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Bigger Cherokee to include seven-seater

DaimlerChrysler is looking at expanding its Grand Cherokee range with the launch of the next generation model late next year or early 2005.

The next Grand Cherokee will be built on a heavily revised version of the existing model's platform rather than an enlarged version of the newer KJ platform that underpins the Cherokee range (called Liberty in the US) here in the UK. That means the new car, codenamed WK, will retain similar interior architecture to the current model, including the relatively high floor and low mounted seats.

Key change to the platform for the WK model will be the addition of six inches to the wheelbase to dramatically improve interior room, particularly for rear seat passengers.

The WK Grand Cherokee will remain a five seater, but DaimlerChrysler has revived a once cancelled plan to create an even larger seven seat version, codenamed YK and expected to be badged Grand Wagoneer, by adding a few inches to the bodywork aft of the rear axle. The Grand Wagoneer will be aimed mainly at the full-sized SUVs offered in the USA by Ford and General Motors.

DaimlerChrysler is expected to add a 350bhp 5.7-litre Hemi V8 to the engine line-up with the launch of the WK/YK. Sources in Detroit suggest a six-speed automatic transmission will also be offered, along with the Active Body Control developed by Mercedes-Benz. The 235bhp 4.7-litre V8 will be carried over, as will the Mercedes-Benz sourced diesel for the European market. The Jeep Quadra-Trac four-wheel drive system is also expected to be retained with minor upgrades.

The new Grand Cherokee will continue familiar Jeep design themes, with the traditional vertical bar grill, and chunky sheet metal. Interior fit and finish will be significantly improved, however.

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