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Jeep Grand Cherokee Orvis Car Review | 1 April 1998

Driven April 1998

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Hold the front page! Here it is... the world's first large off-roader to bear the badge of a fly-fishing equipment manufacturer - the Jeep Grand Cherokee Orvis!

Just imagine; in the future, you'll be able to buy a car with any brand name you like. Maybe a Ford Scorpio Betterspecs? Vauxhall Astra Wonder-loaf? Mercedes V-class Portakabin? Or even the Volvo 850 Ikea?

In the murky world of marketing, attaching one brand name to another is A Good Thing. In theory, two well-matched brands interact to create a warm glow in the heart of the buyer; in this case, Jeep (American, outdoorsy, vaguely macho) and Orvis (American, outdoorsy, vaguely twee).

As well as fly-fishing stuff, Orvis do a catalogue of 'classic' clothes, like the ones that fall out of the Sunday papers; Racing Green, Cotton Traders, that sort of thing - unadventurous togs with a dash of hokey 'tradition'.

So what is the Orvis input to this Jeep? After all, the Grand Cherokee is a rather nice thing, with a thumping great four-litre V6 engine (and a few alternative power plants, which we'll get to in a minute) and a fair smattering of luxury goodies. Does it really need a hand-knitted steering-wheel cosy, appliquéd with a mallard motif?

Thankfully, the Grand Cherokee Orvis has nothing of the sort. It's just a four-litre Grand Cherokee with the body kit and luxury interior bits from the 5.9-litre V8. The 5.9 is a load of fun (see First Steer, issue 49), but sadly there's no way to swap the steering wheel over for us Limeys. The Orvis is a way of getting all the trimmings in a Brit-friendly right-hand-drive package.

So you get all the luxury you can eat - ten-speaker CD-changer, huge five-spoke alloys, leather, wood, electric sunroof, and more buttons and knobs than a Boeing 767, for only £33,495. A Range Rover with all the bells and whistles is nearly 50 grand. Eek.

That's good value. But if you want proper penny-pinching, you may fancy a diesel, as the four-litre V6 with its auto 'box swallows unleaded at a Dean Martinesque 19mpg. So now, despite the fact that Americans think oil-burners are for Limey faggot eco-weenie tree-huggers only, you can get a 2.5-litre diesel too. Even more unAmerican is the fact that it comes with a stickshift - sorry, I mean manual - gearbox.

This is missing the point. The agricultural long-throw gearstick stands incongruously in the middle of the Turbo Diesel Limited's leather-and-wood luxury, and in this heavy beast the four-cylinder motor growls away frantically without achieving much in the way of forward motion. You have to be very determined, or brave, to try overtaking, and though it will cruise at motorway speeds, you'll have to change down to keep moving uphill.

And it doesn't even achieve 30mpg; the high 20s is more like it. Nope, on this one the Americans may be right.

Ignore the diesel. Buy the Orvis. The Orvis catalogue's description is perfect: 'rugged yet exceptionally handsome... tailored with the adventurous spirit in mind.' Although that's their description of the Explorer Twill Jacket and Trousers. 'They're washable!'

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