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
The Orvis edition-a cooperative effort with America’s oldest mail-order company and high-dollar purveyor of outdoorsy clothes and gear-is a new premium offering. Included are the QuadraTrac (full-time) 4WD system, two-tone cream-and-green leather seats, a woody green exterior, Orvis-logo floor mats, et cetera.
Four-wheel-disc brakes are standard on all models.
Manual transmission option dropped.
Calendar-year sales: 252,186
New dual air bags and more available luxury equipment are added. A major effort to smooth the ride and mellow noise and vibration won’t be the last. Command-Trac part-time 4WD system dropped.
Total Grand Cherokee sales pass 1 million in less than 5 years.
Calendar-year sales: 279,195
The TSi model debuts, with a sport suspension, alloy wheels, leather seat, and premium audio. Priced between the Laredo and the Limited, it hangs around for two years.
Calendar-year sales: 260,875
A larger V-8 (5.9 liters, 245 hp) from the Dodge Ram pickup appears in the 5.9 Limited. A pair of non-functional hood slats and an extroverted sound track from its low-restriction exhaust announce its presence. The 0-to-60 time is 7.3 seconds.
Chrysler merges with (is taken over by) DaimlerBenz.
The Orvis heads back to Vermont.
Calendar-year sales: 229,135
Second-generation Grand Cherokee (codename: WJ) for ’99. It’s longer, wider, taller. Redesigned rear suspension for better ride quality. Spare tire moves out of the cargo area under the vehicle. Multiple changes to combat NVH.
New SOHC 4.7-liter V-8 (235 hp, 295 lb-ft) replaces pushrod 5.2-liter; 4.0-liter straight six (now 195 hp, 230 lb-ft) remains the base engine.
New Quadra-Drive 4WD system.
Overland, above Limited, has high-output (265 hp, 325 lb-ft) V-8, suede and leather trim, real wood accents, curtain air bags, 17-inch wheels, Up Country suspension, etc.
Calendar-year sales: 300,031
The 2 millionth Grand Cherokee is built early in the model year.
Calendar-year sales: 271,723
60th Anniversary edition, in black or silver, has two-tone leather interior, special trim, chrome wheels.
Calendar-year sales: 223,612
New Laredo Sport model
Special Edition introduced mid-year.
Side curtain air bags optional (standard on Overland).
Calendar-year sales: 224,233
Laredo Sport, Special Edition dropped.
Optional Bluetooth connectivity.
Calendar-year sales: 207,479
Second-generation Grand Cherokee goes out in a blaze of special editions: Freedom Edition, Columbia Edition, Rocky Mountain Edition, Special Edition. Also, grille is slightly redesigned with more vertical slots.
First year for Jeep “Trail Rated” badging.
Calendar-year sales: 182,313
New, third-generation Grand Cherokee (codename: WK) for 2005
3.7-liter V-6 (210 hp) replaces 4.0-liter I-6; 4.7-liter V-8 (230 hp), and 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 (325 hp) also offered.
Independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering are used for the first time.
Three 4wd systems, all full-time: Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, Quadra-Drive II
A rear-seat DVD player is a new option.
Total Grand Cherokee sales pass 3 million
Calendar-year sales: 213,584
The SRT8 joins the line-up. It features a 6.1-liter Hemi V-8, 420 hp, and 420 lb-ft of torque. Jeep claims a 0-60 time of “under 5 seconds”.
The Overland returns, with platinum trim, a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, wood and leather interior, radio w/navigation.
65th Anniversary edition is an option package for Laredo
The Grand Cherokee cedes its top-dog position in the Jeep hierarchy to the Commander.
Calendar-year sales: 139,148
3.0-liter Mercedes-Benz V-6 Diesel engine (215 hp, 376 lb-ft) is a new option for Limited and Overland, outside the CA emissions states. EPA ratings are 18/23 mpg (2wd), 17/22 mpg (4wd).
The 4.7-liter V-8 output increases to 305 hp.
A backup camera is a new option.
Daimler sells Chrysler (and Jeep) to Cerberus Capital Management
Calendar-year sales: 120,937
Diesel engine option expands to Laredo.
Sirius backseat TV (with Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, Cartoon Network) is available.
Calendar-year sales: 73,678
The 5.7-liter Hemi increases output to 357 hp, 389 lb-ft.
Diesel engine is dropped.
Calendar-year sales: 50,328
Overland dropped; Laredo, Limited, SRT8 only
5.7-liter Hemi V-8 (357 hp, up from 330 hp)
June: All-new, fourth-generation Grand Cherokee arrives, as a 2011 model.
January-April sales: 19,304