Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2005   by David Booth

Hemi Power and A New Attitude

Jeep desperately wants you to know how refined its new Grand Cherokee is. The SUV's new unibody frame is not only stiffer, but it's also laced liberally with sound-deadening foam. Its independent fron...

Jeep desperately wants you to know how refined its new Grand Cherokee is. The SUV’s new unibody frame is not only stiffer, but it’s also laced liberally with sound-deadening foam. Its independent front double wishbones have replaced the archaic live front axle. Its imaginatively executed Dynamic Handling de-coupling system lets its stabilizer bars reduce roll when cornering, yet it renders the ride princess-and-the-pea soft when cruising in a straight line.

And it is all true, for the 2005 Grand Cherokee is more than just a little advanced from the old But. none of those technological enhancements captures the essence of the new Jeep, the reason why someone would pay out more than $40,000 for a Chrysler product rather than something such as a Lexus RX 330 or a Toyota 4Runner.

That reason, like the attraction of so many other Chrysler products, can be summed up in one word: Hemi.

With 330 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque, the Grand Cherokee’s Hemi has the kind of power that makes short work of slow-moving tractor-trailers and the kind that always, no matter how steep the hill or deep the mud, provides the driver with the feeling that throttle will conquer all.

The surprising thing is that the Hemi also feels relatively sophisticated. I say surprising because the 5.7L (optional on the topline Limited, which starts with a 4.7L V8; a 3.7L V6 is standard in the Laredo) is still a relic from the past with overhead valves, pushrods and only two valves in each cylinder. Nonetheless, noise, vibration and harshness are remarkably subdued.

In fact, the Hemi can claim some sophistication as it has the same cylinder-deactivation system as the Chrysler 300C, which sees the big V8 deactivate four cylinders while cruising at moderate speeds.

As for the chassis, the 2005 Grand Cherokee is a mixture of (mostly) new and old. The front suspension is now independent. It also has more travel than the old live axle, so it retains its off-road ability.

Out back, the solid beam axle remains, but it’s now connected to the frame with five separate links for better suspension control. And, as previously mentioned, there will be that trick electro-hydraulic adjustable sway bar that softens the ride available later in the year.

Not that it’s needed. Definitely calibrated for comfort, the Grand Cherokee Limited’s ride is very reminiscent of the 300C’s – not so soft that you would call it a land yacht, but it definitely coddles the passengers. All is well until you hit frost heaves. On smooth roads, you don’t feel much compromise from the solid rear axle. But over heaves, the SUV it skips sideways a bit. Jeep’s engineers disguised this sensation quite well, but a live rear axle is never going to ride as well as a fully independent system.

Jeep wisely did not try to turn the Grand Cherokee into a seven-seat minivan alternative, so the rear cargo space is a spacious 34.5 cubic feet with the seats up and a substantial 67.4 cu. ft. when they are down. It can also brag about a flat loading floor when the rear seats are folded.

Passenger room is also much improved, especially in the rear. The accommodations are pretty swanky. Excellent leather, more appealing plastic and the new air conditioning/ audio system layout seen on the 300C are new touches. There’s also an additional LCD screen in the roof available for the optional rear-seat entertainment package.

The thing that can’t be ignored, though, is that honking Hemi engine.

Powerful beyond its displacement and more sophisticated than its lineage suggests, it is the one convincing argument for buying a Grand Cherokee, something this Jeep has been lacking for quite some time.


The new ’05 Grand Cherokee is at least two generations ahead of its predecessor.

Base Price:$49,990

Engine:5.7L OHV V8

Transmission:Five-speed automatic

Length: 4,740.5 mm (186.6 in.)

Fuel, L/100 km:City – 14.2, Hwy. – 8.8