Living With The Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland
Confidence. That's what the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland exudes. Whether it's on the road or trail, at an overcrowded shopping mall, or pushing through branches on a long-forgotten trail to nowhere, there's never a second thought about the ability of the Grand to bring you back. And that's saying something for what some people consider a 40K soccer-mom-mobile.
We've used and abused our 2002 4x4 of the Year winner for the past year and put nearly 30,000 miles on it and ran it through 2000 gallons of gas. With nary a hiccup or complaint, the Grand has towed loads far in excess of its rated capacity over mountains, trails, dirt, and mud, also giving us comfortable commuting time where we can relax for an hour on the way to work.
When we played, we soared it through dunes, mired it in the muck, and banged it over rocks the engineers would have cringed at. Sure, we've been stuck and nearly stranded due to the street tires and lack of a suspension lift, but you learn quickly how to use what the vehicle has rather than complain about what it doesn't.
So consider what the Grand does have. New for the '02 model year was the Overland package, with a revamped and refined interior with stylish white gauges and a host of amenities from tire-pressure monitoring to heated seats. Throw in the Vari-Lok axles and full-time four-wheel drive and you have a capable vehicle on road or off. Thanks to the supple Quadralink suspension and High Output 4.7L V-8 engine, this rig is a canyon carver even in the rain or snow, as well as a plush 4x4 that can tackle many trails and still tow at speed over hill and dale. Yeah, we thrashed it hard for a year, and we will be very sorry to let it out of our stable.
But of course every vehicle has its drawbacks in design, technology, quality, and performance. Ummm, let's see. Oh yeah, paint gets chipped on rocks. Bad design. Uh...moist-sensitive windshield and wipers are too erratic; we'd opt to go back to regular intermittent style. Needless technology. OK, quality-wise the Grand has a slight pull to the right now, but the tires wear fine. And the seat heater blew a fuse. (Hear us whine?) But performance? The Grand has spectacular acceleration from any speed, even with a load. Entering an L.A. freeway onramp is a joy, not a death wish. However, the brake pedal feel is poor and it has been thankfully upgraded on the '03 Grands. Even with a 7,000-pound load on the tail the Grand can easily stop the whole train with four-wheel disc brakes, but you know you're pressing the big pedal more than you should have to.
That's a pretty small list of negatives we came up with, probably smaller than any 4x4 of the Year winner.
We'll keep the Grand Cherokee Overland around as long as we can, and hopefully give you some updates along the way as it becomes a long-term test vehicle. This is one rig we hate to give back. In fact, we'd even be willing to part with some of our hard-earned cash to buy a Jeep like this, something we've never even considered before. And that's a good thing.
|Model||Grand Cherokee Overland|
|Price as Tested||$39,090|
|Options as Tested:||Inferno Red tinted pearl coat,|
|Customer Preferred Package 25L, Trailer-Tow Group IV, 17x7.5 chrome wheels, power adjustable pedals with memory, tire-pressure monitoring system|