Underpinned by a Mercedes ML-Class SUV chassis, the 2011 Grand Cherokee is the first of its kind with an independent rear suspension. Not only is it a new unibody design, just about everything is completely – and refreshingly – reworked for 2011. The 2011 Grand Cherokee’s exterior stays true to Jeep styling heritage; there’s no mistaking this for anything but. And yet it takes a decided move forward with more rakish lines, optional 20-inch rims, and a positively Audi Q5-like rear. Wheelbase has been stretched a significant 5.3 inches while total vehicle length has increased only 1.8 inches.
An independent rear suspension should bring the 2011 Grand Cherokee hugely forward in chassis refinement; a Mercedes ML architecture is likely to impart a quality feel that will finally help it play in the high-tier luxury SUV segment. Jeep claims that the Grand Cherokee’s torsional rigidity is 146 percent greater than the previous model and better than both the BMW X5 and Toyota Highlander. On the inside, an extra 6.2 cubic feet of storage room, improved soft-touch materials, and better fit/finish should complete the Grand Cherokee’s upmarket aspirations.
Replacing the old gutless 3.7 is a 3.6-liter DOHC V-6 with variable-valve timing, 280 hp, and 260 lb-ft torque. While these represent gains of 50 hp and 45 lb-ft, the base 2WD V-6 model still earns 16 mpg in the city while increasing two mpg to 23 highway. They promise 90 percent of that torque will be on tap from 1,600 to 6,400 rpm. Initially, the only other engine option will be the HEMI 5.7-liter V-8 with a stout 360 hp an 390 lb-ft torque. Both engines are backed by 5-speed automatic transmissions.
Rear-wheel drive is standard on the 2011 Grand Cherokee; three types of all-wheel drive are optional. Engineers claim the new suspension will yield significantly better on-road comfort and handling, especially when fitted with the optional Quadra-Lift air suspension that features Ranger Rover-like heightening, lowereing, and leveling capabilities. With the Quadra-Lift’s max 11.1 inches of ground clearance, it’s clear Jeep hasn’t forgotten about its rabid core of off-roading enthusiasts, either.
A host of safety features includes Electronic Stability Control (Electronic Roll Mitigation, Hill-Start Assist, Trailer-Sway Control and available Hill-Descent Control), full length side-curtain and thorax airbags, blind-spot detection system, forward collision warning, and active head restraints. A new standard feature dubbed “uconnect guardian” operates much like the emergency features on GM’s OnStar, providing Automatic Crash Notification, Emergency Call, Roadside Assistance Call, Remote Door Unlock, and Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance.
While the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee has not yet been tested by agencies NHTSA and IIHS, Jeep claims it’s been carefully designed to meet even their newest test standards such as roof-crush standards, side-impact standards, and European pedestrian impact standards.
While it slots into Jeep’s lineup just below the top dog Commander, the new Grand Cherokee promises to eclipse that SUV in nearly every way. We'll have more on the newest Jeep shortly. Until then, you can see more photos over at our 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee page, and get more on the 2009 New York auto show as TheCarConnection.com reports from the show floor.