2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee
DaimlerChrysler completely redesigned the Jeep Grand Cherokee range for the 2005 model year, and the platform has become the basis for the new Mercedes-Benz M-Class--but with a Mercedes-Benz engine and transmission. The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, which remains largely unchanged from 2005, sits between the basic Grand Cherokee Laredo and the fully appointed Grand Cherokee Overland, which was introduced for the 2006 model year.
From its specification sheet, our test car, a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (with a Hemi 5.7-liter V-8), seemed to have just about every tech option we could want: rain-sensing windshield wipers; an autodimming rearview mirror; HomeLink; Bluetooth telephone integration with voice recognition; a six-disc MP3/CD player; a DVD entertainment system; satellite radio; and GPS navigation. However, the implementation of several of these features could have been better. In particular, the navigation and the stereo had too many layers of menus.
The rounded headlights and revised grille that debuted on the 2005 model year simultaneously make the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee seem both more rugged and more sophisticated than previous generations. On the inside, the seats are comfortable, but rear legroom and cargo space both seem a bit limited. Front multistage air bags are standard, but our test vehicle was also equipped with the optional side-curtain air bags.
The 5.7-liter Hemi provides plenty of power, and its multidisplacement system cuts out four cylinders for better fuel economy when cruising. We were also impressed by its carlike handling, although the suspension bounced a lot on San Francisco's pothole-filled streets. Our test car featured Jeep's Quadra-Drive four-wheel-drive system, which switches between a high range for normal driving and low for off-roading. The base price for the 2006 Grand Cherokee Limited is $34,210, but options and the delivery charge brought our test car up to $44,180.
Our 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited in the optional Inferno Red Crystal Pearl Coat ($225) looked rugged enough to take out into the backcountry but sophisticated enough for a night out on the town. We were very pleased with the inside's fit and finish--everything felt solid and durable. The sycamore wood-grain trim is a particularly nice addition. The driver and front passenger get comfortable leather, heated, power-adjustable seats, but we weren't very fond of the position of the manual lumbar-support lever because we found it too easy to catch our fingers between the seat and the center console. The driver also has power-adjustable pedals, but the brake pedal is so much higher than the accelerator that we were uncomfortable in stop-and-go traffic. The Cherokee can remember seat, mirror, and pedal positions for two drivers, and it also tracks different radio presets for each. Although the owner's manual doesn't mention it, we found that the driver's seat belt must be unbuckled for the car to recall a memory position. We thought the rear passengers could do with a bit more legroom, and at 34 cubic feet, the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee's rear cargo space is smaller than the 45 cubic feet found in the. Most of the interior bins weren't large enough for anything but sunglasses, but one bin in the rear cargo floor was the perfect size for hiding a camcorder.
The controls for the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee's satellite navigation and stereo systems were fairly awkward to use. A number of settings, such as screen brightness and MP3/CD folder selection, are buried too deep within the menus. Toggling through the menu options using the minijoystick also proved difficult. Curiously, the joystick can be pushed down to click, but a separate Enter button accomplishes the same function.
The interface for the Jeep Grand Cherokee's stereo and navigation isn't optimal. We prefer function buttons along the sides.
The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee's navigation system was fairly accurate, although it did take a while to recalculate a route if we missed a turn. One area of the freeway, with lots of lanes and a few junctions, gave the system some trouble; it said we had missed our exit when we hadn't even gotten to it yet. We also had problems hearing the route guidance when the stereo was turned up--the automatic volume reduction only seemed to mute the driver's side speakers.
The premium stereo system on our test car was composed of a six-disc MP3/CD player, Sirius Satellite Radio, and a Boston Acoustics six-speaker sound system with a 276-watt DSP amplifier. Because our test vehicle had the optional GPS navigation system, it didn't have an auxiliary jack for the stereo system that would have let us plug in an MP3 player, which was an unpleasant trade-off. Overall, the stereo sounds good, but the bass starts clipping and begins to buzz even at medium volume; a subwoofer would definitely be welcome. We found the stereo controls on the back of the steering wheel easy to use, especially since we could keep our hands on the wheel without looking down to find the buttons.
The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee's UConnect Bluetooth cell phone integration worked quite well with our Sony Ericson T610. It took us a bit of time and practice to get used to the voice-command system for dialing out. Listening to the voice menu options can take a while, but we were able to skip through with a simple push of a button. Although the car didn't copy over our phone's address book, it let us program 30 contacts, with multiple numbers for each. Our only real problem was that the car kept telling us we were roaming when our phone showed us to be on our network.
The rear-seat entertainment system includes inputs for other devices, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation.
We definitely enjoyed the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee's backseat DVD entertainment system. The screen was bright and sharp, and the wireless headphones provided great sound, but headphone jacks would have allowed us to use our own noise-canceling headphones. There are inputs for external devices such as an Xbox or a PlayStation, and you can use an external audio-only device such as an MP3 player, but the inputs are RCA connectors, so you'll need an adapter. Our only other complaint is the lack of a power port for the backseat; there are two power ports in the front and one in the cargo bay.
The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee's 5.7-liter Hemi produces 330 horsepower at 5,000rpm and 375 pound-feet of torque at 4,000rpm. Even with the Cherokee weighing 4,735 pounds (700 pounds more than the pre-2005 version), we found the acceleration impressive and had no problem getting up to freeway speeds, even on fairly short on-ramps. Jeep claims a believable speed of 0 to 60mph in 6.8 seconds and a 15.25-second quarter-mile. To save fuel, the engine utilizes Jeep's multidisplacement system, which deactivates four cylinders when all eight aren't needed. Even so, we found it to be very thirsty. Although the car is rated as 15mpg in the city and 20mpg on the highway (the same as a Chevy Tahoe), we averaged 11.6mpg, with a decent mix of both highway and city driving. The EPA classifies the Cherokee as a Special Purpose four-wheel-drive vehicle, in contrast with the impressive LEV-2 rating of the.
The big Hemi V-8 in the Grand Cherokee delivers impressive power but at the cost of lousy gas mileage.
Our test car was equipped with the Quadra-Drive four-wheel-drive system, which is differentiated from the base Quadra-Trac II system by the addition of electronic limited-slip differentials. Quadra-Drive is part of a $1,900 option package that also includes Sirius Satellite Radio, a power sunroof, and parking assist. The five-speed automatic transmission has a two-speed active transfer-case system that has a full-time four-wheel-drive high mode with a four-wheel-drive low available for off-roading.
In four-wheel-drive high mode, the power is split 48 in the front and 52 in the rear, but if the roads are slippery, 100 percent of the available torque can be sent to a single wheel. The car felt quite safe and stable in wet conditions, and in dry, the handling seemed almost carlike, which almost made us forget that this is a top-heavy SUV that shouldn't be thrown about like a sports car. If we wanted, we could manually select gears one through four with a side-to-side gearshift movement, as with some performance cars (the top gear could not be manually selected).
The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee has a number of solid safety features, including a tire-pressure monitor and SmartBeam headlamps that adjust high-beam brightness for oncoming traffic. Air bags are in the form of multistage front air bags with an occupant-classification system and optional ($560) supplemental front and rear side-curtain air bags. There's also Jeep's ParkSense parking-assist system, which we inadvertently tested when it saved us from reversing into a small post just outside the CNET offices. The brakes are antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist; Jeep claims an impressive 169 feet from 70mph. The ABS brakes, the all-speed traction control, and the stability system are all tied together by the electronic-stability program. The Cherokee is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile warranty (same for the power train) and a 100,000-mile outer-body rust-through warranty.