2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D Laredo 4WD

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2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Jim McCraw

The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee lineup features two new models, the luxurious Overland and the high-performance SRT8. The Grand Cherokee was completely redesigned for 2005, and is bigger, more modern, and more powerful than previous versions of this iconic, midsize SUV.

The edgy, angular body is devoid of cladding and is proportioned differently from earlier Jeeps. It looks new and contemporary, but people instantly recognize it as a Grand Cherokee.

Interior materials are dramatically improved over the previous generation's, which left much to be desired. The atmosphere inside the latest Grand Cherokee is light, comfortable, and more enveloping than the previous model; from the driver's perspective it's more bolted in than hanging on, with lots of seat adjustment, excellent outward vision around relatively slim windshield posts, and with all the switches and controls clearly labeled and easy to find and use. In back is nearly 70 cubic feet of cargo space.

A more sophisticated suspension gives the current Grand Cherokee much better handling than that of pre-2005 models, with less leaning in corners, along with better ride quality. Its turning radius is tighter, too, good for crowded parking lots.

All four available engines are modern. The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is particularly good for towing or driving at higher elevations. The SRT8 has a 420-hp 6.1-liter Hemi and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds. The smaller, 4.7-liter overhead-cam V8 works quite well, however, and the standard overhead-cam V6 is a big improvement over Jeep's old overhead-valve inline-6.

Overall, 2006 Grand Cherokee retains the rugged spirit of the Jeep brand, combined with engineering and quality control closer to the Daimler-Benz tradition. Model Lineup
The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes in four trim levels:

The Laredo ($27,165) comes with a 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 and a five-speed automatic transmission. The 4.7-liter overhead-cam V8 is optional ($720 with 2WD, $1,340 with 4WD). Cloth upholstery is standard, but leather bucket seats are available ($850) when ordered with other options. Air conditioning comes standard, along with one-touch power windows, power locks with remote keyless entry, eight-way power driver's seat, AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary input jack, driver information center, 60/40 split folding rear seat, an engine immobilizer, water-resistant storage compartment, and 17-inch tires and wheels. Laredo 4WD ($29,135) features Quadra-Trac I full-time four-wheel drive. Quadra-Trac II, which includes a Low range, is optional ($620) with the V6 and standard with the V8.

The Limited ($33,415) comes with the 4.7-liter V8 and leather upholstery. Also standard: automatic climate control; Boston Acoustics six-speaker 276-watt AM/FM stereo with six-CD changer and MP3 capability; power adjustable pedals; power passenger seat; memory function for the seats, pedals, and mirrors; automatic headlamps; rain-sensing automatic wipers; electrochromic rearview mirror; HomeLink; tire pressure monitor with display; adjustable roof rack crossrails; and machined-face 17-inch aluminum wheels. Limited 4WD ($36,005) gets all that plus Quadra-Trac II. The Hemi is optional on both 2WD and 4WD Limiteds, and when ordered on the latter comes with Jeep's latest Quadra-Drive II full-time active 4WD.

The Overland ($39,240) comes with the 5.7-liter Hemi, and adds a wood-and-leather steering wheel, real wood accents on the doors and console, two-tone leather and ultra-suede seats embroidered with the Overland logo, leather-covered console and armrest, side airbags, DVD-based navigation, Sirius Satellite Radio, a ParkSense reverse-parking sensor, a trailer-tow group, and platinum-clad aluminum wheels. Other platinum accents highlight the exterior. Overland 4WD ($42,230) adds Quadra-Drive II.

The SRT8 ($39,300) comes with a 6.1-liter Hemi rated 420 horsepower, a lowered suspension and its own electronic all-wheel-drive system. Distinctive bumper fascias and 20-inch wheels make SRT8 instantly identifiable. Inside are sport seats, special trim, and an level of standard features roughly analogous to the Limited's. Options can bring an SRT8 to Overland levels.

Safety features that come on all Grand Cherokees include an electronic stability program (ESP) with roll mitigation, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) with brake assist, traction control, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and front air bags with four levels of deployment. Side curtain air bags are optional ($560).

Options include GPS navigation built into the radio ($1,200), a rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1,200), sunroof ($800), a trailer tow package ($255), Boston Acoustics audio, UConnect hands-free communication system ($275), Smart Beam headlamps that sense the available natural light and adjust accordingly, and ParkSense rear park assist. An Off-Road package ($420) with tow hooks is available, along with chromed alloy wheels, and an engine block heater. Walkaround
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is considered a midsize sport utility. It's smaller than a Ford Explorer. Yet compared with pre-2005 models, the current Grand Cherokee is about five inches longer overall, four inches longer in wheelbase, 2.5 inches wider in track and a bit lower in profile.

