(It was almost two years ago that I wrote my very first piece here at Curbside Classic on my mom’s 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I’ve often mentioned the ’99 that replaced it and ultimately ended her relationship with Chrysler. Now it’s time that I share its story. FYI the first three photos and the very last are of her actual cars.)
In her forty-something years of driving, my mom has owned a diverse range of vehicles. She’s had cars from three different continents, and owned at least one convertible, coupe, sedan, SUV, and CUV throughout her driving career. Although there have been exceptions, my mom usually purchases a new car every three to five years. In the spring of 1999, with her navy ’94 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo having been paid off and approaching five years of age, she began looking for a new car.
She didn’t look far, as she went right back to Gary, the salesman who sold her the ’94 at Central Chrysler-Plymouth-Jeep-Eagle and bought another Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. She’d been happy with the ’94 – it was comfortable, commanding, and confident, especially in the snow. Over the course of its five years, she’d had no major issues. The only major headache with it occurred when it was severely rear-ended by a larger pickup truck with a snow plow attachment at a yield sign in the summer of 1998.
I was only six then, and can’t recall if there were really any other cars Mom considered replacing the ’94 with. I do remember her looking at the Toyota 4Runner during the auto show, but she deemed it too cramped in comparison to the Jeep. What I do remember is the buying process. It was the first such time that I was present for this, as I was an infant when she bought her last car.
Given that I was only six, I don’t remember all the details, but in the end, Gary and the sales manager talked her into leasing over buying – something she had never done before and has never done since. There must have some incentive for the dealer and/or salespeople to get customers to lease. The smaller payments were probably what won my mom over.
Leasing is an attractive option for some people, but for others it just doesn’t make sense. My mom regretted it right away, and could never get past the feeling of making payments on a car she would never officially own at the end of the three-year term. Switching to leasing also eliminated the trade-in capital she had been steadily accumulating with every new and more expensive car she purchased. She walked out of there with a sour feeling that stuck with her through her four and a half-year tenure with the car.
As I mentioned, mom went with another Grand Cherokee Laredo. Despite being almost entirely new, the new model was very similar to the old, with virtually identical layout and dimensions. To me it felt very much the same – everything was just a bit more rounded. I tried hard to talk Mom into getting Flame Red, but she went for the more subdued Bright Platinum Metallic with Agate cloth interior. A big selling point of the Laredo for her was its gray plastic bumpers, which were much less susceptible to scratches and dings than the body-colored bumpers of the Limited. The Limited was also significantly pricier.
Chrysler often builds each trim level of a car to several different specifications (think “sub-trim levels”), each with a set of standard equipment. Her’s was a Laredo “E”, or the middle spec Laredo model. By today’s standards, it was equipped fairly primitive – keyless entry, power windows, power locks, manual air conditioning, cassette player, and overhead console with a mini info screen were its most prominent convenience features. Hard, hollow-sounding plastics were in abundance, and two thin strips of tacky plastiwood on the dash were the only non-black surfaces in the interior. Chrysler must have had to make use of leftover woodgrain that had been laying around since the 1978 New Yorker Brougham’s discontinuation.
About a year into her lease was when she started having issues with the front rotors. It was right around 12,000 miles when the first warped rotors were replaced under warranty. This was a very common issue that plagued all 1999 through early 2002 Grand Cherokees. The rotor warping was actually caused by poorly centered opened-faced brake calipers. The problem was not addressed by Chrysler until 2002, which meant that the faulty calipers continued to warp each new set of rotors installed. In total, my mom’s Jeep went through five sets of front rotors – the original plus four replacements. Each replacement warped before its 36,000-mile warranty, so it was never a financial issue. Nonetheless, all those trips to the dealer for the exact same problem and the constant concern associated with faulty brake components created a major headache.
Among some of the other issues and irritants I can recall was the faulty coolant sensor that would cause the “Low Engine Coolant” warning to flash on the overhead vehicle info screen several times a month, despite adequate levels of antifreeze. The rear inner door seals each popped out at the corners, and would keep falling out in after being pushed back in. This made for elevated road and wind noise, as well as the allowance of small amount of water to enter in heavy rain or when going through the car wash.
