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Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.0 Limited Car Review | 1 May 2001

Driven May 2001

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While European and Japanese car manufacturers seem determined to make their big off-roaders ever more refined and road-orientated, Jeep continues to fly the flag for the American way of 4x4s. That is, off-roaders that look as macho and great-outdoorsy as a pair of Timberland boots, backed up by Mount Rushmore-scaling off-road ability. This Grand Cherokee looks like it'd have no trouble stomping through swamps and getting real down'n'dirty where fancy-pants toff-roaders from 'Yoorup' fear to tread.

Yessiree Bob, this four-litre, straight-six-engined critter may lack the ultimate urge of the big daddy 4.7-litre V8 Grand, but it's still as grunty as your average WWF grudge match and will take you further into the wild west than similarly-sized/priced rivals. When you look at what you get for your bucks, this four-litre LTD's asking price looks decidedly Wal-Mart compared with, say, the equivalent Range Rover's Selfridges-style cost.

Mated to that straight-six, you get standard automatic transmission, cruise control, aircon, leather and electric seats. OK, you also get some unnecessary timber adorning the dash, but at least the company no longer feels the need to cram most control functions onto a single steering-column-mounted stalk. Mercifully, all the relevant functions are dealt with by a dashboard arrangement much more familiar to drivers used to vehicles manufactured on this side of the pond.

What you won't be used to, if you're considering switching from a regular 'sedan', is the Grand Cherokee's on-road feel. There's plenty of show, with a suitably gutsy roar from the engine and an Addams Family-sized lurch from the transmission if you apply serious cowboy boot to the throttle, but not as much go as you might expect.

The general feeling is still more redneck than refined and the ride and handling are decidedly rustic compared with newer breeds of 4x4 - like BMW's X5 or Mercedes' M-class. The steering isn't quite as light and vague as George W Bush's grasp of world geography, but it's not far off. Add to that shock absorbers and tyres that feel like they've been filled with waste cellulite from a Florida liposuction clinic, and you get a decidedly wobbly experience on the tarmac.

Get used to it, though, and you are soon threading through towns and cruising happily down the open road, dreaming of the Grand Canyon, which, incidentally, is the natural feature most brought to mind when you attempt to fill the boot with kit. Like the country it comes from, this Grand Cherokee is far from perfect - the unsupportive front seats and rears that are as slidey as a Ry Cooder soundtrack, bear testament to that. But it's still a cool wagon to roll in

Mark Holmes

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