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1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Posted in Project Vehicles on January 1, 1999
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Photographers: Rick Péwé

It may look somewhat the same as the old Grand, but the new Jeep Grand Cherokee is in a league of its own. Sure, it's still the same basic shape and style-and it's got the same price as the '98 model. But a more thorough investigation of this luxury sport/utility reveals that there's more new here than just a little facelift.

In fact, nearly everything is upgraded and refined, from the all-new sheetmetal with the slightly more rounded style and similar-looking grille to the highly improved drivetrain components. Not that there was anything really wrong with the old Grand, in fact, it won more awards in its class than any other real 4x4.

Refined levels of luxury abound in the inside, and more hip and head room make for a more comfortable ride, even in the rear seat. The new interior is ergonomically designed with two stalks on the steering column for lights and wipers, and all other controls within easy reach. Hot new items are the overhead console with controls to deactivate a variety of convenient or obnoxious functions, such as all doors automatically locking at 15 mph. Especially nice are the radio controls on the back of the steering wheel, something insurance companies should offer a discount for.

Jeep started with a desire to keep all the previous model's strengths and to upgrade the performance and luxury departments to make it competitive in the booming sport/ute market. Stronger, leaner, and meaner is what the company came up with, and the ad slogan, "The Most Capable Sport/Utility Ever" is right on the money. The new 4.7 V-8, coupled to the new 45RFE transmission, is a delight to drive, and for off-roading, the Quadra-Trac II transfer case and Vari-Lok axles make it more capable than ever.

Even Grand buyers on a budget can enjoy the new Jeep, since the highly improved 4.0L six-cylinder and 42RE transmission are available, along with the standard Select-Trac transfer case and rear Trac-Loc option. But regardless of drivetrain options, the improved steering, handling, and braking all come standard with a bevy of interior options and upgrades.

Our intro to this new offering was a real kick in the pants, and we can't wait to do lots of highway and trail testing to give you a real owner's perspective. Our biggest complaint is that the transmission and transfer-case controls are too close and similar, but after a few weeks, their placement will probably feel natural. Even if you can't afford to buy one, you owe it to yourself to take a testdrive, but be careful, you just might take one home.

When a new engine is introduced that has 10 percent less displacement than the one it replaced, old-time gearheads start to worry. But this new 4.7 PowerTech V-8 was designed to outperform the old 5.2, and it really does. All you have to do is step on the pedal, and any doubts are whipped away as your neck muscles start to contract. The basics of the engine are a cast-iron block and a single camshaft on each of the aluminum heads. The new mill pumps out 235 bhp at 4,800 rpm and 295 lb-ft at 3,200 rpm and even meets California's LEV (Low Emissions Vehicle) standards. The combination of a 9.3:1 compression ratio, sequential multiport fuel injection with variable fuel-injection timing and coil-on-plug ignition makes this a peppy, durable mill.
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