Auto Review: The Grand Cherokee with attitude

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Aug. 9, 2012
- Contributed Photo

The term “Limited Edition” has become somewhat rare in automotive manufacturing circles, so when a company announces a special version of a popular model, you know it’s going to be a machine likely to get lots of attention.

Chrysler’s Jeep Division has come up not only with a new Special Edition program, but a novel way of naming the new creations, too. This all started when a Jeep prototype was displayed at auto shows around the country, and the company made the following announcement: “Following an overwhelmingly positive consumer response to the recently-introduced Grand Cherokee concept and related ‘Name My Ride’ contest, the Jeep brand has announced it will produce not just one, but three new Limited Edition Jeep vehicles: the Grand Cherokee, Compass and Patriot Altitude models.” The contest did in fact settle on the name Altitude, and this week we sampled the Grand Cherokee version that (graced with Maximum Steel Metallic Clear Coat finish) was a real head-turner thanks to outstanding attention to detail, inside and out.

Fortunately for those requiring the Grand Cherokee’s Jeep versatility and performance, both are present underneath the Altitude styling package. This appearance approach includes changes to give the vehicle a “blacked out” look, including a grille surround in black gloss, mesh grille texture in platinum chrome, a platinum chrome lower fascia appliqué, black headlamp bezels and a black liftgate light bar.

Beneath this, we have the standard 3.6-liter V6 engine with 290 horsepower. This is matched to a five-speed automatic transmission, and in the case of our 4X4 tester, a Quadra Trac I single-speed transfer case (meaning no low range for rock crawling). So this is a Grand Cherokee model aimed more towards urban exploration, but it still has the clearance, durable chassis and suspension travel needed for occasional off-road excursions.

This latest-generation Grand is also a model of solidarity and refinement, with a fully-independent suspension (a far cry from straight-axled Cherokees of old) and excellent ride quality. Braking performance is also a high mark, and the Altitude is loaded with the latest Electronic Stability Controls to keep help keep you on track, on road or off.

The Altitude package includes very carefully executed details that bring the whole package together, including leather-trimmed seats (heated in front), a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter and a rollicking 506-watt sound system. The front buckets offer solid support yet are supple enough for long days on the road. The rear seating area has comfortable leather accommodations, and when the seats are folded, the cargo area capacity is 68.7 cubic feet. The Jeep versatility is covered in style and luxury in the Altitude, but it’s still a seriously capable and durable machine that just so happens to make you look good while slogging through the mud or conquering potholes.

The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude 4X4 is EPA rated 16 MPG city/23 highway, and with options, our sticker came to $40,505.

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