Some road testers remained unhappy with the Jeep Wrangler's fabric roof. "With the top up," wrote Car and Driver's technical editor, "the noise of the flapping canvas is almost deafening." Taking the top down required 12 minutes, and "putting it back in place took a similar amount of time." Able to accelerate to 60 mph in 10.1 seconds when brand-new, the six-cylinder/automatic Sport the magazine tested accomplished that feat in just 9.5 seconds after 40,000 miles rolled up on the odometer.
"The Wrangler steers, handles, sticks, and goes better than a lot of cars on the road," wrote one C/D tester, "yet politely reminds you that serious off-roading capabilities are no farther away than a lift of the drive wheels' selector lever . . . As a daily driver, the Wrangler excels for those who commute on the Rubicon. The rest of us need a few days' break between drives."
The 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited was a one-year wonder that had a 245-horsepower V-8 engine.
A new Classic model topped the Jeep Cherokee lineup for 1998, and a Limited option package (for the Classic) replaced the Country. Only the SE and Sport came in two-door form. Four-cylinder models could now be equipped with a three-speed automatic transmission instead of the five-speed manual, and depowered dual airbags were installed. A quicker steering gear and aluminum radiators were used, and vibrant Chili Pepper Red was among new color choices.
Ranking just behind Ford's Explorer in the midsize sport-utility market, the Grand Cherokee faced fresh in-house competition as Dodge introduced the Durango, which was capable of seating seven. Laredo, TSi, and Limited again made up the Grand Cherokee lineup, but the Orvis trim level was gone. A 245-horsepower V-8 engine was now available, exclusive to a new premium 5.9 Limited model.
Jeep claimed the 5.9 Limited was its fastest and most powerful vehicle ever. Mated to a new Automatic transmission, the 360-cubic-inch V-8 yielded 345 pound-feet of torque and could, Jeep said, accelerate to 60 mph in a swift 7.3 seconds. The Limited had its own mesh grille, hood louvers, and 16-inch tires on Ultra Star spoke alloy wheels. Interior trim included "claf's-nap" grain leather seat inserts, complemented by bird's-eye maple woodgrain accents.
As 1998 ended, Chrysler Corporation -- Jeep's parent -- evaporated, melding into Daimler-Benz AG to become DaimlerChrysler Corporation. Initially described as a "merger of equals" when the surprise announcement of the deal was made early that year, the marriage would later be criticized as a full-fledged takeover of the old American company by its new German partner.
In any case, the continued success of the Jeep brand was a major reason for the appeal of Chrysler as a merger/takeover target. See the next section for details on the success of the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
For more information on Jeeps, see:
- History of Jeep
- Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
- Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews