Auto Review: The next generation Grand Cherokee
By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Fri., Feb. 18, 2011
When you look at a particular vehicle that has been around for a very long time, you start to see patterns of change. Most redesigns are modest in nature, but every once in a while there’s a major surge of new engineering that alters the basic chassis dramatically.
A perfect example of this is the Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee family of SUVs, for these popular mules have been around since the ’80s and owe their heritage to the Jeep Wagoneer (which ran on the same basic platform for nearly 30 years). Over time, these Jeeps dropped body-on-frame construction for a unibody design, and gradually developed an independent front suspension, as well, for better ride quality and handling.
The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the most dramatically-altered version in quite some time, and has received a lot of engineering tricks from its former relative, the Mercedes Benz ML-class SUV. This includes for the first time a fully-independent suspension, and a variety of adjustable off-road goodies to increase the already-versatile vehicle’s capabilities.
The new Grand Cherokee is a tad larger than its predecessor (which translates into more interior room), and includes a lot of equipment options, especially concerning the drivetrain. There are two engines available: a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with 290 horsepower, and a 5.7-liter MDS V-8 with 360 horsepower. Both engines feature a five-speed automatic transmission. The Grand Cherokee has both rear-wheel and four-wheel drive variants, and in the case of the latter, there are three 4WD systems you can choose from, depending on model. These systems start with Quadra-Trac I, which is an automatic single-range unit aimed at all-weather driving and limited off-road use. Quadra-Trac II is a dual-range design for more rugged conditions and has more sophisticated torque distribution, and Quadra-Drive II gets even more advanced software and a rear Electronic Limited Slip Differential. In the last two systems, a multi-mode Selec-Terrain traction control is standard and offers five different settings to tailor the performance to the topography. Our Limited model had the V6 and Quadra Trac II, and power was acceptable, although mid-range acceleration was a bit lackluster. We were equipped with the optional Off-Road Adventure II package, which included Jeep’s new Quadra-Lift air suspension that can increase ground clearance for serious off-road work or lower the chassis for easier loading. Steering is very light at low speeds and there’s a commendably tight turning radius. Both of these attributes greatly enhance off-road maneuverability.
Interior room is improved over the old Grand, especially in the rear seat area, which is now quite commodious with a nearly flat floor and a very comfy 60/40 split bench seat. Overall, this new Jeep offers more room, more technology and more refinement in a very capable SUV that you can tailor to your needs. The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4X4 is EPA-rated 16 MPG city/22 highway and has a base price of $38,820. With options, our sticker came to $45,590. www.jeep.com