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4x4 MART | MARCH 2011
BUYING USED: JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE (1999-2005)
LUXURY JEEP ON THE CHEAP
The new-for-1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee was the right vehicle at the right time, boasting Footballers’ Wives glam but without demanding footballers’ wages for the privilege. So is it still a Premier League buy? Tom Phillips finds out
he Jeep Cherokee launched the famous American brand in the UK in the early 1990s, and proved so successful that British plans for Chrysler’s 4x4 subsidiary quickly grew. Jeep was already moving upmarket with the Grand Cherokee in the US, and there was no reason why the same model wouldn’t also work in the UK. For the purposes of this feature, though, we won’t be looking at that original version. Launched here in 1996, it had more than its fair share of gremlins and would cost many of its owners a small fortune in running costs alone. (Having said that, Jeep managed to shift 20,000 examples here in just three years). No, instead we’re looking at the ‘WJ’ model of Grand
Cherokee, which came to the UK in the spring of ’99. Of course, it looked very much like the original. Unlike the thirdgeneration model that’s just gone off sale in Britain, the ‘WJ’ boasted evolutionary styling – which was no bad thing. By honing the lines and refining the detailing, this secondgeneration model continued its predecessor’s general theme but looked a lot more convincing. As for shared parts, Jeep reckoned that only the oil filter and interior rear-view mirror were carried over… The new Grand Cherokee’s premium features and elegant chromework gave it a genuinely upmarket appearance. And it was this more than anything
that helped it to attract a new set of Jeep converts. The wheelbase was unchanged, but the bodyshell was both longer and wider, giving more interior space as well as easier access thanks to usefully larger rear door openings. At last, the spare wheel was relocated out of the boot compartment, too; no more fabric-covered spares looking like an afterthought and stealing valuable luggage space. Even with the back seat upright, the new Grand Cherokee boasted 1,104 litres of load space, growing to a massive 2,047 litres when it was folded. It’s one reason why the Grand Cherokee still remains desirable to family buyers. And those who regularly tow boats or caravans benefit too, the
Grand Cherokee boasting a minimum towing capacity (for a braked trailer) of 3350kg, or up to 3500kg for the V8 version. Mechanically, the first ‘WJ’ Grand Cherokees used either a 4.0-litre six-cylinder or 4.7-litre V8 petrol engine, both available initially in highspec Limited trim. Later the same year (1999), a 3.1-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel arrived, with – like the petrol versions – automatic-only transmission. And, of course, the diesel was far more fuel efficient… as well as being exceedingly slow. Interestingly, there were actually three planetary gear sets within the automatic, meaning it was in theory a six-speed. This was locked out on early
non-V8 models though, which were just four-speed units. Jeep made it a five-speed in 2001 by reprogramming the software. In practice, it means there’s an extra gear between second and third, for smoother gearshifts and better kick-down response. And what about four-wheel drive? Two systems were offered, the standard set-up being Jeep’s Quadra-Trac II, which used a hydraulically-activated clutch to transfer torque front to rear. Normal running saw all drive diverted rearwards, with it gradually sent to the front wheels when loss of traction was detected. It could also be used in 4-Lo guise, which locked the front and rear axles together, as well as employing low-range gearing.
4x4 MART | MARCH 2011
ROAD TEST: LAND ROVER FREELANDER 2 SD4 190 HSE
2011 FREELANDER: THE BEST JUST GOT BETTER?
R OA D T E S
Land Rover has been busy giving its best-selling model – the Freelander 2 – a mild refresh. Tom Phillips gets behind the wheel to find out whether the upgrade has been worthwhile
he Land Rover Freelander 2 remains the UK’s favourite compact SUV, its blend of premium image, relatively affordable pricing and impressive practicality making it an easy machine to justify. For not much more than a mid-range Ford Mondeo, buyers can get themselves behind the wheel of a genuine Land Rover – and thousands do exactly that every year. Given such market command, you could understand it if Land Rover became a little complacent, leaving the Freelander alone to continue selling aplenty. But Solihull isn’t like that these days – and so, more than four years on from its launch, the Freelander 2 has been treated to a sensible range of enhancements to keep it competitive. Visually, the changes aren’t vast: a revised front bumper and grille (plus new fog lamps), refreshed headlamps and tail lamps, alternative wheel designs and some new colours. Land Rover may in time give the Freelander a more comprehensive facelift, but for now it’s below the surface where attention has been focused. The unseen changes are there primarily to keep pace with the times. Increasingly, fuel economy is of paramount importance to new car buyers – and with fuel prices
continuing to rocket, Land Rover has wisely paid attention. Economy is improved for 2011, while CO2 emissions are down across the range. Controversially, the firm has even launched a two-wheel drive version of the Freelander – known as the eD4 – but with this being 4x4 Mart, we’ll leave that for the more mainstream titles to focus on.
