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The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee might be the best thing to emerge from the wreckage of the old DaimlerChrysler. When the companies divorced in 2007, Chrysler got custody of some of the pieces it needed to build a new sport-utility vehicle. It's the best Grand Cherokee yet—so much for broken homes.
Fundamentally, you wouldn't recognize the Grand Cherokee as a country cousin of a Mercedes. But as the Chrysler 300 owes some genetic material to the Benz E-Class, the Cherokee rides on some of the architectural goodness that underpins the Benz M-Class—with its own powertrains, interior,and styling, of course.
The combination of American flair and some German engineering does amazing things for the Cherokee, giving it a newfound feel that almost masks its considerable toughness. It's still an off-roading SUV—but with the vastly improved ride, steering, and soft-touch sophistication of a crossover. Its four-wheel-drive systems hit the sweet spot of usability for casual off-roaders, but on-road drivers get even more attention. This might be the first Grand Cherokee that feels better on pavement than off.
The Grand Cherokee also marks the debut of Chrysler's first new V-6 engine in a decade. It's good enough to make the optional V-8 an afterthought to anyone except the big spenders eager to inject some dollars into the Obama economy.
Chrysler's survived—and it's incredible the Grand Cherokee has turned out so well, considering all the corporate agita. It's even more impressive than it looks, driving and feeling better than some of the toughest competitors who've sailed through troubled times without all the Congressional circuses. Priced from about $31,000 to well over $40,000, the Grand Cherokee reclaims some best-in-class wins from a group of crossover utes that includes the Honda Pilot, the Ford Explorer, and the Volkswagen Touareg.
- Upscale appearance
- Roomy, well-fitted interior
- All-wheel drive for all tastes
- Class-leading entertainment features
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- The softer side of Jeep style?
- New V-6 engine booms
- We’d like more gears, please