We could hear the grumbling. An independent front suspension on the new '05 Jeep Grand Cherokee sent chills through the spines of Jeep purists. We have to admit that it worried us a little at first, too. After all, up until this point, it has been widely accepted that live-axle vehicles can obtain more articulation than IFS suspensions and are far more durable, especially under extreme use. What was Jeep doing to the beloved Grand Cherokee and its solid front axle? Most enthusiasts only understood that Jeep was engineering a comfortable, powerful, soccer-mom-like new vehicle, throwing tradition and dependability right out the window.
The '05 Grand rides like a $65,000 SUV, but just because it isn't a rusty beat-to-hell vehicle doesn't make it unworthy of hard-core trail use. After all, Mark Smith and his crew 'wheeled a bone-stock '05 Grand Cherokee through the Rubicon Trail. The vehicle was mechanically - although not cosmetically - sound after the journey. The sides took quite a beating, which more than likely was the result of not enough ground clearance.
American Expedition Vehicles' (AEV) Dave Harrington worked closely with DaimlerChrysler, offering technical design and engineering ideas for Jeep. It didn't take long for him to get the new Grand Cherokee in his shop to work his usual engineering magic. Most production vehicles roll off the assembly line with ground-clearance issues. Dave worked closely with Superlift's new head engineer, Kevin Dill. Kevin has been in and around the industry for quite a while, as he was the original designer of the Atlas II transfer case. Dave likes the fact that Superlift owns all its own manufacturing equipment, which in turn means no outsourcing. A partnership was formed between AEV and Superlift to build a line of ultra-high-quality Jeep suspension systems, the Mojave being their first endeavor.
Between a few thousand phone calls and thousands of dollars worth of overnight shipping, Dave and Kevin designed a 4-3/4-inch lift suspension system that offered 10 inches of articulation; was durable and dependable, especially under extreme use; and allowed the use of 34-inch tires. Dave tells us that the heart of the suspension is the oversize knuckles, which correct the steering geometry at lift. He also feels as though the IFS offers some inherent advantages better suited to this type of vehicle than a solid-axle. He states that this vehicle is much better balanced than the WJ it replaces. The new Superlift suspension actually rides like the OEM suspension, yet retains Superlift toughness.
DaimlerChrysler has dropped some serious horsepower into the new Grand. The 5.7L Hemi V-8 cranks out 330 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. For fuel efficiency, it has been fit with the company's new Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which we are told offers a 20 percent increase in fuel efficiency. We've learned that the '05 Grand outperformed some impressive competition in head-to-head testing - not to mention names such as BMW and Audi - during acceleration and brake testing.