This makes it more stable than the previous generation models. In appearance, it is at once more modern and more square-edged. With its higher waistline and smaller windows, it is looks more assertively American.

While conventional SUVs, such as the Dodge Durango, are built on a separate frame like a truck, the Grand Cherokee uses an unusual construction scheme Jeep calls Uniframe, a close marriage of a welded steel unit-body and underlying front and rear modules. This is an extremely sturdy and rigid concept developed back in Jeep's days with unit-body pioneer American Motors. The Grand Cherokee has earned a five-star safety rating in both front and side impact tests from the federal government.

Laredo models come with a body-colored grille and bumpers, black door handles, and contrasting-color bodyside and sill moldings. Limited models present a somewhat flashier appearance, with a chromed grille, bright inserts in the bumpers, body-color door handles, and Platinum bodyside molding.

The Overland is distinguished by mesh-texture grille inserts between its traditional vertical grille bars, which are Platinum in finish; Platinum accents also appear on the bumpers, side molding, roof-rack side rails, liftgate light bar, side-view mirrors, and wheels, while sill moldings are body-color.

Jeep reached deep into its heritage to revive the Overland name. First built in 1903, the Overland automobile was the earliest ancestor of the Willys. Willys played an instrumental role in the development and production of the World War II-era Jeep, but was also the first automaker to seriously envision a civilian market for a military-style utility vehicle. The Willys Jeep debuted in 1946 and had its name shortened to just-plain Jeep in the early 1960s. Although the Jeep brand has passed through several owners since then, its lineage remains unbroken.

The SRT8 has a monochrome look all its own, relieved by bright accents at the belt level and bodyside and accented by enormous five-spoke, 20-inch forged aluminum wheels. Functional air ducts in its more bluff front bumper fascia improve brake cooling. The rear bumper is cut out to accommodate dual four-inch exhaust tips, and the extended side sills are claimed to enhance downforce. SRT8 is available only in Bright Silver, Brilliant Black or Inferno Red. It looks hot, very sporty. Our silver 2006 SRT8 drew a lot of admiring glances when we drove it around Los Angeles, a place where vehicles don't garner attention easily. When we pulled up to a posh restaurant, the valets insisted in posing it in front, a position usually reserved for Ferraris and such. Interior
The Grand Cherokee interior was completely redesigned, beginning with the 2005 models, and it's significantly improved. The two-tone, dark-over-light-over-dark instrument panel and door trims; vinyl grains; and materials and finishes are generally much richer and better looking than in the previous generation. That's good because the previous generation wasn't that great. The new interior is far better organized, lighter in feeling and color, and altogether roomier than the previous version, which had been around since 1993.

We found the seats to be larger and cushier than in any previous Jeep, with supportive contours. There's more travel in the seat tracks, allowing more legroom for tall drivers. There's also increased headroom, which adds the feeling of extra space to the interior.

The instrument panel has no more of that pasted-together, black-plastic look of the last generation, but is a real, cohesive design with a nice combination of shiny plated parts, matte-finish plated parts, and a first-rate instrument layout. A four-gauge instrument cluster with LED illumination features black gauges with brilliant red pointers. On the Limited model, the gauges are surrounded by chrome rings. The handbrake lever has a spindly, low-quality feel to it, however.

The 2006 Grand Cherokee Overland model enhances these interior improvements with high-contrast two-tone Ultrasuede seats featuring accent stitching and embroidered Overland logos; plus real wood trim on the steering wheel, instrument panel, door panels, and gear selector. Even the center armrest is leather-upholstered, and unique colors are employed in the instrument cluster.

The SRT8, on the other hand, goes for the high-tech racer look with deeply contoured sport seats, and lots of carbon fiber and aluminum trim. Unique blue-accented gauges include a 180-mph speedometer plus oil pressure and oil temperature readouts in the center stack. The sport seats offer lots of support, with deep side bolsters, but drivers with larger frames may find them too narrow.

The cargo area features a reversible load floor panel that flips over on itself to create a shallow container, for more versatility in the rear storage compartment.

The navigation system, which integrates the audio system and other functions, is a handy feature. It has a nice display, generates crisp maps, and does a good job of directing you to your destination, both visually and audibly. It isn't as easy to program as similar systems are on Acura and Lexus vehicles, however. There's a separate Enter button, annoying because intuition suggests pressing the toggle switch down. Also, it kept defaulting to the daytime brightness setting. Auto did not seem to automatically switch it to the nighttime setting at night, so we had to manually program this. We had to reprogram this each time we restarted the car and this could not be done while underway, meaning we had to stop to fix it, inconvenient when traveling on a busy L.A. freeway. The daytime setting is so bright at night as to be distracting.

