By Derek Mau
- Smooth power delivery from 290 hp Pentastar 3.6L V6 engine
- Quadra-Trac all-wheel drive system will never leave you stuck in the mud or snow
- Leather-lined seats provide the support and comfort for all-day driving trips
- Interior quality and design on par with some luxury-class vehicles
- 2nd row passengers also get heated seats
- iPod interface and controls have poor ergonomics
- Owners need to pony-up for the Trail Rated Quadra-Drive II system if they plan to do any rock-crawling
The recovering car market has welcomed the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee with a brass band. Chrysler reports November 2010 sales were up from those of November 2009 by 256 percent. Fresh optimism pervades Chrysler’s headquarters and technical centers in Auburn Hills, Mich., where dozens of new employees and engineering consultants have been quietly brought on since last fall to revamp the company’s product line, with help from its new Italian partner and parent Fiat. While Italian automaker Fiat now controls Chrysler, development of this Grand Cherokee began in 2006, when Chrysler was still tied up with Daimler-Benz (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz). Cue the music.
The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is available 3 models: Laredo, Limited and Overland. The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4×2 model starts at $30,995, while the 4×4 Grand Cherokee Laredo model starts at $32,995. Prices for the 2011 Grand Cherokee Limited 4×4 start at $39,995, while the Overland 4×4 model start at $42,995. All models will be powered by a 3.6L Pentastar V6 unit or an optional 360-hp 5.7L V8.
The base engine is a new 3.6-liter V6 engine pumping out 290 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque (353 N•m) @ 4,800 rpm; 90% of peak torque is available from 1,600 to 6,400, so it’s not a “peaky” or “paper horsepower” engine. The new Jeep Grand Cherokee V6 is not only more powerful – by 80 horses – but gas mileage is 11% higher. The new V6 increases highway gas mileage to 23 mpg highway (22 mpg with 4×4) — over 500 miles per tank — though city mileage fell 1 mpg.
The V6 Grand Cherokee has more horsepower than Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and GMC Acadia, with more torque than Highlander or Pilot, and similar gas mileage to all three competitors (within 1 mpg) according to Chrysler. Towing is rated at 5,000 lb with the V6, similar to or more than the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and GMC Acadia; but goes up to 7,200 lb with the HEMI V8 (equipped properly).
To get that power and torque to the trail, Jeep offers three 4WD systems. Quadra Trac I is a single-speed all-wheel-drive system identical to that in the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. Quadra Trac II offers all-wheel drive, as well as 4WD High and Low (2.72:1) ranges with a locking center differential. Quadra Drive II is the top dog in the line and adds an electronic limited-slip differential to the rear axle that works with the four-wheel ABS-brake-based traction control. Quadra Trac II and Quadra Drive II both come with Selec-Terrain — a center-console-mounted five-position dial (Sand/Mud, Sport, Auto, Snow and Rock) that coordinates the throttle, transmission, transfer case, hill-start assist and hill-descent control to match the condition.
Inside, the Grand Cherokee surprised us with exceptional quietness that whispers of luxury. Laminated glass on the windshield and front doors reduces wind noise, while insulating wheel-well liners hush road and tire noise. Under the hood, there’s a panel between the engine and dashboard made from aluminum and composite material that keeps the engine hum contained.
The interior is universally pleasing to look at, to touch and to use. Softer, rounder controls and surfaces work as well as anything else and are more agreeable to hand and eye. Plus, the cabin has more room for both passengers and cargo.
An optional CommandView® dual-pane sunroof provides twice as much glass surface than a standard sunroof and extends from the windshield to the rear of the vehicle. The front panel may be opened rearward, providing additional light and fresh air to first-row passengers. The rear panel, which is fixed, allows light and open viewing for second-row passengers and comes standard with a power sun shade.
The Laredo trim includes keyless entry, stability control with anti-roll, hill start assist, trailer sway control, side curtain airbags for both rows, active head restraints, power driver’s seat, fog lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, satellite radio, and 17-inch aluminum wheels; the 360 horsepower HEMI V8 will be optional.
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