From its specification sheet, our test car, a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (with a Hemi 5.7-liter V-8), seemed to have just about every tech option we could want: rain-sensing windshield wipers; an autodimming rearview mirror; HomeLink; Bluetooth telephone integration with voice recognition; a six-disc MP3/CD player; a DVD entertainment system; satellite radio; and GPS navigation. However, the implementation of several of these features could have been better. In particular, the navigation and the stereo had too many layers of menus.
The rounded headlights and revised grille that debuted on the 2005 model year simultaneously make the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee seem both more rugged and more sophisticated than previous generations. On the inside, the seats are comfortable, but rear legroom and cargo space both seem a bit limited. Front multistage air bags are standard, but our test vehicle was also equipped with the optional side-curtain air bags.
The 5.7-liter Hemi provides plenty of power, and its multidisplacement system cuts out four cylinders for better fuel economy when cruising. We were also impressed by its carlike handling, although the suspension bounced a lot on San Francisco's pothole-filled streets. Our test car featured Jeep's Quadra-Drive four-wheel-drive system, which switches between a high range for normal driving and low for off-roading. The base price for the 2006 Grand Cherokee Limited is $34,210, but options and the delivery charge brought our test car up to $44,180.Our 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited in the optional Inferno Red Crystal Pearl Coat ($225) looked rugged enough to take out into the backcountry but sophisticated enough for a night out on the town. We were very pleased with the inside's fit and finish--everything felt solid and durable. The sycamore wood-grain trim is a particularly nice addition. The driver and front passenger get comfortable leather, heated, power-adjustable seats, but we weren't very fond of the position of the manual lumbar-support lever because we found it too easy to catch our fingers between the seat and the center console. The driver also has power-adjustable pedals, but the brake pedal is so much higher than the accelerator that we were uncomfortable in stop-and-go traffic. The Cherokee can remember seat, mirror, and pedal positions for two drivers, and it also tracks different radio presets for each. Although the owner's manual doesn't mention it, we found that the driver's seat belt must be unbuckled for the car to recall a memory position.
We thought the rear passengers could do with a bit more legroom, and at 34 cubic feet, the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee's rear cargo space is smaller than the 45 cubic feet found in the 2006 Ford Explorer. Most of the interior bins weren't large enough for anything but sunglasses, but one bin in the rear cargo floor was the perfect size for hiding a camcorder.
The controls for the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee's satellite navigation and stereo systems were fairly awkward to use. A number of settings, such as screen brightness and MP3/CD folder selection, are buried too deep within the menus. Toggling through the menu options using the minijoystick also proved difficult. Curiously, the joystick can be pushed down to click, but a separate Enter button accomplishes the same function.
The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee's navigation system was fairly accurate, although it did take a while to recalculate a route if we missed a turn. One area of the freeway, with lots of lanes and a few junctions, gave the system some trouble; it said we had missed our exit when we hadn't even gotten to it yet. We also had problems hearing the route guidance when the stereo was turned up--the automatic volume reduction only seemed to mute the driver's side speakers.