The 1990s were the boom years for midsize SUVs, which became the staple of suburban American driveways. Plenty of names have come and gone, but the Jeep Grand Cherokee has stood the test of time and remains a top-seller in this country.
The Grand Cherokee is certainly memorable for breaking through glass at the Detroit Auto Show when it was launched back in 1992. It wasn’t corny because it was a breakthrough product, bringing the concept of a large, four-wheel drive wagon – that Jeep had introduced nearly half a century earlier and popularized with the Wagoneer – into the modern age.
Or, depending on your perspective, you can blame Jeep for filling up city streets with large SUVs. You choose.
Regardless, there are a lot of Grand Cherokees to pick from on the pre-owned market. Here are some places to start.
The latest Grand Cherokee was introduced for the 2011 model year and is a thoroughly competent vehicle. As a mainstream SUV, it has an unexpected level of premiumness. So if you opt for one of the more lavish Limited or Overland trims, you could think you’re driving something with a luxury nameplate on the front. Starting from $17,000, you can get a current-generation Grand Cherokee V6, which is a great buy among midsize SUVs today.
The V6 is a 3.6-liter unit that is pretty refined and efficient when mated to a four-wheel drive model.
2012 2014 and newer Grand Cherokees get an eight-speed automatic that makes much better use of the engine’s power. But the real story is the Jeep’s interior, which is far more spacious than ever before and with higher quality. If you’re goal is to transport five people and their luggage on a long trip, you won’t miss the fact that a third-row seat is unavailable.
If you need more power for towing, or just miss the sound of an SUV with eight cylinders, about $22,000 and up buys you a Grand Cherokee with a Hemi V8.
You want the V8 if you want the Grand Cherokee to feel burly. And if the V6 can’t accommodate your towing needs, the V8’s significant bump in torque and horsepower fixes any strain in the process. Better still, that Hemi V8 is classic American engineering that you can rarely get in a modern 4×4 these days. Most V8s also go in higher-end trims, which means sumptuously appointed leather seats and some classy exterior treatments.
But what if you want the towing brawn without the conspicuous fuel consumption? Turbodiesels have become much more popular and many people don’t realize the Grand Cherokee was one of the first midsize SUVs to have one. Finding one is tricky, though. But from $17,000, you can get your Grand Cherokee with a diesel engine. The current Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel only went on sale last year, so there are few on used car lots. And prepare to spend upwards of $30,000 for even a high-mileage example. Surprisingly, this might be a savings versus buying new, because the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 commands a premium over the V8 option, and is only available on leather-lined Limited and above models.
The older 2007-08 models also use a turbodiesel 3.0-liter V6 that’s sourced from Mercedes-Benz. It’s mated, however, to a much more dated vehicle and not as premium as you might think. Still, it makes for a great workhorse that should last several hundreds of thousands of miles.
The Grand Cherokee is a breakthrough product because it takes risks. Ask a lot of it, and you might be surprised what it can do.