2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review

Sep. 08, 2010 By Jim Brightly
The 2011 Grand Cherokee also looks right at home on a backcountry trail through an abandoned chicken ranch.

OMG! Chrysler’s Jeep Division has rung the carny’s bell with another winner! Although a 2011 Grand Cherokee with all the bells and whistles was not available, we tested a Laredo with the baseline driveline—3.6-liter dual-fuel V6 (290-hp @ 6,400 rpm and 260 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm—Chrysler says 90% of peak torque is available from 1,600 to 6,400 rpm), 5-speed automatic transmission, and Quadra-Trac I 4WD system.

 From this angle the engine bay looks full, with a “ton” of electronics stuffed in all over. We tested the V6 engine, but Jeep also offers a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 option.

Honestly, until I got it home from the pickup point in Needles, California, I thought it The 2011 Grand Cherokee V6 produces 290 hp @ 6,400 rpm and 260 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm.had the 5.7L Hemi V8—it was that quick and powerful. Not until I looked into the engine bay did I realize that the Grand Cherokee has a V6. (All I can say is that I sincerely hope that Chrysler migrates this wonderful new engine into next year’s Wranglers.)

EPA figures on this dual-fuel powerhouse (approved for E85 fuel) are 16-mpg city/22-mpg highway. My own mileage figures, which were accrued during city driving, off-road driving, blitzing along Interstate 40 at 75-80 mph, and a lot of parking lot idling keeping the A/C running, came in a bit under the EPA city estimate at 15.5 mpg.

You won’t need to add additional lights to the Grand Cherokee, as dual high beams and integrated fog lamps give the driver all the needed lights for safe desert crossings at night.

While driving alone this engine is more than capable. I’m sure that if you tacked on a camping trailer any larger than the recently-introduced Jeep camping trailer or a diminutive teardrop would really draw down its power. All 2011 Grand Cherokee models are rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds by adding the appropriate optional trailer hitch, but if you’re going to tow a large travel trailer or toy hauler, you’ll want the 5.7 V8 and the optional Trailer Tow Group IV Package, which features a heavy-duty engine oil cooler, a full-size spare tire, a 220-amp alternator, and a Class IV receiver hitch with wiring harness. It offers 7,400 pounds for the rear-wheel drive V8 model or 7,200 pounds for the four-wheel drive V8 version.

Good ground clearance and excellent traction allows the Grand Cherokee to wander the dirt roads of Arizona.

But let’s get back to the test Grand Cherokee and its engine. As I said earlier, it’s a 3.6L, DOHC, 24-valve “Pentastar” engine with a bore and stroke of 96 x 83 mm with electronic multi-point port fuel injection. Its maximum engine speed is 6,400 rpm, and its construction is a high-pressure die-cast aluminum cylinder block and molded aluminum cylinder heads. Its valvetrain consists of double-overhead cams with roller finger followers, hydraulic lash adjusters; and dual independent cam-torque actuated phasers. According to Chrysler’s website, the V6 will reach through the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge lineups, contributing an important two-mile-per-gallon increase to Chrysler’s CAFE score.

The leather-trimmed bucketseats up front are equipped with eight-way power controls including a four-way lumbar adjustment.

Overall, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee truly has serious off-road capabilities. With three separate systems, plus an optional air suspension system, the Grand Cherokee can be specifically designed for your particular family’s needs. The V6 4X4—which we tested—uses a single-speed transfer case, while the V8 with 4WD uses a two-speed transfer case with Selec-Terrain and Hill Descent Control. Quadra-Trac I is a full-time system that splits engine torque 50/50 front to rear. Quadra-Trac II uses a two-speed transfer case and electronic sensors that distribute the torque according to tire slippage, up to 60 percent to the front or rear wheels. Quadra-Drive II is available with an electronic limited-slip rear differential that can apportion power between the left and right rear wheels, even on dry roads.

Fully automatic headlights can also be manually controlled, including the fog lights. Just below the headlight control is the gas cap door control.

Selec-Terrain is standard with Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II; it allows the driver to pick from five different terrain settings: normal, sport, snow, sand/mud, and rock. Each of these settings enables different transmission, throttle, and transfer case functions. The driver can choose the appropriate setting for the conditions and the Grand Cherokee configures its systems to provide the appropriate response to those conditions.

Like I said, we really enjoyed driving Historic Route 66 in the comfortable Grand Cherokee.

Safety equipment includes electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, ABS with brake traction control system, trailer sway control, hill start assist, hill descent control, frontal airbags, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, active head restraints, and tire pressure monitor.

Those two yellow lines you see in the backup screen show the driver the outside path of the vehicle. Put the gearshift in reverse and the rear view automatically replaces the touch screen audio system controls. The Grand Cherokee also has an object sensing system that operates when in reverse. You’ll also notice dual controls for the front A/C and heater systems.

Powerful luxury and speedy comfort are the two terms that best describes the 2011 Grand Cherokee. It even has a backup camera system integrated into the touch-screen in the center of the dashboard. It competes very well in the same marketplace as the Terrain, Enclave, and Sequoia SUVs.

Dual cup holders and a receptacle for notebook, glasses, etc., is in the center console.

We’ve all seen the TV ads saying that 5,400 welds go into each 2011 Grand Cherokee’s body; well I’m here to tell you that the ads must be true because the Grand Cherokee is extremely tight, quiet, and rattle-free. If you’re a person who spends a lot of time on the road, likes long vacations, etc., the 2011 Grand Cherokee is the four wheeler for you, and it’ll take you easily along the road less traveled while transporting you in style and comfort along the highways. And the Grand Cherokee keeps you well informed by using the same information panel between the tach and speedometer that is used in the Dodge Ram trucks.

For 2011 Jeep has moved the cruise control onto the front of the Grand Cherokee’s steering wheel; the other side controls a phone system, and controls on the back side of the wheel control the audio system. On the dash, the vertical rectangular panel between the circular gauge bezels is an electronic information panel, giving such notes as average fuel economy, estimated distance to empty, etc.

The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a 2010 Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). To earn the designation, it received good overall scores in IIHS’ frontal-offset crash test, side-impact crash test, roof-crush test and whiplash-prevention test. The final requirement for the award is the availability of an electronic stability system, which is standard in the Grand Cherokee.

We found many abandoned mines and buildings along Route 66.

Author’s note: The all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is also available with the 5.7-liter multi-displacement system (MDS) V-8 engine. It delivers 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm and also features VVT, which delivers performance and towing capability, and fuel efficiency with MDS. The 5.7-liter engine’s fuel-saving MDS seamlessly alternates between smooth, high-fuel-economy four-cylinder mode when less power is needed and V-8 mode when more power is in demand. This optimizes fuel economy when V-8 power is not required, without sacrificing vehicle performance or capability. The engine’s VVT improves fuel economy in two ways. First, it reduces the engine’s pumping work by closing the intake valve later. Second, it increases the expansion process of the combustion event. This allows more work to be transferred to the crankshaft instead of being rejected out of the exhaust port as heat. VVT improves engine breathing, which improves engine efficiency and power.

In conjunction with the 5,000-lb. rated receiver, Jeep has installed a double trailer plug; one side is the four-pin flat connector while the other side is the seven-pin “RV” connector.

The spare tire resides below the carpeted hatch and the cargo net protects your groceries. The panel above the net can be deployed to cover the storage area for protection against prying eyes.

Eighteen-inch wheels that are 8 inches wide carry the P265/60R18 on-/off-road tires, which provide the Grand Cherokee with sufficient ground clearance for easy wheeling.




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