A Brief History of the Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Jeep Grand Cherokee as we know it today has a reputation for giving drivers a smooth, comfortable journey to wherever they’re going — work, soccer game, grocery shopping, camping in the mountains, you name it. This midsize SUV has racked up an impressive number of accolades adorning its trophy cabinet, including towing capacity and consumer satisfaction ratings among others. In fact, the Grand Cherokee is consistently the highest-selling Jeep model in production.

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It’s always fun to dive into a vehicle’s past to better understand how its past has shaped its present. Without further ado, here is a brief history of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Jeep Grand Cherokee: The Beginning

The year is 1992. Batman Returns is on the big screen, Nirvana’s second album is topping the charts, and Michael Jordan is leading the Chicago Bulls to an NBA championship.

In Detroit, another culturally iconic moment is taking place at the North American International Auto Show. The Jeep Cherokee is about to burst onto the scene — literally. A red 1993 model year SUV drives through a tempered glass window in a movie stunt fashion. In a swirl of shining glass particles and camera flashes from the press, the Jeep Grand Cherokee revealed itself.

Of course, with the insider knowledge we have now — like the fact that a stunt team coordinated a safe break of the glass pane at the exact moment the SUV’s bumper aligned — we know the stunt was thoroughly planned and approved. But at the time, this surprise entrance took audience members aback. To say this went down as an unforgettable moment in auto show history would be an understatement.

The earliest generation of Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV, from 1993 to 1998, started out offering a standard 4.0L six-cylinder engine capable of 190 horsepower. Months later, a high-end trim level featuring a 5.2L V8 engine capable of 220 horsepower became available for the span of a year. There were three four-wheel drive systems offered too depending on whether the driver wanted 4WD part-time, full-time with an option to revert back to 2WD as needed, or permanent.

Jeep Grand Cherokee: The Middle

A few improved generations of Grand Cherokees followed the first. From 1999 until 2004, a “more rounded” second-gen model ushered in new powertrain options while prioritizing comfort. A 4.0L six-cylinder engine and 4.7L V8 engine built upon the more basic options put forth by the first generation SUV, and its axles were optimized for off-road prowess. However, the main takeaway from this era was the Grand Cherokee becoming an adventurous yet convenient daily driver.

The third generation occurred over the next half decade, adding more off-road features into the mix — like electronic differentials that would become a must-have for trail-minded drivers — as well as suspension improvements to make pavement cruising smoother.

The fourth generation, from 2011 onward, introduced features like Jeep’s terrain management system — meaning drivers could select modes like sport, auto, rock, and sand/mud to optimize driving based on the conditions.

Jeep Grand Cherokee: The Present

The Grand Cherokee today is available in many trims, and there’s even a three-row L model for drivers who need more passenger toting abilities. There is also a plug-in hybrid 4xe version available for drivers wanting to stretch out their visits to the gas pump.

Jeep calls the Grand Cherokee the most awarded SUV ever, which speaks to its continued popularity with American drivers — both those who stay firmly on the paved road and those who like to adventure off road. This SUV’s decades-long history really illustrates its versatility and ability to adapt even as times and consumer expectations change.

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