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V6 for Grand Cherokee as Jeep goes driveaway

Commander in chief: New seven-seater is the first of a raft of new Jeeps.

Big new seven-seat SUV oversees a growing family of V6, diesel and four-pot Jeeps

Jeep logo25 May 2006

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

HOT on the heels of announcing driveaway pricing and free satellite-navigation to celebrate its 65th anniversary, Jeep has confirmed it will reintroduce a six-cylinder petrol version of its XG Grand Cherokee to Australia.

Identical to the 3.7-litre unit found in the smaller KJ series Cherokee, the new V6 is due here by about October, as the DaimlerChrysler brand forges forward with its largest ever new-model spree.

Until the end of July, the Jeep Wrangler Sport manual soft-top is priced at $29,990 drive-away, the Jeep Cherokee Sport 3.7L is priced at $38,990 drive-away and the Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4.7L can be had for $53,990 drive-away.

Producing 150kW of power at 5200rpm and 307Nm of torque at 3700rpm, Jeep's big six will be mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox in the new entry-level Grand Cherokee, compared to the four-speed auto featured in the Cherokee.

According to Chrysler Group Australia (CGA) managing director, Gerry Jenkins, it is yet to finalise some of the smaller details for the V6 model.

However, prices are expected to begin at considerably below the $50,000 mark.

The last six-cylinder petrol-powered Grand Cherokee sold here was when the previous-generation WG series’ 4.0-litre V6 Laredo was phased in May 2005. It retailed from $47,990.

Also due for an October launch is the Grand Cherokee SRT-8, powered by the explosive 317kW/569Nm 6.1-litre Hemi V8 recently introduced in the 300C SRT-8.

According to Mr Jenkins, the SUV SRT-8 equals the performance of the Porsche Cayenne 4WD wagon – and even betters it in some other ways.

Both new Grand Cherokee models are the next step in the subtle repositioning of the series, in the wake of its sister-model, the XH Commander, which debuted in Australia last week.

This follows a $2500 price drop for the base 4.7-litre V8 model, to $53,990, to accommodate the boxy 4WD flagship range. Previously it was listed at $56,490.

Meanwhile, the identically engined new Commander 4.7 V8 kicks of at $54,990.

Based on the current Grand Cherokee, and using much of the same drivetrain and running gear, the Commander boasts a completely redesigned body and interior.

It is also Jeep’s first seven-seater model in the American company’s 65-year history.

CGA believes there will be very little sales cannibalisation between the two models, as they appeal to disparate demographic groups.

"The Grand Cherokee caters to different appetites," states Mr Jenkins, describing it as "more sporty" and "more elegant".

"The (sales) sum of both will be much greater," he predicts.

9 center imageLeft (from top): Redesigned Wrangler two-door, all-new Compass, Grand Cherokee SRT-8 and all-new Patriot. The Commander is a return to the blocky utilitarian style of the WJ Cherokee of the 1990s, which spearheaded the brand’s successful return to Australia in 1994, and contributed 3520 of the 7117 Jeeps sold in 1997.

That was Jeep’s best sales year here to date, and it was just before the WJ faced the onslaught of car-based compact SUV wagons defined by the Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V.

CGA hopes that the Commander snares fans of the old Cherokee, who lament Jeep’s move to the more modern style of its KJ series replacement in 2001.

Nevertheless Mr Jenkins says that his market predictions for the Commander are "very conservative".

He is forecasting around 50 to 60 sales monthly (or 600 to 700 annually), with at least half of these being the turbo-diesel CRD V6 models. If supply frees up this could rise to 80 per cent.

Interestingly CGA was instrumental in the Commander becoming a seven-seater vehicle: "Australia pushed hard for seven seats – originally it was only going to be a five-seater," Mr Jenkins reveals.

However, unlike in North America, Australians aren’t expected to receive the 4x2 (rear-drive-only) versions, since they would be exempt from the lower import duty that 4x4 vehicles enjoy here.

"The issues here have to do with duty... so from a pricing position we don’t see a big advantage.

"If things do change we’ll change our position," Mr Jenkins explains.

Jeeps keep on coming

The Commander, Grand Cherokee SRT-8 and 3.7 V6 are just the beginning of Jeep’s expansion.

Next year sees the introduction of three all-new models.

First cab off the rank is the completely redesigned Wrangler two-door wagon – the first for 11 years.

Besides a new 3.8-litre V6 petrol, expect the 3.0-litre CRD turbo-diesel V6 from other DaimlerChrysler models to be introduced to the Wrangler range.

It will be followed by the first four-door version of the off-roader icon, complete with detachable roof panels and very Hummer-like styling.

At the other extreme comes the Compass and Patriot "soft-roaders", Jeep’s first serious tilt at the car-based Japanese compact SUVs.

Both are based on the new front-wheel drive and transverse-engined Dodge Caliber small-car platform, using variations of its 2.4-litre twin-cam petrol and VW-supplied 2.0-litre TDI turbo-diesel four-cylinder engines.

But while the more car-like Compass will be Jeep’s answer to the likes of the Toyota RAV4, the Patriot is gunning for the slightly ‘tougher’ Nissan X-Trail set.

They will slot underneath the ageing Cherokee in Jeep’s line-up, with the squarer, more utilitarian Patriot (think ’94-’01 XJ Cherokee in appearance and proportions) being the brand’s entry-level model.

According to Chrysler Group Australia boss Gerry Jenkins, both vehicles will "really open us up" to a new market segment in Australia, exposing Jeep to a younger and more affluent market.

CGA says that more details will be revealed at the Sydney motor show in October, along with the expected first-showings of the compact SUVs.

So is Mr Jenkins daunted by the task of establishing the fast-expanding Jeep line-up in Australia at a time when overall SUV sales are falling? Describing himself as "a salesman at heart", the Canadian sums the situation up in three words: "Bring it on!"

What's coming from Jeep:

Grand Cherokee SRT-8 SUV variant - October
Grand Cherokee V6 SUV variant - October
Redesigned Wrangler two-door SUV - April 2007
Redesigned Wrangler four-door SUV - May 2007
New Compass SUV - Second quarter 2007
New Patriot SUV - Second quarter 2007
Redesigned Cherokee SUV – early 2009

Jeep new-model hierarchy

$50,000 - $75,000:

XH Commander
XG Grand Cherokee $35,000 - $50,000:
WJ Cherokee
2007 Wrangler four-door Sub $40,000:
2007 Wrangler two-door
Compass
Patriot

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