2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee: First Impressions

July 19, 2010
Last week I had the opportunity to join Mark Phelan, auto critic for the Detroit Free Press, as he reviewed the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is well crafted and vital to the future of the company. Chrysler is betting a lot on its first new vehicle since entering bankruptcy in April, 2009.

I spent over five hours in the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee as we zig-zagged a local gravel pit for the photo and video shoot. The interior of the vehicle is very luxurious, offering many options. The heated seats were not necessary in the July heat, though the seats are also cooled, pulling air through the back helping to keep me cool.    

The interior materials were soft and pleasant to touch. The front seats were supportive, while the back seats offered little to keep one from jarring side to side while tackling even the slightest off-road terrain. There was also very little leg room in the back, even for me at 5’ 6’’.  A few pieces of trim on the center console did not properly line up, but were minor blemishes in the overall quality Chrysler made the interior feel.

The exterior shows both class and strength. The square front end and racked back windshield gives the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee both a look of aggression, and an aesthetic and classy stance. The beltline cue is well done, as it runs completely around the back of the SUV and helps highlight the higher standard of craftsmanship and taillights.

Where the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee really excels is off the asphalt.  Even though the traction settings can be completely controlled automatically, Chrysler offers a toggle dial allowing the driver to switch between four different modes; snow, mud and sand, rock, and sport, to allow more interactivity between the vehicle and the driver. 

At the gravel pit the Grand Cherokee had no difficulty handling steep declines close to 45 degrees with its unique engine brake system, or negotiating small sandy bunny hills. Chrysler’s new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine is capable, producing 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, but struggles at highway speeds. Jeep also offers the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 for those looking for that extra oomph. Another great feature is the Quadra-Lift air suspension that adds 4.1 inches to the ride height, totalling a massive 10.7 inches and allowing the Jeep to navigate the roughest terrain while it provides superb ride quality. 

If  you have been waiting for a Jeep that is true to the name, then the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee offers not only off-road superiority, but does so while providing it all in comfort.

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