I was hoping for great things from the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and in my brief time driving it, I came away impressed. Its new sheetmetal is not radically different from the previous model, but it looks both rugged and refined and is instantly recognizable as a Jeep. The interior, however, is a big leap in both fit and finish. The dash is a bit generic, but it's attractive and straightforward, so you don't need a degree in electronics to instantly feel at home. The drive mode dial-choices include normal, sport, snow, etc. -- simplifies things and is a nice improvement over the basic two- and four-wheel-drive options available in previous Grand Cherokees.
The new GC is better to drive, also, in most respects anyway. Body roll is better controlled, and it soaks up bumps and quells most undulations without much drama. I was disappointed in the responsiveness of the engine, though. The 3.6-liter V-6 is smooth and quiet, but it's sluggish off the line and when trying to make quick highway passes. The stiff throttle only exacerbates the feeling that the engine is reluctant to move this 4600-pound car quickly. At a loss of only a couple mpg, I think I'd choose the 5.7-liter V-8 instead of the V-6, especially since it's only a $1500 option.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor