Change for the better
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee has had a makeover, writes PAUL GOVER
THE mid-life update of the Grand Cherokee could not have come at a better time for Jeep— or its customers. Sales of large four-wheel-drives are down. Buyers are dropping down a couple of classes in search of fuel economy, leaving the Jeep flagship to linger in showrooms.
But the 2008 model Grand Cherokee comes with everything from a more efficient V8 engine to a cabin with some much-needed class and even heated second-row seats.
The nose looks newer and smoother and an SRT8 model is claimed to be the fastest Jeep yet. Prices still start from a relatively affordable $59,490 for the Laredo diesel, but for buyers who have the bucks and don’t mind an economy hit, the loaded SRT8 with a 313kW Hemi V8 and a 0-100km/h time in the five-second bracket comes in at $89,990.
No amount of change will be enough to bring some people to the Jeep, which has never been our favourite in its class, but the improvements run deep and show the famed American off-road brand is doing what it can to fight back against the Japanese.
The updated Grand Cherokee is more carlike to drive. The cabin is a significant improvement and the company is looking for a substantial lift in sales.
‘‘I think it’s a winner. It will certainly get us back to where I’d like to be,’’ says Gerry Jenkins, the managing director of Chrysler Jeep Australia.
But even he knows that large four-wheeldrives are not as popular as they were.
‘‘I still think there is an appetite there for 75 to 80 a month. But I think the days of selling 100 or more a month are behind us,’’ he says.
Jeep sales in Australia were up at mid-year. Jenkins says the Patriot is doing best, and a second-year spurt is expected from the Grand Cherokee and smaller Cherokee.
The main work on the facelifted Grand Cherokee has gone into performance and refinement, particularly to the cabin.
The changes run from materials and design to seats and equipment. A MyGIG entertainment system now goes into every Chrysler Jeep product.
In the engine room, most of the work has gone into the 4.7-litre V8. Power is up 30 per cent, there is 10 per cent more torque, and Jeep claims a 5 per cent improvement in economy.
Jeep is also touting hill-descent control, hill- NYONE worried about fuel economy can have their Grand Cherokee and drive it too, thanks to a new factoryapproved LPG conversion.
A system from Parnell LP Gas Systems in Victoria is approved for the Grand Cherokee and Chrysler 300C, for six-cylinder and V8 engines.
It uses a vapour sequentialinjection system developed by Parnell in a dual-fuel conversion.
Parnell is also developing LPG kits for other Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge models and these should be on sale soon. start assist and trailer sway control as safety improvements.
There is extra equipment at all levels. The top-line Limited picks up a rear-view camera and parking radar, MyGIG, automatic wipers, memory seats and an iPod connection.
Jenkins says the package is intended to put the Grand Cherokee back where it belongs, even if sales are tougher.