There’s little doubt about the power of the Jeep name.
During World War II, foreign correspondent Ernie Pyle described the U.S. Army vehicle as being “faithful as a dog, as strong as a mule and as agile as a goat.” Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Allied Supreme Commander in Europe, said after the war “the Jeep, the Dakota airplane and the landing craft were the three tools that won the war.”
The 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland edition may be the SUV that wins over luxury import buyers. With a sticker price of nearly $40,000, the Overland is aimed at such popular foreign brands as the Mercedes-Benz ML320, Lexus RX300 and Acura MDX.
He: Funny that Jeep should resurrect the Overland name, which even predates Willys, the original manufacturer of the World War II Jeep. I suppose that the Overland brand is so old, nobody remembers just what it stood for, so when Jeep wanted to create a new premium trim package for the Grand Cherokee above the Limited, that name worked as well as any. I just think it’s ironic that DaimlerChrysler is trying to stretch the Jeep brand and position it against luxury imports, considering Jeep’s blue-collar roots as a military vehicle that helped the Americans win the war. Ironic, too, that one of its potential competitors, the ML320, is owned by the same parent company in Germany. What would Ernie Pyle say about THAT?
She: I’m far too young to remember Overland or World War II. But I’ll tell you what. I felt like a rich woman driving this Jeep. And it’s a head-turner, with that new Inferno Red Pearl exterior paint job and the deluxe cabin with redwood trim and perforated leather. I’m a little less impressed with the front seats. They almost have a bit of a ’70s Barcalounger look to them. The hardest task for DaimlerChrysler will be convincing import buyers to take this high-priced Jeep seriously.
He: You know Jeep is serious when they put the new high-output 4.7-liter V-8 into the Overland. It kicks out 260 horsepower and 330 pounds-feet of torque — output figures that dwarf much of the import competition in this price segment. I was even a bit surprised at the EPA fuel-economy figures — 14 miles per gallon in city driving and 19 on the highway — which are not spectacular, but still impressive for a big V-8 that churns out this kind of power. The Grand Cherokee’s quadra-coil suspension also is one of the most compliant in the class, although you still won’t feel as comfortable as you will in a car-based crossover like the MDX or the RX300.
She: This Jeep is still a truck that’s capable of serious off-road use. You have to climb up into it, so if ease of entry is a major consideration, a crossover-type vehicle like the RX300 is probably a better choice. But the Overland is worth a close look if you want a vehicle that’s nice enough to take your friends out to a fancy dinner, but you still want to do some serious outdoorsy stuff like camping or towing a boat. The ride on the Jeep is a bit bo uncy and we both noticed some wind noise at highway speed and really excessive driveline noise at lower speeds.
He: I didn’t really have many other complaints with the Grand Cherokee, which is assembled right here in Detroit and looks to be up to pretty high quality standards. One of my biggest problems was forward visibility. You sit high in the driver’s seat, and the top of the windshield is low enough that taller persons will find their vision cut off — a big concern when you pull up to a traffic light. A minor annoyance is the location of the 10-CD changer, way back in the cargo bay, which makes it inaccessible even to your passengers until you pull over and lift the tailgate. That’s a dumb design.
She: I was impressed with the safety features, especially the $185 power adjustable pedals with memory. That’s a safety feature because it gets women and smaller people away from the driver’s air bag. You’re not on top of the steering wheel. The pedals move forward as much as three inches using a switch. And there’s a new $150 tire-pressure monitoring system that warns you if your pressure is low.
He: If you have 40 grand to spend on an SUV and you’re into the Jeep’s all-American legacy — and don’t have a problem with its current German parentage — the Grand Cherokee Overland is well worth considering.
Anita’s rating: (Above average)
Paul’s rating (Above average)
Likes: Terrific new high-output 4.7-liter V-8 delivers 260 hp. Plush luxury-car cabin with perforated-leather upholstery and redwood trim. Relatively smooth ride for an SUV (Paul). New power adjustable pedals with his-and-her memory settings. Good safety features include side air curtains, rain-sensitive wipers and optional tire-pressure monitoring system. Love the electro-luminescent gauges with stylish ecru background (Anita). Handsome chromed aluminum wheels.
Dislikes: For nearly $40,000, you could own a Mercedes ML320, a Lexus RX300 or an Acura MDX. Ride feels too bouncy (Anita). Barcalounger-type seats remind me of parents’ den (Anita). Felt like I was perched on front seat, rather than being enveloped (Anita). 10-CD changer is in the cargo bay. Excessive driveline noise and wind noise at highway speeds.
Type: Front-engine, four-wheel drive, five-passenger utility vehicle.
Price: Base, $36,905; as tested, $39,205 (inc. $600 destination charge).
Engine: 4.7-liter V-8; 260-hp; 330 lb-ft torque.
EPA fuel economy: 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway.
12-month insurance cost, estimated by AAA Michigan: $1,437 (Rates may be higher or lower, depending on coverage and driving record.)
Where built: Detroit