2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Road Test Review

Arv Voss - CAP staff
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The Jeep brand actually pioneered the domestic premium sport-utility vehicle segment with the introduction of the Jeep Grand Cherokee almost two decades ago. Initially, it was a two-box, cut above its lesser Jeep siblings. Now for the 2011 model year, the Grand Cherokee enters the marketplace with an all-new, sophisticated and some might even say, elegant persona. Each surface of this latest iteration Grand Cherokee is fresh and focuses on aerodynamic improvement with design fluidity, which also contributes to improved fuel efficiency. The drag coefficient is now 0.37 – an 8.5 percent improvement over the previous model's 0.404.

The styling is now much more contemporary and displays a somewhat European flair, but without having forsaken Jeep's classic design cues such as the 7-slot grille, round headlights and trapezoidal wheel arches. The front end is more sculpted and shorter, creating a solid, athletic appearance. The lower front fascia features a large chromed fixture on the top two trim levels that showcases the available tow hooks. The round headlights are set in a streamlined jewel-like casing featuring quad reflector parabolas. Fog lamps are standard on all models and High Intensity Discharge headlamps with auto-leveling are standard on the two upper level models.

The interior has taken on a world-class air, utilizing rich materials and stylish appointments while providing more space for both passengers and cargo. Genuine wood and leather abound, accompanied by a heated steering wheel along with heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, four-way power lumbar controls, rain-sensitive wipers, keyless Enter-N-Go, ParkView rear back-up camera and power tilt/telescoping steering column with memory. The instrument panel provides increased storage areas with a larger locking glove box and covered centre-stack storage bin. The spacious cabin accommodates five adult passengers comfortably, with their accompanying gear. The cargo compartment is well appointed with removable dual storage bins inside the spare tire compartment.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee comes in four trim levels: the base model Laredo in two forms –E, which is $3,650 less than last year's base model, now at $37,995, and X at $42,995. A more upscale outfitting is found in the Limited, which at $46,995 is $5,750 less than last year's Limited model. The top-of-the-line continues to be the Overland model, now under $50k at $49,995. A V8 can be added to any model, less the Laredo E, for a charge of $1,900. All trims feature a 4x4 drive configuration.

Power sources for the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee include an all-new 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine with flex fuel capability, or a proven 5.7-litre Multiple Displacement System V8. The new V6 makes 290 horsepower along with 260 pound-feet of torque, while the V8 cranks out an impressive 360 horses and generates 390 pound-feet of torque. The V6 is coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission, while the V8 also mates to a five-speed automatic overdrive gearbox.

The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a "Top Safety Pick" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and offers in excess of 45 safety and security features including: standard electronic stability control including electronic roll mitigation; hill-start assist; trailer-sway control and available hill-descent control; standard full-length, side-curtain air bags that extend protection to front and rear outboard passengers; standard seat-mounted, side pelvic-thorax air bags; standard active head restraints; ParkSense rear-park assist system; blind-spot/rear cross-path detection system;  and adaptive cruise control.

The front and rear independent suspension is all new and serves up premium on-road manners featuring isolated front and rear suspension cradles and variable-rate rear springs that join forces, enhancing ride character and comfort. The stiffness of the all-new body structure is 146 percent better than before despite having a wheelbase that's 134 mm (5.3 inches) longer, and is claimed to surpass the BMW X5, Lexus RX 300 and Mercedes ML for improved durability and reduced noise, vibration and harshness.

Adding to its legendary capability, the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee introduces the new Quadra-Lift air suspension system, featuring five ride height settings that add up to 104 mm (4.1-inches) of lift, supported by four-corner air springs that operate either automatically, or manually via console controls.
Working in combination with Quadra-Lift, an all-new Selec-Terrain traction control system allows drivers to choose the appropriate setting for all types of terrain. This feature electronically coordinates up to 12 different powertrain, braking and suspension systems; including throttle control, transmission shift, transfer case, traction control and electronic stability control.
Selec-Terrain's control dial enables the driver to choose from five driving conditions to achieve the best driving experience on all terrains:
• Sand/Mud: Traction control and Quadra-Lift operate with sensitive response to wheel spin, and torque is tuned for optimal performance.
• Sport: Provides enhanced on-road capability. 
• Auto: Automatically adapts to any on or off-road scenario. 
• Snow: Vehicle traction adjusts for ultimate performance over snow-covered roads. 
• Rock: Quadra-Lift air suspension system raises to maximum height (272 mm/10.7 inches) and the transfer case, differentials, and throttle coordinate to provide low-speed control. 
With the front air dam removed, and the available Quadra-Lift air suspension system, the following is achieved: a 34.3-degree approach angle, a 29.3-degree departure angle and a 23.1-degree breakover angle. The new rear suspension allows the spare tire to be stored inside the vehicle as opposed to underneath. The hill descent control features five gradients for downhill vehicle speed, selectable by bumping the gearshift lever to the right.

Three 4x4 systems are offered on the new Grand Cherokee: Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II. Selec-Terrain is standard with Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II.

My test 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee was an Overland model with the 5.7-litre HEMI (thought it isn't advertised as such) V8 in a 4x4 configuration. The exterior was sprayed a Midnight Blue metallic, while the interior was executed in Grey and Cashmere with Satin Silver and polished wood trim accents.    

Driving this latest iteration Grand Cherokee proved to be an exhilarating experience. The press launch drive began just outside of San Francisco, California and progressed to the challenging Hollister Hills Recreational Vehicle Park, where the Jeep team had set up a "not-for-the-weak" series of off-road venues atop a mountain, along with an impressive Jeep 101 course to fully demonstrate the mettle of this new "Trail-Rated" 5-passenger, 5-door adventure craft.

First off, the on road characteristics from acceleration, through braking, ride quality and handling attributes were admirable. The off-road performance was even more impressive, ranging from steep hill ascents over rocks and logs to "white-knuckle" descents, all in complete control.

This 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is by far the best Grand Cherokee ever, and the top Overland model provides all the amenities that one could possibly need or want when striking off on a wilderness trek, and the V8 is the way to go for added oomph and towing capability. Controls are more intuitive than many competitive premium SUVs and the new Grand Cherokee is definitely deserving of Jeep's flagship status.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: SUV, Jeep, 2011, Grand Cherokee, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999,

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Recent comments

  • Faun
    April 19, 2011 - 04:40

    Incredible,Fantastic and Beautiful.......just one problem......no one can afford one. I'm in the interior of BC.... Base Laredo $42,000, Laredo-X $51,000 and an Overland is $60,000 and interest rates at 8.9%. Nissan,Toyota ,Ford,Hyundai and Honda can put you in a FULLY Loaded SUV/CUV for just over $40,000 ( Same as Jeep's Base Laredo Price) and with a 0% interest rate to boot. Price points have to come down, and a 0% incentive has to be there as well or these wonderful new JGC's will be out of reach to all but a few. And that would be a tragedy.