The Top Jeep Grand Cherokee Models Over the Years

jeep grand cherokee models

Jeep’s iconic Grand Cherokee SUV has been cruising highways and conquering off-road trails for nearly 30 years. But with so many different models and generations, which Grand Cherokee is the best option for you? This comprehensive guide will overview the Grand Cherokee’s evolution and what sets the various trim levels apart. You’ll discover which Grand Cherokee models offer the best blend of capability, performance, features, and overall value to match your needs.

A Brief History of the Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Jeep Grand Cherokee first hit the automotive scene back in 1992 for the 1993 model year. This original Grand Cherokee, known as the ZJ, was Jeep’s first entry into the midsize SUV segment.

With its robust V8 power, creature comforts, and serious off-road credentials, the ZJ Grand Cherokee proved immensely popular. This inspired Jeep to release a completely redesigned second generation WJ Grand Cherokee in 1999.

The WJ Grand Cherokee sported a more refined chassis, sleeker bodywork, and new trims like the upscale Overland. Jeep enhanced the Grand Cherokee further for its third generation WK model launched in 2005. This iteration featured an independent front suspension for improved on-road handling, expanded interior space, and new tech amenities.

In 2011 Jeep debuted the fourth generation WK2 Grand Cherokee which remains in production today. The latest WK2 Grand Cherokee boasts a world-class interior, increased fuel efficiency courtesy of the 290 horsepower 3.6L Pentastar V6, and superior overall performance and luxury.

But the success of the Jeep Grand Cherokee across all generations comes down to its broad appeal. Buyers can opt for a barebones V6 model with strong value or go all-out with the SRT high performance trim and everything in between. There’s truly a Grand Cherokee for every need and budget.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the most popular Grand Cherokee models over the years.

The Top-Selling Jeep Grand Cherokee Models

The Jeep Grand Cherokee stands out in the competitive midsize SUV segment thanks to its variety of models catering to different buyers. Here are the trim levels that have proven most popular with Grand Cherokee shoppers:

Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo

As the entry-level Grand Cherokee, the Laredo focuses on high value. Early ZJ and WJ Laredo models came decently equipped with features like air conditioning, power windows/locks, keyless entry, cloth upholstery, and the Command-Trac 4WD system. The standard engine was a 4.0L inline 6 cylinder producing 190 horsepower paired to a 4-speed automatic.

While no frills, these base Laredo Grand Cherokees provided shoppers a capable SUV with plenty of room and comfort at an affordable price. Jeep stepped up the Laredo’s amenities in later generations. Today’s WK2 Laredo includes nice touches like power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 5” touchscreen, and 17” alloy wheels while maintaining its strong value.

The Laredo continues offering an excellent balance of utility and value for budget-focused buyers who don’t require lavish features. Drivers wanting better fuel economy can also opt for the Laredo E that swaps in a diesel V6 engine.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

Slotted just above the Laredo, the well-rounded Limited trim broadens the Grand Cherokee’s appeal with more amenities and premium styling. The Limited first appeared with the ZJ generation in 1993 wearing lower body cladding and special badging.

Upgrades over the base Laredo included leather seating, power front seats, automatic climate control, premium audio, alloy wheels, and body-colored exterior trim. This made the Limited a popular choice for buyers wanting comfort with capable performance.

On today’s Grand Cherokee Limited, you’ll find attractive amenities like:

  • Leather seats
  • Heated front seats and steering wheel
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Remote start
  • Power liftgate
  • Upgraded Uconnect infotainment with 7” touchscreen

The Limited presents an excellent middle ground for buyers wanting key luxury and tech features without going overboard on price. It continues to be one of Jeep’s best-selling Grand Cherokee models.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

Jeep introduced the off-road ready Trailhawk alongside the fourth-generation Grand Cherokee in 2011. This rugged model caters specifically to adventure seekers wanting maximum off-road performance.

Design enhancements help the Trailhawk traverse rocky, slippery terrain including:

  • Increased ride height and ground clearance
  • Selec-Terrain traction control with Rock mode
  • Upgraded suspension with improved articulation
  • All-terrain tires
  • Skid plates and red tow hooks

Inside you’ll find special Trailhawk badging and accents. The Trailhawk sacrifices little comfort or technology to achieve its impressive off-road skills. Options like leather seats, power liftgate, premium audio and navigation are all available.

The edgier Trailhawk styling also sets it apart with its hood decal, black wheels, and red accents. If you plan on doing serious off-roading in your Grand Cherokee, the Trailhawk has the credentials to handle it.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

On the opposite end of the capability spectrum from the Trailhawk sits the luxuriously-appointed Overland. Jeep added the Overland nameplate to the Grand Cherokee lineup in 1999 with the second generation WJ models. It brought a new level of refinement and premium features to the growing SUV.