With her lease ending soon, Mom began looking for a new car in early 2002. She was initially intrigued by the new Jeep Liberty, which she described in her own words as “cute”. She test drove one, but among several dissatisfactions, the near-vertical windshield and short dash gave her the sensation of having her face pressed up against the glass. I also went with her to test drive the then-new Saturn VUE. Reeking of cheapness inside and out, it too was crossed off the list. Mom also went to look at the Ford Explorer, but found it too truck-like compared to her Grand Cherokee.
With nothing really out there that to catch her fancy, and time running out, she came to the decision to buy-out the three-year old Grand Cherokee at the end of her lease. Between the lease and the buy-out, the total amount of money that went to owning the car ended up being significantly more than if she had just financed it back in 1999 – another source of frustration.
It was after this that the Jeep was subsequently involved in two accidents – one my mom’s fault, one another driver’s. In summer 2002, we were in stop-and-go traffic when a teenage girl in a Taurus rear-ended the Jeep. The low Taurus went up underneath the higher Grand Cherokee, and actually pushed-in the gas tank (which she discovered next time she filled up). The following autumn, she backed into a telephone pole inconveniently located at the end of my friend’s driveway (the exact one is pictured above via Google Earth). Extensive and costly damage was done to the rear-quarter panel.
In the end, the second Jeep Grand Cherokee was a less than enjoyable experience. While she still liked the car itself, after four and a half-years, the Jeep had become a source of too many headaches and unpleasant memories. By autumn 2003, she seriously began looking again, with two prospects on her list: the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. The Toyota’s more car-like interior won her over, and just before New Years, she purchased a 2004 Toyota Highlander Limited – a car that was the source of much more positive memories, and the vehicle that ultimately became my first car.
My Mom’s Ex-Curbside Classic – 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo
Your mom’s experience with her Grand Cherokee reminds me of my parents’ relationship with their former ’97 GC Laredo – mixed at best.
In 2002, my dad wanted to trade in my old ’92 XJ Cherokee Laredo – which I had received for free from my cousin, who had moved to California – because he thought that at 153k miles, it was well-worn and needed to be replaced. So he bought the ’97 GC, which had 62k on it. He and Mom would soon regret buying it – the instrument cluster started having electrical issues within a month of purchase and they quickly tired of its gas-guzzling nature and truck-like ride.
To add insult to injury, Mom told me that she actually preferred driving her ’99 Volvo S70 (FWD) in the snow rather than the Jeep, which is why Dad had bought it in the first place. The last straw came when the GC’s rear end went out at 123k miles in early 2006. It was immediately traded for an ’03 Volvo XC70 (a way more reliable car) and my parents haven’t strayed from Volvo since.
Late ’90s Mopars…just who did the front ends on these things? My hated ’96 Intrepid ate rotors after snacking on its tie rods…
“There must have some incentive for the dealer and/or salespeople to get customers to lease.”
The incentive is that it’s never in the consumer’s financial interest to lease. The seller makes a profit on the new car sale, then again on the interest payments, then again on reselling the car after the lease is up.
Car leasing makes sense for corporate customers who maintain a fleet of company cars – that’s who it was invented for. There are tax and bookkeeping benefits to not having a bunch of cars on the books. As I’ve mentioned, my Dad was a Chry-Ply leasing manager in the early ’70s, and they didn’t lease to consumers, afaik.
Consumer leasing lets people drive more car than they can afford to buy, but after nine years of three-year leases, you’ll have sunk way more money into car ownership than if you’d bought something and driven it long after it was paid for.
I only like leasing because it ensures there’s always a supply of clean three-year-old used cars. Someone else has taken the big hit on its price, but it has a lot of value left…as long as it’s not a ’96 Intrepid. 🙂
It depends. California doesn’t allow you to deduct the trade value from your sales tax – in other words, you pay sales tax on the full negotiated price of the car. In comparison, when you lease, you only pay sales tax on the payments, not the full price. If you trade you car in every few years, California makes leasing more attractive than it might otherwise be.
I have to disagree that it’s “never in the consumer’s financial interest to lease” for a few reasons:
1) There are times when the lease incentives from the manufacturer are significantly better than the purchase incentives. For example, I leased a 2003 Saab 9-5 wagon that had a sticker price very similar to a BMW 525i Wagon and an Audi A6 3.0 AWD wagon. The lease payments were nearly 2/3rds of the other two cars as they were supported by incentives, money factor, and a high residual value.
