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2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee First Look


American ingenuity combines with German engineering under Italian auspices. Welcome to the New World

By Malcolm Gunn

2011 Jeep Grand CherokeeThe fix is in at Jeep.

That is, the wholesale revisions, updates and various high-tech additions to the fourth-generation Grand Cherokee give this wagon added passenger comfort, carrying capacity and off-road capability.

The iconic Jeep brand is a dominant anchor of the new Chrysler-Fiat management group, which is counting on the Grand Cherokee to knock one out of the park.

It appears the 18-year-old marque might actually deliver.

The fresh-face styling is reminiscent of previous Grand Cherokees, but brought up to date with cleaner lines, a less upright windshield and stylish body creases. Interestingly, the bulging wheel openings that were prominent on earlier GCs have been scaled back, making the vehicle appear smaller and narrower.

2011 Jeep Grand CherokeeThe reality is somewhat different. Overall length has been extended by around five centimetres, while about 7.5 centimetres have been added to the width. Most significantly, the distance between the front and rear wheels has grown by 13.5 centimetres. The result is wider and taller front and rear door openings plus considerably more reclinable rear-seat knee and leg space, something that has been desperately needed since the first 1993 GC hit the trail.

The body structure is 146% stiffer than that of the outgoing version, helping improve both ride and drivability characteristics. As well, the attached suspension pieces are shared with the Mercedes-Benz ML-class sport ute. You might recall that Chrysler was recently part of the Mercedes-Benz juggernaut, which supplied the underpinnings for the Chrysler 300, and the Dodge Charger sedans and Dodge Magnum wagon.

For the 2011 model year, Jeep has replaced the Grand Cherokee's base 3.7-litre V6 that made 210-horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque with an all-new and more efficient 3.6-litre V6 that produces 70 more horsepower and 25 more pound feet of torque. Despite the extra output, the GC's fuel economy rating is estimated at 14.0 l/100 km in the city and 10.2 l/100 km on the highway, which is on par with the previous base V6.

A 360-horsepower 5.7-litre "Hemi" V8 carries over from the previous model. With 390 pound-feet of torque, it's still the engine of choice for heavy hauling and towing up to 3,360 kilograms.

Both engines are equipped with five-speed automatic transmissions. For the V8, it basically has a secondary second-gear ratio for quicker acceleration when downshifting for passing. Interestingly, both fourth and fifth gears are overdrive gears.

2011 Jeep Grand CherokeeThe three GC models -- Laredo, Limited and Overland --  are equipped with three varieties of four-wheel drive. Quadra-Trac I includes a single-speed transfer case, while the more off-road-capable Quadra Trac II and Quadra Drive II systems feature two-speed transfer cases (with a low-range gearset). In addition, Quadra Drive II comes with an electronic limited-slip differential that will react to low-traction conditions and reduce or even eliminate wheel slip before it begins.

Ordering either of the Quadra "II' systems automatically adds Jeep's new Selec-Terrain control with four traction settings: Sand/Mud; Snow; Rock (for off-road terrain); and a Sport setting for dry pavement conditions.

Also available is an air-ride suspension that can be manually adjusted over an 11.5-centimetre range to provide a maximum 28 centimetres of ground clearance.

As before, the Laredo's base equipment list will include the usual comfort and power-operated niceties, while the top two trims wear 18-inch wheels (17s are standard), a remote starter and bi-xenon (high- and low-beam) headlights that automatically adjust their intensity according to ambient light and oncoming traffic conditions.

Available equipment showcases  a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, 20-inch wheels, premium audio system and a power rear liftgate, to name only some items on a lengthy features list.

The new Grand Cherokee will likely get the nod from Jeep loyalists since they can be assured that Chrysler's blended Italian-American operators appear determined to maintain the brand's class leadership and fundamental goodness that runs seven-decades deep.

What you should know: 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Type: Four-door rear- /four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle
Engines (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (280); 5.7-litre OHV V8 (360)
Transmissions: Five-speed automatic (V6); five-speed automatic with split upshift/kickdown second gear (V8).
Market position: The highly regarded Grand Cherokee has made plenty of money for Chrysler since 1993 and with this latest edition's advancements should continue to lead the sport ute pack well into the next decade.
Points: Enlarged body looks good, maintains rugged demeanor; Powerful, thrifty V6 should be plenty for most buyers;  Say goodbye to thrill-seeking, somewhat impractical 420-horsepower SRT8 version; New traction improvement features should make off-roading more fun and secure; Perhaps surprising is the Mercedes-Benz-based suspension.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control; trailer-sway control.
L/100 km (city/hwy): 14.0/10.2 (V6, RWD, est.)
Base price (incl. destination): $40,000 (est.)

By comparison

Toyota 4Runner
Base price: $38,800
Tough 2010 version drops V8 option, but increases power on standard V6.

Nissan Pathfinder
Base price: $39,050
Rugged sport ute offers similar content, including V6 and optional V8 picks.

Land Rover LR4
Base price: $60,000
Luxury-class trail-pounder features more power and added content for 2010.

Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!

Posted February 24, 2010. © CarTest.ca TM


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