Although most families will be better served by roomier and more fuel-efficient crossover SUVs, the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee remains a viable, if pricey choice for consumers who want a real sport-utility vehicle that can really go off-road.
If you've followed the 15-year lifespan of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, you know it was one of the first sport-utility vehicles able to do traditional SUV tasks -- rock crawling on remote trails and the like -- while also being comfortable enough for weekend errands in the suburbs. Although the original Grand Cherokee was just as capable as most forebears in off-highway situations, it offered more in the way of style, interior room and amenities. The "JGC" was a popular choice for a family vehicle through the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century. Since then, though, more on-road-friendly crossover SUVs have debuted, leaving this midsize Jeep as part of the old guard. Alongside these newer crossovers with superior road manners and more passenger and cargo room, the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee offers no clear advantage.
Jeep is well aware of the challenges the Grand Cherokee faces, and this year the company has given its five-passenger midsize SUV its first major refresh since the 2005 ground-up redesign. The always-popular 4.7-liter V8 is significantly revised. Thanks to a freer-flowing cylinder head design, higher compression and improved combustion, it now makes 305 horsepower -- 70 more than last year. Perhaps more important are the upgrades Jeep has made to the Grand Cherokee's interior, which has always been a weak spot for the third-generation JGC. Designers installed softer materials to surfaces that owners are likely to touch frequently (like the armrests), as well as a new set of gauges with LED illumination. In addition, the features list has grown considerably, and up-to-date electronics such as a hard-drive-based navigation system and a back-up camera are standard or optional on most models.