2) Leasing is about targeting the maximum percentage of your dollars toward use, rather than maintenance. If you can avoid replacing tires, and are covered by the new car warranty for the entire term you have the car, you spend very little on maintenance.
3) The total cost of ownership of a car does not end when the payments are over. In fact, after 4, 5 or 6 years, usually one enters the brake replacement phase along with the above mentioned tire replacement. Assuming nothing else goes wrong, that’s still $3,000 – $4,000 against a depreciating asset, which is also a bad financial decision.
Now, some of the benefits of leasing are reduced by the fact that in most states you pay taxes on the entire purchase price of the car, despite only “purchasing” 40-50% of the car. So nothing’s perfect.
But, over all, no car is a great financial decision. It’s a durable good that will break down, lose it’s value, etc. The goal is to find the best possible deal on what you want to drive and make it work for your finances. Leasing can do that in plenty of circumstances.
+1. Every time someone starts bashing leases I wonder if they made the only 100% practical choice and bought a 5 year old Corolla right at the sweet spot on it’s depreciation curve.
Financing a new car is guaranteed way to lose money too. Buying a new car outright cash is a waste as well, you can invest $20k+ over a few years and easily return more than the APR to finance a car.
All new car transactions are an emotional choice, that will 100% result in you losing some money. If you’re honest to yourself beforehand, and know you’ll be tired of the car within 2-4 years, a lease could be a smart option.
I own 3 cars outright, and lease one (2013 Altima). The leased car is for my business, and I typically write off about 40-50% of the lease payments come tax time. Like you said, assuming I can forgo brakes and tires, the lease will cost me about $5k for 3 years, not a bad deal by any stretch.
“Every time someone starts bashing leases I wonder if they made the only 100% practical choice and bought a 5 year old Corolla right at the sweet spot on it’s depreciation curve.”
And that buyer is not a car enthusiast. He’s a spreadsheet enthusiast, who’s total joy of car ownership is squeezing the nickle until the buffalo screams.
I would have to be hard up, desperate, and have lost my collection of bicycles to willingly buy a 5 year old Corolla.
I 100% agree.
This is why it bugs me when people think their irrational way to lose money on something they like, but don’t need, is better than someone else’s irrational way to lose money on something they like, but don’t need. It’s like debating what’s the best way to pay for lotto tickets…
We all (the commenters on here I mean) picked our cars for a combination of practical and emotional reasons. Unless they are the “spreadsheet enthusiast” who only buys appliances and drives them until the wheels fall off…
You got me! I hate cars. For the record, it was an eight-year-old Prizm and I got five more out of it because I hate cars. I sure wish everybody hated cars!
If you can “make it work for your finances” to “be tired of a car after 2-4 years,” by all means, go nuts. If you want to bike around in the rain sneering at my kids and me in a Geo, be my guest. I’m not judging anyone for leasing – I’m saying that the benefits of it have been oversold.
My example was that, over nine years, you can buy one car and maintain it, or lease three. The former is more cost-effective, unless the one car is outrageously unreliable. If you can afford not to care about that, then my point doesn’t really matter to you.
Ltd’s leased Altima reduces his tax bill, which actually supports my point. Uncle Sam is taking the hit on your behalf, which wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t a business expense.
In fact, I believe if you can’t afford to buy a car outright, you really can’t afford it. After all, if you can make the payments, then you ought to be able to save for it in advance. And yeah, I drive a 12 yr old Corolla Matrix.
“Spreadsheet enthusiast” ?
I absolutely HATE to owe money. Whether it’s for a new car or for a second-hand wheelbarrow. No debts means freedom and inner peace. Ohwonesten hits the nail: “After all, if you can make the payments, then you ought to be able to save for it in advance”.
73ImpCapn I wasn’t referencing you with the Corolla, I didn’t even read your post; I was responding to Matt, sorry if my point was confused.
I was actually saying people in your situation (driving paid off reliable Japanese compacts) are the only ones who are doing it right, and therefore the only ones who can sneer at us fools leasing and buying new cars.
I just find that people who criticize leases tend to be people with 60 and 72 month loans, who look down at everyone else who doesn’t “own” their leased cars like they do their financed cars.
