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RH77 02-25-2008 12:51 AM

Off-Road Test: '08 Jeep Grand Cherokee (Rally Race)
As you may know, I’m a huge Rally racing enthusiast. See Rally America for more details…

There comes a time in any Hypermiler’s life that a larger vehicle is required for the task at hand. I happen to take the philosophy that if you require a small vehicle in everyday life, then that’s what should be driven. When there comes time to move large items, transport many passengers, or require off-road capabilities, there are a slew of rental agencies to get you that vehicle.

In the meantime, you’re saving more than a truckload of cash (for a variety of reasons from cost to insurance). Emissions, road safety, fuel consumption, and drivability are among the other items on the plus-side. I’ve done this for the last 7 years, and it works beautifully.

This brief examination is for off-road and utility capabilities (I guess the “Sport” and “Utility” in SUV)… I was pleasantly surprised with the result

2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X4.
3.7L V-6 rated at 210 hp and 235 lb-ft torque.
Transmission/Drivetrain: Quadra-Drive I (Automatic/Full-Time four-wheel drive without a low-range gearbox).
Purpose: 2008, 100-Acre Wood Rally Medic/Response and Communications Vehicle.
Requirements: Ability to carry supplies (including a 7-foot backboard and full-compliment of supplies and radio equipment); potentially traverse off-road conditions.
At the start line: Rally Stage Lineup -- Car 199 (Pastrana/Ringer) passes the usual group: Medical Sweep Vehicle, Heavy Sweep, and Ambulance.

Essentially, the Med-Sweep is quickly dispatched if a vehicle goes off-road / crashes and displays the “Red-Cross” or is unconfirmed of status by spectators, marshals, or drivers. The Heavy Sweep follows and is equipped to help right a vehicle ‘shiny side up’, pull it from off-road, or onto a trailer if undriveable. The Ambulance responds as quickly as possible considering road conditions – the Med Sweep prepares the patient for transport, assessment, or or treatment for life-threatening emergencies (also to aid in spectator issues and cold-weather emergencies). Thankfully, no injuries or responses this year!

I chose the Grand Cherokee, essentially from my own experiences with the Jeep brand. A Commander and Wrangler were also available, but for the task, the JGC seemed the proper size. Ground clearance and off-road capability is top-notch. At the same time, creature comforts like heated seats, a trip computer, and Sirius Satellite Radio made it a comfortable sanctuary. In addition, 3 power points, and an on-board inverter made powering radio equipment a breeze with no blown fuses this year! The Liberty is also capable (last year’s vehicle), but don’t be fooled by the Compass and Patriot -- they’re city vehicles any nothing more.

On-road manners are actually quite good. It doesn’t at all feel top-heavy. Braking is decent and acceleration from the base engine is quite good. Power pulls up to the gracious redline. Emergency braking is SUV-like – however, stability control handles the squirms.

Off-road is true "Jeep". The disadvantage to this model is the lack of a 4-low transfer case. For reference, I parked a too far off the side of the road and, well, sunk up to the axles. With instruction from the Jeep club (and the electronic 4-wheel drive system), I was able to get out without a tow (ironically, a the Wrangler pictured is adapted for off-roading and became stuck near the same place and needed a tug – likely my fault for helping the County Engineer with road drainage :o ). One big complaint: no tow hooks on the JGC Laredo. To make it quick, a Chevy truck aided in the tow (so much for bringing the tow strap and equipment).

The minimum amount of mud a Jeep should have…
...and what caused it

The course was quite snow covered and traction was variable. The Jeep performed excellently, and safely. While others were getting stuck on icy hills, the ‘Grand’ climbed them with ease. “ESP” kept the nose pointed the right direction. Cargo room out back is diminished with the spare tire and fuel tank, yet adequate with the seats folded.

Interior complaints: The dash protruded too far for knee comfort up front. In back, room was also lacking. For both passengers, 6-way power seats with lumbar adjustment were onboard. I prefer to sit lower, but the height of the seat would go practically to the roof, but not downward.

The Downside: I don’t see myself driving this vehicle everyday. Although maneuverability was good, everyday tasks would appear to take on extra effort. The ride is quite abrupt and unnerving over uneven road surfaces. It guzzles fuel in situations where a smaller vehicle would suffice. The transmission tunnel makes legroom for the driver painfully diminished into a triangle-shaped backache waiting to happen. To each their own, but getting back in my into my own car felt right. For your everyday vehicle, consider your priorities and consider other options.

FE: Well, not a strong point. ~20 MPG was the cycle average (EPA = 15/19). I would say all-around a good choice for the task at hand. The V-6 had plenty of power and torque to transport the vehicle and cargo at the range of speeds and conditions. A 6-cylinder Diesel will soon be available (which meets the latest, more stringent emissions standards, and likely more efficient and torquey). Other V-8 models are available, but frankly not necessary. Despite the loss of the great, durable, AMC 4.0L Inline-6, the new Daimler-Chrysler leftover did the job well.

2006, 2007, 2008 Medical Sweep: 100 Acre Wood Rally

zjrog 02-25-2008 01:46 AM

Great write up. I really enjoy watching rally racing, including a couple times a the Rim of The World in california (not too far from where I used to live...). I was considering getting into rally cross before moving to Utah, as a means of getting the racing bug out of my system again. I used to do autocross back in the early 80s and had some minor success with a Plymouth Champ.

