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JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE SURVIVES 20,000-MILE ENDURANCE TEST

 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE SURVIVES 20,000-MILE ENDURANCE TEST
 HIGHLAND PARK, Mich., June 30 /PRNewswire/ -- From New York to


Yellowstone National Park to the Mojave Desert, two 1993 Jeep(R) Grand Cherokees have survived a 20,000-mile, two-month endurance test for durability, ruggedness and comfort.
 Reporters from 30 major cities and small towns just completed a coast-to-coast relay from New York to California, traversing the country in two of the new Jeep vehicles. The journey began April 15 at the New York Auto Show and ended earlier this month in Los Angeles and San Francisco. One vehicle took a northern route and one a southern route.
 Grand Cherokee, only the eighth Jeep vehicle to be launched in 51 years, was designed to set new standard for on- and off-highway handling among sport utility vehicles.
 Reporters were challenged to find some of the worst (or best, depending on the point of view) road conditions America has to offer. From the notes reporters recorded in a log book along the way, it appears Grand Cherokee has accomplished its objective for ride and handling.
 The weather served up one challenge after another -- snowstorms, hail, driving rain, gusting wind and temperatures ranging from the low 20s to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The reporters did the rest.
 They made obligatory stops at famous landmarks, such as Mount Rushmore, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon and the Strip in Las Vegas. Some were not so famous -- such as the 25-foot image of Fred Flintstone at Bedrock, Ariz., "Gateway to the Grand Canyon," a trailer full of ostriches in Des Moines, Iowa, and a cigar store Indian carving in Massachusetts. Radio talk show host Junior Damato parked the Grand Cherokee next to the wooden Indian and took a snapshot. He wrote an appropriate caption in the logbook, "One Cherokee says Hi to another!"
 Eccentric excursions aside, the Grand Cherokee proved to be durable. After 20,000 miles, the only casualties were a strip of molding that partially separated from the right rear quarter panel, a squeak in the air conditioning unit that required readjusting the tension belt and a broken side view mirror. Of the maladies, two were a result of off-road rigors and all three were easily repaired.
 The quarter panel molding separated when two reporters in Wyoming came across a stranded Isuzu Trooper, while driving through a May storm that dumped five inches of snow overnight in the Big Horn National Forest. Two people were trying to dig the Trooper out of a snow bank 200 yards off Highway 14.
 The new Jeep vehicle was not equipped with a tow package and had no hooks for a chain.
 "We hooked the chain as best we could and in trying to pull the Trooper out, the chain came loose and snagged (the molding)," wrote Roger Hart of the Daily Telegram in Adrian, Mich. "But we did get the Trooper out of the snow, and made friends with a couple of Wyoming fishermen."
 The side view mirror was damaged in a swamp along the Mississippi River, near Savannah, Ill. John Maclean, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, described the scene.
 "We found a muddy track into the slough and engaged low four-wheel drive, a matter of pulling a handle," Maclean wrote. "Brush had nearly closed the track. We had to use a little speed to get through the mud. The vehicle plowed into the brush. The Grand Cherokee's mirrors are built to bend back almost all the way on a spring to handle this sort of terrain. We overextended the tolerances and broke one."
 Like Maclean, some reporters tried to find some of the most difficult conditions the country could offer.
 "Despite our best efforts, we failed to get the Jeep (Grand Cherokee) stuck in some serious mud," said Dave Backman, a reporter for the Kenosha News in Kenosha, Wis. "The mud was half up the wheel, if not more, and we deliberately tried to get it stuck and she walked right through it."
 Fred Peterson, editor of The Outdoor Press in Spokane, Wash., took the Grand Cherokee to the Sand Dunes Potholes area outside Moses Lake, Wash.
 "Several ORV (off-road vehicle) fans watched as I pulled into a big dune," Peterson wrote. "I knew they were thinking I'd get stuck, and if I did, I was going to ask them to dig me out. Even without shifting into low range, (the Grand Cherokee) Laredo pulled steadily and smoothly up the 100-foot-high dune."
 Peterson was fond of how the Grand Cherokee handled gravel roads as well. The vehicle didn't drift or "roller-skate" in the corners.
 Damian Geddry, a freelance writer, drove through snow-capped peaks, rain, hail and violent thunderstorms on a trek from Albuquerque, N.M., to Tucson, Ariz.
 "(It) handles well in the rain," Geddry wrote in a travel log about a day of off-highway driving near the Grand Canyon. "We didn't get stuck once in the mud ... even on bumpy, rough roads -- responsive handling ... Loved the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Roomy, comfortable."
 Ted Biederman of Los Angeles Daily News didn't get a chance to go off-highway, but he did average 90 mph between Las Vegas and Baker, Calif., with temperatures topping 100 degrees. "The Grand Cherokee handled speed with the confidence of a road-loving sedan," Biederman wrote.
 Bill Turek and Dan Prescott of AAA AutoTest, tested out the Grand Cherokee in some sand dunes in Florida's Panhandle. "We had several opportunities to do off-roading, plowing through sand 4 to 5 inches deep ... It handled beautifully.
 "Engine-wise, drivability, interior-exterior fit, instrumentation, gear ratios, off-road performance, on-road performance, it was extremely acceptable and, frankly, very pleasing."
 -0- 6/30/92
 /CONTACT: Scott Fosgard, 313-252-5781, or Rita McKay, 313-252-8794, both of Chrysler/
 (C) CO: Chrysler Corporation; Jeep/Eagle Division ST: Michigan IN: AUT SU:


SB-SM -- DE029 -- 5363 06/30/92 17:24 EDT
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Date:Jun 30, 1992
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