Looking Back: Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Grand Cherokee first arrived in 1992, and was originally conceived as the replacement for the Cherokee. But with Cherokee sales still strong -- and the SUV segment starting to take off -- Jeep decided to keep both vehicles. Larger and more comfortable than the Cherokee, and equipped with a driver's-side air bag and antilock brakes, the posh Grand Cherokee was the first serious competitor to the blockbuster Ford Explorer, which had been launched in 1990. The two vehicles really fueled the SUV boom. In only its second year, Grand Cherokee sales surpassed 200,000 units, and would eventually touch 300,000 (in 1999). The profit-gushing Grand Cherokee was also a major engine of Chrysler's rosy financial results in the heady 1990s, helping make the company an attractive takeover target for Jurgen Shremp's Daimler-Benz. More recently, sales have returned to earth, slipping below 100,000 in 2008 for the first time since its launch year. Although still an important vehicle for Jeep the Grand Cherokee is no longer the brand's bestseller, as it now follows in the tire tracks of Jeep's original icon, the Wrangler.

The Grand Cherokee (codenamed ZJ) makes a smashing debut at the 1992 Detroit auto show, when Chrysler president Bob Lutz drives one through the front window of the hall. The new Jeep goes on sale in the spring as a '93 model, in base, Laredo, and Limited trim. Rear-wheel drive and two four-wheel drive systems (part-time Command-Trac, or full-time Select-Trac) are offered. The 190-hp, 4.0-liter straight six (from the Cherokee) is standard, as is a driver's air bag (the first in an SUV).
Calendar-year sales: 84,600

Already nostalgic for the old Grand Wagoneer, which finally retired after the 1991 model year, Jeep adds some faux woodgrain to the Grand Cherokee to create a new Wagoneer, but the effect is not the same and the model is dropped after only one season. Longer-lasting additions include an optional V-8 (5.2 liters, 220 hp) and the Up Country suspension option.
Calendar-year sales: 212,410

The base version is now called SE, as the Laredo takes a hiatus.
The Limited gets 4 disc brakes.
Production of Grand Cherokees for Europe begins in Graz, Austria.
Calendar-year sales: 238,390

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