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The Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited Is the Forgotten Hot Rod Grand Cherokee

Here’s something you may not have known: Before the sporty Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 came screaming into our lives with giant wheels and insane performance numbers, there was another high-performance Jeep: It had a 5.9-liter V8, it was one of the quickest SUVs of its day and it was only made in 1998. See the 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee models for sale near you

Dubbed the Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited, the late-’90s high-performance Grand Cherokee doesn’t have very impressive numbers by today’s standards: 245 horsepower, 345 lb-ft of torque, zero to 60 in 7.1 seconds. But placed in context, the 5.9 Limited was a brute: It debuted before the BMW X5, before the Porsche Cayenne, before Ford Explorer Sport (the high-performance one, not the 2-door one), before the Mercedes ML55 AMG… placing it in a league of its own among high-performance SUVs.

Surprisingly, sales were fairly brisk. Even though the 5.9 Limited came fully equipped, debuted in the original Grand Cherokee’s final model year, and returned something like 12 miles per gallon, Jeep managed to unload nearly 15,000 examples before retiring the vehicle — and the engine — altogether. A Grand Cherokee with a larger engine wouldn’t return for nearly a decade, when Jeep finally came out with the SRT-8 model. Even Jeep’s "Hemi" V8 — at 5.7 liters — wasn’t quite as large.

My favorite thing about the 5.9 Limited wasn’t its luxury appointments or its final-year rarity, but rather its subtle enhancements over a normal model: Aside from new wheels, some badges and hood louvers, you’d never know you were looking at anything other than a regular ol’ Grand Cherokee. Unless, of course, you monitored the fuel gauge.

These days, 1998 Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited models are tremendously difficult to find; there are only a handful listed on Autotrader at any given time. You’re more likely to see one on the street, where you’ll notice the hood louvers and instantly know: This is the original high-performance luxury SUV. Find a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee for sale

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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19 COMMENTS

  1. As much as I want one of these after having a ’97 with my favorite Chrysler engine the 318, I would take a WJ Limited or Overland with the 4.7 HO over it. 265HP and 325 torque in a Jeep that weights about the same.  

  2. I currently have a 5.9 limited and she has seen some better days. Shes rusty but trusty. 210k original miles and hasn’t gotten stuck in the winter yet. Just got her last year and I’m realizing what a rare Gem I have.

  3. We bought our 98 5.9 new..195000 mies now..

    Last year I rebuild the car completely. 
    Radiator to wheel bearings..All suspension, computer and electrical components.
    Block and crank are original, Bored & balanced now.
    Interior still immaculate..
    Parts are getting scarce so jumped at the chance when I found the right shop In Santa Rosa, Parker Performance, Muscle car specialist to do the work..
    Love the car. Also have a 2015 Grand Cherokee Eco diesel.. 
    Two rare birds, Two great cars.
    Tom
  4. Ok boys put down the reading materials.   I have owned mine since 2000 it now has 190000 miles on it. Original motor and transmission everything is original. Best car I’ve ever had. Never won the louvers are functional had only came on 1998 model. I laugh when you say you cannot tell the difference between the 5.2 and the 5.9. I have had both of them had there is a world of difference. The motor is actually a Chrysler 360 magnum, I have a 71 Dodge Charger where they 383 magnum and the magnums are different than the standard engines. As for a  MPG real world average is 13MPG. Cruising the highway at 75 mph I average 18 miles per gallon. The 5.9 limited came with every option available except for the mood  Roof.  My Jeep has that option as well. I plan on keeping mine for as long as possible. I feel it is my duty as an owner of one of these to help keep them on the road. If I’m able to I will post a picture of it.

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