Everybody just drools over a Wrangler with a V8 engine transplant. The cost of the swap is astronomical, but you need torque to move a Jeep loaded with the full set of off-road bumpers and body armor.
So I started thinking, Why not buy a Jeep that comes with the V8 to start with, and upgrade the suspension so it's more capable off-road? Maybe not "King of the Hammers" capable, but enough to handle a reasonable amount of rock-hopping?
That led me to the last generation Grand Cherokee, the WK model years 2005-2010. The prices for used Grand Cherokees equipped with V8 and 4x4 have come down to the point they are affordable. I've seen prices below $6,000, but $9,000 is more reasonable for a lower mileage 4x4 model with the 4.7L V8. Add another few thousands for newer SUVs with the 5.7L Hemi V8.
While the Grand Cherokee is not as well supported by the off-road aftermarket as the Wrangler, there are several companies that make suspension upgrades, including Skyjacker, SuperLift, Rocky Road, Rough Country and Teraflex. (Yes, the Grand Cherokee has independent front suspension.) Body armor and bumpers are not hard to find, either.
While searching around, I remembered that AEV built a Grand Cherokee for the SEMA show a while back. There's a page about the vehicle here http://www.aev-conversions.com/vehic..._wk_mojave.php Here's a photo:
The AEV Mojave has a 4 inch SuperLift suspension, 34 inch tires, sliders added to the rocker panels, a larger roof rack, and a very trick winch hidden behind the front bumper.
Dave Harriton, founder of AEV, has this to say about the AEV Mojave: "The Mojave was probably the best all around Jeep I've ever owned. Its ability to cruise comfortably at freeway speeds for hours on end, air down the tires, wheel for a week in Moab - being able to do just about every trail down there, air back up and drive back to Montana...thats pretty cool."
Now that's what we're talking about!
Compared to the Wrangler Unlimited, the Grand Cherokee is a lot smaller inside. If you need room for four and cargo, then consider the Jeep Commander. It has more squared-off body style and more rear overhang for extra cargo room. The chassis is the same as the Grand Cherokee's.