cherokee.

Now in its fourth year for the current body style, the Grand Cherokee comes in five trim levels: Laredo, Sport, Special Edition, Limited and Overland. The Overland, Special Edition and Sport are recent additions to the line.

This year, a number of upgrades and options increase the Grand Cherokee's appeal. Now available is a high-output version of the 4.7-liter V8 that sports 25 more horsepower and 35 more pound-feet of torque than the standard 4.7. New rain-sensing wipers automatically turn on when the wet stuff falls and a tire pressure monitor helps keep track of this often overlooked, but important, operating status. Adding safety are optional side-curtain airbags and power adjustable pedals. And keeping everyone cool is an improved air conditioner that has been modified for quicker cabin cool-down.

The Grand's standard engine is a 4.0-liter inline six that produces 195 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque. Matched to a four-speed automatic gearbox, this aged powerplant provides adequate acceleration, but lacks refinement in terms of noise and vibration control. Next step up is the 4.7-liter V8, rated at 235 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The high-output 4.7-liter V8, standard on the Overland and optional on the Limited, brews up an impres-sive 260 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of twisting force. Both V8s are coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission.

The optional Quadra-Drive four-wheel-drive system keeps things moving even if only one tire has traction, and its reaction time is faster than you can say "stuck." The Laredo's standard transfer case is the full-time Selec-Trac, while the Limited gets the on-demand Quadra-Trac II. You'll find standard cloth upholstery inside the Laredo, and if you go with the no-frills approach, you'll pretty much be able to buy a plain-Jane version of the JGC that'll provide you with decent levels of comfort without breaking the bank.

Next up the ladder is the new Special Edition, which adds power seats, a 10-disc CD changer sound system, keyless entry, a security system, fog lights, a Homelink transmitter, Quadra-Trac II (4WD models) and lighted visor mirrors. Spring for the Sport model and you'll get the SE's luxury features along with leather seating, trip computer, heated mirrors, and a mono-tone paint scheme.

The Limited features 10-way power-adjustment for the seats, dual-zone climate control system, automatic headlights, a memory system for the seat, mirrors and radio presets and auto-dimming mirrors.

The ultimate GC is the Overland, which has a standard equipment list that rivals a Range Rover's. Front and side-curtain airbags, an Infinity sound system with 10-disc changer, heated/power front seats, Quadra-Drive, side step rails, power sunroof, wood/ leather steering wheel and 17-inch alloys wearing 235/65R17 tires are all fitted to the top dog in the Grand Cherokee lineup.

While going off-road may not be something you've considered doing with your just-purchased luxury vehicle, remember that this is a Jeep, the original 4x4, and it hasn't lost any of its go-anywhere war heritage. Its petite dimensions allow it to squeeze through tight corners, and its high 8.7-inch ground clearance makes rock-climbing a breeze. We can honestly say that it knocks the pants off any other midsize SUV out there in terms of off-road prowess. The price for all this off-road revelry comes in the form of a lack of refinement and a dubious reliability record. If you truly don't plan on going off-road, but do plan on taking some cross-country jaunts using major freeways, consider Ford's Explorer or Nissan's luxurious Pathfinder. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is certainly capable of surviving in the asphalt jungle, while trundling through true wilderness is a walk in the park. Like the ads say, "There's only one Jeep."

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.