DALLAS — It’s been said that the Jeep Grand Cherokee, saved Chrysler. On a recent Jeep Grand Cherokee drive I could easily see why.
Refined on the inside for more creature comforts, this off-road, mid-size SUV can still handle the bumps with the best of ‘em in a choice of either a V6 or V8 engine. Other high scores come in for the 2011’s towing ability at 7400 pounds.
With several options to choose from in the five-passenger mid-sizer, the Laredo, Limited and Overland trims are all tempting. For midsize crossovers/SUVs, you can compare the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee to Ford's Edge or the Explorer, the Toyota 4Runner, the Honda Pilot and the Volkswagen Touareg.
The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee also boasts an all-new design, meaning you get more for your money, literally. While the older of the Grand Cherokees were defined as “a leg-cramper,” the 2011 is roomy with four more inches of knee room.
While the front row is all about creature comforts from the way the controls are positioned (namely the radio and climate control), the second set of seats just behind has more about usability than ever before too and its easy enough to get five people in comfortably.
When the seats are folded down there is 68.7 cubic feet of cargo space.
For under the hood junkies its either a V6 with a 3.6-liter, 290-horsepower or the V8 with 360 horsepower offering just a bit more power when you need it. Of course in those off-road conditions the 2011 meets that challenge too with an air suspension capable of raising the ride height to just what you need. There is also the drive-mode selector allowing the driver to decide on the powertrain and suspension needed for specific types of road.
Take note too of the all-new rear suspension because it’s this feature more than anything else that offers the all around good ride (and yes, even if you’re off-roading).
On a budget, but still Grand Cherokee Jeep-inclined, the least expensive is the standard package, which comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglamps, cruise control, keyless ignition, dual-zone air-conditioning, a power driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a CD player. Up that one level with the Security and Convenience package and there is the remote ignition, Bluetooth, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a USB/iPod interface. Other add-ons include the back-up camera, power passenger seat, leather upholstery and a nine-speaker stereo.
The Limited trim adds to the standard package with 18-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, automatic wipers, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, driver memory functions, heated front and rear seats and a leather-wrapped shift knob.
For more luxury the Luxury Group II package offers a power tailgate, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats and the Media Center package comes with navigation system, real-time traffic and 30GB of digital music storage and if you want you can also add 20-inch wheels. For the Overland trims there’s all the Limited options plus a wood and leather steering wheel.
If you’re planning a lot of off road trekking then the 4x4 Laredo and Limited Off-Road Adventure I package will come in handy with skid plates, off-road tires, tow hooks, a full-size spare and for the Laredo trim a hill descent control and the Quadra-Trac II 4WD system is the norm. The Off-Road Adventure II package includes the aforementioned with extras like air suspension, towing equipment, an electronic limited-slip differential and the Quadra-Drive II 4WD system.
Standard Jeep Grand Cherokees come in rear-wheel drive with options of three different four-wheel-drive systems. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is all about safety too with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability and 2traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
For overall driving, it’s safe to say you “will” feel like you own the road. It’s a comfortable ride, easy cornering, easy off-road and even the V6 kicks in the power when needed, which means the V8 is all about moving and then some. Add the towing to the V8 and you have one mighty vehicle that indeed, just might save the day after all.
Least You Need to Know: The standard option under the hood is a 3.6-liter with 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and a five-speed automatic transmission. You might also consider the 5.7-liter V8 with 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque.
Miles Per Gallon: In a worse-case scenario with the V8 it’s 13 miles per gallon in the city and 19 miles per gallon on the highway. Otherwise, for the standard and with four-wheel drive it’s 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 miles per gallon on the highway.
Cost: I drove the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4 X 2 and the price came in at $43,455.
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