Ann Arbor - One thing about Jeep: It hasn't forgotten where it came from. Nobody in the car business is quicker to declare their birthright (e.g., fish-eyed concepts with names like Willys and Jeepster) or more opportunistic about it (e.g., a tacky tie-in with HBO's Band of Brothers miniseries).
Jeep has decided to play the heritage card with the Grand Cherokee model by evoking the Overland name--as in Willys-Overland, one of the originators of the Army vehicle and the company that turned "jeep" into "Jeep(r)." Positioned above the Limited, the Grand Cherokee Overland sports seventeen-inch alloy wheels, unique bumpers, and metallic paint; inside, there's suede-and-leather upholstery, real redwood trim, side curtain air bags, and a ten-disc CD changer. Functionally, the Overland features Jeep's Quadra-Drive four-wheel-drive system and a hotter version of the 4.7-liter SOHC V-8.
The engine (which is optional on the Limited) is a definite honey. At 265 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, the high-output V-8 is a significant 30 horses and 30 pound-feet more powerful than the standard V-8. The Overland surges away from stoplights in a satisfying, almost muscle-car-like manner, and highway passing maneuvers are particularly effortless.
Unfortunately, this newfound hustle isn't matched by body control. Pitch, dive, sway, and wobble follow driver inputs, even at moderate speeds. Such behavior is nothing new for the Grand Cherokee, but the Overland's 4364-pound curb weight and standard Up-Country suspension package exacerbate the condition.
Although the name harks back to the origin of the species, the Overland is really a trip back to the 1990s. In those halcyon days, the flagship model was Jeep's sales darling year after year, no sticker price seemed too high, and product planners busied themselves dreaming up ever-pricier versions, such as the Orvis edition and the 5.9 Limited. Today, though, the Grand Cherokee lives in a different world, with far more competition and price resistance. And a $37,000 Grand Cherokee seems like an exercise in wishful thinking.