The eagerly awaited next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee finally has broken the cover of secrecy. A prototype for the new off-roader has been spied at a Chrysler test site, and a prototype in heavy camouflage has been spied while undergoing brake testing in the extreme heat of a California desert. The rear view clearly shows the vehicle to have a solid rear axle — a design still preferred by Jeep for its ruggedness — although all other car makers have by now incorporated independent rear suspensions for their new SUVs.
This next generation Grand Cherokee has come a long way. Initially, it was planned for the 2002 model year, which means an introduction date in 2001. But those plans were cancelled in the aftermath of the DaimlerChrysler merger. A new Jeep master plan was worked out, which took into account joint corporate considerations and also affected the Grand Cherokee. One of these considerations is cost saving from a pronounced top-down parts-sharing philosophy, which means that the new Grand Cherokee will draw heavily on the current-and next-generation Mercedes ML-Class models. Since the new ML will not be introduced before 2004, this meant that the new Grand Cherokee needed to be delayed. It is now bound for a 2005 debut.
Any information about how ample the use of Mercedes-Benz parts will be currently is covered in a thick cloud of secrecy. At the recent launch of the Crossfire, DaimlerChrysler officials were extremely eager to stress that the degree of SLK parentship would remain unrepeated. But seeing is believing. We anticipate that the degree of similarity between the forthcoming Chrysler 300C and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class will become the benchmark for the Grand Cherokee and the ML-Class.