It's Started AlreadyBy now you've held in your hands the Feb. '02 issue where we named the Jeep Grand Cherokee our 4x4 of the Year winner. And, as always, the letters started coming in as soon as the issue hit the stands as to just how and why the Jeep won...again. I'm not going to sit here and go back through all of the test results and try to justify our pick, as that was what the February issue was for. If you know how to read, you can figure it out for yourself. Instead, let's address some of the issues brought up by two readers in particular, Joe S. and Andy D.
Mr. D. wrote in to bitch about how his buddies with '99 and 2000 Grands had problems with rear axle carrier bearings on their vehicles, and because of that, we surely couldn't pick the Grand Cherokee as our winner. "Why don't you look at previous models and check the service history over 50 thousand miles," he suggests, "and report on that?"
There are two problems with this realm of thinking. First off, we aren't testing the two vehicles his two friends have, and we have no way of verifying his claims, much less see how that has any bearing (sic) on our test. Secondly, a new vehicle test that reports back after 50,000 miles on the ticker generally means the rig is at least 2-3 years old, which sure doesn't have much to do with what new rig you might want to buy.
In actuality, we do keep the 4x4 of the Year winner for a year, and we do a wrap up after we pile a bunch of miles on it. For instance, our '01 Grand Cherokee just turned over 35,000 miles in about a year of towing, trail, and road driving, and you'll be able to read about it in our May issue. Oh yeah, we haven't had any rear axle carrier bearing problems either.
Joe S. reminded us how we wrote that the "transmission developed Gremlins part way through our testing and sporadically sent the engine into limp mode," and that he was surprised we would pick a vehicle for this award with a failed transmission.
The fact of the matter is that the transmission never failed, but shifted abnormally due to a faulty relay in the fusebox. This somewhat decreased the engine's power to the rear wheels, but the Jeep still did better than the other vehicles in the test. In fact, the Jeep cured itself after some distance driving, which is why it successfully completed the test. If you look at the results in our February issue, the Jeep Grand Cherokee didn't sweep every category, yet it was so far above the rest of the class in the other areas that it still came out as the winner.
No matter how we test or what we pick, there will always be someone who complains. And you know, that's just fine as it means people do care and read what we have to say. We understand that and accept that fact, and if there are legitimate beefs you can be sure we'd be the first ones to make a point of fixing a problem. But for our 4x4 of the Year test, we stand by our results, and look forward to next year's test, with a whole bunch of new rigs.-Rick Pw