The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee wowed the audience when it was revealed at the New York Auto Show and it’s not just because of how attractive it looked both inside and out. The crossover vehicle replacing the WK model released in 2005 had a huge challenge to overcome. The 2011 Grand Cherokee had to offer the best of both worlds: impressive off-road ability and a look that will appeal to a larger, mainstream audience.
On the looks department, it’s difficult not to be impressed with the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It retains the WK’s seven-slot grille, but it also has an all-new sculpted profile that features a pronounced door panel indent that allows it to keep its athleticism despite its increased size and weight. It also has a wider body emphasized by horizontally-oriented tail lamps at the back and a sculpted hood and new headlamps in front.
The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee also features world-class interiors that rival its high end luxury SUV competitors: the Cadillac SRX and the Lexus RX. The extra space caused by the 4-inch increase in wheelbase went to the rear seat. The rear seats can now be reclined and the second row will also get over 4” of knee and leg room than before.
If Jeep accomplished half of its goal with its styling enhancements, how will the 2011 Grand Cherokee appeal to the off-roaders? Its base model features the new flex-fuel 3.6-liter V6 that can run on up to 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. That’s 33% more horsepower and 11% additional torque than the previous engine. Jeep also offers the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 that generates up to 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. To complement all that power, Jeep has vastly improved the torsional stiffness in the chassis and along with its new Mercedes-Benz ML-based structure, Jeep bravely says its 146% stiffer chassis rivals the Toyota Highlander and the BMW X5.
Improved fuel economy is expected on both powertrains because of Variable Valve Timing and Multi-Displacement System technologies. Also, the 2011 Grand Cherokee will also have a longer range thanks to the 24.6-gallon fuel tank with the V6 running on over 500 miles. Its maximum tow rating will also allow as much as 7,400 pounds.
Finally, Jeep offers the new Quadra Lift air suspension system that can lift it up 4.5 inches from park mode up to 11.1 inches maximum ride height for optimum off-road capability. Furthermore, the new Selec-Terrain system allows users to configure features such as electronic limited-slip differential, traction control, stability control, two-speed hill-descent control, anti-lock braking system and others depending on ground conditions particularly Sand/Mud, Sport, Snow and Rock for the best performance.
On paper, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee has the makings of being a great crossover vehicle. Sign me up for a test drive.