2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 18, 2008

The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a genuine dual-purpose SUV that can handle daily commutes almost as easily as sandstone trails.

The SUV experts at TheCarConnection.com studied the latest road tests on the new 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee to write this comprehensive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee and have experience with the 3.0-liter diesel V-6 and the HEMI-powered SRT8, and they've included more details and information to help you make the right choice in a new car. This review also compares the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee with vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

In industry parlance, the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV is mid-cycle--another way of saying that it's middle aged, old news, and completely out of the limelight. Still, the five-passenger Jeep Grand Cherokee might be worth a gander. Completely restyled and reengineered in 2005, the Grand Cherokee has aged reasonably well, and it still looks fit and trim, though its angular shape isn't to everyone's taste. The traditional Jeep seven-bar grille tells onlookers that this SUV is ready for anything.

For Jeep, 2008 is a model year that offers a wide variety of engines. The selections begin with a 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6/five-speed automatic transmission. As this combo delivers only 1 mpg more than the much-improved-for-2008 305-horsepower 4.7-liter V-8, skip the V-6. Also pass on the 330-horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 unless you regularly tow a trailer. For those who want pure performance, check out the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, a rip-roaring on-pavement-only edition with a monster 6.1-liter HEMI rated at 420 horsepower.

The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee offers four gasoline-fired engines, but its most interesting option would be its 3.0-liter clean diesel V-6 produced by Mercedes-Benz. Equipped with the diesel, this Jeep packs a huge punch while sipping fuel like a tree-hugging hybrid. Mileage from the diesel (18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway) is roughly 30 percent better than the gasoline V-6. This theoretically delivers a cruising range of more than 450 miles from its 22-gallon tank. At idle, the engine is smooth. While there is some noise (you can hear the engine running), it's nothing intrusive. The first thing you notice is its power off the line--it feels unstoppable. The gear changes from the five-speed automatic are smooth, and once on the highway, the transmission rarely needs to downshift because the engine produces so much torque.

Review continues below

Enough about engines--the Jeep's lightweight unibody and trail-rated suspension deliver performance and refinement that compare favorably within the class of five-passenger SUVs. Previous editions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee tended to ride harshly on road, a side affect of being able to crawl over boulders and scamper across sand dunes. Jeep engineers have solved this ride/handling compromise, so today's Grand Cherokee is satisfying for daily driving duties, at least compared to other SUVs.

Unlike so many SUVs that merely look like they can head off the road, the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee really can, especially if you specify a four-wheel-drive model (all include high- and low-range transfers cases). Jeep offers several packages and individual options beyond the four-wheel-drive system to increase the Grand Cherokee's already formidable off-road capabilities, such as locking differentials and skid plates.

Inside the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the driver's cockpit is pretty well organized, but the interior is not very roomy. This is a function of the Jeep's trim exterior dimensions and rather high floor (designed that way for off-road ground clearance). The rear seat is sized more like a compact car than an SUV, and the rear cushion is low to the floor, making the second row an unpleasant place for a tall person to spend much time. However, with the addition of Sirius Backseat TV, kids probably won't mind riding back there. The Jeep Grand Cherokee scores five-star front and side impact ratings, but a three-star rollover rating.

Due to the Grand Cherokee's sloping roof line, there is no third row of seats available, and cargo room is limited to only 35 cubic feet behind the seats.

Quality of the materials and switchgear inside the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee is also an issue. Some of it isn't great, but the real wood used in the Overland trim level raises the bar some.

The Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot are car-based crossovers. Even when ordered with four-wheel drive, these SUVs aren't designed for tough off-roading. However, because of their car-based roots, both of these competitors offer a better on-road ride and more interior room (with three rows of seats).

The true SUVs in this comparison include the Toyota 4Runner, Nissan Pathfinder, and the ancient twins from General Motors, the GMC Envoy and Chevrolet TrailBlazer. The Toyota and Nissan are both larger than the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee, but they don't share the Jeep's nimble off-road handling. Neither offers the variety of engines found in the Jeep, or a performance model like the Grand Cherokee SRT8. But, practically, the Toyota and Nissan both sport a third row of seating that can come in handy. Plus, the quality of these nameplates is reassuring, especially in light of the Jeep's rather spotty quality reputation. Unless you feel compelled to shop another domestic manufacturer, skip the choices from GM. We don't recommend these vehicles to anybody.

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2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Styling

The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee carries the heritage of Jeep intact.

TheCarConnection.com finds that reviews are generally positive but not enthusiastic about the exterior and interior styling of the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Completely restyled and reengineered in 2005, the Grand Cherokee has aged reasonably well, and it still looks fit and trim, though its angular shape isn't to everyone's taste. The traditional Jeep seven-bar grille tells onlookers that this SUV is ready for anything. Although the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee receives relatively few styling changes from last years' models--Cars.com says "casual observers probably won't be able to tell the difference between a 2008 [Jeep] Grand Cherokee and a 2007 model"--reviewers note that the 2008 Jeep has a bolder grille and front fascia.