Similarly, Chrysler uses a separate Set button for pre-setting radio stations, which seems unnecessarily difficult. Setting these on most radios is a matter of holding down the desired preset. Driving Impressions
Today's Jeep Grand Cherokee represents a big improvement over pre-2005 models. It maintains mountain goat capability in rugged terrain yet it's much better on the road where most of us spend most of our time.

The Laredo comes standard with Chrysler's 210-hp 3.7-liter V6, borrowed from its sister trucks, the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Ram, with its own five-speed overdrive automatic transmission. The 3.7-liter uses single overhead cams and replaces the old, overhead-valve 4.0-liter inline-6 that was in the last Grand Cherokee. The V6 gets an EPA-rated 17/21 mpg City/Highway, only slightly better than the V8s on the highway but significantly better when poking around town.

The 4.7-liter V8 is terrific. This modern, overhead-cam engine is a paragon of power and smoothness for around-town and highway driving. It has a broad torque band, a lovely sound, and electronic throttle control (drive-by-wire) that's easy to use and precise in tricky downhill off-road situations. If you don't live in the mountains and don't usually tow anything, this engine might be your best choice. The 4.7-liter V8 produces 235 horsepower at 4500 rpm and 305 pound-feet of torque at 3600 rpm. It's EPA-rated at 14/20 mpg.

The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is a thoroughly modern engine, featuring twin spark plugs, direct ignition, and electronic throttle control, though it is an overhead-valve design. The 5.7-liter Hemi produces 330 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 375 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 14/21 mpg. Note that it delivers much stronger torque yet more than matches the fuel economy of the 4.7-liter. Torque is that force that propels you from intersections and helps you tow trailers up long grades. The slightly better fuel economy on the highway is at least partly thanks to the automatic cylinder deactivation feature, which shuts down four of the engine's eight cylinders whenever it detects a steady-state cruise condition and then reactivates them on demand. DaimlerChrysler claims this can improve fuel economy by up to 20 percent.

Both V8 engines get a heavy-duty five-speed automatic transmission with a direct fourth gear for towing. Both this transmission and the five-speed automatic that's mated to the V6 feature the Chrysler/Mercedes-Benz manual override function.

The Grand Cherokee offers a nicer ride and better cornering than any other Jeep in history. We don't recommend flinging 4500-pound SUVs into corners, but the Grand Cherokee can encourage this sort of socially unacceptable behavior because it's easy to drive and rewarding within the limits of its tires.

These ride and handling benefits are the result of the Grand Cherokee's newly developed five-link rear suspension, independent front suspension, and rack-and-pinion steering. Two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions use the same independent front suspension. Front suspension travel is increased by almost 10 percent over the previous Grand Cherokee. It's coupled with a lighter, more compact and more precise power rack-and-pinion steering that's reasonably quick and accurate, and nicely weighted. New steering geometry yields a tighter turning circle, important off road as well as in crowded parking lots or when making a U-turn.

There's plenty of understeer dialed into the handling, good for a vehicle this tall and this heavy where you don't want directional changes to happen too quickly. There seems to be a more flatfooted, glued-down attitude with this big Jeep, with far less body roll than in the previous generation. Jeep built roll into the old model, and it paid some comfort dividends off-road. But this one is just as comfortable on- and off-road without it. The current Grand Cherokee chassis is also much stiffer and stronger than the previous version, with nary a squeak or a rattle in our experience with it.

Tow ratings for the Grand Cherokee are 3,500 pounds for the 3.7-liter V6, 6,500 pounds for the 4.7-liter V8, and 7,200 pounds for the 5.7-liter Hemi. A tow package is available for the 4.7-liter that boosts its rating to 7,200 pounds. Properly equipped, the high-performance SRT8 can also tow 3,500 pounds.

Four-wheel-drive systems vary by packaging and come with confusing names and complicated mechanical differences. The base-level system that comes with the V6 is Quadra-Track I, a single-speed, full-time four-wheel-drive which uses electronic clutches in the center differential to pass out torque to the four tires as needed for best traction. It works full time, so there are no switches, no buttons, no handles to operate. It does not offer a low-range set of gear ratios.

The more flexible Quadra-Trac II (standard with the 4.7-liter) uses electronic clutches in the center differential to distribute torque in its High range, but adds a locking Low range. Both systems are slightly biased, with 52 percent of the torque normally going to the rear tires and 48 percent to the front.

