2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee - True world-class SUV.


The new Jeep Grand Cherokee gets the upscale refinement and engineering it has deserved since its arrival in 1992.. With design help from past owner Mercedes, the new model finally is a world-class SUV. Call it a Mercedes "on the cheap."

The 2011 Grand Cherokee shares its basic carlike platform with the new Mercedes ML, with such things as an all-new independent suspension, big disc brakes and a plush ride.
The new rear suspension lets the spare tire be stored in the vehicle, not underneath it.

This rigidly built Jeep looks much like its predecessor, with Jeep's classic seven-slot grille, round headlights and trapezoidal wheel arches. But it's the most luxurious Jeep ever. It is sleeker and more aerodynamic, with an upscale interior never found in this model.

The new Jeep has a sportier, ground-hugging appearance. The wheelbase is up 5.3 inches, which provides an additional 4 inches of rear-seat knee and leg room, and it's about 2 inches longer than the previous model. It's also 3 inches wider for better handling and packaging. Cargo room has been increased.

The 2011 Grand Cherokee comes in Laredo and Overland trim levels with rear- or three "go-anywhere" four-wheel-drive systems, a new Jeep Selec-Terrain system with five terrain settings and a new Jeep Quadra-Lift air suspension.

It's been found that few Grand Cherokee owners ever use their vehicle for off-road driving, but Jeep insists that the Grand Cherokee must have good off-road abilities to help keep it "special."

Power comes from a new, sophisticated  3.6-liter V-6 with 290 horsepower or from an optional ($1,495) 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 producing 360 horsepower. The V-6 should be fine for most Grand Cherokee buyers, providing good 65-75 mph passing.

However, the V-8 has more pulling ability and provides swifter acceleration in this heavy SUV. Both engines work with a five-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted..

Estimated fuel economy is nothing to phone home about. It's 15 mpg in the city and 23 on highways with the V-6 and 14 and 20 with the V-8.

List prices, without a delivery charge, range from $30,215 for the base Laredo V-6 to $43,710 for the top-line Overland with the V-8.

I tested Grand Cherokee Overland with the V-6 and Quadra-Trac four-wheel-drive system.

This handsome, well-equipped vehicle stands higher than cars so it calls for a little extra effort to get in and out. But larger front door openings (1.9 inches wider and 2 inches higher) and rear door that open 78 degrees (compared to the previous model's 67 degrees) allow better access to the interior.

The exceptionally quiet cockpit  looks as if from a luxury car, with a curvaceous new dashboard, easily read backlit gauges, rich materials and elegant appointments. And there's plenty of room front and back, although the middle rear-seat position is too stiff for comfort. That's a good place for the center fold-down rear armrest, which contains two cupholders.

Also, sound system and climate controls are small, and the shifter partially blocks the cupholders.

Front seats provide good support, and there's a large covered front console bin and roomy glove compartment. A huge dual-pane sunroof is among many options, which can considerably raise list prices. Newly available is a power liftgate.

There are more than 45 safety and security features, including electronic stability control, side-curtain and seat-mounted side air bags, adoptive cruise control and a forward collision warning system.Advanced technology/connectivity/infotaiment features include Bluetooth hands-free calling and streaming audio.

My test Grand Cherokee's steering was quick, but felt rather spongy. The ride was smooth and handling was good, although this Jeep's weight could be felt in quick maneuvers. The brakes were controlled by a pedal with a smooth, linear action.

The spacious cargo area can be enlarged via rear seatbacks that flip forward and sit flat. The hood glides up on a single strut to reveal easily reached fluid filler areas.

The new Grand Cherokee has been a hit right out of the box. It has considerably more competition than it once had. But then, after all, it's got the legendary Jeep name going for it. 

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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