Bold styling and enhanced refinement for the 2005 model year made the Grand Cherokee a more suitable competitor in the crowded luxury SUV sector – with the added appeal of heavy depreciation making it a particularly good-value second-hand purchase
TARGET RANGE: £5000 – £15,000
When the Jeep Grand Cherokee first appeared here in 1994 it was a clear declaration of Chrysler’s intent to expand into new markets, particularly in Europe where the marque was hardly known. The car was deliberately designed to appeal to a more discerning European clientele, shrugging off the boxy truck-like styling of earlier Jeep SUVs and offering more mechanical refinement and ride comfort than was the rugged norm in its home market. It was quite an advanced design for an American SUV at the time, since it did away with the concept of a separate steel chassis opting instead for a monocoque bodyshell, although the floorpan was reinforced to such an extent that Jeep engineers claimed it was stiffer and stronger than a chassis-based 4×4. It did, however, retain rigid axles front and rear, sprung on coils. It quickly became apparent that in spite of its sleek outward appearance the first generation Grand Cherokee still lacked the levels of luxurious refinement exhibited by its major British and Eastern rivals, so the Jeep gained limited acceptance more for its good-value pricing than for its aesthetic qualities, while the 4.0-litre petrol engine was thirsty and the 2.5-litre VM turbodiesel offered in later examples was rough and underpowered. The updated model for 1999 had a more pleasing interior, but suffered from having a no-win choice of lively but thirsty petrol V8 or dull-performing turbodiesel engines. For the 2005 model year Chrysler got it almost right, the completely revised Grand displaying a bolder front end and a more stylishly sculpted interior, along with a smooth-revving 3.0-litre Mercedes CRD turbodiesel as the mainstream power source. For those who craved the typical American power of a big petrol V8 the legendary Chrysler Hemi in 5.7-litre form was offered as an alternative for the first year, some early versions also had the 4.7-litre V8, but the weak demand for these is reflected in the second-hand marketplace where the turbodiesel predominates.
The Land Rover Defender: a true icon of the off-roading world and, some would argue, still the best off-road machine around. So it’s not been traditionally known for on-road prowess or super speed over any terrain. But that was then, and this is now. Solihull’s machine has now entered the lofty ranks of high-speed rally car…
Words and photography: Hils Everitt Additional action photos courtesy of Land Rover
Yes, that’s right, the Land Rover Defender is now regarded as a bona fide rally entrant, to be found lining up in rally stages alongside such luminaries as Mitsubishi Evos, Subaru Imprezas/WRXs and the ubiquitous Ford Escorts of various guises. And this is all down to Bowler Motorsport. Founder and MD Drew Bowler and his incredible team have masterminded the transformation of standard, factory-produced Defender 90s into the impressive rally cars that are now competing in the Defender Challenge.
The Challenge has been introduced to encourage those who want to get into Rally Raid, and perhaps, ultimately, the mighty Dakar Rally, but are perhaps rather daunted by the prospect of motorsport licences, rules and regs and prepping a suitable vehicle. Drew explains: “It all started when a customer said he wanted to get into rallying, but didn’t really know how to. He wanted to make it to the big races such as the Dakar and other global rally competitions. The Defender Challenge is a great feeder series for preparing potential competitors in their bids to get there; it gives them a perfect training platform. And it was time to bring some new blood into the sport.” It is also open to existing off-road and circuit competition drivers.
Probably one of the most unusual countries to go off-road. We climb a volcano with a team of ancient Suzuki Vitaras and some very odd confectionary. Ecuador is a very special place indeed
Words and photography: Robb Pritchard
There are a few off-roading meccas in the world; Russia, Morocco and the Australian Outback come to mind, and Johnson Valley of course… but after this amazing weekend, Ecuador should be added to the list.
My trip involved joining up with the guys from Ecuador’s Terreno Extremo magazine, and the day started with guinea pigs for breakfast, roasting on a street side barbecue, followed by a bad headache as we hit 3800m above sea-level… At this point, I was told that cocaine leaves help alleviate the symptoms. Cocaine? Surely that’s all very dangerous not to mention illegal? No need to worry, it comes in candy form from a kiosk at the entrance to the National Park. It’s a great introduction to off-roading in Ecuador. And all before a cup of coffee!
Now this is a proper adventure! A group of ex-military personnel have restored a 1993 Toyota Land Cruiser, which they intend to drive from Kabul in Afghanistan to Goodwood in leafy – and somewhat safer – Sussex. The journey will cross some 17 different countries and will cover over 4600 miles. Leading the trip will be ex-marine Chris Short, who is making the journey as a symbolic statement to encourage other veterans in their readjustment to ‘ordinary’ life. Highly laudable, but the guy’s obviously something of a madman since instead of doing the trip from behind the wheel of the Toyota, he’s driving an all-terrain motorbike. Strap it to the rear and jump in would be our advice, Chris. The trip has been organised by Shoresec Racing and all funds raised will be given to Mission Motorsport, a charity that helps recovery and rehabilitation of ex-service personnel through motor racing. We hope to give more details of the trip in a forthcoming issue.
