- Off-road prowess
- Well behaved on-road
- Available diesel V-6 engine
- Amazing SRT8 performance model
- Entertainment options
- Worrisome reliability record
- Some cheap interior bits
- Not the largest backseat
- Not the most cargo room
- Gulps gasoline (but sips diesel)
The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a genuine dual-purpose SUV that can handle daily commutes almost as easily as sandstone trails.
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.
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.