We have to admit that we hadn't paid a lot of attention to the Grand Cherokee the last couple of years. When the Grand changed to an independent front suspension, we had relegated it to the "ho-hum, just another SUV" category. Silly us.
Why? Because while we were busily putting Hemi V-8s wherever they'd fit and adding locking differentials front and rear to vehicles that didn't have them, Jeep was quietly doing the same to the WK - and doing it better. Suspension companies developed suspension systems for the Grand Cherokee, and AEV developed a winch mount that didn't look goofy, along with rocker panel guards that worked. The WK Grand Cherokee Overland is a vehicle that can be a capable trail rig.
Jeep sent us a 2009 Grand Cherokee Overland 4x4 to spend some time with. The Overland comes with a powerful 5.7L Hemi V-8 and 5-45RFE multi-speed automatic transmission. It comes with Jeep's Quadra Drive II transfer case that has all-wheel drive and low-range four-wheel drive. The front and rear Electronic Limited Slip Differentials (ELSD) are actually computer-controlled, full-locking differentials. Why someone in Jeep marketing thought consumers would be scared away by the word "lockers" we'll never know. We do know that the front and rear lockers work, and work transparently with no driver input required. The computer locks the diffs when wheelspin is present, unlocking them approximately 90 seconds after the event. It's the most advanced system we've ever driven and it really works. The Overland has ESP, Four-Wheel Traction Control, Brake Assist System, and other electronic stuff. The ESP is disabled in high range by the driver via a dash switch and in low range automatically. The WK also comes with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that reads each tire's pressure and displays that pressure in a panel readout. It displays a warning light and chime if tire pressure drops below a set threshold. We don't like TPMS.
The WK's front suspension is independent with coilovers. The rear is a proven five-link design, just like TJ's, JK's, and older Grand Cherokees. The spring rates and shock valving are very good. We'll let you know how good in future reports. Skid plates cover almost the whole underside of the Grand Cherokee, a good thing as it sits low in stock form. We'll reserve judgment on how well the rack and pinion steering will hold up.
The interior color of our WK is "Dark Slate Gray." The dash, door panels, and carpeting are that color, but the seats look like "Cowhide Brown" to us. Think Ford King Ranch and you have the color. It was a shock to open the doors and see the color, although we're starting to get used to it. Some people like it. Most don't. Regardless of the color, the seats are heated (the rear seats, too), are power adjustable, and very comfortable. The pedals are power-adjustable and the steering wheel not only tilts up and down, but adjusts in and out, too. The interior has 12V power points on the dash, in the console, and in the back. There's also a 115V AC plug in the center console, courtesy of a small inverter! The instruments are easy to read and the climate control system allows set-and-forget ease. The MyGig navigation unit houses a hard drive for music storage, receives Sirius satellite radio, controls an iPod, and features UConnect for hands-free phone use. Ours is equipped with the Rear Entertainment Group that plays DVD movies and has Sirius backseat TV. The Grand Cherokee looks like it will be a very comfortable backcountry explorer.