Kelley Blue Book reports that the recent "makeover gave the Grand Cherokee's handsome lines the straight-edge treatment, leaving the trademark Jeep grille and tail in place." They say that the "flared wheel arches and aggressively styled wheels" lend the Grand Cherokee Jeep the "rugged, off-road look Jeep loyalists demand." Other reviewers agree: The Auto Channel says there's "no mistaking the look of a Jeep with its signature seven-slot grille and dual headlamps." Jalopnik awards kudos to the Grand Cherokee Jeep's "athletic and contemporary appearance."

Inside, the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s cockpit is pretty well organized. Jalopnik reviewers note the 2008 Jeep has an "updated line of instrument clusters that feature new brighter LED illumination." According to Cars.com interior changes for the 2008 Jeep "are modest and center on the dashboard, door panels and center console." They report that Grand Cherokee Jeep "gauges are new, as are the door armrests and the leather-wrapped parking brake handle" and that the Overland version "gets a wood steering-wheel rim and perforated leather seats with special piping."

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2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Performance

The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a study in contrasts: relatively frugal diesel mudder, and blazing HEMI-powered speed demon.

The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee performs well on-road and is almost unstoppable off-road, according to reviews from around the Web.

For Jeep, 2008 is a model year that offers a wide variety of engines. The selections begin with a 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6/five-speed automatic transmission rated at 15/20 mpg in rear-drive models. Kelley Blue Book notes that the V-6 has "a tough time moving all that weight...particularly loaded and passing at highway speeds." Skip it, as this combo delivers only 1 mpg more than the much-improved-for-2008, 305-horsepower 4.7-liter V-8. Jalopnik raves about the new 4.7-liter V-8 engine–it has "more power and torque" than before, they note, it’s rated at 14/19 mpg in rear-drive editions, and it's flex-fuel capable.

The smaller V-8 is good enough, so you may want to pass on the larger 330-horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 unless you regularly tow a trailer; this engine gets a comparatively decent 13/19 mpg in rear-drive editions, though.

The green alternative this year is a V-6 turbodiesel sourced from Mercedes, which offers better fuel economy. Car and Driver says "the best Grand Cherokee [Jeep] is one equipped with the 215-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel, which endows the vehicle with up to 7400 pounds of towing capacity." With the diesel, this Jeep packs a huge punch while sipping fuel like a tree-hugging hybrid. Mileage from the diesel (18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway) is roughly 30 percent better than the gasoline V-6. This theoretically delivers a cruising range of more than 450 miles from its 22-gallon tank.

For those who want pure performance, check out the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, a rip-roaring on-pavement-only edition with a monster 6.1-liter HEMI rated at 420 horsepower. Car and Driver notes "thrill-seekers will go for the SRT8, which makes up in performance what it lacks in practicality," adding that this performance-oriented model "can tow only 3500 pounds." Kelley Blue Book rates the SRT8 at "zero to sixty in FIVE seconds on wet or dry pavement" and at 0-100 and back to zero in 19 seconds--impressive for a 4,700-pound sport-utility vehicle.

"Grand Cherokees have a 5-speed automatic transmission," states ConsumerGuide, "because that's the only way Jeep builds 'em," gripes Car and Driver. Cars.com reports that "rear- and four-wheel-drive versions are offered, and the latter driveline comes standard with Hill Descent Control that's designed to keep the SUV's speed to a crawl when traversing difficult terrain." The SRT8 edition only comes with four-wheel drive.

EPA fuel economy ratings for the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee are listed 11 to 18 mpg in city driving and 14 to 23 mpg on the open road. All that V-8 power comes at a price; as Kelley Blue Book puts it, "don't expect frugal fuel efficiency." Car and Driver says the Grand Cherokee Jeep SRT8 has the "worst observed fuel economy" of all at 11/14 mpg.

Comments are mostly positive about the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee handling ability. From Kelley Blue Book: "Off-road, we were amazed by the grip that the Quadra-Drive II displayed...this 2008 Jeep seemed oblivious to deep mud, extremely steep slopes and wildly uneven terrain." MyRide.com concurs, saying this Jeep offers "superior off-road capability comparable to that of the upscale Land Rover LR3." Car and Driver reports "the Jeep surmounted every awful obstacle along our trails." ConsumerGuide has concerns about on-road handling, warning that "body lean prompts slowing down for tight, fast turns, even in the handling-oriented SRT8" and that steering "isn't quick or precise." They like the braking, however, and assert that the 2008 Jeep "absorbs most bumps with little harshness." However, Kelley Blue Book quips that if you're "a true-blue driving enthusiast craving speed, speed and more speed," the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee is "one of the fastest, best-handling SUVs on the planet" and offers performance "at a price that will send the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne Turbo scampering home with their tails between their axles."

