Jeep Grand Cherokee
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Jeep Grand Cherokee LeradoDriven February 1997
Now it's my turn. I select first in the low ratio 'box, creep forward, breathe deep and the car careers off. Staying clear of the brakes to avoid skidding, I rely totally on the turbodiesel engine's braking to keep things in hand. There's a scream, but it's not me, it's the engine. Just as it sounds like it'll burst, the track levels out and I'm back in control. Earlier, in the four-litre petrol car, it'd been hairier, the higher gearing of the automatic and lower compression of the petrol motor meant the descent was much quicker.
The 2.5-litre Turbotronic engine isn't nearly as powerful as its petrol buddy, but there's so much torque (205lb ft at 1,800rpm to be exact) that off-road it will pull itself up hills at idle. Drive, unlike the four-litre, is part-time 4x4. In normal conditions it's rear-driven, but you can manually shift to high-ratio 4x4 or low-ratio 4x4 on the move. Also manual is the five-speed gearbox, but the change is long, slow and agricultural and there's no space next to the clutch for your left foot to rest. So, when it comes to on-road driving, the automatic petrol car is much more pleasant. It's a damn sight quicker and quieter, too. The diesel's power band is very narrow and, though it will get to 97mph at some stage, it complains loudly when worked hard.
On A and B roads it's frustrating as the Grand Cherokee's road manners are among the best. It handles well without too much body roll and gives you more confidence than a Discovery. On motorways the engine stays schtum thanks to seriously high gearing which means you've got little acceleration, but at least it's comfortable. Adding to your comfort is a long list of standard goodies including air con, electric windows, power steering, cruise control, twin airbags, alloys and alarm/central locking - all for £26,495.
The petrol Laredo costs exactly the same. Or at least it does until you start driving, when the diesel's fuel consumption advantage makes itself known. Where the four-litre gulps fuel at 13mpg in town and 18.2 on the combined cycle, the diesel manages a less terrifying 23mpg and 29.7mpg. I'd have the petrol version, but then I do have a company Overdrive card