A question that intrigues the minds of people who really like American SUV’s is how well do they perform off the road. Even though 90 percent of the owners will never take them off the road there will always be the other 10% who will take’em to the most unimaginable conditions to test the limits. This following off-road test is aimed at those who wonder how does the Grand Cherokee compares to its rivals. We have chosen the very popular Chevrolet TrailBlazer and the European/Japanese best seller Mitsubishi Pajero to compete with the trusted Cherokee.
TrailBlazer is considerably larger, heavier, and more expensive than the previous Blazer known to all. It does have the strong frame grinder, and struts in stead of torsion bars, which come standard on Chevrolet trucks. In addition it boasts a six-in-line power train with the output of 273 hp. The Grand Cherokee didn’t change so much; it still comes as the most affordable Laredo version, more or less standard Limited, and the luxury Overland. On the civilized asphalt highways Jeep feels as a much more dynamic driver’s car, even though the engine may be producing less power than that of a TrailBlazer. But you have to pay for that by sacrificing some of the comfort; here the TrailBlazer gets its way. And the European and Japanese bestseller 3.8L V6 Mitsubishi Pajero comes equipped with its famous Super Select 4WD transmission, where the driver can use any of four modes: rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive with limited slipping in center differential, four-wheel drive with locked center differential, and the same mode in low.
Comparing the capabilities of transmissions of the American counterparts we should say that in our opinion the all time 4WD with a locking interaxle differential of Jeep is much more convenient than the front axle engaged when the terrain requires for it that Chevy has. But on the other hand transmission without interaxle differential is much simpler and cheaper, especially taking into consideration that in North America TrailBlazer is also sold in a 2 WD version.
When we got the Chevrolet on the sandy gully in 2WD it quickly bogged down in the sand all the way to the hubs of the wheels, asking for clicking a switch on the dashboard to engage the front axle and LO mode in the transfer case. With these enabled capabilities it continued to crawl slowly ‘till it came to a point where two of its wheels situated diagonally lost contact with the terrain and hang dangling helplessly in the air. In this case the locking differential of the rear axle doesn’t help, as it is designed with very soft characteristics. This is it, it is time to get the cable out and ask for help.
And what about Mitsubishi? Well, what can we say? Mitsubishi performs more than adequately. The SUV continues to creep steadily forward as long as there is enough traction of the tires. But Jeep with its Quadra-Drive II transmission with two-stage transfer case and three self-locking differentials doesn’t let Pajero beat it. Grand Cherokee gets stuck where Chevrolet gave up, but once you lock the center differential and get it in low it rewards the driver with endless crawling and crawling. Also, Jeep beats Chevy in angles of ascent and descent and higher ground clearance.
To sum it all up, Jeep Grand Cherokee once again proved its nickname of “a tank in a tailcoat”. It held its ground against its rivals. And remember, that hardly a quarter of all the owners of Pajero, Trail Blazer and Grand Cherokee at least once fully utilize the off road capabilities of their vehicles.