2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee: Steeped in Tradition & Yet Better Than Ever!
Let me begin by saying that I have been a Jeep Grand Cherokee owner since 1999. Like the rest of the SUV driving world, I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the all new 2011 redesign. I have long enjoyed the combination of superior off-road capability and crossover competitive ride and handling that the Grand Cherokee provides.
The 2011 Grand Cherokee is a rugged, yet refined SUV that pulls off the challenging feat of keeping a clear design connection with its predecessor while looking completely new and modern. Gone is the blocky look of past models, replaced by sleek new lines that have significantly improved on the Grand Cherokee’s ability to cut through the air at highway speeds.
The new design is about 2 inches longer and 3 inches wider, with a wheelbase that has grown almost 5.5 inches to dramatically improve the ride and adding almost 5 inches to rear seat leg room. The new four-wheel independent suspension absorbs bumps easily, and it corners confidently without any of the top-heavy roll that is normally associated with SUVs. It really does drive like a crossover, without losing any of its off-road capability. The ride can get even better if you choose the optional Quadra-Lift suspension that masks most pavement imperfections.
Chrysler’s new Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 engine is rated at 290 horsepower and 260 lb/ft of torque seems perfectly suited to the new design, and works well teamed with the efficient five-speed automatic transmission.
Choosing the optional 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 gives the Grand Cherokee effortless acceleration, and increases the towing capacity to 7400 pounds for the rear-wheel-drive V-8 model, or 7200 pounds for the four-wheel-drive V-8 version. With these models, you will need the optional Trailer Tow Group IV package, which features heavy duty engine and oil cooling, a 220-amp alternator, a full size spare tire, and a Class IV receiver hitch with a wiring harness.
The interior of the Grand Cherokee does not disappoint. The 2011 model uses premium materials that include a stitched leather dashboard and real wood trim on Overland models, as well as soft touch materials on all control knobs and buttons for an extremely comfortable feel. The base Laredo model comes standard with cloth upholstery, while the Laredo X, Limited, and Overland models come with different choices of premium leather, with longer seat cushions that improve comfort on longer rides. The rear compartment has an additional 5 cubic feet of storage space over the 2010 model, and when the rear seats are folded down, you have a total of 68 cubic feet available to stow your gear.
In my research, I have learned that the 2011 Grand Cherokee is a 2010 Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It received good overall scores frontal and side impact crash tests, roof-crush tests, and whiplash prevention tests. Other safety features that come standard on the Grand Cherokee are the Electronic Stability System, ABS, front and side-impact airbags, and active front head restraints. Rear parking sensors and backup cameras are optional items available with the Limited and Overland models, completing the package of the best state of the art safety features in the industry.
In the 1990’s the Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer, and other similar vehicles stepped up to meet the growing demand for SUVs that changed the landscape of the American road. Things move quickly in the automotive world though, and Grand Cherokee competitors like the Chevy Trailblazer and GMC Envoy have been discontinued. The new 2011 Explorer, meanwhile, will move from its truck-based roots to a new car-based unibody platform.
But despite sticking with a formula it has used for years- unibody construction with an integral frame and true off-road capability- the 2011 Grand Cherokee has managed to change with the times, too. For such an impressive off-road vehicle, the much-improved on-road performance and stylish looks inside and out make the Grand Cherokee that must be on your test drive list if you’re shopping for a new SUV- even if you never take it off-road.