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Heres How the Jeep Grand Cherokee Has Changed Over Four Generations

From its inception, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has been designed for adventures on-road and off. Unlike many trail rigs (like its Wrangler stablemate), the Grand Cherokee uses a unibody chassis instead of a body-on-frame setup for better manners on pavement. Luxurious appointments and ample interior volume make it popular with urbanites and families. Still, its a genuine Jeep that can go well off the beaten path. Over four generations, Jeep has continually improved the Grand Cherokee formula. Lets see how its changed from then to now. First Generation (19931998) The original ZJ Grand Cherokee debuted sensationally at the 1992 Detroit Auto Show, when Lee Iacocca drove it to Cobo Hall, up a staircase, through a window, then onto the floor amidst whooping crowds, trailing a cascade of shattered glass behind it. Based on a steel unibody, it was initially powered by a 190-hp 4.0-liter I-6 engine sending power to either the rear or all four wheels. A four-speed automatic transmission came standard, though Jeep briefly offered a five-speed manual. Toward the end of the run, an available 5.9-liter V-8 with 245 hp and 345 lb-ft of torque made it the quickest SUV wed ever tested. This 5.9 Limited set the stage for hi-po Grand Cherokees to follow in later generations. Second Generation (19992005) The WJ generation brought more rounded, sophisticated styling, along with some novel drivetrain technology. Its four-wheel drive system relied on rear-axle slippage to send power to the front, and the automatic transmission used three planetary gear sets with a divided second gear that selected distinct ratios depending on load. A revised 4.0-liter I-6 and a more modern 4.7-liter V-8 provided better refinement and acceleration. Comfort, NVH, and ergonomics were improved over its predecessor, but solid axles were retained front and rear for off-road performance. In 1999 we kept one in our long-term fleet, and over a year of driving we found it to be a great all-rounder whether cruising city avenues or exploring chunky trails. Third Generation (20052010) Styling for the WK generation Grand Cherokee returned to its more boxy, angular roots. With standard engines ranging from a 3.7-liter V-6 to a 5.7-liter V-8, off-road capability was furthered by available true low-range gearing and electronic limited-slip differentials. Simultaneously, Jeep replaced the solid front axle with an independent front suspension and added an available hydraulic active stabilizer system, both of which enhanced on-road composure. That street-oriented focus paved the way for the 6.1-liter V-8-powered Grand Cherokee SRT8, which in 2006 recorded better 060, quarter mile, skidpad, and slalom figures than the twice-as-expensive Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Fourth Generation (2011Present) In the late 2000s, Chrysler found itself in dire financial straits. It had to bring its best to survive. With the WK2 Grand Cherokee, it did and earned a lifesaving federal bailout. Inside and out, the car became more attractive and luxurious than ever. New four-wheel independent suspension smoothed the ride on-road, while adjustable air springs allowed over 11 inches of ground clearance in its highest off-road setting. Electronic control modes let the driver dial in traction for pavement, snow, sand, or rock. Standard engines were a 3.6-liter V-6 or revised 5.7-liter V-8, but the SRT8 made its return with a 475-hp 6.4-liter V-8. For some, however, that wasnt enough, so Jeep created the Hellcat-powered Trackhawk with 707 hp. Again, for a moment, a Jeep was the quickest SUV wed ever tested . Now approaching the end of its life cycle, were eager to see where the Grand Cherokee goes from here. The post Heres How the Jeep Grand Cherokee Has Changed Over Four Generations appeared first on MotorTrend .

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