Experts at TheCarConnection.com point out that the 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee is an absolute powerhouse off-road—but it also manages to keep its act together on the pavement.
For Jeep, 2009 offers a wide variety of engines. The selections begin with a 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6 and five-speed automatic transmission, rated at 15 mpg city, 20 highway 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." For 2009, the step-up engine, a HEMI V-8, has been made more powerful. It puts out 357 hp and 389 pound-feet of torque (an increase over previous versions). Jalopnik notes that it has "more power and torque" than before. Additionally, the new V-8 includes a Multi-displacement System (MDS) to boost fuel economy.
For those who want pure performance, check out the 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, a rip-roaring on-pavement-only edition with a monster 6.1-liter HEMI rated at 420 hp. 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. 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."
The greener alternative is a V-6 turbodiesel sourced from Mercedes, which offers better fuel economy. 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. 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."
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. "Grand Cherokees have a five-speed automatic transmission," states ConsumerGuide, "because that's the only way Jeep builds 'em," gripes Car and Driver.
EPA fuel economy ratings for the 2009 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 mpg city, 14 highway, and TheCarConnection.com’s editors observe figures in the low teens from several Grand Cherokee V-8 models.
Unlike so many SUVs that merely look like they can head off the road, the 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee really can, especially if you specify a four-wheel-drive model (all include high- and low-range transfer 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. Car and Driver is one of several reviewers to express satisfaction with the Jeep’s off-road prowess: "the Jeep surmounted every awful obstacle along our trails."
The 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee scores well with reviewers for handling and general drivability. MyRide.com says this Jeep offers "superior off-road capability comparable to that of the upscale Land Rover LR3." From Kelley Blue Book: "Off-road, we were amazed by the grip that the Quadra-Drive II displayed...this 2009 Jeep seemed oblivious to deep mud, extremely steep slopes and wildly uneven terrain." 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 2009 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 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee (SRT8) 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."