Grand Cherokee Overland models step up the luxury with amenities like:

  • Leather and wood steering wheel
  • Ventilated front seats
  • Upgraded audio systems
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers
  • Power-folding side mirrors

The latest Grand Cherokee Overland further enhances the opulence with Quadra-Lift air suspension, 20” wheels, hands-free power liftgate, and materials like Nappa leather. Although not as adept off-road as the Trailhawk, the Overland still offers respectable capability along with its long list of comfort and tech.

Buyers who appreciate features like massaging seats, surround view cameras, and an audiophile-grade sound system will delight in the Overland’s sublime interior. It creates an oasis of luxury while still retaining the Grand Cherokee’s signature utility and performance.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit

Perched at the peak of the Jeep luxury SUV lineup sits the ultimate Grand Cherokee Summit. Introduced for the 2011 model year, the Summit represents the pinnacle of refinement, technology, and craftsmanship.

It builds off the well-equipped Overland by adding exclusive interior appointments such as:

  • Laguna leather seats
  • Open-pore wood trim
  • 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system
  • unique dual-pane panoramic sunroof

The Summit pampers driver and passengers further with 4-zone climate control, rear seat DVD entertainment, and plush quilted leather doors and seats.

Grand Cherokee Summit also features the most powerful engines including the 6.4L V8 and high-output EcoDiesel V6. Adaptive cruise control, night vision, and self-parking technology provide the latest advanced driver aids. Outside you’ll find signature Summit styling cues like chrome door handles, unique wheels, and “Summit” badging.

Costing over $60,000 fully loaded, the Grand Cherokee Summit represents a serious investment. But for buyers who demand the very best Jeep Grand Cherokee luxury and performance, the Summit rewards with an unparalleled ownership experience.

Unique Jeep Grand Cherokee Special Editions

In addition to the main trim levels, Jeep has offered several special edition Grand Cherokee models over the years:

Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited

Seeking to inject more performance into the range-topping Grand Cherokee Limited, Jeep introduced the 5.9 Limited starting in 1998. As the name suggests, these special models packed a 5.9-liter V8 punching out 245 horsepower. The punchy V8 provided a huge jump over the standard 4.0L inline 6’s 190 hp.

5.9 Limited models could reach 60 mph in under 8 seconds, very quick for an SUV of the time. Upgrades extended beyond the bigger motor to include firmer suspension tuning, performance tires, dual exhaust, and special “5.9” exterior badging. Jeep produced the 5.9 Limited through the 2004 model year, cementing its status as one of the more exciting early Grand Cherokee variants.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

The on-road performance reached new heights with the introduction of the Grand Cherokee SRT8 in 2006. Developed by Chrysler’s in-house performance arm SRT, these models packed huge power thanks to a 6.1-liter HEMI V8 putting down an incredible 420 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque.

Later SRT8 models saw power bumped up further to 465 horses and 465 lb-ft torque. Such intense performance required substantial chassis upgrades including stiffer suspension, bigger brakes, sticky performance tires, and a limited slip rear differential.

A lowered ride height, unique front and rear fascias, dual exhaust, and special badging let these SRT8 beasts flaunt their performance pedigree. With 0-60 mph acceleration in the low 5-second range, the Grand Cherokee SRT8 dominated the road while still offering ample passenger room and cargo capacity. Jeep discontinued the beloved SRT8 in 2014.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude

Seeking to tap into buyers wanting a brawny, personalized look for their Grand Cherokee, Jeep began offering the Altitude Edition package starting in 2013. The Altitude Edition brings a monochromatic blacked-out look to the Laredo E and Limited trims.

Signature Altitude styling includes:

  • Gloss black 20” wheels
  • Black grille surround
  • Body color door handles and mirror caps
  • Black badging
  • Dark tinted headlights and taillights

The sinister look proved popular, especially in black or granite exterior colors. Besides its custom appearance, the Altitude Edition maintains the features of the standard Laredo E or Limited models. It injects extra personalization at an affordable price.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Elite

For luxury lovers who also enjoy venturing off the beaten path, Jeep created the Trailhawk Elite in 2018. Essentially a loaded-up Trailhawk model, the Trailhawk Elite piles on premium interior appointments like:

  • Nappa leather seats
  • Open-pore brown walnut wood accents
  • Leather-wrapped heated steering wheel
  • Berber floor mats
  • 825-watt Harman Kardon audio

To match its posh cabin, Jeep upgraded the Trailhawk Elite’s exterior with 20” matte black aluminum wheels, neutral gray accents, and bright roof rails. The Trailhawk Elite provides the best of both worlds blending extreme off-road performance with upscale comfort and tech.

