The New Grand Cherokee, the WK - fall 2004

front view of the new WK in the showroom

rear view of the 5.7L V8 Magnum equipped test drive vehicle
The all new and improved(?) Grand Cherokee (WK) rolled out for the 2005 model year. Those of us with Full Size Jeeps look at the new models a little different than the general public. We have experienced something that many have not. We know what visibility, ride, off-road prowess and superb towing capability are all about. Of course with our aging vehicles we also do not have the features the newer models offer, like a leak free vehicle, a rear window tailgate that functions without mastering the art of contortion to fix rails and clips, and of course a vehicle that gets mileage well into the teens. So, what does the new model offer? Well, high on the list of goodies has to be the 5.7L Magnum engine.... although with the Multi-Displacement features one has to wonder what that will be like in a few years. GM tried that experiment and failed. Will DC make it work? So far the word is that the fuel economy gained by feature makes it comparable to the 4.7L V8. My experience shows around 15 in town and 18.3 on the highway, unless you take the time to convert it to Amsoil synthetics, and then you'll see nearly 21.5 mpg. The engines offered this year are the 3.7L V6, the 4.7L V8 and of course aforementioned 5.7L Magnum. Driving the new WK is similar to the WJ, the 1999-2004 model years Grand Cherokee. The new WK has a quieter and smoother ride than the WJ. The WK handles in a comparable manner to the WJ, with the WJ having a bit of the "Jeep" wobble to it. The Jeep wobble is common to the XJ and the WJs, it's mentioned in many articles on them, but something a Jeep pilot becomes accustomed to and comfortable with. The new WK's visibility is worse than the WJ, which is it's worst feature. A Full Size Jeep pilot will feel like they've put in a tunnel, or a cylinder. That A pillar sits out there and obstructs the view. It's something you get used to as you enjoy the better fuel economy and performance, and the myriad of modern conveniences that come with the newer models. The WK offers many of the same features found in the WJ and the earlier ZJ. The ZJ of course being the model intended to replace the SJ. The SJ ran from 1962 until 1992. It has survived through Willys, Kaiser, AMC, and Chrysler. It seems now that Daimler Chrysler has a five year plan for it's models, regardless of it's success and popularity. They've killed off the XJ, possibly the best all around Jeep ever made, and now they've ended the WJ, a wonderful Jeep that brought to mind many of the good things of the Full Size Jeep, except of course visibility. So, what did we think of the WK during the test drive? Quite frankly, not much. Yeah, the 5.7L Magnum was fast, but not so much faster than the 4.7L V8. The newer body style appears simliar to the new Dodge Magnum and or the Chrysler Pacifica. We own Jeeps because they are unique. It wouldn't be so bad if DC shared components across models as this ultimately would make it better for us when it comes time to find parts. However, one doesn't have to have 20/20 vision to realize this isn't the case. So why make the Jeep blend in? Exterior Dimensions WK WJ XJ SJ Model Year 2005 2004 1984-2002 1962-1991 Length (in.) 186.6 181.3 165.3 186.5 Width (in.) 73.3 72.3 70.5 75.6 Wheelbase (in.) 109.5 105.9 101.4 108.7 The appearance is very much like the new Dodge Magnum... or a maybe worse, like a Chrysler Pacifica. Either way, it's distinctly not Jeep. Seeing them on the freeway from time to time one is not immediately drawn to it the way a true Jeep lover is drawn to a Full Size Jeep, an XJ Cherokee or the WJ Grand Cherokees. Purposely did not include the ZJ model that ran from 1993 until 1998 because it didn't win the hearts of many Jeep lovers that we've encountered. It reflected Chrysler's influence and was reminicient of one of their minivans. The problems they had with the fuel system and transmissions seem to confirm our distaste for them. Of course it is a Jeep and perhaps one day a ZJ will make it on my list of vehicles. But it'll have to be a really good deal to make that happen. After having owned 22 FSJs, 9 XJ's, 2 WJ's, 2 Willys and a handful of other 4x4s over the years I seem to have a second sense about Jeep vehicles. While the new WK may find buyers it's only because they have no other choice. However, for the amount of money required to bring one home one could visit Leon at Wagonmasters, or finance your own restoration of any number of other Wagoneers still running around. At an MSRP starting from around $26,000 to $34,145 one could certainly do better with a little research and effort. It is interesting to note that the interior space of the WK with the rear seat folded down is less than the KJ, you know, the "toon town" Jeep, the model that replaced the 2nd best Jeep of all times, the XJ. Of course the cargo volume is down from the WJ model, makes sense when you reduce glass area and roof height. The WJ had 38.3 cubic feet behind the backset compared to the new WK's 34.5. With the back seats fold down (they split 60/40 just as they did in the WJ, a very nice feature by the way) you would have 67.4 cubic feet compared with the WJ's 71.7 cubic feet. To put this in perspective, the KJ, the Liberty, has 29.0 cubic feet with the seat up, and 69.0 with it folded down. It's clearer when you compare a few other models with the seat folded down: rear seat folded down WK 67.4 cubic feet KJ 69.0 cubic feet XJ 71.4 cubic feet (varied over the years) WJ 71.7 cubic feet SJ 95.1 cubic feet (varied over the years)