Prior to getting my lease, my DD was a 1997 Subaru with over 200k miles. I definitely understand to each his own. It worked for me for years, but when I started my new business I was racking up miles and repairs, and I realized that a new CamCordAltima could save me around $100/mo just in gas, not to mention headaches. It works for me, for now. Come time for it’s replacement, I very well might buy a 3 year old off lease Lexus or something similarly reliable and “premium”.
I do believe that there are times it is much better to lease then buy a car. If you wanted a German car such as a Benz, BMW or VW then leasing is much better then buying as you can get rid of the thing around the time the warranty is up before it nickel and dimes you to death. If I ever decide to buy a BMW I am leasing it with enough money put away in the event I need to end the lease early.
That is the only time I would lease a car. I lump leasing a car in with renting a home. You are paying money every month on something that at the end of the all the payments, you are left with turning in the car so that you get nothing or buying out the lease and making more payments.
When I was doing the car payment thing I financed for 3 years and after the car was paid off I kept making payments in that same monthly amount to a savings account for a full year in order to have a slush fund for a down payment on the next car or for major car repairs. Tires and Oil changes are the only thing I take my cars to get serviced. The rest I fix myself.
I could see the scenario that Matt is talking about and indeed I know of a few people that like leasing because they always have a car under warranty.
The European luxury lease would definitely be the way to go if you were getting one, most people don’t want to own them out of warranty anyhow, the 3-4 year “flippers” are the ones who can most benefit from a lease.
I would distinguish leasing a car from renting a home though. A car is a depreciating asset (McLaren F1 and BMW 1M Coupes aside…), whereas a home is not. Plunking down 20-40k cash on a depreciating asset (new car) is a lot less financially sound that putting that as a down payment on a house.
Financing or leasing a new car is really just a numbers game where you’re minimizing your loss, you need to figure out what the car costs now, potential depreciation, and when you expect to get rid of it. If you plan on keeping it 8-10 years, then there’s nothing wrong with financing a new car and paying it off.
What gets me is lessors often pay 2,000-3,000 down for the privilege of “only paying for what they use” . Divide that down payment by the number of payments and add it to the payment amount and you’re about up to the payment cost of a purchase.
I often wonder where people get the money for a lease down payment if they don’t have a trade in. I know, they probably use their tax refund, but it seems like a big hit to the wallet to me.
I think that’s primarily just for advertising, you can (I did) $0 down leases, but obviously you pay that same amount divided out per month. I knew what I wanted to spend total for 36 months, and negotiated that amount. It’s not really too much different from negotiating an outright purchase.
Big dealerships with used car branches do the same thing in advertisements too, advertise “Drive this 2008 Tahoe for $99 a month*” *With $6,000 down. Obviously no one is taking that deal, but it’s out there.
Ah, the joys of American english……….what the hell is a ‘rotor’?
I don’t think it’s just an Americanism, every .co.uk website I can find also refers to them as brake rotors.
It’s the large disc looking part that the caliper clamps into with the pad.
Isn’t that the brake disc? Rotors are what I’d normally associate with the distributor (rotor arm).
You can google brake rotor, the term is universal. That might also be called a rotor (I’m too young to have ever had to mess with a distributor), but the “disc” is referred to exclusively as a brake rotor, as in “having your rotors turned” where they machine the warp out of the rotor.
Thanks Ltd. I’ve always known them as brake discs.
I assume the rotor is so named because it’s affixed to and thus rotates with the wheel.
Nice story Brendan, I do recall hearing about this car before but now we have the full story, thanks for sharing. Your mom sounds like a logical person, all of her reasons for skipping or picking one over another seem to echo the general consensus. As an aside, I think Jeep has finally found their way again with the current Grand Cherokee, it generally seems well regarded overall and drives pretty good.
Thanks Jim. It’s funny you should mention that about the current GC. When my mom got rid of this Grand Cherokee, she swore off Chrysler and vehemently stated she’d never buy another Chrysler product or even an American car again. Early last year, when Mom was looking for a replacement for her ’07 X3, what does she tell me? “You know I really do like the new Grand Cherokee”.
