Jeep Grand Cherokee (1999)

 

Jeep Grand CherokeeWe wanted to love the newly redesigned 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Wereally did. We certainly like its cool-looking, rough-and-ready exterior styling. Its the best-looking traditional sport utility vehicle out there. We like the fact that it has an all-wheel-drive system rather than a four-wheel-drive system. And we hoped that the redesign would solve some of the problems we had with the last generation Grand Cherokee. Namely, it jiggled like Jello, it was deceptively small inside and it wasnt built all that well.

Were happy to report that the interior is indeed bigger. There is less side-to-side jiggling in the handling, but were sorry to report that its not gone. And reliability? Well, its too early to tell.

So we didnt fall in love, but there are some things we liked immediately:

#A: Our tuchuses felt right at home in the very comfortable, cushy leather seats.

#2: The engine is extremely powerful. The Cherokee has an old-style, but very good, V8 engine. Touch the pedal, and the engine roars to life. We haven't driven the six-cylinder version, but our guess is that you'd do just fine with that. In terms of servicing, we actually found that the V8 fit the engine compartment better, and may even be easier to work on, than the V6.

There were also some things we disliked immediately: In addition to the jiggling, the electronic driver's-side mirror automatically rotates downevery time you depress the remote key fob. As a result, it had to be readjusted every time we got in the car. If this is a feature of some kind, it's astrange one. And if it's already broken, it makes us wonder if theCherokee will be subject to the same old Daimler-Chrysler quality-control problems.

Driving Experience

The straight-ahead ride was pretty comfortable; no complaints there.Handling and suspension are not bad either, but disappointing when yourealize that the loaded Cherokee is only a few thousand dollars less than the Mercedes ML 320 and the Lexus RX 300. You wont catch the ML 320 or the Lexus jiggling sideways after you hit a pothole.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics were fine, though we found the radio difficult to program andconfusing to operate. To their credit, Daimler-Chrysler did manage a smart innovation with the radio controls--they're located on the backside of thesteering wheel, exactly where your fingers rest. Good idea, Daimler-Chrysler! Probably one that other companies will start copying. Other controlswere generally well placed and easy to understand, with the possibleexception of the temperature-control switch. The "low," "auto" and "high"positions are very close together and, as a result, it can be difficult todistinguish between them.

There are no "automatic up" windows in the Cherokee, which is unfortunate,because it's nice to be able to press an "up" button, and get both handsback on the steering wheel as you zip away from the tollbooth. But we think we could tough it out without "automatic up" windows if we had to.

The 1999 Cherokee is bigger than last year's Cherokee and is now a perfect size, in our humble opinion. On the inside, it's about a half-inch wider in all directions. It's also relatively high off the ground, which is particularly noticeable at the tailgate. The Cherokee has 8.7 inches of clearance, compared to 8.4 inches with the Mercedes M-class, and 7.7 inches for the Lexus RX 300.

Reliability

Until we have some reliability data, we would urge caution if you'reseriously considering buying this vehicle. (If you want to lease it, go right ahead.) Early indications are not encouraging, particularly with the new four-wheel-drive system, which, colleagues tell us, had already failed in our particular test vehicle. The Cherokee we tested had an oil leak from the hydraulic steering damper. It looked like someone had driven over something and crushed the damper. We noticed this after a highway drive, in which we were less than impressed with the handling of the Cherokee. (Note to Jeep corporate executives: this was also after Tommy had been driving the Cherokee.)

Maintenance

Incidentally, we had a chance to drive a 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee a few years ago. It was four years old at the time and had about 65,000 miles on it. And it felt like...whats the nice way to say this...a real bucket of bolts. The steering was loose and there were rattles and squeaks and shakes and other problems. We were surprised that it had turned into a jalopy so quickly. And we hope the engineering and manufacturing have improved since then. You Grand Cherokee owners will tell us by filling out our survey over the next few years.

Overall comments

The Grand Cherokee Limited is an executive car. Its a luxury car with additional capabilities and definitely coolness factor. Our main concern continues to be quality. For the $34,900 price tag, you could almost be driving a Mercedes ML 320 or a Lexus RX 300. Both are better-driving cars.

Now, if we could have the ML 320 with the Grand Cherokee body on top of it, wed be in heaven. Hey, theyre the same company now. Well call them and ask them if they can slap one together for us!

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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