Grand Cherokee

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2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Test Drive Review

Few SUVs can provide the combination of utility, capability, luxury, performance, and value found in a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

8.2 /10
Overall Score

One year after a complete redesign, the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee truly offers something for everyone. The lineup expands with a new Off-Road Package for the base Laredo trim, a new luxury-oriented Overland trim, and a new performance-tuned SRT-8 model that has more than 400 horsepower and screams to 60 mph in under five seconds. Jeep also makes stability control standard on all 2006 Grand Cherokees.

Look and Feel

7/ 10

For last year’s redesign, Jeep sought a bolder, yet cleaner and more aerodynamic, look for its flagship SUV. The result is an appealing vehicle properly incorporating all of the requisite Jeep styling cues. The round headlights cutting into the hood and residing in a single housing do make the Grand look less grand, though.

You won’t mistake the new SRT-8 version for anything else. Sitting on a lowered performance suspension, it adopts a slammed look over massive 20-inch polished aluminum wheels. Subtle styling modifications and a center-mounted dual exhaust outlet complete the custom look.

While it represents an improvement over the previous-generation Grand Cherokee, this Jeep’s interior still isn’t up to par in relation to its price. Mainly, acres of hard plastic and a lack of sharp color contrasts make the Grand Cherokee look dull and feel inexpensive on the inside, though the new Overland and SRT-8 trim levels do their best to eliminate that perception.

The dashboard and the controls are laid out in a modular and symmetrical fashion, making it easy for Jeep to accommodate left- and right-hand drive in the SUV maker’s various global markets.


10/ 10

When it comes to the Grand Cherokee, you pick a trim level and you get a specific engine. But they all have a 5-speed automatic, and they all offer 4-wheel drive (4WD) as standard or optional equipment.

Grand Cherokee Laredos have a 3.7-liter V6 engine making 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. It pairs with rear-wheel drive (RWD) or a choice between Quadra-Trac I (full-time 4WD) and Quadra-Trac II (part-time 4WD with low range). A new Off-Road Package is available with Quadra-Trac II, adding skid plates, tow hooks, and off-road tires to the Grand Cherokee.

Step up to Limited trim for a 4.7-liter V8 good for 235 hp and 305 lb-ft, with RWD standard and Quadra-Trac II 4WD an option. This V8 is also available as an upgrade for the Laredo trim.

A 5.7-liter “Hemi” V8 is standard with Overland trim. It generates 330 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque, delivered to the rear wheels unless you get Quadra-Trac II 4WD. This engine is an option for Limited trim.

The Grand Cherokee SRT-8 is fortified with a 6.1-liter “Hemi” V8 churning out 420 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. This version of the SUV has a special electronic all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, a lowered performance suspension, and 20-inch aluminum wheels with performance-oriented rubber. Jeep says it will accelerate to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds and is actually worth driving on a racetrack.

No doubt, the latest Grand Cherokee is better to drive on pavement, in large part thanks to a new independent front suspension and plenty of input from German engineers as part of the DaimlerChrysler marriage. Better yet, the Grand Cherokee improves for daily driving without losing the off-roading capability that makes it perfect for weekend adventuring.

The 3.7-liter V6 engine is merely adequate in this application, making one of the smoother and more powerful V8 engines a better choice. For maximum traction off-road, you’ll want the Quadra-Drive II 4WD system for its 2-speed transfer case and front, center, and rear limited-slip differentials.

Perversely, the Grand Cherokee SRT-8 is good to drive. Fast, responsive, and incomprehensively capable on the pavement, it proves that a single vehicle can serve two widely disparate purposes.

Form and Function

8/ 10

A 5-passenger midsize SUV, the 2006 Grand Cherokee offers comfortable front seats that feel firm at first but prove supportive over time. As has always been true of the Grand Cherokee, the rear seat is a tighter squeeze than might be expected.

Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power accessories, a power driver’s seat, and remote keyless entry. Limited trim adds leather upholstery, automatic climate control, a premium sound system, a power front passenger’s seat, and power-adjustable pedals.

Overland trim is new for 2006, installing real wood trim, metallic accents, Ultrasuede seat inserts, and leather on the console and armrests. It also gets a standard navigation system, rear parking sensors, side curtain airbags.

The performance-tuned SRT-8 is based on Limited trim, adding all of its go-fast goodies plus a pair of front sport seats with larger bolsters. You can option it with many of the Overland’s extras.

As far as utility goes, the Grand Cherokee offers 34.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seat and 67.4 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down. When properly equipped, a Grand Cherokee can tow up to 6,500 pounds.

Tech Level

10/ 10

Jeep offers the modern stereo and connectivity features people want in a midsize SUV.

Laredo trim is basic, equipped with a CD player and an auxiliary audio input jack. A CD changer, an MP3 player, and a Boston Acoustics premium sound system are standard with Limited and SRT-8 trim. The new Overland adds navigation and satellite radio, each of which is available on the Limited and SRT-8

Additional upgrades, depending on the trim level, include Uconnect Bluetooth for your cell phone, which allows for hands-free calling. A rear-seat entertainment system with a DVD player is also available.


7/ 10

With the addition of stability control as a standard feature, the 2006 Grand Cherokee is safer than ever. Buyers can option the SUV with side curtain airbags, which we highly recommend, but side-impact airbags for the front seat occupants are unavailable.

In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Grand Cherokee 5-star ratings in every assessment, plus a 4-star rating for rollover resistance when equipped with 4WD. Versions with 2WD are more likely to roll, as suggested by their 3-star rating in this regard.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Grand Cherokee a Good rating for frontal-impact moderate overlap protection and a Good rating for its seats and head restraints. However, even with the optional side curtain airbags, the Grand Cherokee rates as Marginal for side-impact protection.


7/ 10

In spite of a reputation for mediocre reliability, Jeeps carry brand cachet and, in turn, command a price premium. Nevertheless, the Grand Cherokee’s overall value equation is strong, especially If you need maximum off-roading capability, or you’re seeking a high-performance SUV.

Updated by Christian Wardlaw

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