We’ll be honest – we were never fans of the previous Jeep Grand Cherokee. We found it to be uncomfortably small, inefficient, clunky and unreliable. Imagine our trepidation when we were handed the keys for the all new 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited and told to “have at it.” We reached for our red pens and prepared for the worst. However, after stepping foot into the all new Jeep, we put away the pens and settled in for a rewarding and positive experience.
We were immediately taken with the new styling. Gone were the afterthought, plastic stick-on fender flares and door belt trim pieces. They’ve been replaced with honest to goodness, stamped sheet metal, and we think they look fantastic, especially when covered with Jeep’s Inferno Red Tinted Pearl paint. Jeep has managed to restyle the Grand Cherokee in a manner that is fresh and exciting while remaining true to its roots – something that’s easier said than done. One staffer did note that from certain angles, the rear lift gate area bares an uncanny resemblance to the Land Rover, but again, that’s a good thing as Land Rover pens some sharp vehicles.
Our 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited came equipped with nearly everything Jeep had to offer, including the 25K package. The 25K package includes such niceties as: Chrysler’s 5.9L Hemi V8 motor, Quadra-Trac II active full-time all wheel drive system, stability control, heated leather seats, power sunroof, and the UConnect system, which is a Bluetooth enabled communications system. Our $43,128 sticker also included: Trailer Tow Group, DVD-based navigation system with 6-disc changer and rear DVD player, SIRIUS Satellite radio, supplemental side air bags, Park Sense, a tire pressure monitoring system and the Grand Cherokee Touring package.
Inside, we found the Jeep Grand Cherokee to be much improved over the previous model, and our taller editors were especially grateful for the improved leg and head room up front. “In the past, the only way I could drive the Jeep Grand Cherokee was if I leaned to one side, sort of like a gangsta’ lean,” wrote one of our six-foot four editors. “With the 2005 model, I have plenty of leg and head room. It’s fantastic!”
Front seat passengers will no doubt enjoy the infrared-controlled automatic climate control system that uses an infrared beam to measure body temperature and adjust the air temperature accordingly. Other trick bits include an improved center stack that features a large, easy to read LCD screen, an intuitive climate control system, and a host of easy to find and use buttons for items such as the trip computer, seat heaters, and pedal adjustments.
Jeep smartly uses chrome accents on the climate controls, the center console and around the large and easy to read instrument cluster gauges. The thickly padded, leather wrapped steering wheel tilts and telescopes and hosts the controls for the electronic cruise control system.
Some journalists complained about what they described as “cheap interior materials” and “hideously faux wood trim,” but we think they’re out of their minds. We didn’t find the interior materials to be any worse than what you’d find on the $43,000 Chevrolet Tahoe or $41,000 Ford Expedition, so we’re not sure why they were making such a big deal over it. I guess everyone needs something to complain about.
Rear seat passengers may gripe a bit, as we did find the seats to be a bit on the “short” side, especially in the thigh area. Our taller staff members hinted at a lack of thigh support, and some wondered if children’s’ safety seats would fit properly on the relatively short seat cushions. The theater style seating is a welcome feature, as it provides rear seat passengers with better forward visibility.
In the cargo area behind the rear seats, the Jeep offers wider accommodations than before, thanks in part to wheel wells that intrude less. A nice touch is the plentiful allocation of cargo tie down anchors. Cupholders and storage compartments are plentiful and well placed – a must for today’s urban road warriors.
On the road, we found the Jeep Grand Cherokee performed nearly flawlessly. The now infamous 5.9L Hemi provided plenty of grunt, and thanks to the Quadra-Trac II all wheel drive system, we were never left wanting for more traction or grip. Body roll was well managed, even when the going got technical in the twisties. Granted, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is no Audi S4, but it certainly handles better than you’d expect.
And despite that great handling, the ride is very compliant and comfortable. The suspension soaks up road irregularities, and does a great job at damping road noise, unlike the previous model Grand Cherokee. We have a sneaking suspicion that the boys from Daimler may have helped Jeep with their NVH (Noise Vibration and Harshness) issues, and that’s something we should all be thankful for. Simply put, the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee doesn’t ride like Jeeps of the past. It exudes a sense of confidence and refinement.
We had an opportunity to take the Jeep Grand Cherokee off-road, on a course that was set up at an old downhill ski facility. As luck would have it, the skies opened up a few days before we were brought to the facility, so the trails were extremely slick and muddy. But none of this fazed the Grand Cherokee – it took everything we could throw at it with ease, and impressed us with its off-roading prowess despite wearing relatively sporty 17-inch all season Goodyear tires. The Quadra-Trac II system easily handled the most severe conditions, and the Descent Assist Technology kept us in total control, even as we traversed down a 45-degree, mud covered hill.
As our time came to an end with the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee, we found ourselves wishing we had more time with it. All of us agreed that it was light years beyond what the old Grand Cherokee was, and we’re excited by what Jeep may have to offer with its forthcoming Commander model. As far as mid-size SUV models go, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the finest. And, if you don’t splurge on the options, it’s also one of the best bargains around.