2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee - New Jeep rises to the challenge.


PLUSES: Total redesign with lots of great features such as power liftgate with separate liftgate opening window, Hill start/Hill descent control, back up camera. Choice of V-6 or V-8. Excellent fit and finish. Cabin trim and materials upgrade for more luxury image.
MINUSES: V-8 mileage despite cylinder shutoff. No third row seat version.
By Jim Mateja
Some would call it a remake, but the folks at Jeep call it a refinement of the old Grand Cherokee.
Any square or sharply chiseled sheetmetal on the Grand Cherokee has been rounded and smoothed for a new look more in keeping with making a luxury fashion statement than in appearing rough and rugged and ready to play in the dirt.
Grand Cherokee is still more than able to take on sand, snow, mud, rocks, or a tree limb or two in its path, but now you can climb the hill or ford the stream while wearing a tux, not just jeans and boots.
In addition to a styling makeover, Grand Cherokee has grown 5 inches in wheelbase and 2 inches in overall length. The added dimensions smooth out ride, increase cabin comfort, and ensure a massive cargo hold for all the provisions you need to carry.
But there still isn't a third row seat, like the larger Jeep Commander had offered. Commander was dropped for 2011. Those needieng three rows of seats have either the mini van or the next generation Dodge Durango sport ute that returns after a brief absence and offers three rows of seating.
Grand Cherokee is offered in base Laredo, Limited, and top of the line Overland trim, and with a choice of 3.6 liter, 290 h.p. V-6 or 5.7 liter, 360 h.p. V-8 with the multiple displacement feature that automatically shuts off 4 of the 8 cylinders when not needed in order to conserve fuel. The V-6 can tow up to 3,500 pounds, the V-8 up to 7,400.
While the 3.6 claims 11 percent better mileage than the 3.7 liter, 210 h.p. V-6 it replaces, the mileage rating is only 16 m.p.g. city/23 m.p.g. highway in 2WD, 16/22 in 4WD, while the V-8 is rated at 14/20 in 2WD and 13/19 in 4WD. The 25 gallon fuel tank is needed to provide decent driving range between fills. The V-6 can run on E-85. But no diesel, and no hybrid with either engine for the U.S.
We tested the Overland version with V-8 and 4WD. Can't complain about the V-8 energy level or the muscle it has to tow the big load, but as a daily commuter the gas expense would be tough to handle and might require keeping at least one bill with Ben Franklin's mug on it in the wallet.
While short on mileage, ride and handling is very pleasant and the Grand Cherokee is able to adapt quickly to its surroundings with Quadra-Lift air suspension that raises or lowers the vehicle for added off road clearance or for easy entry/exit or loading/unloading cabin or roof rack.
Quadra-Lift is coupled with Selec-Terrain so you can dial up the suspension settings for travel through mud, snow, sand, rocks, or simply a spirited sport mode on clean pavement.
The Jeep also comes with stability control plus Hill assist control to keep from rolling when first starting off on an incline, and Hill descent control to keep from rolling downhill too fast when off roading. And this was a 4X4 sport ute for all season security in maneuvering on or off road, with the added bonus of a dial up low setting for the tough work.
There's also a host of new amenities in keeping with the refinement, luxury and fashion image, such as a power Panoramic sunroof with glass panels over front (opens) and rear (fixed) seats, power rear liftgate activated with key fob or buttons in the cabin and cargo hold, rear glass window that opens separately of the liftgate, 20 inch all season radials, Bi-Xenon headlamps, Smart beam headlamps that adjust to oncoming traffic by automatically dimming, and trailer sway control to keep the object being hauled in back from wandering sideways around the pavement.
Plus, there's heated and cooled front and heated rear seats---and the cooled feature goes to work before you can say "chill out", wide front and rear door openings for easy entry/exit, rear back up camera, power tilt/telescoping AND heated steering wheel, removable storage bins under the rear cargo floor, along with tie downs, grocery bag hooks, 115 volt power plug, and even a removable and rechargeable flashlight in the cargo hold---which is massive in size and gets even bigger when you fold the second row seats flat (made easier because the headrests fold flat, too).
There's also a pull out shade in the cargo hold to hide things, though if loading big or tall items it must be removed to make room and reaching it is a chore from the cargo hold.
New goodies include adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning that reduces your speed using ABS brakes and/or throttle control if approaching a vehicle ahead too quickly when cruise is engaged, or lets out an audible warning to the driver if cruise isn't engaged; blind spot control that blinks a light in the outside mirror when a vehicle enters the no-see zone; and, better yet, rear cross path warning that lets out a beep if you start to back out of the mall parking space and a vehicle or person enters your path. Cross path warning has kept us out of trouble a couple times and should be mandatory in all vehicles, especially for older motorists with slower reaction times or those who complain of limited vision when parked next to or between large vehicles.
And it's nice to have some stowage space---and another power plug---under the armrest between the front seats, as well as rain sensing wipers, push button start, remote start, side curtain air bags front and rear, UConnect phone for in-vehicle Bluetooth hands free phone, FLO-TV with up to 20 channels to entertain the kids on long trips, UConnect Web to create a hot spot in the vehicle for access to web sites, and navigation system with real time traffic reports.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee 4X4 Overland starts at a hefty $41,120, though some could justify the expense by pointing to the host of standard features. Add $1,495 to upgrade to the V-8 and $1,295 for the adaptive cruise and speed control plus blind spot and rear cross path monitoring.
As work now begins on future upgrades we hope higher mileage is at the top of the consideration list---and that Grand Cherokee someday joins Durango in offering a third row seat.  

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4X4
Wheelbase: 114.8 inches
Length: 189.8 inches
Engine: 5.7 liter, 360 h.p., V-8.
Transmission: 5-speed automatic.
Mileage: 13 m.p.g. city/19 m.p.g. highway.
Base price: $41,120.
Price as equipped: Add $1,495 for 5.7 liter V-8, $1,295 for Overland package with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, and adaptive speed control with collision warning, $225 inferno red paint, and $780 freight.

Jim Mateja

Jim Mateja enjoyed a 42 year career with the Chicago Tribune before retiring in 2007 as the newspaper's automotive columnist. He received numerous awards for his reporting and writing, including the National Automotive Journalism Association's "Moto" award for best regularly published column and automotive feature writing, and a Best in Show award for his test ride of a horse in conjunction with the Tribune's 150th anniversary. He also earned the Detroit Press Club Foundation's Gold Wheel Award for best car reviews, and a Tribune Professional Performance Award for his column and regular reporting. He still writes occasional car reviews for the Tribune, is one of the nation's 50 automotive journalists who serve as members of the North American Car of the Year judging panel, and is a panel member who helps select Best Buys for "Consumers Digest" magazine. Mateja also is the founding President of the Midwest Automotive Media Association.