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1998 4x4 of the Year Models: Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9L Limited

Rear Top Shot
David Freiburger
| Contributor
Posted February 1, 1998
Contributors: Tori Tellem
Photographers: 4 Wheel & Off-Road Staff

1998 Jeep Cherokee 5.9L Limited

As if the 220hp 5.2L V-8-powered Grand Cherokees weren't good enough, Jeep went and offered the healthier 5.9L in the new-for-1998 Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited. In fact, they weren't satisfied with the regular ol' Dodge-version mill and stepped it up a bit with a new computer, a requirement for premium fuel, and the healthiest 4x4 exhaust note in recent memory. Rumor has it that the stock exhaust is right off the shelf at Mopar Performance. A beefier 46 RE trans swallows the grunt instead of the 44 RE unit used on 5.2L Grands, and the transfer case is the same fulltime unit with low-lock that helped the Grand Cherokee win the 4x4 of the Year title back in 1996.

So it's all you could want, right? Well, not really. The 5.9L engine comes only in the swanky 5.9 Limited, which includes new body cladding, a full-dress leather interior with a rear-seat armrest, a sunroof, trick tunes, and fake wood. Not that those are bad things, but the 5.9 Limited package is a minimum $38,175 wallet knocker; with a few options not netted with the 5.9L, ours ran $38,900. The good news is standard equipment including 3.73-geared axles and a rear Dana 44 with a Trac-Lok, but the bad news for trail use is that you're stuck with pavement-priority Goodyear Wrangler HP VSB treads on one-off 16x7 wheels. Not only that, the Up Country suspension is an option-list no-go. Jeep explained that the 5.9 is targeted at buyers with a concern for street performance and handling in addition to 4x4 capability. Granted-but we found that the lack of ground clearance and the highway treads significantly diminished off-road performance versus the taller, meatier Grand Cherokees.

But even handicapped by street shoes, the 5.9 still ousted all comers in this year's driving contest. The Jeep scored tops in the Urban, Highway, Sand, and Rockcrawling portions of the Ride & Drive. Other top scores fell under Engine's Available Power, Drivetrain Performance, Interior Appointments, and Four-wheeling Attributes. Score! Even so, we know the basic platform is capable of more.

Other complaints included an interior that's starting to wear on us (too many digital displays), a shifter that's a bit gummy, and a CV joint on the axle end of the front driveshaft that scattered during full-derby sand abuse. Witnesses claim the breakage was the result of excess throttle; the driver, of course, denies it. Could there be just too much power?

Nope. The engine just made us long for a mild lift and some 31-inch mud treads. Even better, perhaps we could convince Jeep to offer the 5.9 engine along with lower trim levels.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited
Likes
•Serious engine power
•Best off-road performance
•Comfy interior

Dislikes
•Really lame tires
•Scattered driveshaft
•Oodles of money

Specifications
General
Manufacturer Jeep
Model Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited
Base Price $38,175
Price as Tested $38,900
Options as Tested Skidplate/Tow Hook Group (front suspension, transfer case, fuel tank skidplates; three tow hooks).

Engine
Type OHV V-8
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 5.9/360
Bore & Stroke (inches) 4.00x3.48
Compression Ratio 8.7:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel injection
Fuel Requirement/Capacity (gallons) 91 Octane
Unleaded Premium/23
SAE Peak Horsepower 245 @ 4,000 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 345 @ 3,200 rpm

Transmission
Type Four-speed automatic overdrive
Model 46RE
Ratios First: 2.45:1; Second: 1.45:1; Third: 1.00:1; Fourth: 0.69:1; Reverse: 2.20:1

Transfer Case
Type Quadra-Trac (on demand)
Model NV249
Low-Range Ratio 2.72:1

Axles
Front Type Dana 30
Rear Type Dana 44
Hubs N/A
Ratio 3.73:1

Suspension
Front Live axle, Quadra-Link leading arms, coil springs, track bar
Rear Live axle, Quadra-Link trailing arms, coil springs, track bar

Steering
Type Power recirculating ball with damper
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 2.94/12.7:1
Turning Radius (feet) 36.75

>Wheels
Size (inches) 16x7
Material Cast-aluminum

Tires
Size P225/70R16 BSW/VSB A/T
Brand Goodyear Wrangler HP

Brake System
Front 11-inch discs with ABS
Rear 11.2-inch discs with ABS

Weight
Measured Weight (pounds) 4,300
Advertised GVWR (pounds) 5,500

Mileage
EPA Estimate (city/hwy mpg) 13/16
As Tested (mpg) 12.36

Acceleration
Standing 1/4-mile (seconds @ mph) 16.34 @ 81.76

Braking
60-0 mph (feet) 135.49

Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 105.9
Overall Length 177.2
Overall Width 70.7
Overall Height 64.9
Front/Rear Track 58.5/58.8
Front/Rear Overhang 32.0/37.25
Minimum Front Ground Clearance 8.25

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