Tag Archives: SUVs

1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

In Limited trim, the Jeep Grand Cherokee represents the best of what SUVs were in the 1990s. This decade,  a sweet spot for SUVs, was a time between the watered-down vehicles following and the elemental vehicles of prior years. 1994, the year of the featured Grand Cherokee, was also a year in which the last vestiges of traditional American luxury still had influence in automotive design. Enter the pillow topped tan seats, gold-trimmed lattice wheels, gold emblems, and fake plastic wood of the Limited. The first generation (ZJ) Grand Cherokee arose from the AMC era with the Concept 1 of 1989, but unlike the XJ Cherokee, reeks of design principles defining the contemporary Chrysler. Those surprisingly stiff, yet luscious-looking leather seats look at home in any puffed-up K-based Fifth-Avenue. The overhead console, with its green dot-matrix computer, looks like nothing but Chrysler.

What made the ZJ great was the dimension of substance in combination of its fanciful accoutrements. It had two coil-sprung solid axles and, of course, the soulful and stout 4.0 liter inline-six. The powertrain was longitudinal, as it should be in an SUV, and transfer cases offered low range gearing. It had a Uniframe design, common to all closed Jeep SUVs in the 80’s and 90’s, that unified the frame and body  into a single structure.


The exterior is, in essence, an XJ Cherokee of larger dimensions with more concave sides and rounder edges. Square headlights and taillights have a stacked look to them, but are flush and smooth with the tidy body. The Limited in particular has prominent gold colored strips on the monochromatic bumpers and ribbed cladding; who can’t love a little bit of flash. The interior is posh with the squishy flat seats but unlike many classic SUVs, has appreciably spacious and efficiently designed accommodations. The gold theme continues with a 120 watt Infinity Gold stereo.

Nearly everything was perfect about this pure white ’94 ZJ. The paint, often peeling down to the bare metal on these, shown dazzlingly bright against the cold drizzle. Doors shut tightly and easily; aside from some cracked leather, it was free of the buy here pay here aura of impending death by neglect. But unfortunately, being a ’94, the engine spins a dubious Chrysler four-speed as opposed to the rock-solid AW-4 four-speed in 1993. At over 180 thousand miles, it could have only so much life left. But this perfect example of what is, on paper, the perfect SUV has a fresh transmission ready for the years and miles to come.


2012 Jeep Liberty Latitude  

        The boxy silhouette of the second-generation jeep Liberty denoted it as a rugged machine, unlike its predecessor which hid its competent mechanicals under a rounded, awkwardly proportioned disguise. Gone was the outside spare tire, bulbous hood, and four-cylinder. In was a standard V6, some extra girth, and sharp styling. 

    Like it’s Jeep contemporaries, the 2008-2012 Jeep Liberty has a tall grill and plastic front fenders separate from the body. The headlights are round, but are contained in rectangular bezels. View it from the side, and its top heavy look becomes apparent; one of the few aspects of the old Liberty to permeate the new look. Inset windows, chrome, and sheet metal bends keep with the theme. As mentioned before, the spare tire was removed from the tailgate leaving a conventional hatch and a cleaner appearance in its place.

    The interior of the tested Altitude model was very comfortable and left good impressions. Many critics admonished the lack of soft touch materials, however the hard plastics do little to detract from the interior. Perhaps the nicest thing in the interior was the thick-rimmed leather wrapped steering wheel. Also pleasant were the comfortable leather seats and the range of adjustment for the power driver’s seat. The rear seat had a reasonable amount of space, although an intrusive hump limited legroom for center passengers. Cargo space appears to be lacking because it is. Only 26.1 cubic feet is found behind the rear seat; this expands to 62.4 cubic feet. Under the floor, a shallow compartment lined with plastic awaits muddy items. 

    On the road, the Liberty is extremely maneuverable and and surprisingly responsive. The hydraulically-assisted rack and pinion steering has a nice amount of resistance and exudes a sense of precision not expected to be found in such a utilitarian vehicle. The low-speed navigation of parking lots is trouble-free thanks to a tight turning circle and excellent visibility. Wind, road, and engine noise where quelled with much success and the ride was mostly comfortable, albeit a bit stiff.   

    Under the angular hood is a 3.7 liter V6 pushing out 210 horsepower and 235 pounds-feet of torque through a smooth four-speed automatic. This powertrain worked just adequately for 4,000-plus pound Jeep, although more power would be greatly appreciated. Two four-wheel drive systems were offered in the Liberty; the part-time Command-Trac system, and full time Selec-Trac. Fuel economy is a demerit of the Liberty. A four-wheel-drive model like the one tested swills 15 gallons of gas per mile in city driving, and 21 on the highway. Two wheel drive allows for a 1mpg improvement in both driving conditions. Towing capacity, however, dwarfs that of the Jeep’s crossover competitors at a hefty 5,000 pounds.

    Kelly Blue book says the fair purchase price for a 2008 Jeep Liberty Sport is $12,314. At the other end of the price spectrum, a 2012 in Limited Jet Edition trim should leave one’s wallet $22,888 lighter.

     The Jeep Liberty is not an ideal or recommendable family vehicle. Heavy, inefficient, and impractical when compared to car-based SUVs, it makes little sense to purchase one unless all-terrain capability is a priority. That aside, the Jeep is a characterful and enjoyable alternative to those SUVs who are confined to the road.