Despite nearly 10 years of abuse from my family, this stripped-down Laredo has served us well. If you are looking for a perfect ownership experience, I suggest a Toyota Camry. But the beauty of the Grand Cherokee is that if you keep it up mechanically, it will get through snow, mud, cargo and towing tasks that would make the Camry wilt and die. You can kick it, ram it into things, drive it off embankments, and pull trees down. The '93 Grand Cherokee is, I have concluded, tough.
I'll describe the long and illustrious career of this vehicle with us. Delivered in September 1992, "greenie" was one of the earliest Grand Cherokees off the line. The V8 was not yet available, so this hunter green Laredo has the reliable I-6 and Selec-Trac, thank God. Otherwise it is basically a stripper, with A/C and power windows/locks and towing package the only options. These are the only options you need, anyway!
For the first 2.5 years or so, this thing was driven as a hard core commuter vehicle. It reached about 65,000 miles in that short time (by 1994). Then it was relegated to secondary status, with no regular driver until 1997 (when I got my license). So in that interval it basically sat outside for three years, getting about 5,000 miles per year in the winters. It was parked outside in Minnesota, I might add. Yuck.
My mom (its main driver up till then) said she generally found it pleasurable and "easy" to drive, but the primitive ABS brakes made her angry, as did the horrible, horrible fuel mileage.
Then I got ahold of this thing. You may recall that I believe in maintenance. Well, the first things I did were: to get a full brake job, take it to the dealer for the 90,000 mile service (including changing AT and diff fluids, tasks that the dealer seemed shocked to actually perform) and putting on a new set of Goodyear Wrangler AT's. As a side note, those tires were dangerously bad on rainy streets, but the winter traction was fine.
Anyway, I replaced some parts between 70,000 and 105,000 including the following: Motor mounts, battery, brake rotors and shoes. The exhaust by this time was looking sad, so following a friend's example, I got a Gibson adonized aluminum 2.5" cat-back exhaust. It's almost too loud, but this is not a luxury vehicle anyway, and the growl reinforces the feeling of power while giving some tangible reward for all that gas it burns. Generally it seems to get 13-17 MPG, several notches worse than our 1997 model.
The shocks also looked crummy at seven years of age, so I went with some Bilstein shocks. Initially these seemed way too firm (like the locked-up, crappy, stock ones I was replacing) but they wore in nicely, giving the laughable cliche of BMW-like handling. M3, eat my rust.
As someone else noted on this site, the Grand Cherokee is a pretty good candidate for audio upgrades. The Jeep Infinity system already has a good reputation. Since I had the cheapo base head unit and speakers, I did a little switching. New Pioneer 6.5 inch speakers were ordered for each door. As expected, the new speakers sound a hundred times better than the stock units, meshing well with the Pioneer exact-fit CD deck I installed. Great sound for $500; not too shabby!
The ride got a lot better once I replaced various suspension pieces including bushings, U-joints, ball joints and other stuff to cure various clunks under the front end. This thing has had a hard life.
Part of the reason we bought this thing was to haul a 2500 pound ski boat. This it has done at least 20 times, for a total of maybe 1000 miles' towing duty. It makes a good, stable match for a trailer of this size.
After I became the Jeep's new master, it endured 2 years of hard-charging commutes to high school on snowy winter parkways. You know, drifting sideways at 45 MPH with all four wheels spinning, just to avoid being late for school. It also committed various crimes including getting high-centered in an 8-foot wall of snow that I attempted to punch through. Note that my friend's K2500 Diesel Suburban had no problem in that endeavor. Oh well.
I've also gotten this thing stuck in the mud two or three times. Pure miracle is the only explanation I have for why I didn't slide off some muddy logging roads with oily, slippery dirt, rolling down into the trees. Once a local farmer had to tow me out. He said he was amazed that I made so far (3 miles?) up this swampy trail, to this day the finest mudding venue I have ever encountered.
Not to mention show. Jesus.
Another feat of abuse I just remembered was when my neighbors' big 100 year-old tree was blown down across our street. After some cursory planning, some rope was attached to my Jeep's towbar and threaded around the 3-foot trunk of this gigantic obstacle. In low range on flat pavement (hey, I kept the wheels straight at least), the Jeep slowly pulled this tree that must have weighed many thousands of pounds out of everybody's way. Not to mention the friction of the tree against the road surface! I didn't know whether it would hurt my truck, but I'm happy and impressed to say, "guess not."
Now it's close to the end of the Jeep's time with us. I just put some Pirelli Scorpions on it, which seem fantastic. The highway handling and balance seem better than ever (with all the new suspension parts, naturally) and there are no clunks from underneath. I just clicked off a 1500-mile trip at 75 MPH with no complaints whatsoever from this beast. Bravo.
So how to sum up this long, stupid review? Basically, I took it upon myself to see if I could break this thing. I drove it 112 MPH, I crashed it through trees, I got it stuck in the mud more than a couple times, made it my personal snow-sled, raised hell and caused chaos... all while keeping a reasonable eye on its mechanical condition. And you know what? It never shed a tear, blew a gasket, or anything. On top of that, its cost per mile (and per year) have been very low indeed.
So if you don't have a love/abuse relationship with your Jeep like I do, maybe you won't be as satisfied. But me and my Jeep, we understand each other... and that's really all you need to know.