Jeep Grand Cherokee LimitedPower, traction, comfort, and versatility. Those are the four cornerstones of the coveted 4x4 of the Year award. Every vehicle that enters our annual test possesses at least one of these virtues, but the perfect off-road machine brings all of them, to every terrain, and leaves unscathed. Once a year we, the staff of the world's largest off-road magazine, gather the latest and greatest off-road vehicles that are coming to market and drag them through the most rigorous off-road test in the industry to see which ones have it and which do not.
For the seventh time in the history of our 23-year-old test the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited has again taken home the golden ring-and-pinion gear trophy. Despite its extra heft, a change to an independent front suspension, and what must be as a philosophical switch to target a more mainstream customer, the Grand Cherokee Limited still reigns supreme over the off-road competition.
Coming into the test our judges were leery of what at first looked like a high-powered, yet watered-down, version of the former champion. The new WK just doesn't have the athletic stance of its predecessors, nor does it retain any of the suspension architecture we had come to love. At best we thought it would be a luxurious highway blaster that we hoped would work OK off-road. But when we got out on the trail and shifted the Quadra-Drive II system into low range...we knew we had a winner! The electric lockers and brake-based traction control work in harmony to squeeze every ounce of grip from the Goodyear tires. As long as we had a single wheel on the ground the new Grand pushed and pulled us through the hairiest obstacles we could find.
Unfortunately the new Grand seems to have sacrificed some of its beloved wheel travel and articulation for less body roll and more stability. It just doesn't swallow the bumps and jumps like the old solid-axle version did, and it left us longing for an Up Country suspension package with bigger tires and more shock valving. Our judges still gave the Grand high marks in the rocks, sand, and gravel, but we feel there is more capability in this platform. Until then the new Hemi-powered '05 WK is worthy of the Grand Cherokee heritage, and winner of our 2005 4x4 of the Year competition.