with the spare tire moved under the vehicle they now have a reverseable tray in the cargo area

nice feature on the WJ, ZJ and WK

Spare Underneath, remind you of any other Jeep?
Of course we know that the SJ was the best Jeep ever or you wouldn't be reading this magazine. If only, is usually the topic of lament, of dreams, of unfulfilled Jeep desires... it draws us back to the showroom every year, hoping, wishing, waiting... that someone in Toledo, Detroit, Stuttgart, somewhere, any where.... would realize what a mistake they made back in 1992, and again in 2002, and now again, it seems, in 2005. If only they'd fuel injected our beloved beasts. If only they had modernized it while keeping all the wonderful aspects that make it so special. Brooks Stevens made an impact in the automotive world like very few have. (for more info on his designs see: Steven's Willys Wagon and Wagoneer have survived the test of time. The thing that is most appreciated in the Full Size Jeep is, in this writer's view, the panascopic vision, something sorely lacking in the WJ and even worse in the WK. You feel like you're in a tunnel and the windshield is way out there. After owning two WJ's you adjust to it, and enjoy the vehicle's capability and know it's a Jeep. The WJ had a very similar feel to the SJ off road. You knew you were in a capable Jeep. It does have some of the feel of an SJ, but without the nibleness or visibility. The new WK pillar and door jamb are even larger than the WJ's. While this may be useful in a crash, it does little to avoid crashes caused by poor visibility and one must learn to drive one of these newer Jeeps realizing that you can't see as much. The door frames are thicker than the WJ, the 1999 - 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee model that replaced the ZJ Grand Cherokee (1993-1998), which of course was supposed to replace the SJ models. The new thicker door frames and A-pillar further reduce visibility over the WJ, which reduced it over the ZJ... The beltline is higher, further reducing glass area and giving the vehicle a tougher look, just like the Dodge Magnum. However, nothing offers the visibility and view that a Full Size Jeep does. The interior looks spartan and cheap on the new WK's. In many ways it has similar qualities to a Dodge Durango, it just feels cheap. The WJ's had a much better fit and finish and feel to them. Something that our SJ's and even our XJ's seemed to lack.

WK interior

WK center console, clock is wrong

drivers side view WK interior

The two other major disappointments with the WK is the suspension... Daimler Chrysler went independent in the front... big hunk of metal right in the way of everything undeneath, just like the rigs we've seen high centered on the trails... The beauty of the Jeeps with live axles is that the ground clearance is real. Other than the differential pumpkin hanging down in one spot, the rest of the axle clears quite well on rutted trails, especially the kind we find up here in the Pacific Northwest. Numbers don't tell the story in this area. Yes, the independent suspension nets a higher total number, but that number is even across the vehicle, while the number listed for a live axle is the lowest point... with much of the axle sitting inches higher. It makes a big difference of whether you get through a trail under your own power or at the end of a tow rope or winch. The reasons for independent suspension are primarily for on road behavior, which seems to be the focus for this vehicle. It is supposed to be quieter and nicer riding than it's predecessor the WJ. And it is. It is quieter, and handles quite well. I found the KJ to be quieter and nicer riding than my WJ, but it's handling was pathetic in comparison.

WK front suspension
The rear suspension received attention as well, as shown in the pictures.

rear suspension and spare tire
The WK with the 5.7L Hemi is a smooth rocket ship. It was velvetly smooth and quick, but not exciting. Hard to explain, but while fast, it simply was not exciting. It did not remind me of a muscle car, although it would certainly give many a run for the money. It may have had to do with the lack of visibility and the isolation from road and engine noise. Or, perhaps from my having driven a 4.7L V8 in a WJ for a few years and growing used to and expecting such performance. Quite honestly the 4.7L V8 feels as fast without the complexity and with better economy overall. The multi-displacement feature in the new Hemi doesn't seem to net the economy it should and increases the likelihood of being stranded. It seems to beg for trouble on so many levels. One thing that an SJ has never done to me or my family is to leave us stranded. We've driven them home with duct tape, chewing gum and bailing wire. I'm not saying that newer technology like fuel injection and computers are a bad thing, because they're not. They have helped increase the efficiency and reliability of these newer Jeeps. But there is a point of no return, a point where you are tempting Mr. Murphy to get involved in your life... It's as those the folks at Daimler Chrysler have brought Rube Goldberg onto the Jeep design team from the Mercedes environmental controls, but that's another story for another magazine. Point is it seems to me that if you want a big V8 and to go fast there are better vehicles to do it with. Keeping a Jeep simple is something the folks at DC seem to have forgotten. This thing has become a fast station wagon that looks like other fast station wagons sold by Dodge and Chrysler and not a Jeep. The Ford Escape looks more like a Grand Cherokee than the new Grand Cherokee does. It doesn't remind me of a Jeep coming or going. As far as the other engines offered, the 4.7L V8 would be my choice if I were so smitten to have a WK. The 3.7L V6 barely pushes a KJ around, can't imagine it moving a WK with grace. Grand Cherokee Engine Specifications 3.7-liter PowerTech V-6 210 @ 5,200 rpm 235 @ 4,000 rpm 4.7-liter PowerTech V-8 230 @ 4,700 rpm 290 @ 3,700 rpm 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 325 @ 5,100 rpm 370 @ 3,500 rpm

