Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A bit bigger: 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited—A luxury SUV from an off-road legend

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited
Since its debut in 1993, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has been known as a premium SUV from a company that’s legendary for its SUVs. Heck, they essentially created the 4x4. Now in its fourth iteration, the Grand Cherokee continues that legacy to yet another degree.

For 2011, the Grand Cherokee is all new and is ready to go head to head against the best luxury SUVs in the world.

On the outside, the Grand Cherokee is quite handsome with a chiseled, masculine, and sophisticated appearance. Looking great in a metallic red finish, my Limited model definitely has a premium look, but no one will mistake it for anything other than a Jeep. Of note are the great looking chrome 20” wheels and tires. Hold on: 20” wheels on a Jeep? Don’t worry—this is still a very capable off-road vehicle.

Speaking of, the new Grand Cherokee features an independent front and rear suspension; something that helps on-road handling, but isn’t typically associated with hard-core off-road capability. But, with Jeep’s latest drivetrain technology, the Grand Cherokee retains “mountain goat” status. An all-new sophisticated Selec-Terrain system employs an easy-to-use dial on the center console to select the specific terrain you encounter: snow, sport, sand/mud, and rocks (and an auto mode). Simply turn the dial to the needed terrain, and the SUV’s drivetrain adapts to the necessary condition. Indeed, this 4x4 model does have a true low-range transfer case for true off-road capability. In fact, I had a chance to take the truck on an off-road course with bumps, hills, off-camber crossings, and steeply angled ascents and descents. Without breaking a sweat, the Grand Cherokee crept and crawled easily over the terrain like it was child’s play. Remember, this is still a Jeep, and the Grand Cherokee is the real deal. Not to be ignored are its on-road manners, which are very good, too. The ride is top notch, and handling is very good for an SUV. It’s not meant for the twisties, but it certainly feels stable during cornering. It is a very comfortable cruiser, and its phenomenal turning radius makes it easy to drive in the city, too. Really, the turning radius is remarkable.

Although the standard engine is a powerful 3.6-liter V-6, my model had the gusty 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 creating 360 horsepower and 390 ft./lbs. of torque mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. All of this translates into brisk performance and the ability to tow up to 7,200 lbs. Of course along with a big V-8 comes big V-8 fuel economy. Rated at 13 city, 19 highway with the HEMI, the Grand Cherokee is a thirsty mode of transportation. The V-6 does deliver better numbers, but you’ll lose power and towing capability as well as that great V-8 sound.

One of my favorite parts of the Grand Cherokee is the interior. My test model had luxurious cream-colored leather with heated and air conditions seats; a well thought out touch-screen entertainment system with GPS navigation and a fantastic stereo system to the tune of 506 watts; easy Bluetooth connectivity;  an easy-to-use and very effective climate control system;  rear DVD player with screen; and even a heated steering wheel (a very nice feature for cold climates). The tech goodies don’t stop there, either. There’s active cruise control that automatically adjusts when approaching oncoming traffic; there’s blind spot detection that works very well at letting you know if there’s someone next to you; and an auto-opening rear tailgate. Unlike many other luxury vehicles of late (sedan, SUV, or what have you), the Grand Cherokee’s abundant technology works well and is pretty darn intuitive—something I’m a stickler for. The compliments continue on comfort, too, with great front bucket seats, and a good back seat, as well. It felt a bit smaller than some SUVs or CUVs, and there isn’t a third row. The cargo area, however, is quite spacious.

The new Grand Cherokee is solid in many ways. It offers solid performance, solid build quality, and is a solid buy for a luxury SUV (the test model hovered in the $45-$50K range). Well, it’s a solid value when put next to Land Rover’s LR4 (another off-road capable SUV), which starts at $48,500 and can climb to near $60K. (You can get into a 4x4 Grand Cherokee for as little as $32,215 with the V-6.) Plus, this is a vehicle that can hang in the rough stuff. Although it may not have the luxury clout of a Range Rover, it is less expensive, and equally as capable off the pavement—after all, this is a Jeep—and Jeep has a clout all its own.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And soon for a measly 140k you can have a maserati version of the same thing.