With the 5.7-liter Hemi you get Quadra-Drive II, which uses a set of electronic limited-slip differentials (ELSD) at the front, center, and rear. (ELSD replaces the Vari-Lock progressive axles in the Quadra-Drive system, with quicker response to changing conditions and greater torque capacity.)

The SRT8 flat flies and sounds terrific. Jeep claims it can thunder from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. The SRT8 comes with a 6.1-liter Hemi V8 rated at 420 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 420 pound-feet at 4800 rpm. We loved the sound and found ourselves accelerating harder than necessary just to hear. Throttle tip-in seems overly sensitive at times, causing us to leap off the line more abruptly than desired. At other times, it seemed slow on the uptake, but eventually we recalibrated our feet to enable smooth takeoffs from intersections.

The bigger Hemi features higher compression (10.3:1 vs. 9.6), a more aggressive cam, and higher-flow cylinder heads. It's mated to its own super-duty five-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel-drive transfer case. The latter is a hybrid unit put together from existing Jeep parts to optimize durability while minimizing weight. In normal conditions, it directs only 5 percent to 10 percent of the power to the front wheels, but can redirect as much as needed to the front wheels as needed to maintain traction. The rear axle is a Dana 44 with a tougher-than-standard ring gear and housing.

The SRT8 rides an inch lower than a standard Grand Cherokee, on specially tuned springs, shocks, bushings, and anti-roll bars. The ride is quite firm. The steering geometry is altered for its high-performance mission. Forged 20-inch wheels come shod with Goodyear W-rated four-season tires with run-flat capability. Tire dimensions are 255/45/20 in the front, and a massive 285/40/20 in the rear. The brakes are upgraded with four-piston Brembo calipers (painted gloss black, as they show through the wheels) that clamp down on 14.2-inch vented rotors up front and 13.8-inch vented rotors in the rear. Jeep claims it can stop from 60 mph in less than 125 feet. We found the brakes smooth and easy to modulate as well as effective.

The SRT8's ride is quite firm and the steering is direct and very responsive. This is what you want when making time on back roads or blazing down a lonely highway at high speeds. It makes for tight handling, good transient response and high-speed stability. We're not sure we'd want it for everyday driving, however. The SRT8 was too jouncy for our tastes on rippled freeways in Los Angeles. It does a good job of filtering out roughness, but dips and other undulations make for uncomfortable cruising. And the steering was a bit darty for casual driving. Driving an SRT8 Grand Cherokee demands almost as much attention as a Dodge Viper does. But many drivers love it. Some testers say the Grand Cherokee SRT8 is one of the best executions from Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology group. Summary
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is an icon among sport utility vehicles and this latest-generation version is far better than older models. It looks wonderful. It's powerful and quiet at the same time. It offers good space efficiency and comes loaded with standard and optional features.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw filed this report from Santa Barbara, California, with Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.

Model as tested
Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4WD ($36,005)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Detroit, Michigan
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
side airbags ($560); 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with Quadra-Drive II and front and rear electronic limited slip differential, Sirius Satellite Radio, sunroof, ParkSense rear backup system ($2,745); navigation system ($1200), trailer tow group ($255)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 2WD ($27,165); Laredo 4WD ($29,135); Limited 2WD ($33,415); Limited 4WD ($36,005); Overland 2WD ($39,240); Overland 4WD ($42,230); SRT8 4WD ($39,300)
Safety equipment (standard)
front airbags, ABS, Brake Assist, electronic stability program, traction control, tire pressure monitor, LATCH system
Safety equipment (optional)
5.7-liter ohv 16-valve V8
5-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
dual-zone automatic climate control; leather upholstery; one-touch power windows; power locks with remote keyless entry; eight-way power driver's seat; power passenger seat; power adjustable pedals; memory function for seats, mirrors, and pedals; Boston Acoustics AM/FM/CD six-speaker premium 276-watt AM/FM/6CD with MP3; driver information center; 60/40 split folding rear seat; engine immobilizer; water-resistant storage compartment; automatic headlamps; rain-sensing automatic wipers; electrochromic rearview mirror; HomeLink; TPM with display; adjustable roof rack crossrails; machined-face 17-inch aluminum wheels

Engine & Transmission
5.7-liter ohv 16-valve V8
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
330 @ 5000
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS
Suspension, front
independent, double-wishbone, coil springs over gas-charged shocks, anti-roll bar
P235/65R17 Goodyear Wrangler HP
Suspension, rear
live axle, upper and lower trailing links, track rod, coil springs, gas-charged shocks, anti-roll bar

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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