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2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Road Test Review
by Sue Mead

The all-new 2011 Grand Cherokee will delight Jeep enthusiasts that have awaited this all-new flagship model and it will also catch attention from others who want the look and feel of an authentic SUV. It has improved on-road manners and off-road capability, and is more premium. Completely revised, it has moved up a class, with a higher level of luxury, safety, and fit and finish. It has oodles of updated 4WD technology and can now go farther into the back country—and bring you home safely. There are many new connectivity and infotainment technology features.

Chrysler calls the new Grand Cherokee ‘full-sized’, but it’s more ‘mid-sized’, with seats for five; second-row seats fold flat, with more room for passengers and cargo. There are three models Laredo (with E and X versions), Limited, and Overland.

Jeep Grand Cherokee interior
Cherokee innovative interior

Jeep marketers say this new Jeep is the most refined and capable Grand Cherokee ever. It’s true. Outside changes and trims, especially on the top-level Overland, have created a more European-looking Jeep, with a makeover inside that smoothes the rough edges of past models, and adds upscale materials and premium content. Also new is a 2-pane, panoramic sun roof that gives an open-sky view for both rows of riders, with sun-shades.

The body is 146 percent stiffer. It drives better and is quieter inside. New front and rear suspensions, and a new Quadra-Lift air suspension make the ride less truck-like. This suspension has five ride heights; they automatically lower at highways speeds and for parking, and raise for off-roading.

There are 2WD and 4WD versions. with three choices of 4 x 4 systems: Quadra-Trac I; Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II. Also new is Selec-terrain, available with Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II; it lets you choose from five different terrain settings for different driving conditions.

There is an all-new Pentastar V-6 engine and Chrysler’s proven V-8 Hemi. An increase of horsepower and torque also increase trailer towing capability, which is now 7,400 lbs. with the V-8 engine and 4 x 2 models; the new v-6 model can tow 5,000 lbs. The flex-fuel 3.6-liter Pentastar engine is standard on all models and gets 290 hp. and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The optional 5.7-liter delivers 360 hp. and 390 lb.-ft. of torque; both engines get a 5-speed auto transmission.

This new Jeep looks clean and more upscale than past generation models. Jeep wants to be seen as a premium offering with great 4WD capability, shedding some of its past “Rubicon-capable” image to attract more buyers.

The outside is more aerodynamic and wears its seven decades of heritage with the legendary 7-slot grille. Raked headlamps get jeweled reflector parabolas. Fog lamps are standard; high-intensity discharge headlamps, with auto-leveling, are standard on Limited and Overlands. Tow hooks are optional. Off-road enthusiasts will appreciate the removable lower air dam.

The new Jeep is slightly longer, taller and wider, with four inches more leg room in the back and more cargo-carrying capacity (35.1 cu ft., with rear seats up and 68.7 cu. ft., when folded). Bright work on all versions includes standard three-dimensional stainless steel window trim; body-color mirrors and door handles are standard on Laredo versions; chromed roof rack side rails are standard on all. Standard are 17-and 17-in. wheels on Laredo and Limited models, along with first-time, 20-inchers on Overland. These can be special-ordered on Limiteds.
The rear liftgate has a flipper-glass window, for easier access when loading and unloading gear. A new power liftgate is optional on the Limited and standard on Overland; also new is an integrated, body-color rear spoiler that aids the Jeep’s aerodynamics. Bigger taillamps now integrate into the liftgate, with four back-up lights for better nighttime visibility on the ParkView rear back-up camera. A single exhaust details the V-6 model, while chromed dual exhaust tips distinguish the V-8.  Also new is CommandView, a two-pane sun roof that extends from the windshield to the rear; the front panel may be opened for light and air; the fixed rear panel brings light and an open view for second-row passengers and comes with a standard sun shade. A traditional sun roof is an option on all models.

The interior of the new Grand is noticeably different, with a cleaner fit and finish and uplevel, soft-touch materials.   Upscale features include real wood and leather, a heated steering wheel, heated/ ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, four-way power lumbar controls, and a power tilt/telescoping steering column with memory.

New interior appointments include a two-gauge, chrome-surround instrument cluster, with new back-lighting-it’s easier to read at night. A three-spoke steering wheel is new. It has available power tilt-and-telescoping column with memory and heating. The bottom of the center stack has a covered bin, lined with a rubber mat that is illuminated when opened; it’s perfect for a cellular phone or other hand-held devices.

The center console stores up to seven CDs/DVDs and houses a power outlet and iPod docking station. Doors have other storage, with map pockets and an inset for holding liquids. Notable are illuminated cup holders and aircraft-inspired LED lighting within the interior cabin, map pockets, door grab handles and foot wells.

The Overland has hand-craftsmanship throughout, with leather-wrapped door trim panels; real wood appliqué on the center console and instrument panel; and a premium leather hand-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Contrast stitching brings quality throughout the interior. 

cherokee cargo
Storage is key in '11 Cherokee

The Grand has been tapped as a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It has more than 45 safety and security features, including standard Electronic Stability Control and Electronic Roll Mitigation; optional are available Hill-descent Control and Hill-start Assist that combine with standard Trailer-sway Control to aid with off-road and towing. Features available for the first time include Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection, to help when changing lanes or in parking lots. There are also standard front row active head restraints, standard full-length side-curtain air bags and standard seat-mounted side-thorax air bags.
Storage and convenience features have been designed into the rear cargo area, including an available grated, protective floor accented with a durable finish. The spare tire has a dedicated home underneath the cargo floor. It also contains two removable bins ideal for storing beverages or muddy gear. Also new to the back-end cargo area is a storage unit with a removable/rechargeable flashlight, plus new grocery hooks on each side of the rear cargo compartment.

Estimated EPA fuel economy with the V-6 engine is (City/Hwy): 16/23 mpg-2WD; 16/22mpg-4WD. The estimated EPA fuel economy for the V-8-engined models is (City/Hwy): 14/20 mpg 2WD; 13/19 mpg -4WD.

Pricing will begin at $30,995 for Laredo 4 x 2 models and $32,995 for Laredo 4 x 4 models. Top-of –the-line Overland editions start at $39, 495 for 4 x 2 versions and $42,995 for 4 x 4s. Chrysler says it has added between $2,000 to $5,000 additional content on its new Jeep Grand Cherokee and priced the 2011 Grand Cherokees less than most versions of the outgoing models. All prices include destination.