She didn’t seriously consider it, especially due to its width. We have a very narrow 2-car garage, so even a few inches makes a huge difference in the ease of opening doors. She ultimately purchased a Mercedes GLK350, which by no coincidence has the rather boxy, “Jeep-like” styling she prefers over the rounded styling of her second choice, the Audi Q5.
Having been in a GLK recently, I was struck by the uprightness of the windshield, knowing she has one I thought of that when reading your comment about the Liberty! At least the dash isn’t as shallow. Funny how that goes…
Believe me, the windshield IS very upright. That’s my major dislike about driving it, as the A-pillar creates a blind spot, especially compared to driving my own car. There have been several times when I haven’t immediately noticed other cars or pedestrians due to this, causing them to suddenly appear in my line of vision.
The GLK kind of reminds me of the early/mid ’90s Suzuki Sidekick/Geo Tracker 5 door wagons.
I’ve been close to buying a Grand Cherokee 3 or 4 times in the last year. A few months ago I thought I had killed my Civic and my mechanic had an 05 GC that he had just bought to re-sell. After reading consumer reviews on Edmunds.com I decided that a GC was the last 4wd/awd vehicle I should consider buying.
Okay, then. I owned a ’98 Grand Cherokee Limited for seven years off someone else’s lease. It was deep blue/purple with light gray leather and the 318, very classy looking. There were 47K miles on it when I got it, and 104K when I traded it in 2008 on an Outback I am still driving.
The first oddity was that when you pushed the buttons on the driver’s door to set the seat memory, it didn’t do that. Instead, it would change the radio station (I’m sure anyone my age has learned the hard way that auto electrics, which were perfectly straightforward when we first started to turn our own wrenches, are now the stuff of wizards and 28 year old IT guys). The seat heaters didn’t work, and I checked into it and found they were in the $500 range to replace (There I go again, assuming the problem might not be in the software that runs the rear defroster…), so I went cold assed in winter on leather, brrr. Over the years, I left in in 4WD all the time, thinking that was ok. Guess I was wrong, because the transfer case wore to the point that the car would “take a set” during a long drive which would prevent it’s turning without scrubbing the front wheels. After it cooled down, it would be OK (anyone out there who can tell me about this?) . I could see replacement of the unit coming down the road, so when an untraceable water leak began to cause reliability problems, I got off the horse before it died.
Early on, the heater fan had stopped working. When I pulled it, there was rust inside. I should have made a mental note about that. Situated where it was, near the right side of the windshield, it might have alerted me to the problem that would eventually end my ownership. The second time it died, a year later, I preemptively bought two units. The second one never went in. The Jeep began to go dead after a heavy rain. I found water in the fuse box, located in the right front kick panel. Two trips to the mechanic, with the dash ripped out and extra weatherproofing installed all holes filled and $1500 out of my pocket, and no one could find the leak. Compounding things was that there was a sunroof, but the leak could not be definitely traced to that or anywhere else. The Subaru dealer allowed me $2K on it, which I was happy to get for a 10 year old vehicle that had basically no value to me if it wouldn’t start.
Too bad, because it was a great vehicle to drive, although my Subaru’s bad weather traction is superior.
I bought a new ’99 Chrysler Town & Country, and the dealership did the hardest sell on a lease I’ve ever been through. My wife is extremely anti-lease, and I’m generally against it myself, so the dealership didn’t win a lease on us. I agree, there must have been some strong incentives on leases at the time.
My mom still drives the ’95 GC, for it’s age, it is doing well. Too bad your mom’s experience was so poor, I’ve always liked the ’99 restyle, it remains my favorite of all the GC bodies.
These were typical of Chryslers of that time. Great design poorly engineered. I always liked these, they were so much more attractive and appealing than my 4Runner. Too bad they were junk.
I recently parted ways with one of these. It was a 01 Limited with the 4.0 that had a blown engine. I learned a $1000 lesson in the process of getting it running. Short version; Don’t buy a late model non-running Jeep.. If you do you will “Just Empty Every Pocket”..
I liked the looks of the WJ, and the interior looked nice but everything felt cheap. The sheetmetal even seemed thinner than it should have.
