Upfitting A ZJ For Trail Time
Over the years, Jeep Grand Cherokees have won the affection of soccer moms and wheelers alike. Thanks to a steady production run between 1993 and 1999, the mid-sized Grand Cherokee ZJ, Chrysler's flagship family SUV of the era, took full advantage of the utility and function afforded by lightweight unibody construction. Available with three different powertrains and three separate trim levels, the Grand Cherokee simply fit the lifestyles and budgets of Middle America in the 1990s.
Every ZJ came linked with a coil-spring suspension front and rear, and the aftermarket has responded well to the ZJ's nimble platform, enabling a cult-like following to emerge around it. Today, we see ZJs in all forms of four wheeling, some of which have even spawned respect from the hardcore Jeep purists. For this reason, we felt it was time to highlight how a little aftermarket attention can transform the abundant and affordable ZJ from soccer shuttle to trail tamer in just one-day's time.
The Skyjacker 3-inch ZJ suspension system enabled us to fit larger tires without surrendering too much on-road drivability and virtually no sacrifice in ride comfort. The slight increase in elevation was noticeable when driving around corners at speed, but thanks to stiffer shock valving, we didn't feel that the higher center of gravity had an excessively negative effect on overall stability. Sure, it was noticeable, as the vehicle would lean more when driving around a cloverleaf freeway on-ramp, but the underbody ground clearance and ability to soak up bumps on the trail made up for this in our opinion. Off-highway, this kit is a winner. Aside from a more noticeable sound, largely due to the Skyjacker rod ends in place of rubber bushings on each of the link arms, the kit returned massive gains in terms of ride comfort and bump-soaking capability. Where we once lifted a tire and spun the vehicle's open differentials, we now find traction with no drama whatsoever. The larger tires fit the wheelwells perfectly, and thanks to the optional Skyjacker steering upgrades, we feel confident about heading out on the trail without a welder.