The Jeep Grand Cherokee was completely redesigned for the 2011 model year, and consumers have noticed. So far, the 2011 Grand Cherokee has become an incredible hit for Jeep, all the more impressive when you consider the price range starts at about $31,000 and tops out just under $50,000.
One thing is certain: the 2011 Grand Cherokee makes a great first impression. Polished exterior styling retains Grand Cherokee proportions while still appearing modern and stylish. Inside the cabin, Jeep's Grand Cherokee has taken a leap in interior quality. Owners of the last-generation Grand Cherokee might not believe just how good the interior is in the 2011 model, especially with more expensive trims. Aside from an available navigation system with a screen that could be bigger, nearly everything in the Grand Cherokee uses high quality materials.
The 2011 Grand Cherokee is one of the many Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep recipients of Chrysler's new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine. The five-passenger SUV is offered in rear- and four-wheel-drive forms, with an available V-8 engine. A five-speed automatic transmission is a weak point in the Grand Cherokee's mechanical bits, but a new eight-speed automatic unit will be replacing it in the 2012 or 2013 model year, leading to better fuel efficiency.
As for fuel efficiency, the most environmentally friendly model is, not surprisingly, the V-6 with rear-wheel drive. EPA classifies the SUV's efficiency numbers at 16/23 mpg city/highway -- lose one highway mpg for the V-6 four-wheel-drive model. Go with the V-8 engine (go ahead, you know you want to) and fuel economy drops to 14/20 mpg with rear-wheel drive and 13/19 mpg with four-wheel drive.
The 3.6-liter V-6 engine makes 290 horsepower at 6400 rpm in the Grand Cherokee. Torque is 260 pound-feet at 4800 rpm. The V-6 runs on the cheap gas while Jeep says the V-8 can run on 87 octane but the automaker recommends 89 octane. The 5.7-liter V-8 engine has 360 horsepower at 5150 rpm and 390 pound-feet of torque at 4250 rpm. Towing capacity is limited to 5000 pounds on either V-6 model. The V-8 model is rated to tow 7200 pounds with four-wheel drive and 7400 pounds in rear-wheel drive.
Jeep offers a new air suspension system this year called Quadra-lift. The system can add up to 4.1 inches of lift span automatically, though the driver can control the technology with console controls if desired. Off-roaders and urban cruisers alike will probably notice the Land Rover-like Selec-Terrain four-wheel-drive controls. Selec-Terrain has a control dial that lets the driver choose among five driving conditions: Sand/Mud, Auto, Snow, Rock, and Sport. About that last setting, if the power of the 5.7-liter V-8 engine does not provide the sporty performance you want in a Grand Cherokee, a much more powerful 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 has already been announced. Back to the off-road enthusiasts, the Grand Cherokee with Selec-Terrain and the Quadra-Lift air suspension has a 34.3-degree approach angle, 29.3-degree departure angle, and 23.1-degree breakover angle.
As a suburban errand-runner, the Jeep Grand Cherokee meets class standards. In a Motor Trend magazine test of the new Grand Cherokee, editors said the ride is more refined, and the noise levels inside are appropriately muted for an SUV this large. In short, "ride and handling is exactly as you'd expect of any comfortable, modern highway cruiser," the magazine said.
Neither the V-6 nor the V-8 Grand Cherokee feel particularly quick at launch, though acceleration and fuel economy may be improved with the addition of the eight-speed automatic transmission. Hopefully, Jeep will leave alone the tight 37.1-foot turning radius. Cargo capacity is 35.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 68.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. If you're looking for more space, consider the seven-passenger Dodge Durango, an SUV built on the same platform as the Jeep Grand Cherokee.