The additional ‘shove’ of this particular Freelander derivative is felt throughout the rev range Instead, we’re concentrating on the new high-power, all-wheel drive addition to the range: the 2.2 SD4 190, in top-of-the-range HSE guise. This tuned version of one of our favourite four-cylinder turbo-diesels is mated to automatic-only transmission, although the less powerful TD4 150 comes as either a manual or auto.
Land Rover has upped the SD4 190’s power by fitting a new variable geometry turbo, water-cooled so that it can run at higher (and more efficient) temperatures. There’s also a more efficient exhaust manifold, while the engine ECU is now more powerful to manage ever-tougher emissions legislation. Proof that it works comes from the latest Euro 5 compliance – and there’s a diesel particulate filter that cuts those nasty particulates by a huge 80 per cent. While it does still clatter a little at tickover (it’s a diesel, after all), the engine is now a lot smoother when you’re on the move. It’s not as cultured as a V6 unit, of course, but the SD4 is still impressively vibration-free and subdued. Maybe it’s why Land Rover chose to fit a device on the fuel filler nozzle to prevent owners mistakenly filling it with petrol… The additional ‘shove’ of this particular Freelander derivative is felt throughout the rev range. 190bhp is produced at 4000rpm, giving reward if you want to make use of those revs. But there’s also a hefty 310lb.ft. of torque available at just 1750rpm – and it’s this that you feel most in day-today driving, giving the Freelander the muscular feel you’d expect. That torque is also useful when towing, of course, helping to ensure the SD4 190 is capable of hauling a braked trailer up to two tones in weight. The standard automatic transmission is a slick performer, living up to Land Rover’s reputation for fitting really smooth self-shifters. The gear changes are subtle, it kicks down intuitively and – even more significantly – it knows when not to down-change, letting the engine’s torque do the work instead. There’s a lot of brainpower gone into the control units for this auto ’box – and it shows. The transmission is, in fact, a second generation Aisin Warner unit, with a wider-range torque convertor lock-up and less weighty internal components. Land Rover has also developed a special setting that reduces drag when
the Freelander is stationary, improving economy and reducing the ‘reigningin’ feel when sat at lights. It works pleasingly well. The Freelander 2’s Terrain Response system is pretty much as before, the four-setting set-up mimicking that of bigger Land Rovers. And thanks to one of the stiffest monocoque structures in its class, the Freelander’s just as satisfying off-road. Time and again, the baby Land Rover has amazed us (and onlookers) off-road with its goeverywhere abilities – and with its smoother-working constant-drive auto and additional low-down grunt, the SD4 is better than ever. It can still wade through 500mm of water and has an ample 210mm of ground clearance.
INSIDE STORY As soon as you step up into the Freelander, you know it’s a genuine Land Rover: there in full panoramic evidence is the trademark ‘command’ driving position. The seats are high,
the windows feel low and visibility is absolutely exceptional. Flat sides and well defined extremities mean it’s a pleasure (and simplicity itself) to drive in town, easier to position and thread through traffic than many superminis. It’s no wonder the Freelander 2 is such a regular sight in city centres – made even more suitable thanks to that cracking auto ’box. It’s the little touches that help to make the Freelander, though. The flat floor means it’s easy to step into, and door bottoms that wrap over the sills ensure trousers don’t get muddy when you step out. We liked the green lighting at night, found the Alpine stereo an absolute treat and were ever-impressed with the firm, supportive heated (and electrically adjustable) seats. There’s no shortage of space inside the Freelander either. Headroom is cavernous and there’s a huge amount of legroom in the rear. The back seat, by the way, is set higher than the fronts, stadium-style, in order to give rear passengers greater visibility. And the
4x4 MART | MARCH 2011
HIP TO BE It’s twelve years now since Honda shocked us with the styling of its new HR-V – a compact 4x4 that continues to impress as a low-budget buy. Rod Jones takes a closer look
aunched in 1999, Honda’s new ‘baby SUV’ was intended to provide a cheaper, more youthful alternative to the Freelander-rivalling CR-V, which helps explain why it was heavily car-derived (from the Logo supermini). Really, you could call it a tall-riding hatch with fantastically cool styling rather than a true SUV, and it’s fair to say that even through mildly challenging off-road conditions, an allwheel drive HR-V soon found its limits. Those attracted by its fashionable status and sharp looks, however, tended not to be bothered by the HRV’s lack of off-road credentials. This was a model that attracted via its looks and impressed via its all-wheel drive onroad grip (well, in most cases…) and was none the worse for that. The first HR-Vs to hit our streets were all four-wheel drive, employing a derivation of the CR-V’s system known as ‘Real Time 4WD’ – a set-up that automatically transferred torque to the rear wheels as the fronts began to lose their grip. It worked well both on the road and in very minor off-road conditions, providing extra traction where required. It was, of course, not an off-roader in the true sense of the term, but it provided some useful extra grip over a conventional hatchback. There was just one level of trim to begin with, as well as a lone three-door body style and single engine choice: a 104bhp, 1.6-litre petrol. This had all the typical Honda smoothness of running, but wasn’t outstandingly economical – a combined average of 32mpg being
