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Former Senior Family Editor Kristin Varela blends work and family life by driving her three tween-teen girls every which way in test cars. Email Kristin Varela

Jeep’s tagline for the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited is that it “handles the outback or the opera.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t drive to either of those places very often. Play dates and preschool are more my speed. I can say with confidence that it handles both of those venues quite nicely.

The new body design for the ’05 Grand Cherokee looks great. Its stout frame makes the SUV appear less SUV like, and more crossover-ish (is that a word?).

Inside, this Jeep is loaded with family friendly features. A new DVD system is my kids’ favorite. Its rear control panel makes it easy for older kids to change DVDs themselves without having to pester the front occupants to do it. What I love the most about this particular system is that it’s easy for adults to operate using the front audio controls (others you have to continuously press buttons on the remote in hopes that you’ll finally find the right combination to make the movie play).

The available Sirius Satellite radio is a great alternative to watching movies. My children loved singing along to their favorite Wiggles songs on a radio channel devoted just to kids.

With my two daughters’ child seats installed in the Grand Cherokee, there’s still room for a third seat in the center. Without a child in the middle seat, however, the armrest can be folded down, disguising a clever hiding spot with a mesh storage bag, the perfect spot for stashing emergency snacks.

The most impressive feature of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited is the flexible (and very usable) cargo area. The cargo floor reverses from a flat carpeted side, to a waterproof shallow tray. I found so many uses for this. It’s great at keeping milk jugs from sliding around (we go through at least two a week), wonderful for containing muddy shoes and makes a perfect place for changing a baby’s diaper. Why it is that infants stay dry all day until the moment we decide to leave the house?

The rear seats (a 60/40 split) fold very easily with a pull of the tab. This was essential during Christmas when my children made out like bandits at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

It’s easy to stay organized in this car. The front of the car is hefty with storage compartments. There’s a nook and cranny to store everything from my Chap Stick and cell phone to pen and paper. As my husband constantly reminds me, “an organized environment leads to an organized mind.” As I constantly remind him, I was very organized before I had gremlins running around un-organizing behind me. Either way, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited does its part to keep me sane.

The seatbelt receptors in the front two seats are on stable plastic bases making it easy to buckle in one handed. I only wish I could say the same for the rear seats. Honestly, that’s where that innovation is needed. The rear seat belts are buckled into flimsy nylon bases that my 4-year-old and I both have trouble using.

Being that I use my test cars as a means to transport my children from point A to point B, safety is my biggest concern. The crash test results have not yet been completed on the Jeep Grand Cherokee for ’05*, but in previous years it’s gotten less than stellar results. ’03 and ’04 frontal impact results for driver and passenger were 3 out of 5 stars, according the NHTSA. *SINCE THIS REVIEW WAS FIRST PUBLISHED, THE 2005 CRASH TEST RATINGS HAVE BEEN COMPLETED AND SHOW A MARKED IMPROVEMENT OVER PREVIOUS YEARS. SEE NHTSA RATINGS.

That being said, Jeep has added many new safety features this year. These include rear park assist, advanced multi-stage airbags with occupant classification system, optional side-curtain airbags, and a tire pressure monitor with an easy to read digital diagram of all four tires.

All in all, my experience in the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited is a positive one. It is saturated with great features that keep my children happy (except of course when they’re tormenting each other).

© 2004 Mother Proof, LLC – All Rights Reserved

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