I’m having flashbacks to my in-law’s 99 Grand Cherokee bought by my mother in law in a moment of mad impulsiveness after they decided to build a retirement home in Bend Oregon. In typical impulse buy fashion it was the wrong car and the wrong spec since they bought the 6 instead of the more desirable V8 and it was a first year model. Like most 99 GCs it was a lemon and spent lots of time in the shop, culminating in an exploded rear differential in 2002.
This led to another impulse buy since my father in law took a test drive in a Volvo XC90 while the Jeep was in the shop. The Volvo was something of a repeat performance since they bought the wrong spec, base engine and no 3rd row seat, and it spent a lot of time in the shop, culminating in a drivetrain failure.
After this they took my advice and bought a Lexus RX330 which has been trouble free.
These are, without a doubt, some of the worst cars ever built, and irreparably ruined a great money maker, the Grand Cherokee. When the first GC’s came out, there was nothing else like in on the market: a capable SUV with a large tow rating that could fit in a standard garage. My Mopar store sold a zillion and two of them, and made a fortune at it.
Then came the 1999 cars. We sold a crapload right off the bat and then, about 10,000 km later, they came back, each and every one with brake problems, made much worse by the West Vancouver hills. The really bad part was Chrysler at first chose to blame the owners for “abuse,” and refused to warranty them past 12,000 km. Almost all of the cars my store sold were loaded Limited models, and thus NOT cheap. For three years, the dealers were forced to face very irate customers. This is, speaking from experience, not fun.
The 2002 update wasn’t much better. In fact, the real problem was how the caliper was mounted on the hub: it was too weak, causing oscillation, which in turn warped the rotors. It didn’t help that the rotors were too small and thin to begin with. We ended up simply discounting front pads and rotors, and I remember well, they cost $330 taxes in, which is dirt cheap for a dealer.
This GC had many other problems, too. The HVAC blend doors always failed right after warranty, there were oil leaks, and the front end was weak. Chrysler didn’t ever get the lost GC customers back, they migrated to Lexus and Range Rover.
I wonder where those users migrated to Ranger Rover eventually migrate to.
Probably to the public bus service Jeff. I’ve had a Landrover and it crippled my wallet for ten years, year after year…..
English craftmanship at it best. Nice wood and leather, but nothing ever works!
In early 2000, I was hired into a new job and taken to lunch by the company’s CFO. I rode shotgun in her GC, which could well have been a 99. I didn’t press for details, but she didn’t need to be prompted to express just exactly what she thought of that Jeep, and none of it was good.
Its hard to like these Jeeps my daughters aunt and uncle got an upgrade in L.A. a couple of years ago to a Jeep and described it as the worst vehicle they’d ever experienced, horrible to drive and ride in, these two aren’t car people just mere tourists who rent cars where they go but if thats the impression Sentra/Subaru drivers get I’ll give Jeeps a miss.
I especially remember the 1999 Grand Cherokee WJ because of its straight-5 diesel engines. First a 3.1 liter VM Motori (the ZJ had the 2.5 liter straight-4 VM Motori) and later on the 2.7 liter Mercedes-Benz.
The ZJ and WJ sold well in Europe, after them the Grand Cherokee’s popularity slipped away due to the Euro-suvs like the Mercedes M-class, BMW X5 and Volvo XC90.
Those are European specced and built like the models we get, and very different from the US models.
Not very different. But the engines is different, if you don’t choose the 4.0 or 4.7 though, the diesels are kind of rubbish. The MB is good, the VM is bad.
The transfercase(s) is the same, the rear and front axle is the same, the automatics is the same. In northern Europe we could only choose the Laredo or Limited versions, and not so much options without thoose who already was there. Somethings that was an option in the US, was in the package of Laredo or Limited (or Overland) in Europe.
ZJ and WJ was called ZG and WG when they was prodused in Austria, Europe.
Couple of comments … I drove several 1st gen GC’s, including a rare 4.0 5 speed, before buying my used Land Cruiser in ’95. In ’97 or ’98 I rented one on the East Coast and drove about 1000 miles on everything from the fast lane of the New York Thruway (avg speed 85 mph and 20+ mpg) to gravel washboard in Vermont. My memories are of nice power, handling and fuel economy compared to the Cruiser, but very cramped interior and little luggage space with the spare inside. Also, horrible resonant vibrations on the washboard. But worst of all was the 3rd brake light fixed to the interior frame of the lift gate. My bald head left a lot of blood on the sharp edges of that thing every time I reached in the back for luggage. When the new body was released in ’98 the first thing I noticed was that the 3rd brake light was now attached to the lift gate and thus swung out of the way. It’s those little things … In 2014 I do find the new VM Diesel very appealing but can’t imagine spending $40K+. Hmm, maybe I should lease one.
