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Diesel and dust for new Cherokee

Diesel dirt dweller: Jeep's Grand Cherokee may be available with a 3.1-litre turbo-diesel engine from next March.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee may soon be available with a frugal 3.1-litre turbo-diesel engine

15 Nov 1999

CHRYSLER revealed the first Jeep model to combine a diesel engine and automatic transmission at last month's London motor show.

The new variant of the Jeep Grand Cherokee uses a 3.1-litre, five-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine mated to an electronic four- speed automatic transmission.

Chrysler Australia is currently evaluating the newcomer to determine whether it would be suited to the local market.

Should it get the green light for Australia, the Grand Cherokee 3.1 TD would make its debut around March, 2000.

It is likely to be offered in Laredo specification level which would suggest a base price of around $53,000 - more or less in line with the 4.0-litre petrol version.

The turbo-diesel cranks out a modest power output of 103kW but its peak torque figure of 384Nm is almost on par with the 4.7- litre V8 offered in the Grand Cherokee Limited.

Jeep claims the turbo-diesel Grand Cherokee can accelerate from standstill to 100km/h in around 14 seconds, on its way to a top speed of over 170km/h.

The turbo-diesel is also said to offer greater flexibility and superior fuel economy to its petrol siblings. It is expected to appeal to rural buyers as well as those who regularly tow boats or caravans - Jeep quotes a maximum towing capacity of 3500kg.

Like its petrol siblings, the turbo-diesel is equipped with Jeep's Quadra-Drive four-wheel drive system which is claimed to provide outstanding traction in slippery conditions.

Chrysler's range will be further supplemented in June by the retro-inspired PT Cruiser which is based on the Neon's platform.

The PT Cruiser is offered with a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine in the US but Australian-spec cars are likely to use the Neon's 2.0-litre powerplant.

The PT Cruiser is not just a showpony as it is said to offer as much interior space as full-size sedans despite its compact dimensions.

It will come well equipped with dual airbags, air-conditioning, power windows and remote central locking among the standard features.

Expect a base price of around $30,000 for the 2.0-litre version.

A hot 2.4-litre turbo variant known as the GT Cruiser was recently unveiled in the US but this car is unlikely to be offered here even if it becomes a production reality.

Chrysler Australia is also evaluating the radically styled 300M for the local market.

The full-sized sedan is powered by a high output 3.5-litre V6 that generates 189kW at 6400rpm and 346Nm at 3950rpm.

If the 300M is given the go-ahead for Australia it would probably be priced around $45,000, positioning it against the likes of the Ford Fairmont Ghia and Holden Calais.

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