front view of 5.7L V8 Magnum engine

side view of 5.7L V8 Magnum engine

3.7L V6 in the KJ
The 4.7L V8 is the smoothest V8 I've ever owned or driven. I loved the 4.7L V8 in my WJ and would recommend it as a replacement driveline for any SJ. With Amsoil lubricants throughout one can see 21.5 mpg on the freeway at legal limits. If my budget were larger for SuperDawg he'd be getting the 4.7L V8 instead of a 4.0L I-6. Gone in the current engine lineup is the 4.0L I-6. Which is indubitably the best engine ever put in a Jeep vehicle. Instead it's been replaced with the anemic feeling 3.7L V6 found originally in the KJ's. It's basically a 4.7L V8 with two cylinders removed. On a bright note, the 3.7L V6 can be swapped out for a 4.7L V8 with minimal difficulty, even in the KJ's. However, folks spending 30K for a Jeep aren't probably interested in engine swaps. As we examined the new WK a few similarities to the old SJ surfaced. For example, they moved the spare tire under the back, like the old Grand Wagoneers. However, I thought that was an undesirable feature and many of the Wagoneers had optional interior mounts, as did the XJ and ZJ models that followed. I remember selling Fords in the '70's and listening to the farmers and hunters complain about having the spare under there, especially when out hunting or wheeling. While under the WK we also noticed the driver's side fuel tank, just like the Wagoneers. This time if there is frame rust on the mounts it'll be more serious as the WK follows the XJ-ZJ-WJ model of the uni-frame construction. Yes, there are indeed frame rails, but they are part of the floor pan. No body lifts for this Jeep... and body off restorations aren't in it's future either.

fuel tank location seem familiar?

br> another view of the fuel tank

note uni-frame, and incomplete painting
As part of the new Jeep examination we also test drove a KJ and a VW Toureg. The KJ was ok, had more of a Jeep feel than did the WK, but not nearly as nicely equipped or as powerful. The Toureg on the other hand was quite impressive. But one could tell it wasn't a Jeep. It's hard to venture out of the Jeep family. The price tag with any of the newer vehicles is of course the major show stopper for most of us. But, those of us that waited for our SJs know that in a few years these newer models will be cast offs and ready for adoption by many of us. I continue to look for and adopt SJs, XJs and WJs. I avoid ZJs and I will undoubtedly avoid the WKs. One thing that should catch the attention of any SJ owner is the driveline of the WJ and WK. Upgrading a nice SJ with a 4.7L V8, 45RFE and Quadradrive would be an awesome improvement in oh so many ways. Imagine seeing almost 20 mpg in a Grand Wagoneer. I believe that Jeep has really done another dumb thing. Jeep goofed with the ZJ, and I think they goofed with the WK. At least DC was honest enough not to give it a "J" designator... WK, what's that for? It breaks a long tradition. The other question is will the new Jeep hold up? The WJ's were plagued with warped brake rotors and worn bearings in the rear axle. Of course Daimler Chrysler has had other issues, as noted on this website: Of course there are people out there that will buy the new GC. People are buying the Liberty with it's anemic V6, sloppy handling, butt ugly looks and limited cargo space. But they've lost some of the Jeep heritage. Solid axles are just something I'm not ready to part with on a Jeep.

silver WK

white WK on I-5

white WK on I-5
And, we don't know about you, but we want a Jeep to look like a Jeep. I guess we're just having a hard time getting over the demise of the SJ and the XJ... and now the WJ. Sure, it's been almost 14 years since Chrysler killed off the SJ... you'd think we'd get over it... I guess building a Jeep makes more sense than buying one. :) Can hardly wait for my '83 J10 stepside to be finished... maybe this year... :) later, john meister at large from FSJ Magazine '99 WJ Grand Cherokee Laredo 4.0L '91 300d 2.5L TD '83 J10 Stepside ('96 4.0L in place of the 4.2L) '83 GMC Jimmy 6.2L Diesel (would love to put this engine into a Grand Wagoneer) '75 J10 hydraulic dump trailer '67 J100 Panel '58 Willys Wagon ---- ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Snohomish, Washington USA - where Jeeps don't rust, they mold. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- update 2014 - john has a 2005 KJ CRD and a 2008 WK CRD
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