The Grand Cherokee's cargo capacity grows 17 percent. Originally intended to replace the 2005-10 Grand Cherokee and the Commander, the 2011 model remains five-passenger only. It will share its platform with a new Dodge Durango which will get three-row seating.

And for those who fear the change in platform means less trail ability, we hear there's no cause for concern. The Grand Cherokee remains distinctively Jeep, and a capable off-roader. You'll still have a choice of Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, and Quadra-Drive II 4WD systems, the last of those with an electronic limited-slip differential. Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II have a new Selec-Terrain system that will let drivers choose from automatic, sand/mud, sport, snow, and rock settings (which sounds an awful lot like a system Land Rover offers).

Sound too good to resist? That's what Chrysler hopes Fiat is thinking.

Beyond Gimmicks
In recent years, Chrysler has used consumer features like cool-zone gloveboxes and state-of-the-art "infotainment" systems to tart up mediocre models with cheap, plasticky interiors like Jeeps Compass and Patriot. Now that it has regained its styling mojo and joined the rest of the world in concentrating on interior quality, the long list of features looks more like enhancement of good design than putting lipstick on a pig. Here's a partial list of the stuff not included in the main story:

• Standard electronic stability control with electronic roll mitigation, hill-start assist, trailer-sway control, and available hill-descent control
• Full-length side-curtain airbags
• Active head restraints
• ParkSense park assist detects stationary objects
• Blind-spot/rear cross-path detection system
• Adaptive cruise control
• Forward collision warning system
• Remote start
• Fold-flat front passenger seat (Laredo)
• Uconnect systems, competing with everything from GM's OnStar collision notification to Ford's Sync, plus Web connectivity, Garmin navigation, and Sirius Backseat TV
• Premium Alpine surround sound with nine speakers and 506-watt subwoofer

Phoenix V-6
Chrysler launches its new V-6 engine family, named Phoenix, with the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The 2011 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger probably will be the second and third models to get the new engine. It's more than a big-car/SUV V-6, however; it's been designed to range from 2.8 to 3.8 liters, although at this point, the 3.6 is likely to be the largest engine in the lineup. With flexible fuel capability and variable-valve timing, it's designed to compete with General Motors' "high-feature" V-6s, like the 3.6 and the coming 3.0- and turbo 2.8-liters slated for midsize crossovers.

Chrysler began development of the Phoenix family with Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai, but Hyundai dropped out to develop its own Lambda V-6s. Mercedes is still expected to use the basic Phoenix block for future models and if the Chrysler/Fiat deal is completed, 3.0- to 3.2-liter versions may replace Alfa Romeo's aging V-6 as well.