The premium stereo system on our test car was composed of a six-disc MP3/CD player, Sirius Satellite Radio, and a Boston Acoustics six-speaker sound system with a 276-watt DSP amplifier. Because our test vehicle had the optional GPS navigation system, it didn't have an auxiliary jack for the stereo system that would have let us plug in an MP3 player, which was an unpleasant trade-off. Overall, the stereo sounds good, but the bass starts clipping and begins to buzz even at medium volume; a subwoofer would definitely be welcome. We found the stereo controls on the back of the steering wheel easy to use, especially since we could keep our hands on the wheel without looking down to find the buttons.
The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee's UConnect Bluetooth cell phone integration worked quite well with our Sony Ericson T610. It took us a bit of time and practice to get used to the voice-command system for dialing out. Listening to the voice menu options can take a while, but we were able to skip through with a simple push of a button. Although the car didn't copy over our phone's address book, it let us program 30 contacts, with multiple numbers for each. Our only real problem was that the car kept telling us we were roaming when our phone showed us to be on our network.
We definitely enjoyed the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee's backseat DVD entertainment system. The screen was bright and sharp, and the wireless headphones provided great sound, but headphone jacks would have allowed us to use our own noise-canceling headphones. There are inputs for external devices such as an Xbox or a PlayStation, and you can use an external audio-only device such as an MP3 player, but the inputs are RCA connectors, so you'll need an adapter. Our only other complaint is the lack of a power port for the backseat; there are two power ports in the front and one in the cargo bay.The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee's 5.7-liter Hemi produces 330 horsepower at 5,000rpm and 375 pound-feet of torque at 4,000rpm. Even with the Cherokee weighing 4,735 pounds (700 pounds more than the pre-2005 version), we found the acceleration impressive and had no problem getting up to freeway speeds, even on fairly short on-ramps. Jeep claims a believable speed of 0 to 60mph in 6.8 seconds and a 15.25-second quarter-mile. To save fuel, the engine utilizes Jeep's multidisplacement system, which deactivates four cylinders when all eight aren't needed. Even so, we found it to be very thirsty. Although the car is rated as 15mpg in the city and 20mpg on the highway (the same as a Chevy Tahoe), we averaged 11.6mpg, with a decent mix of both highway and city driving. The EPA classifies the Cherokee as a Special Purpose four-wheel-drive vehicle, in contrast with the impressive LEV-2 rating of the 2006 Ford Explorer.
Our test car was equipped with the Quadra-Drive four-wheel-drive system, which is differentiated from the base Quadra-Trac II system by the addition of electronic limited-slip differentials. Quadra-Drive is part of a $1,900 option package that also includes Sirius Satellite Radio, a power sunroof, and parking assist. The five-speed automatic transmission has a two-speed active transfer-case system that has a full-time four-wheel-drive high mode with a four-wheel-drive low available for off-roading.
In four-wheel-drive high mode, the power is split 48 in the front and 52 in the rear, but if the roads are slippery, 100 percent of the available torque can be sent to a single wheel. The car felt quite safe and stable in wet conditions, and in dry, the handling seemed almost carlike, which almost made us forget that this is a top-heavy SUV that shouldn't be thrown about like a sports car. If we wanted, we could manually select gears one through four with a side-to-side gearshift movement, as with some performance cars (the top gear could not be manually selected).The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee has a number of solid safety features, including a tire-pressure monitor and SmartBeam headlamps that adjust high-beam brightness for oncoming traffic. Air bags are in the form of multistage front air bags with an occupant-classification system and optional ($560) supplemental front and rear side-curtain air bags. There's also Jeep's ParkSense parking-assist system, which we inadvertently tested when it saved us from reversing into a small post just outside the CNET offices. The brakes are antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist; Jeep claims an impressive 169 feet from 70mph. The ABS brakes, the all-speed traction control, and the stability system are all tied together by the electronic-stability program. The Cherokee is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile warranty (same for the power train) and a 100,000-mile outer-body rust-through warranty.
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