I have become very fond of my 95 Grand Cherokee Laredo. The 4.0 could use some more power, but is about as solid a motor as ever preoduced. In my case, I was buying used, and sought a GC with specific attributes, the Upcountry package and the NP242 transfer case. This t-case offers Fulltime (AWD), 4 Hi and 4 Lo, and 2WD Hi. The Upcountry package includes stiffer, taller springs that are 1" taller than a standard Grand Cherokee. The package also included full skid plates for the front of the motor transmission and transfer case, and a fuel tank skid. And also included tow hooks front and rear. My Jeep also has a tow package so I don't have hooks in the rear, but get the uprated cooling system and alternator, and also got a limited slip differential with 3.73 gearing. While it does sit a ittle higher than otehr Grands, it also handles better with thicker swaybars and specially tuned shocks (mine were long gone and has some sportish tuned shocks). I noticed very little difference in handling when I went up to a larger tire this past summer. I do drive a mountain pass in my commute!!! I do enjoy the way this Jeep handles winter driving. I have taken it in snow deeper than lower edge of the doors, and the few times it did get stuck, I managed to get it out without digging or needing a tug. Without traction control or stability control. Though, I do like the ABS, even if it seems to act sooner than I prefer it too.

I agree, every vehicle has its place. Even an SUV. From my point of view, I can see exactly why you chose your Grand. Even in stock trim as yours is (and mine mostly) they are very capable rigs. And should perform quite well for the task you have chosen for it. Bigger knobbier tires don't always work better in snow, as a friend of mine recently found out (his 4x4 is a lifted Cherokee, but his daily driver is a Metro...).

Jeeps and rally racing... I LOVE this forum!!!!

RH77 02-25-2008 03:08 AM


Originally Posted by zjrog (Post 11355)
I was considering getting into rally cross before moving to Utah, as a means of getting the racing bug out of my system again. I used to do autocross back in the early 80s and had some minor success with a Plymouth Champ.

I have become very fond of my 95 Grand Cherokee Laredo. The 4.0 could use some more power, but is about as solid a motor as ever preoduced.


Jeeps and rally racing... I LOVE this forum!!!!

I'd love to do Rally-Cross with the 'Teg, but I have to drive over MO past St. Louis to do it (4.5 hours+). I was offered an prepped Audi to borrow, but I never made it over :(

But yeah, when it comes to wheel time, I've learned that Jeep or Rover is the best. My parents are big Jeep folks. We had an '86 XJ Pioneer (I learned to drive stick on that one -- 2.5L 4-cyl), then a '79 CJ-7 258 I-6 beater on the farm (great after-work wheeler). Then they had a '95 ZJ for a while and traded it on a 2000 XJ Sport. That, and a completely unreliable Chevy Trailblazer, completes the current farm fleet.

Back here, the local Jeep Club has folks to stand-by for rescue and tow operations. Last year they successfully placed a rally car onto a trailer after it rolled and end-over-ended. It took over an hour of intense block-and-tackle, but it was safe and efficient. The rally team was fine, but understandably bummed out.

Honestly, I was really impressed with the Grand -- from doing well on the concrete down to the mud and snow. The Medic goes after the last Rally Car, so I generally run flat-out. I turned off the traction control and had a blast in the corners :D The 3.7 makes the power up near 5k RPM. I video-taped the run, but watching it was completely underwhelming :rolleyes:. Nothing beats being there and driving in snow at full speed.

Problem is, it sucked-down the fuel. Idle was fine (0.5 GPH with the inverter and heat running), but mixed cycle ended up with just short of 20 MPG (not including extended idle). What really bothered me was the trans-tunnel. Not being able to straighten my right leg was hell on my back. Otherwise, I was truly impressed with the handling and performance from the base model. True Jeep expectations delivered.

I've converted to compact cars for the daily drive, but honestly, it would be fun to wheel again :thumbup:. But that's the high-performance side of my split personality showing-through. I see the Evos running and miss my old one...

But, I've come to the realization that I can't drive like I want too, and A) not get tickets, and B) save on fuel (which translates to the implications of emissions and their effects). I'd just as soon take it easy from now (except once in a while, of course :p)


zjrog 02-25-2008 07:22 AM

That last paragraph says it all... I had lost my license twice before I was 21, and been through more traffic school than I care to think about. Though, I made a 13 year stretch without a ticket, I've had 3 in the last 7 years. And hopefully, as I pass the 2 year anni of the last one, it WAS last one...

My club and some other folks did a recovery of a vehicle recently that was stuck out in the desert snows. There was a second that needed some work and the snow to melt before it can be recovered. A club where I used to live does those sorts of recoveries all the time. Hmmm, if there was a rally group out here, I might see if we can help.

Yes, the 4x4 in the snow flat out can be fun, lucky you had a "closed cousrse"! One of my most recent "stucks" was after our 22" overnight snowfall last week. I was goofing around in an empty parking lot that hadn't been cleared when I got the bright idea to do a douhgnut around the light pole... When I came to a stop, sideways, I had snow pushed about halfway up the passenger side windows. Took some doing, but I got clear on my own. Turned around later that morning giving 3 cars tugs with the tow strap.



Originally Posted by RH77 (Post 11361)
But, I've come to the realization that I can't drive like I want too, and A) not get tickets, and B) save on fuel (which translates to the implications of emissions and their effects). I'd just as soon take it easy from now (except once in a while, of course :p)


DifferentPointofView 02-25-2008 03:59 PM

I saw a Little YJ pull out a Toyota FJ, and then a Hummer H2 right after. Then it puttered along right through where they got stuck. :rolleyes: good times.
Quote: image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized 600x400.

The minimum amount of mud a Jeep should have…
Yea, it's all in the Jeep Wave rating system, the more mud the better. If your Jeeps clean and get's stuck, good luck having the Long time Jeep guys pull you out if you don't know about the Wave.

The Jeep Wave

When in doubt Whip it out! lol

I enjoy the PA part near the bottom of Other Parts and Accessories.

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