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Is Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD always on?

Is Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD always on?

The first Jeep Grand Cherokee debuted 29 years ago in 1992. The original models were available in a manual transmission but ever since 1994 it was only available as automatic in 2-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive versions.

So, is the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4wd always on? 

In the 5th generation Jeep Grand Cherokee the 4-wheel drive system (4WD) is always on. It is controlled by the onboard computer and will be on by default at all times.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee has different versions of 4WD – the Quadra-Trac and the Quad-drive all-wheel drive system are used to send power from the engine to where it is needed. It can also be equipped with the Selec-Terrain system allowing you to dial in the traction for specific conditions you are facing. 

Below we will take a look at the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and see what makes this new Quadra-Trac different and exciting.  

Jeep Drive Configurations

Before we jump right into the drive system of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, let’s look at the different drive configurations and what they mean. 

There are 4 different drive configurations available in modern vehicles; rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive. In the front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive setup, the engine’s power is sent to only two wheels. These two wheels would be the drive system of the car and the other two wheels would not be connected to the engine. 

The four-wheel drive system can be turned on or off. When it is turned off it will typically be a rear-wheel drive vehicle. The all-wheel drive vehicle, however, can not be switched and will constantly send power to all four wheels. 

The Jeep Grand Cherokee’s 4×4 History

The Jeep Grand Cherokee has had an automatic transmission and was available with a four-speed two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive system since 1994. The Quadra Trac driving system was used until it was replaced in 2004 by the Quadra Trac I. It took the option to transfer the power manually and made it fully computer controlled. The Quadra Trac II and Quadra-Drive made their debut in 1999.


All three all-wheel drive systems are still options available. Let’s take a closer look at them below.   

Quadra-Trac I

The Quadra-Trac I is a full-time all-wheel drive system that does not need input from the driver to operate. The Quadra-Trac I constantly sends 48 percent of the engine’s power to the front axles and the remaining 52 percent to the rear of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.  

The Quadra-Trac has open differentials and uses the traction control system to distribute the torque to each wheel. If the traction control detects any wheelspin, it will apply the brake to that wheel to balance the power distribution.

The Quadra-Trac does not have a low range in the four-wheel drive mode and there is no option to shift out of the all-wheel drive mode. 

Quadra-Trac II

The Quadra-Trac II differs slightly from the Quadra-Trac I. It has an electronically- controlled clutch pack which is used to center the differential. It also has the same power split as the Quadra-Trac I, sending 48 percent of the engine’s power to the front, and 52 percent to the rear wheels. 

Unlike the Quadra-Trac I, the Quadra-Trac II has the option to send all 100 percent of the engine’s torque to the front wheels with the clutch pack. Several sensors will detect wheel slip and shift the power from the front to the back as needed. Similar to the Quadra-Trac I, the Quadra-Trac II has an open differential and uses the brake system for traction control. 

The Quadra-Trac II has lower-range gearing and is capable of severe off-roading. The hill descent control system will keep the Jeep at a steady speed during steep descents. The neutral range allows it to be towed without needing to disconnect the drive axles at any of the four wheels. 

Quadra-Drive II

The pinnacle of the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s four-wheel drive system is the Quadra-Drive II. This system uses the same transfer case as the Quadra-Trac II but has electronically-controlled limited slip differentials at both front and rear axles. Each differential has its clutch pack and power can be transferred from one wheel to another. 

The Quadra-Trac II system can transfer torque from the front axle to the rear axle, the Quadra-Drive system can transfer torque to each wheel. It is less reliant on the traction control and braking system to make the adjustments. The Quadra-Drive is also able to anticipate any low traction situations and make the necessary adjustments.  The Quadra-Drive II has selectable low and neutral ranges as well as hill-descent control. 

Throttle Anticipate 

The Jeep Grand Cherokee system uses the Throttle Anticipate system. It’s able to detect rapid movements in the throttle and maximize traction during the hard acceleration to minimize any tire slipping before it can occur. When the wheel slippage is detected, all of the torque is sent to the axle without slippage. When equipped with the Quadra-Drive it allows you to place the transfer case in the 4WD manually.

Active Drive

With Active Drive mode, if the Jeep Grand Cherokee detects that road conditions do not require all-wheel drive capabilities, it will disconnect the front axle automatically. This will reduce the drag on the powertrain and improve the fuel economy of your Jeep. When the conditions detect that the all-wheel drive mode is needed again, it will automatically reconnect the front axle to give you the all-wheel drone you need.

Active Drive II mode shares all the same features as Active Drive mode. It also includes a low range for increased off-road capability. It will allow you to flat tow a Jeep Grand Cherokee behind an RV. 

Selec-Terrain System

The Selec-Terrain System was first offered in the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It is designed to provide the best on-road and off-road experience. It will give you the low-end torque you will need when encountering different terrain on-road or off-road. It will electronically configure 6 different powertrain options as well as four-wheel torque distribution, braking, handling, steering, suspension, and steering response system for your Jeep. 

The different settings available in the Selec-Terrain System are;

  • Auto

This setting will automatically adapt to any situation you will encounter while driving.

  • Snow

This setting will allow your Jeep to adjust for slick and snow-covered roads or trails. 

  • Sand

Traction control will operate with an increased response to wheel slip and torque will be tuned for optimal sand performance.

  • Mud

Traction control will operate with an increased response to wheel spin and torque will be tuned for optimal mud performance.

  • Rock

The air suspension will raise the Jeep to the maximum height while the differential, transfer case, and throttle are tuned for low-spin control.

  • Sport 

This mode is only available in 4 hi-mode. Sport mode is performance orientated and shifts most of the power and torque to the rear. It also reduces the traction control for better grip.

Automatic vs Manual 4WD

Onboard computers in vehicles are capable of controlling most of the tasks once left to the operators of the vehicles. Some appreciate the convenience of having the onboard computers checking, detecting, and reacting to almost every aspect of the driving experience on-road or off-road. They can easily shift the power and torque where it is needed to give you the best performance from your vehicle. 

Some do not appreciate the onboard computers analyzing and correcting every aspect of our driving. They prefer the old manual gearboxes, 4-wheel drive selectors, and the opportunity to actually operate the vehicle and use your knowledge and skill while doing so.

The more technology advances the more driver-assist technology we will see in the vehicle in the future. The advances they provide as well as the comfort outweigh having to manually control all the aspects of driving. They make our vehicles and us better and more efficient in every part of driving, on-road or off-road.


My Closing Thoughts

Is the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4wd drive always on? Yes! It is equipped with three different and more progressive 4-wheel drive systems. The Quadra-Trac I and Quadra-Trac II share most of the same features as well as similar abilities. The Quadra-Trac II has a slight edge, being able to transfer the engine’s torque more efficiently from one axle to another to maximize traction and minimize tire slip. 

The Quadra-Drive II has even more control and has the ability to transfer the power directly to the wheel that needs it most. It is less reliant on the traction control and braking systems needed to assist when the tires of your Jeep Grand Cherokee lose traction, off-road or on-road. 

The Selec-Terrain system lets you dial in mud, snow, sand, and rocks to help give your Jeep the best experience and feel on-road and off-road. It will give you 6 different power configurations as well as four different torque settings. 

The automatic disconnect system will remove the power from the front wheels when it detects that the all-wheel drive isn’t necessarily turning your Jeep into a rear-wheel drive vehicle. It automatically sends the power back to the front axle when it is needed.


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