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Road Test: Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 LX 5dr Auto (1997-1999)

Car specifications


Will you listen to that fantastic noise… sorry, I forgot, you can’t. Right, then you’ll have to rely on my talents as a journalist to mimic the sound of the Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9-litre V8 using only the written word. Ready? Then here goes. Ahem.

Burble, burble, burble. Woofle, woofle, woofle… No, it’s no good. Skilled wordsmith that I am, I still can’t convey just how wickedly meaty that noise is. What I can do is tell you that it’s this same V8 which also makes the Grand Cherokee the fastest Jeep in the world. Ever.

With 237bhp and 347 lb ft of torque to call upon it’s not surprising really. It’ll storm from rest to 62mph in 8.2 seconds and do 124mph before the electronic governor cuts in to stop any 130mph-plus antics. In reality, you’ll rarely feel the need to push the Jeep that hard, not when you can sit at a lazy 100mph with the engine barely breaking sweat. Whatever speed you’re at, put your foot to the floor and you’ll feel yourself pressed back in the seat as the rear end squats and every hot hatch around disappears into the rear view mirror. Your fuel load disappears quickly too; don’t expect more than 15mpg and you won’t be disappointed.

Fortunately, however hard you decide to stamp on the throttle, the Jeep’s chassis is well up to high-speed work. Compared to most off-roaders it’s got the handling of a race car. Body roll is kept at bay just enough to ensure you’ll have no scares on a twisty road. In fact, the only thing that’ll put you off keeping up with the car in front is the steering, which is more off-roader woolly than sports car direct.

On the inside, things are pretty perfect. You sit high, but the driving position itself is laid back and comfy. The huge dashboard provides just about every instrument known to man and there’s more leather on the seats than you’ll find on a moustachioed Harley Davidson rider - well, nearly. And in the boot, the spare wheel gets a canvas cover with built-in pockets.

Outside there’s little to distinguish this leviathan from any other Grand Cherokee. The front grille has a mesh insert, there are two cooling vents on the bonnet and some special alloy wheels and chrome badging.

Now for the but - and, sadly, it’s a biggy. Due to engineering problems the 5.9-litre engine is available in left-hand drive only. Still, that’s a small price to pay for a car that burbles and woofles quite as well as this.

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