When the Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ was rolled out in 1999, it looked similar to its predecessor, the Grand Cherokee ZJ. In fact, it was almost all new. It was also a very adept off-highway machine. Hidden beneath its sexy exterior and luxurious interior was a pair of good 'ol solid axles and a simple, flexy coil-spring suspension. The WJ was such a well-heeled, capable vehicle that it earned our Four Wheeler of the Year award in 1999 and again in 2002.
Nowadays WJs are plentiful, inexpensive, and truly great builders. Part of the WJ's beauty is that with just simple, low-buck modifications, they can be transformed into an even more outstanding trail machine. Recently, we did just that.
We traveled to Rough Country Suspension in Dyersburg, Tennessee, where we installed their 4-inch X-Series suspension kit under a bone-stock 2000 WJ. Rough Country offers three different kits for the WJ. They offer a 2-inch-lift entry-level spacer kit with shocks as well as two complete 4-inch lift kits. We installed the top-of-the-line 4-inch kit that includes Rough Country's X-Flex fully rebuildable control arms. This kit replaces the factory coil springs with new springs to lift the vehicle and it includes an adjustable track bar, sway bar quick disconnects, transmission crossmember spacers, rear upper control arm drop bracket, rear sway bar brackets, rear shock relocation kit, and application-valved Performance 2.2 Series shocks. This kit is recommended for up to 265/75 (31-inch) tires.
Follow along as we show you the components of the Rough Country kit and how they install.
At the time of print, the WJ 4-inch X-Series suspension we installed was being sold on Rough Country's website for $749.95. Other WJ kits include the standard 4-inch kit for $499.95 and the 2-inch spacer kit for $249.95.
Here you can see how the rear lower shock relocation bracket helps to keep the shock body away from the tire at full compression.
The Rough Country kit installed easily and without any glitches. The owner of this rig chose to run 265/75-16 (32x10.50) Dick Cepek Radial F-C II tires on the factory wheels. Stock, the WJ traveled 491/2 inches up a 20-degree ramp to earn a RTI score of 467. After modifications, with the sway bar connected, that number improved to a decent 53 inches to earn a score of 500. However, the big change came with the sway bar disconnected, when the WJ traveled 74 inches up the ramp to earn a score of 698. It's important to note that the owner chose to install tires that were an inch larger than the recommended maximum diameter, so there was some front tire-to-fender contact that inhibited travel up the ramp.
Off-highway, the WJ impressed us all by climbing over our dirt test track obstacles with no problem. The improvement in ground clearance, approach/departure angles, and flex combined with the traction of the F-C IIs to make for a mountain goat-like rig. We really liked the look of the vehicle with its new stance and aggressive tires on the factory wheels, too.