HR-V is a distinctive looking machine, its once-funky design still standing out from the crowd
nothing spectacular. Performance was sprightly though, with a top speed of 101mph and 0-60mph in 11.7 seconds, placing the HR-V well ahead of some of the more conventional 4x4s of the time in terms of on-road performance. This was improved still further soon after launch, however, when the VTEC version was announced, making full use of Honda’s expertise in variable valve technology and resulting in a new output of 123bhp. The end result was improved performance figures of 106mph and 10.5 seconds (top speed and 0-60mph respectively), although it was the extra torque and flexibility of the VTEC that really aided the driving experience.
EXTRA DOORS Despite its appeal to the youth market, Honda realised that the HR-V’s sales potential was limited by its threedoor-only layout, which is why a new five-door version arrived in the spring of 2000, sharing the same choice of engines and exactly the same length and wheelbase. The three-door also now became available in two-wheel drive guise, which is why you need to be careful and know exactly what you’re buying on today’s used market. All HR-Vs came with twin airbags, electric windows, remote central locking and the welcome advantage of air conditioning. And from 2002, you could also choose an optional CVT automatic version – the auto HR-V being a fair bit slower than the five-
Upright tailgate helps when it comes to boot space and versatility
MARCH 2011 | 4x4 MART
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE
ver since the launch of the humble but brilliantly effective new Land Rover back in 1948, Rover management knew there was potential to develop the concept further. And as the Fifties dawned and Land Rover sales continued to build, Rover reckoned an upmarket derivative could work, appealing to buyers who needed a versatile vehicle but who also demanded a modicum of comfort and some extra power. Throughout the Fifties, this was a concept that just wouldn’t go away, and between 1951 and ’59 Land Rover produced no less than 23 ‘Road Rovers’ (the name the company seemed most likely to use for its newcomer), testing them in various guises in an attempt to determine their final spec. And it’s here that the concept started to fall down, for most of those prototypes featured
nothing more adventurous than rearwheel drive; Rover, it seems, couldn’t grasp the concept of a more upmarket model that also boasted all-wheel traction. Combine this with the lack of a genuinely suitable engine available to Rover and – with the benefit of hindsight – it seems the ‘Road Rover’ was doomed from the start, despite Land Rover’s perseverance with the project. Indeed, by the end of the Fifties, when many expected the company to give the go-ahead to a productionready version, Rover pulled back and the ‘Road Rover’ project was dead.
RADICAL RETHINK The idea of a more upmarket Land Rover was to rear its head again in the 1960s, egged on by developments in the
US, where a new wave of passengerfriendly 4x4s (such as the Ford Bronco) were appearing, offering a more upmarket all-wheel drive alternative to the utilitarian Jeep. Land Rover realised this was likely to be a growth market,
and by 1966 the decision was made to go all-out on developing a more prestigious Land Rover. Under the guidance of Spen King (in charge of Rover’s new vehicle projects) and Gordon Bashford, the
The idea of an upmarket Land Rover had often been discussed – but didn’t reach fruition until the Range Rover of 1970. Paul Guinness takes a look at how it all began Rover design team set about the task of creating ‘Project Oyster’ – a new type of Land Rover leisure vehicle, originally destined to use a six-cylinder engine until Rover signed the agreement with General Motors for the ex-Buick 3.5-litre V8 to go into production in the UK for the new P5B and P6 V8 models. Suddenly, the issue of how to power an upmarket Land Rover had been solved via this one crucial deal. The newcomer was intended to use a 100-inch wheelbase, featuring a coil spring suspension arrangement and – for the first time on a Land Rover – disc brakes all round in order to deal with all that V8 power. To save weight, body panels were to be of aluminium, which would have been particularly useful if original plans to offer a lower-powered, four-cylinder version had come to fruition. Thankfully, this notion was
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