Key Features and Technology

Selec-Terrain Traction Management System

One of the Grand Cherokee’s most invaluable features for enhancing on and off-road performance is the Selec-Terrain traction control system. Introduced in 2008, Selec-Terrain allows the driver to optimize the SUV’s powertrain and 4WD systems for prevailing conditions.

The driver can choose settings for auto, snow, sand, mud, and rock depending on surface conditions. This alters throttle response, transmission shifting, and traction control intervention to maximize tire grip. Selec-Terrain proves invaluable when traversing slippery, uneven terrain. It’s one of the core features enabling the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk models to conquer the most rigorous off-road environments.

Quadra-Lift Air Suspension

Also assisting the Grand Cherokee’s world-class off-road skills is the available Quadra-Lift air suspension. This adaptive system debuted on the 2011 Grand Cherokee providing height adjustability of up to 11.3 inches for improved ground clearance and wheel articulation.

Quadra-Lift operates automatically or allows the driver to raise the Grand Cherokee’s ride height when clearing obstacles or uneven ground. The air suspension also improves on-road handling and ride quality by self-leveling and adjusting firmness. When equipped with Quadra-Lift, the Grand Cherokee can flex its muscles in even the most demanding backcountry while still delivering composed on-road performance.

Uconnect Infotainment System

All Grand Cherokee models come well-equipped with Fiat Chrysler’s user-friendly Uconnect infotainment system. Uconnect integrates entertainment, navigation, climate, phone, and vehicle settings through an easy-to-use touchscreen interface.

Standard Uconnect features include:

  • Touchscreen with customizable menu shortcuts
  • Bluetooth hands-free calling and wireless audio streaming
  • Integrated voice commands
  • Smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • In-vehicle WiFi hotspot

Higher Grand Cherokee trims upgrade to larger 8.4” or 10” touchscreens with sharper graphics, built-in navigation, music storage, and SiriusXM satellite radio. An available 19-speaker Harman Kardon premium surround sound system turns the cabin into a concert hall.

Uconnect ranks among the most intuitive and feature-packed infotainment systems available. It allows Grand Cherokee owners to stay conveniently connected, informed, and entertained.

Additional Notable Features

  • Perforated leather-trimmed seats – Available ventilated and heated/cooled seats coddle occupants in luxurious comfort.
  • Panoramic sunroof – The dual pane panoramic sunroof bathes the cabin in natural light. Available power sunshade allows you to dim on bright days.
  • Off-road camera system – Exclusive to the Trailhawk, an underbody mounted camera displays the terrain immediately ahead on the touchscreen when driving under 10 mph. Very helpful when navigating precarious off-road conditions.
  • Hands-free power liftgate – Standard on higher trims, you can open the rear liftgate by simply waving your foot under the bumper when your hands are full.

Which Jeep Grand Cherokee Model is Right for You?

The Jeep Grand Cherokee stands out as one of the most diverse SUVs available spanning all needs from off-road adventure rig to luxurious family hauler. Choosing the ideal Grand Cherokee comes down to your priorities and budget.

Those seeking strong value will appreciate the well-equipped Laredo at the lowest end of the pricing spectrum. Move up to the Limited for more comfort and tech while maintaining a reasonable price.

Drivers wanting ultimate luxury will feel right at home in the top Overland and Summit trims surrounded by premium materials and technology. For exploring the great outdoors, the Trailhawk provides unmatched off-road prowess.

You also can’t go wrong with special editions like the SRT8 high-performance model or the blacked-out Altitude trim. There’s a Grand Cherokee to fulfill any lifestyle. With sensible pricing, high resale value, and better reliability than most competitors, it’s easy to see why the Jeep Grand Cherokee remains a top choice after nearly 30 years.

Whichever Grand Cherokee model you select, you’ll be rewarded with an iconic American SUV offering a rewarding blend of everyday livability and capability.


The Jeep Grand Cherokee stands in a class of its own by providing such wide functional variety. Few other mid-size SUVs can match its combination of off-road mastery, responsive performance, modern luxury, and overall practicality. The Grand Cherokee continues pushing boundaries after nearly three decades thanks to constant refinement and introduction of new innovative features.

With such a diverse model range, Jeep ensures the Grand Cherokee satisfies any buyer looking for a do-it-all SUV. Whether you need to haul the family around town in comfort or blaze a trail deep into the wilderness, the capable Grand Cherokee has you covered. Its evolution over the years means this Jeep maintains iconic status while still feeling fresh.

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