I still use my 1993 Grand Cherokee Limited as a daily driver here in Norway. 4.0 inline six and AW4 trans, NP242. Great car actually, 260.000 km now, I think I’ll just will be running it forever 🙂
It seems that the old ZJ was a better car than the WJ ?
I’d say so. Especially the 1993-1995s are the better of the ZJs. The interior was considerably cheapened with the 1996 mid-cycle refresh.
I always felt the WJ was a huge step down from the ZJ. The 4.7 V8 may be a decent enough motor in its own right, but the 318 is what Id rather have. Hell, you could get a 360 in a few models of the ZJ. Now THAT would be a perfect meld of practical daily driver, unstoppable 4×4 and muscle car.
My ex had a 2000 WJ (4.0L Quadra Drive ) that she bought new. When we started dating in 2008 that truck had 150K VERY hard miles on it. Her ex husband wasn’t much of a mechanic, and she wasn’t any better. I un-F’d a few things on that rig here and there as best I could with limited time and nowhere to work but it was simply abused and neglected. And while it had been in a few minor fender benders and driven as if she totally hated it, that thing was pretty tight and ran like a top. Only after it had jumped a curb and been run into a telephone pole after a nite where she had a few too many beverages did it develop a nasty pull to the right and start to chew up the front tires. AND, she ran it WAY too far between oil changes until the valvetrain started to develop some nasty clatter and she sold it, needing a lot of work but still a very serviceable rig.
A V8 4×4 GC is one of the few traditional style SUVs (4 doors, truck based) that I would consider. Having owned 5 Jeeps I have more faith in them than most anything else on the road. Yes, you might get some minor annoyances out of the doodads and geegaws but the hardpoints of them tend to be pretty much bulletproof provided you don’t cheap out. Get the bigger powerplants and get part time 4wd…youll be fine. Excessive wonky electronic crap is for posers anyway.
I bought one of the very first ’93 Grand Cherokees made. I liked it, a lot, and kept it for almost 8 years. It had two main issues, one was fixed pretty quickly, and one went on and on until we traded it in at just short of 80K miles. The first, most serious issue was the back brake shoes (It had rear drum brakes) soon disintegrated and would lock up the back brakes with anything more than moderate pressure on the brake pedal. The dealer replaced the shoes with new, totally different ones, and I had no further issues. The other problem with it was the A/C condensor would crack about every 18 months. Chrysler fixed it, again and again, and again, under warranty, so it was no big deal, except it happened every time I took it on a trip in hot weather. I got to spend a day in some tiny town in Georgia, waiting for it to be fixed. It was interesting, but not something I want to do again.
In 1998, the new Grand Cherokees appeared, and our 1993 was getting tired. My dog had done some interior damage from bouncing around in the back of it (He was a Pit Mix, so you can have some idea of how he acted), and it was pretty much time for something new. I drove a new one, a mid level red Laredo, and I liked it ok after a 20 minute test drive, so I bought it. After a couple weeks, it was obvious I had made a huge mistake. I hated it, just hated it. First thing that annoyed me was if I drove it for an hour, my back hurt, bad. Secondly was the steering wheel was oddly offset to the right about an inch and a half. About half of that eras JGC seem to have this issue, and it seemed like I was sitting too far to the left to be comfortable. Other than hating it, I had zero issues in the 19 months I had it. Nothing broke, needed adjustment, nothing. It ran great, the 4WD worked well in the winter, and the dog did no damage, other than drool on the windows. A lot of that. But within a month, I began looking at other vehicles to buy as soon as I could swing it, financially. At the 18 month point, a half hour in it, and I would be huffing and puffing, due to back pain, and I decided I had to get rid of it. I eventually decided between a ’00 Ram 1500 and a ’00 Sierra or Silverado 1500. The clacking 360 was a turnoff, even though I liked the Ram better in most ways, so I wound up with a ’00 Sierra. It had the “carbon tick” issue, that was obviously lifter noise. GM’s claims it was “carbon” were nonsense, why would the “carbon” only make noise if the truck was shut off for a long time, and get worse when it was cold out. A friend’s 2001 Silverado had it really bad, and ticked like crazy in the winter when started in cold weather. Strangely, it spun a bearing, and after having the short block replaced, never ticked again. The oil pressure in the new short block came up almost instantly, and the old one took a long time, probably having something to do with the spun bearing issue. My truck had one real issue, the rear ABS…well, it wasn’t really ABS, on rough pavement. The back brakes would lock up momentarily on a hard stop on rough roads, then the ABS would unlock the rear brakes, and would keep them unlocked until you took your foot off the pedal momentarily, and then slammed the brakes on again. This caused excessively long stop times. Complaints to the dealer and GMC were pointless, they both denied any problems, but most 1999-2003 GM trucks had the same issue, the longer, heavier ones were the worst ones. In 2003, after the Sierra had been repaired after a wreck, I traded it in on 2003 Ram, and was very happy with it. I see it all the time, and even after 7 years gone, I still miss it, especially in winter driving. I kind of miss the old 1993 Grand Cherokee too.