Unlike so many SUVs that merely look like they can head off the road, the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee really can, especially if you specify a four-wheel-drive model (all include high- and low-range transfers cases). Jeep offers several packages and individual options beyond the four-wheel-drive system to increase the Grand Cherokee's already formidable off-road capabilities, such as locking differentials and skid plates.

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2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee could use a more efficient, spacious interior and better trim.

The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee suffers from a smaller cabin and lower-quality materials than its main competitors. The chief problem is that the rear seat is sized more like one in a compact car than an SUV, and the rear cushion is low to the floor, making the second row an unpleasant place for a tall person to spend much time.

Kelley Blue Book reports the "[2008] Jeep Grand Cherokee can accommodate four adults in comfort -- five in a pinch." There's also "noticeable improvement in rear-seat legroom as well as ease of entry and exit, thanks to the longer rear doors"--a plus for passengers who do not like their knees meeting their ears. They complain, however, that the Grand Cherokee Jeep "does not offer a third row seat, and interior space is nowhere near the levels of larger SUVs." About the front, ConsumerGuide reports that "headroom is not generous for six-footers, but there's ample legroom and shoulder space on supportive seats"; regarding the rear, it's "quite firm and not contoured for best comfort," adding that "three adults fit, but none have much foot space."

ConsumerGuide says cargo space is "ample by absolute standards but subpar for the class." Edmunds confirms this: "[Grand Cherokee Jeep] cargo capacity is low for this class, with just 35 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 69 with the seats folded.

Quality of the materials and switchgear inside the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee is an issue. Some of it isn't great, but the real wood used in the Overland trim level does raise the bar. Car and Driver terms the 2008 Jeep changes to the interior only "a start," calling the interior hard plastic "a merciless prison." Jalopnik notes, however, "door panels have new armrests for improved ergonomics and comfort," and Kelley Blue Book praises the interior: "quality materials abound and the layout, execution and attention to detail are all first-rate."

The Grand Cherokee Jeep is rated by Car and Driver as "the quietest" compared to a HUMMER H3, Toyota FJ Cruiser, and Nissan Xterra when cruising on the highway, but in off-road tests, "its steel unibody sometimes emitted painful gronks when twisted." ConsumerGuide says that "one test 5.7 V8 AWD Limited suffered modest gear whine at highway speeds," while the 2008 Jeep diesel "makes a slight clattering noise at idle and during full-throttle acceleration," and "the SRT8 V8 provides a NASCAR-style soundtrack."

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2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Safety

The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee offers good safety for occupants with a five-star frontal crash rating, but side impacts are a concern.

Experts at TheCarConnection.com note that the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee aces most frontal-impact crash tests, but side impacts and rollover protection are less satisfying.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in frontal impact crash tests, gave Grand Cherokee Jeep five stars out of five, but only three for rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the 2008 Jeep its highest rating of "good" for front and rear collisions; the Grand Cherokee Jeep received only a "marginal" rating for side impacts.

ConsumerGuide lists standard safety equipment on the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee as including "anti-lock brakes, skid control system with rollover mitigation, and side curtain airbag." Reviewers note the rear backup camera and park-assist system are great options to help avoid fender benders in the 2008 Jeep.

ConsumerGuide also remarks that Grand Cherokee Jeep's "visibility is a bit cluttered to the right rear, and thick windshield pillars hinder seeing around some corners."

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2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Features

The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee dolls up with luxury features for families, while retaining its hallmark off-road macho.

The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee can be outfitted as a luxury family shuttle or a serious off-roader, depending on models and options.

The Grand Cherokee Jeep comes in four trims, starting with the base-level Laredo, which Car and Driver calls "simple and clean." The Laredo is well equipped, with "standard anti-lock brakes, stability control, and head-curtain airbags, plus "an eight-way power driver's seat...power windows, locks, and mirrors," says Kelley Blue Book.

The Limited and Overland editions, Car and Driver adds, have "more ornate treatments, including body-colored cladding, fancier wheels and more bright-work." The Limited 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee Editions have dual-zone climate control--"a distinct improvement for passengers," says Edmunds. A leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats with touch control, and memory for the power driver's seat and mirrors are welcome additions to luxury amenities.

The performance-oriented Grand Cherokee Jeep SRT8 has numerous options packages, such as heated second-row seats and a sunroof (for sun worshippers, and those who like to feel the wind in their hair). Jalopnik enjoys the premium amenities--the "heated seats...[and] auto-leveling headlamps"--and says this 2008 Jeep "offers a refreshed interior and exterior design and a host of innovative premium amenities" with many trim options, plus Sirius Backseat TV and satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and a navigation system.

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7.6
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Styling 7.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 6.0
Safety 8.0
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