Living With The WK
In case you missed our October 2009 issue, we introduced our fully-loaded 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland WK long-term loaner, which is equipped with a 5.7L Hemi V-8, GPS navigation, and even Sirius Satellite TV. It also came with a 115V inverter, 12V power points throughout, tie-downs, fold-down rear seating, and other equipment that makes it a vehicle to consider when looking for a backcountry explorer So far, we've put more than 5,500 miles on the WK and it's been a lot of fun to drive. Highway manners are flawless. The Hemi has plenty of power, so much, in fact, that we hardly ever keep our foot out of it. Even with aggressive driving, the WK consistently returns 17-18 mpg around town and 19.5-21 mpg on the highway. The Hemi's Multi Displacement System (MDS) is transparent and works very well. A light illuminates in the instrument cluster that tells the driver when the MDS is operating. If the light wasn't there, we'd never know whether the Hemi was running on eight or four cylinders. The all-wheel drive that's always engaged in high range keeps the WK tracking well in inclement weather.
Off-road, the WK also shines. Low range is accessed by lifting a small chrome T-handle next to the tranny shifter. The shift is smooth and quiet. The Electronic Limited Slip Differentials (ELSD) front and rear are NOT limited slip differentials, they're electronically actuated LOCKING differentials. They lock completely. The computer senses when rear, or front and rear, lockers are needed and actuates the differentials, keeping them locked for about 90 seconds after the event that prompted the actuation. The ELSDs are then unlocked until needed again. While it sounds complicated, the Grand Cherokee has the finest traction control system we have ever driven. The vehicle exhibits no squeaks or rattles yet and the climate control system works well. The seating is comfortable and the power front buckets offer enough adjustments to satisfy everyone.
Besides gas, the only money spent on the WK so far has been an oil change. With a new filter, the Hemi takes seven quarts of 5W-20 oil. To change the oil, the engine skidplate needs to be removed. This is easy to do by loosening the two front bolts, removing the two rear ones, then slipping the skid off. The oil filter can now be accessed with some effort. While removing the filter, oil runs out. This could be a real mess, but Jeep engineers designed a little splash tray that diverts the oil away from suspension and axle components.
We have had one problem with the MyGig Navigation unit. Sometimes a feature won't work, such as routing or Bluetooth. We've found that if this happens, we stop, remove the key, re-insert the key, start the vehicle, and everything works fine. A weird glitch? We'd get it looked at under warranty, but there aren't any Jeep dealerships in southern Utah anymore. Our other problem is ground clearance, especially the front bumper/air dam. The WK works so well off-road, its only limitation is its air dam that hits the ground almost every time we go off-road. This can be remedied, of course, with bigger tires and a suspension system, but we're not allowed to make those changes on a long-term loaner.
Chrysler told us that immediate family (wife) could drive the Grand Cherokee, as they thought it would be a better test if the vehicle was used as it would be in most families. My problem is prying it away from her. She likes the WK so much that she wants us to buy one. At this point, a few months into the test, I have to say that I would like to purchase a WK Overland, too.
We'll keep you updated on how the test progresses.