Fun fact about the Saturn Vue. It had a Honda V-6 in it. I don’t know if it had a Honda transmission in it as well. Hopefully not as Honda automatics of that era were not exactly the best.
This story hits home for me. We had a 2000 Grand Cherokee Laredo, and definitely had a love/hate relationship with it. Similar to Brendan’s mom, we had a good experience with the previous generation Grand Cherokee. In our case, it was a dark green 1995 Laredo, that belonged to a good friend. He took a job assignment that brought him to Asia for an extended period, and during that time left the Grand Cherokee with my wife and me. We really enjoyed the Jeep, including its great all weather capability, rugged good looks and reasonable size. With a baby on the way, we decided to take the SUV plunge ourselves, and there was no question which one we would get.
I like the new design introduced in 1999 (now I prefer the original, but at the time the rounded redesign looked very fresh). In August of 1999 I ordered a 2000 Grand Cherokee Laredo, in Sandstone Silver (very similar to the pictured car) with a black leather interior. I also went for the V8 and the Infinity Sound System, but skipped upgrading to the Limited because I didn’t see the added value and thought the unpainted cladding would be more rugged. We took delivery in late September of 1999, a short two months after the arrival of our daughter. It was a great car for a family with a new baby, easy to get in and out of, good visibility, good traction in bad weather–all the reasons people got into SUVs. But… it unfortunately soured me for years on Chrysler products. We also went through rotors at an alarming rate. The seemingly endless juddering that led up to the repeated replacement each time was very annoying. The vehicle was recalled multiple times. We also had issues with the weather stripping, fuel lines and brake lines. We kept it a while, but after it was out of warranty we just gave up.
Since we had previously enjoyed Honda and Acura products that were bulletproof, we went for a Honda Pilot in 2003. It was capable in every way, a useful and reliable car for our growing family (my son arrived in 2002). And yet, I just never loved it. My earlier Hondas had been a blast to drive and felt special, whereas the Pilot, while nice, was just an appliance. We couldn’t beat the flawless operation, and tried to spice it up with a more upscale Honda product by getting an Acura MDX when the second generation came out. That one was an even nicer… appliance. Great to use, hard to love.
Which brings me back to Jeep. Like Brendan’s mom, after my experience with the 2000, I swore off Chrysler products. But when the new Grand Cherokee came out in 2011, I couldn’t help being smitten. Another good friend got one, and I got to spend some time in it, and thought it was really nice. Plus, my friend vouched for quality and had no problems. So, the MDX was traded in for a 2012 Grand Cherokee Overland with the Hemi. Fantastic SUV, and in our case, totally reliable. I was so pleased with the Jeep that I got another, and now have a 2014 Grand Cherokee Summit. Again with the Hemi, which now has the 8-speed auto that makes a real difference in the mileage (though I HATE the toggle shifter). It is functional, versatile, and there’s just something about a Jeep, when they are done right, that makes them irresistible to me.
It’s funny to me that Jeep has regained its equity with me, which I wouldn’t have thought possible. And my fire for Honda products has pretty much gone out, something I also never would have dreamed of.