Make Your Jeep Grand Cherokee Ride Better Off- and On-RoadPosted in How To: Suspension Brakes on April 22, 2015
I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I convinced my parents to buy a WJ Grand Cherokee (yay!). They got a 2004 Overland Edition with the High Output 4.7L engine, QuadraDrive II four-wheel drive system, and factory rock rails. These vehicles were the last of the solid-axle Grand Cherokees and are incredibly capable right out of the box.
The bad news is that my mother made an ultimatum that I’m not allowed to lift her new Jeep. No lift? OK, but she didn’t say that I have to leave it stock. I just needed to get creative about how I could upgrade the suspension to blast down washboard roads and explore ghost towns on the weekend yet still be tame enough for Mom to drive to work on Monday morning. Instead of seeing it as a problem, I saw this as a challenge and set out to source components that make no compromises.
The WJ Grand Cherokee uses a five-link front coil suspension similar to the TJ, XJ, and ZJ, while out back, it departs from the norm with a triangulated three-link coil suspension straight from the factory. The three-link provides excellent articulation but less roll resistance than a more traditional four-link and trackbar, so we upgraded the sway bars to heavier Eibach units. The front is a larger 34mm diameter hollow bar, and the rear is an 18mm solid rod. Both have multiple mounting points that can be used to adjust the stiffness of the sway bar.
While the sway bars have improved handling on the road, it is not surprising that they decrease articulation in the dirt and actually hurt not only trail prowess but ride quality as well. To combat that, we added a set of JKS Quicker Disconnects to take the front sway bar out of the equation when off-road. The Quicker Disconnects use greasable spherical bushings and tapered mounting pins that make them easy to get on and off, although there isn’t a lot of room to access them on a stock-height WJ.
Keeping with our “no lift, no compromises” theme, I added adjustable Rancho RS9000XL shocks that can be firmed up for added control on the pavement and dialed back to smooth out the bumps in the dirt with the turn of a knob. Complementing the suspension modifications is a set of Cooper Discoverer A/T3 tires in the stock 235/65R17 size. These tires are not as aggressive as Cooper’s Discoverer STT or S/T MAXX, but they are well matched to the capabilities of my parents’ Grand Cherokee and the terrain they intend to use it on. The A/T3s are whisper quiet, balanced with very little weight, and have generous siping for excellent wet weather performance.
While Mom and Dad’s Grand Cherokee looks the same as it did before, it now handles and rides better on the pavement for daily commuting and is more capable on the trail when the weekend comes. Maybe that isn’t such bad news after all!