Tough Mudder is said to be ‘the toughest obstacle challenges’ in the world, which is some claim! This series of events tests the endurance and strength of participants over a 10-12 mile course, and is the sort of event that makes a lot of sense to sponsor, hence Jeep UK’s involvement. Jeep will supply a number of Grand Cherokee, Wrangler and new Cherokee models at the events throughout the year. Damien Dally, head of brand, for Jeep UK explained: “The Tough Mudder ethos is very much in line with that of Jeep. We’re not only passionate about adventure, but encouraging people to challenge themselves too – and everyone who took on the Tough Mudder challenge at the weekend, or plans to attend forthcoming Tough Mudder events, certainly does that.”
If the G-Class is the ‘yin’ of the Mercedes range, then this thing has to be the ‘yang’. The Concept Coupe SUV was unveiled to the world in New York, and to be honest it can stay there. To be fair, there’s no attempt to say this is anything other than a performance sports saloon that just happens to be four-wheel drive, fitted as it is with the company’s 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive system, linked to the 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic gearbox. Apparently the gearbox has five transmission modes; Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual and – we kid you not – Slippery… For many, the most ugly, pointless all-wheel drive production saloon has been the BMW X6. It seems that Mercedes now wants to challenge for that title, although there are no immediate plans to put this concept into production. Thankfully.
We just love this ‘classic’ leather tool bag from Gunsons. If you have a classic Land Rover, or similar older 4×4, this has to be one of your accessories. The bag has an approximate size of 150 x 145 x 380mm and it is made from heavy duty leather with stitched and metal riveted seams. The bag is secured with three straps and high quality buckles and includes an adjustable shoulder strap. It seems the guys at Gunson’s also have matching leather spanner rolls, but we certainly like the look of the bag. It’s good quality leather, so it’s not cheap and has a typical price of £72.55. Check different suppliers for the best deal.
There is now a new range of Warn slings and hooks available from the 4×4 experts Arbil. The new Warn Premium winch hook is coated with something called Cerakote, which is said to provide maximum protection and reliability against wear and abrasion. The hook is available in three varieties, for 18,000Ib capacity winches and under, for 12,000Ib capacity winches and under and for 5000Ib capacity winches and under, and these retail at £75, £58 and £39 inc VAT respectively. We think they look excellent, and smiled when we also learned that, “the hooks have also been uniquely designed with a built-in beverage opener” – an essential for any off-road trip! Warn also has a new Pullzall sling is capable of lifting some 1000lb (454kg). If you want to know more, Warn is available through the UK exclusive distributor Arbil 4×4. Do remember to tell them that you read about it here first.
Nigel Fryatt – editor
EVEN the most cautious and careful driver can have an ‘incident’ when driving off-road. It’s one of those activities that you shouldn’t do, if you are not prepared for the consequences that might involve some damaged metal (or plastic), since it’s not always just your pride that gets dented.
That would be a good way of introducing, or indeed excusing, the dent that now appears on the Suzuki’s front bumper. I could regale you with stories of derring-do, on how the little Suzuki had been ploughing through the rough stuff, embarrassing vehicles more suited to serious mud-plugging, when one of those nasty mobile rocks ‘jumped out’ in front of me and caught the valance. I could say that, if it was true. Sadly, I have to admit that the damage was done… in a car park. Now it was the muddy, slippery car park at a small wildlife nature reserve somewhere in Surrey, and not a tarmac covered Tesco’s car park, but that still doesn’t quite excuse it.
Stupid thing was, when I drove in and parked I noticed the small wooden fence, less than a foot high, low down on the passenger’s side. It would be easy to miss that I thought to myself. Of course, some time later when I came to reverse out of the space, putting the wheel to full lock and looking over my shoulder to see all was clear behind and easing back, the resulting graunching noise told me that, basically, I was an idiot.
Hils Everitt – Editor at Large
Having now put a few hundred miles on the clock of our latest edition to the 4×4 fleet, I am getting a feel for its temperament, idiosyncrasies and excellent features. First of all, I will say the biggest thing I don’t like about it is the silver bodywork – shallow, I know, but there you are. All the latest SUVs are looking very like each other, although this fourth generation Forester does have a more muscular stance perhaps and therefore more presence than most, but I think silver just doesn’t suit this genre of 4x4s. I’d rather have it in the VW Touareg blue or Discovery 4 metallic bronze, or even brilliant white would be better; bigger 4x4s look really cool, in all senses of the word, in white.
As we are on the slightly negative side, I will say that I have driven smoother manual gearboxes: this one is not bad by any means, just not the smoothest. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I have handled a manual 4×4 on a regular basis; my last three 4x4s have been auto. (NB: Have to confess I nearly stalled it a few times, just because on coming to a halt, on a constantly jammed up M25, I forgot I was driving a manual – not proud…)