The WJ ('99 to '04) with the Dana 44's are clearly stronger than the Dana 35/30 in the ZJ ('93 to '98).
I've had trouble getting rims off the Dana 35 hubs on my ZJ. They made the wheel wells slightly bigger on the WJ, and large tire friendly on the WK ('05 on). The WJ seating is less roomy than the ZJ and WK.
Plastic tanked radiators suck. I've blown out seals on the radiators on my ZJ, WJ, and WK. I was able to find all metal radiators for the ZJ, and XJ, at reasonable prices.
The new WK I don't take out wheeling, not because it's new, but because the air lines are constantly blowing out. It's nice to be able to lift the WK with a push of a button, when the lines hold.
As for engines and tranny's I like the 4.0L and AW-4. I have a 4.0L in the 93 ZJ, a 4.7 V8 in the '00 WJ, and the hemi in the WK.
At my local drag strip the ZJ and WJ are almost dead even at about 16 secs. in the 1/4 mile. The WK ran a 15.5 sec. quarter mile.
My ZJ 4.0L has been re-geared to 3.73-1 and lots of mods. The WJ and WK have K&N air intakes. All are on 33" tires. The ZJ and WJ are 4-wheel drive. The WK has the vari-lock diffs.
Out wheeling in the snow and mud the ZJ rules. It has the locker up front and it just pulls itself through. The WK has too much power and not enough tire. It doesn't float, she just digs and sinks.
My WJ has the NP-147 transfer case and just AWD with no 4-lo and does great. If it had 4-lo it'd be better than the ZJ.
When it comes to rock crawling and fallen trees the WK does a great job if an air line doesn't blow.
I think the Jeeps with a 4.7 stroker and locking Dana 44, or better diffs along with the Rubicon transfer-case are the best.
Larry's Comment: Nice review of the Grand Cherokees Eli! Would love to see photos of yours.
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