The year is 2000, and a whole bunch of people have just recovered from an unnecessary panic over how computers worldwide would tackle the date change from ’99 to ’00. Crisis averted, and with Nokia candy bar phone in pocket, they headed to dealerships to buy midsize luxury SUVs with their newfound Dot Com cash.

Which millennium-mobile gets the Buy?

By the way, refresh on the OG rules of the game if you’ve forgotten.

Reasonably close in size and with fairly high levels of equipment, all three of our contenders are four-wheel or all-wheel drive. They’re also very close in price — between $34,635 and $36,100.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

A second generation of the super successful Grand Cherokee bowed for the 1999 model year. The least expensive option today is also the one in the highest trim specification. $34,635 nets a Limited four-wheel drive model in 4.0-liter inline-six specification. 195 horsepower shift through the four-speed automatic, and net careful drivers 16 mpg city and 21 on the highway — the best economy in our trio. Most everything is powered, leather-covered, and heated, and there’s space for five passengers.

Mercedes-Benz ML320 

On sale since 1998, the Mercedes ML got its big debut as staff transport in the second Jurassic Park film (not a good movie, if you never saw it). Unlike the high-zoot Grand Cherokee, the ML within budget is at the bottom of the trim hierarchy. That’s why, rather than a 500 badge on the back, we have a 320 signifying the 3.2-liter V6 under the rounded hood. A five-speed automatic manages 215 horsepower, and estimated fuel economy strands at 16/20. Some of the power equipment on the Jeep is not powered in the Mercedes, in order to keep the MSRP down to an affordable $35,300. There is an optional third-row seat, however, which ups passenger capacity to seven.

Land Rover Discovery II 4WD

Our final contender was also new for 1999, as the (same looking) Discovery II replaced the original Discovery, a model in production in England since 1989. Larger in dimensions and more modern than its predecessor, Discovery’s models are differentiated by whether cloth or leather covers its seating surfaces. The $36,100 price is highest of the three contenders today, and provides leather seating for seven. Like the original, the Discovery II maintains two folding jump seats in the way back. All American Discoveries are powered by the traditional 4.0-liter Rover V8. It’s good for 188 horsepower, and the four-speed automatic manages 13 city and 17 highway.

Three different approaches to the midsize luxury SUV for the year 2000. Which gets a Buy, and which a Burn?

[Images: Mercedes-Benz, FCA, Jaguar Land Rover]





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