Jeep Grand Cherokee, history of the SUV that brought luxury to the brand

If you ask a connoisseur what the most representative Jeep model is, they will undoubtedly tell you that the Wrangler. Of course, this off-roader has set the standard throughout Jeep's history, but it is not the only one. Another model is the Cherokee, one of the first SUVs in history (with a self-supporting body, maintaining a good off-road commitment), which has been on the market since 1974, no less. Its success was such that with it the brand decided to enter the premium SUV segment with the protagonist of this story, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

With the Grand Cherokee, launched in 1992the brand intended to repeat a move it had made decades ago, when it had combined the sale of the Jeep Wagoneer (launched in 1963 as a luxury version of the 1946 Willys Wagon) with that of the even more luxurious Grand Wagoneer.

The first unit left the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit a January 14, 1992after being presented a week earlier at the quintessential North American Hall, after a spectacular appearance: it went through a glass window of the Cobo Convention Center from Detroit. That plant in the state of Michigan, opened in 1989, has not stopped manufacturing it since that day, throughout the four generations that we now review:

Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ: 1993-1998

The first generation of the Grand Cherokee is the most easily differentiated. Due to its square shapes highlighted with rectangular optics and the lower part in plastic, as a body protector, and gold details in some versions.

Its engine was a huge 5.9 gasoline engine, which had a manual transmission until 1994, the year in which it was eliminated due to low demand. From then on it could only be chosen with an automatic transmission, four speeds in the 2WD and 4WD variants. In this sense, it had the possibility of having three different all-wheel drive systems, among which the Quadra-Trac stood out to maintain the brand's legendary all-terrain tradition. It was the brand's first vehicle to have ABS on all four wheels.

It could be very luxurious, with leather seats, power adjustable front seats, climate control, keyless entry and it introduced some innovation, as it was the first SUV equipped with a driver's side airbag. Additionally, the first Grand Cherokee was manufactured using 90% recycled materials. It reached the magical figure of 1,000,000 vehicles sold in just four years since its launch.

Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ: 1999-2004

This second generation was presented in 1998 and included among its features the new Quadra-Drive transfer case: a new concept in four-wheel drive systems, which incorporated a progressive and speed-sensitive torque transmission coupling. The system marked the industry's first use of Vari-Lok axles that mounted speed-sensitive, progressive torque transmission differentials on both front and rear axles.

The combination of Quadra-Trac II and Vari-Lok provided the revolutionary system Quadra-Drive, which could keep the vehicle moving even if only one wheel had minimal traction… and without the driver having to intervene at all. A new suspension scheme also made road driving smoother, in addition to having lighter and more efficient engines.

This Grand Cherokee shared only 127 parts with its predecessor. The interiors were also completely redesigned, with wider doors. In the higher-end models you found elements that were unusual at the time, such as dual-zone climate control and a 10-CD changer with the Infinity audio package.

Jeep Grand Cherokee WK: 2005-2010

The third generation emphasized power and luxury. Technology introduced Quadra-Drive II and a DVD player in the back seat. In 2007, it was introduced in Europe and received five stars in Euro NCAP safety tests. A year later, the SUV underwent a minor “cosmetic surgery”, with changes to the headlights and mechanical range.

In the engineering section, it introduced three new permanent four-wheel drive systems, two new transfer cases, a new independent front suspension, rack and pinion steering and a new five-speed transmission. Highlight the arrival of the powerful 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine with MDS (Multi-Displacement System), which deactivates four cylinders imperceptibly if all the power of the V8 is not needed.

Jeep Grand Cherokee WK: 2011-2016

The fourth generation went on sale in the United States as the 2011 Grand Cherokee. The square optics were abandoned for others that gave it a more modern image, but the shapes and volumes of its characteristic bodywork were maintained.

New Jeep Grand Cherokee 2011

Much more radical was the change in the interior, which gained leather and wood details, while new technologies arrived, such as Bluetooth connectivity and the uConnect system. Of course, there was no lack of a system to improve motor skills off the asphalt, in this case with the Selec-Terrain system that allows the driver to select between several driving modes: Automatic, Sport, Snow, Sand / Mud and Rock.

But the big news was the arrival of the Grand Cherokee SRT, with a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 engine that delivers 468 HP of power and 630 Nm of torque. It is capable of accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 5 seconds and the speedometer needle reaches 257 km/h. A pinch of sportiness (and madness) to a model that could have Quadra-Lift air suspension, Jeep Selec-Terrain and Selec-Track traction control systems… and luxury with a new, more exclusive trim level, called Summit.

It has had two updates up to date. The first, in 2014, which was used to introduce the new engine 3.0 liter Multijet diesel from FCA. The second, in 2017. This model was the protagonist of our test, specifically a unit with the exclusive Night Eagle finish.

This latest update stands out because two variants were added to the range. On the one hand, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, the version most capable of going off-road, and on the other, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, the most powerful SUV on the market at the time of its launch, with a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine with 717 HP. . All engines are fitted with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

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