It was grand! The all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee for a full week’s test drive. it was awesome.
Jeep brand is part of the Chrysler Group and they took some severe economic hits the past couple of years. But like GM, Ford, and others, Chrysler is working hard to re-earn consumer trust in their vehicles. If the new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is any indication, they have hit a home run.
Simply put – the Jeep name is legendary. To most Americans, their first image of a Jeep is associated with the military, either by actual usage, movies, television, or books. They could go anywhere and do anything. These Jeep vehicles were known for their craftsmanship, quality, dependability, and personal pride. This new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee returns to those legendary roots as a well-made and beautifully designed vehicle.
This was not your run-of-the-mill Wrangler, but a beautiful, re-designed Grand Cherokee Jeep. My test model was an Overland 4X4 model, which is the top-of-the-line for all the models. The exterior color was called Dark Charcoal Pearl. Actually, it was not very dark, but fairly silver to the eye. The interior was trimmed in Dark and Light Frost Beige. The contrasting colors blended beautifully. I had previously participated in a media trip and drove the various Grand Cherokee models in California. This test model had been one of those media vehicles that had been put through some severe off-road driving in Hollister, California.
About 20 years ago, Jeep invented the Premium SUV segment when the first Grand Cherokee was introduced. Since then, almost all manufacturers have jumped in the parade and produced some form of SUV. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has sold about 4 million units, but now has been re-designed. The on-road dynamics deliver a true driving experience. There are new independent front and rear suspension systems, a new body structure, increased torsion stiffness, an all-new sculpted body, and so much more. All the interior materials are soft-touch. The interior room has been increased, adding more than four inches in the rear-seat leg room. There is 17 percent more cargo area.
For 2011, Chrysler has added an all-new 290 horsepower, 3.6 liter, V-6 engine that has boasted the fuel economy. Our test model Overland was powered by a 5.7 liter V-8 engine that was matched to a multi-speed overdrive automatic transmission.
Hollister, California is home to a unique park called the SVRA. The SVRA (State Vehicular Recreational Area) is custom-made for off-roaders to enjoy putting their vehicles to the full gamut of testing. There are severe mud puddles, lots of sand, dirt and dust galore, and so many obstacles to be navigated. The Chrysler folks wanted the journalists to experience the challenging off-road conditions while driving such a premium and beautiful SUV. The 2011 Grand Cherokee was up to the challenge. We went over telephone poles laid in an array that would have been difficult to walk. We creeped around twists and turns, hugging the edges of cliffs that would have made my horse step back with fear. We even tackled an extremely long downhill path that was built at a 60% slope. The 60% slope kept us thrown against out seatbelts because we were taking it with NO BRAKES. We were testing the Hill Descent Control feature, which worked marvelously. During our week-long test drive here in Texas, Judy and I did not push the Grand Cherokee to any extreme off-roading. I already knew how it performed.
Of course, all the anticipated items were present on this new 2011 Grand Cherokee, such as trailer-tow capability of up to 7400 lbs. Switching into four-wheel drive is so easy. It is the simple turn of a large dial located on the center console. There are five terrain settings that match driving conditions such as ice, snow, sand, mud, and sport, and the new Quadra-Lift that lifts the vehicle up for off-roading and lowers it for highway driving. Also featured are the Active Head Restraints, Electronic Stability Control, Hill Start Assist, and Trailer-Sway Control.
The all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is available in 3 trim levels – Laredo, Limited, and Overland. Four by four pricing starts at $32,995, which is about $500 less than last year’s model. Our test model had an MSRP of $41,120. With a few options and upgrades, the bottom sticker price his $44,690. EPA ratings for the Overland 4X4 model at 19 mpg on the highway. We averaged about 20 mpg for both highway and city, having taken our test model down near Houston, into some East Texas back roads, and around the Dallas area.
This is definitely a very nice and very capable SUV designed for families and for serious off-roaders. I was much more impressed than I thought I would be. Check out the all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee at a Chrysler Group dealership.