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Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 LTD LX Car Review | 1 May 1998

Driven May 1998

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It's just not fair. An excellent new car comes out abroad - M-Roadster, Beetle, Skyline, M-Class - and us poor saps have to wait ages before we can get it in the UK. Worse still, there are some cars we're denied altogether - unless you can put up with the steering wheel resting on the wrong side.

Following the Fiat Barchetta, the Chevy Corvette, the AMG E50 and the now-dead Integrale, the stomping Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 is the latest in a list of excellent left-hand-drive-only cars to be officially imported to the UK. It's a shame it's only being brought here as a left-hooker because it means that only four people will buy them - and only four people will realise what huge fun it is.

The reason? The whopping 5.9-litre V8 squeezed under the Jeep's bonnet. Turn the key, feel the car's body rock from side to side in anticiption and you know you're about to unleash something a little bit deranged; 237 super-unleaded-sucking horses are about to be released, along with a massive 347 lb ft of torque. Don't even think about towing - torque like this would rip an Eldiss Superswift in two.

Go for a romp on a sleepy country lane and you instantly find yourself scraping along against hedgerows. The Grand Cherokee is a big thing at the best of times, but having the wheel on the left at least allows you to keep well to your own side.

Pump the gung-ho pedal and watch hot hatch drivers in front dampen their pants with nerves as you loom up in their mirrors and stay there. Yes, it's a sizeable off-roader, but the V8 Grand Cherokee's schizo personality also convinces itself that it's an agile sportster when asked to perform. The figures suggest 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds with a 124mph max and it's equally at home launching like a banzai or settling down to a high speed cruise.

Permanent four-wheel drive and handling to match its straight-line potential suggest that the Grand Cherokee isn't living in a state of delusion. Only the indirect steering is more suited to a 12-lane interstate freeway than a manure-covered British backroad. Oh, and it brakes well, too - there's a badger scurrying nervously around rural Buckinghamshire which narrowly avoided becoming my bonnet mascot, just to prove it.

When you're not tearing around scaring the local wildlife, sink back in the deep leather-clad seats, fiddle with their electric adjusters, blast out top tunes through the Infinity sound system and chuckle at the manic experience that's just a press of your right foot away. Soon you'll be too preoccupied to notice that you're sitting where your passenger should be. Just try not to be too distracted by the fuel guage sailing round from full to empty at a rate of just 15.8mpg, even if you drive like a nun.

Put up with the left-hand-drive, buy one and grin until your ears drop off.

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