2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee First Look

Grand Illusion: Jeep Springs Its Grand Cherokee on Us a Year Early

Todd LassaJun 10, 2009
Chrysler's timing was unusual.
It unveiled the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee at the New York International Auto Show this spring, as its competitors were making debuts of their 2010 models. There are two explanations for this. First, deep in the middle of its plea for federal loan guarantees, the automaker was out to impress Fiat, the federal government, and the public with the message that it does have good, future product coming from its most valuable, best-known brand. Keep in mind that the Jeep Wrangler was the only Chrysler model that recorded sales increases for the first few months of the year.
Second, there was the possibility that if Chrysler waited until the next auto show, this September in Frankfurt, it might not be around to present the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. That would've been a shame. Since we're writing this just before Chrysler's do-with-Fiat-or-die deadline, you now know more than we do about this new SUV's chances for production by 2010.
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Here's what you need to know about the 2011 Grand Cherokee: It is the most promising child from Chrysler's failed nine-year marriage with Daimler. Based on the Mercedes M-Class platform, the Grand Cherokee gets a new independent front and rear suspension, with isolated front and rear cradles, and variable-rate rear springs. A new air suspension called Quadra-Lift will be optional. It lowers the Grand Cherokee 1.5 inches from its 8.1 inches of ride height for easy ingress/egress, lowers it 0.6 inch at speed for better aerodynamics, raises it 1.5 inches to clear obstacles, and raises it 3.0 inches (to 11.5) for off-roading.
Unfettered by Daimler ownership, the new Grand Cherokee will come with an interior worthy of a Mercedes-Benz, at least in the two top-range trim levels, Overland (topline) and Limited. The Overland's instrument panel and door uppers are leather-covered, and all price classes get "premium" soft-touch interior materials. The top of the range will come with real wood as well, plus a heated steering wheel, heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, four-way power lumbar controls, rain-sensitive wipers, passive entry/keyless go, ParkView rear backup camera, and power tilt/telescoping steering column with memory. There are loads of other new features, and while entry-level models probably will hover near the current model's $31,000 base price, the Overland surely will be more expensive than its current $44,000 starting point.
Besides the handsome but familiar new sheetmetal, the exterior gets optional 20-inch wheels (again, on Limited and Overland), bi-Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlamps (standard on those top trim levels), a new dual-pane panoramic sunroof that extends from the windshield header to the rear, and remote power up/down liftgate for the first time on this Jeep. New SmartBeam headlamps adjust intensity to ambient light and oncoming traffic.
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Jeep claims a stiffer body structure than those of the BMW X5, Toyota Highlander, and Mercedes M-Class, with more than 5400 body welds, a 53-percent increase in spot welds, 42-percent increase in arc welds, and 38-percent increase in structural adhesive.
Maybe the biggest news is that the slogan "Yes, it's got a Hemi" could be replaced with "Yes, it's got a Phoenix." The 360-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi will remain optional, but the Grand Cherokee will be the first Chrysler product to use its new flexible-fuel, variable-valve-timing Phoenix V-6 (see sidebar). The Grand Cherokee's V-6 will be a 3.6-liter, making 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It boosts gas mileage to 16/23 mpg compared with Hemi fuel mileage of 14/20 for rear-drive models and to 16/22 mpg V-6 versus 13/19 mpg Hemi for four-wheel-drive models.
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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).
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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
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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.
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2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
GENERAL
Location of final assembly Detroit, Michigan
Body style 4-door SUV
Drivetrain layout Front engine, RWD/4WD
Airbags Front, fr side, f/r curtain
POWERTRAIN
Base engine 60° V-6, alum block/heads
Bore x stroke 3.78 x 3.27 in
Displacement 220.0 cu in/3605 cc
Compression ratio 10.2:1
Valve gear DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower 280 hp @ 6400 rpm
SAE torque 260 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Base transmission W5A580 5-speed automatic
1st 3.59:1
2nd 2.19:1
3rd 1.41:1
4th 1.00:1
5th 0.83:1
Reverse 3.16:1
Axle ratio 3.06:1
Final drive ratio 2.54:1
Transfer-case model MP 3010, MP 3022
Low-range ratio 2.72:1 (MP 3022)
Crawl ratio (1st x axle gears x low range) 29.9:1
Recommended fuel Regular unleaded
Optional engine 90° V-8, iron block/alum heads
Bore x stroke 3.92 x 3.58 in
Displacement 345.1/5654 cc
Compression ratio 10.2:1
Valve gear OHV, 2 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower 360 hp @ 5150 rpm
SAE torque 390 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Optional transmission 545RFE 5-speed automatic
1st 3.00:1
2nd 1.67:1/1.50:1*
3rd 1.00:1
4th 0.75:1
5th 0.67:1
Reverse 3.00:1
Axle/final drive ratios 3.47:1/2.32:1
Transfer-case model MP 3022
Low-range ratio 2.72:1
Crawl ratio (1st x axle gears x low range) 28.3:1
Recommended fuel Midgrade unleaded
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Wheelbase 114.8 in
Length 189.8 in
Width 76.3 in
Height 69.4 in
Track, f/r 63.9/64.1 in
Headroom, f/r 40.0/39.3 in
Legroom, f/r 40.3/38.6 in
Shoulder room, f/r 58.6/58.0 in
Cargo vol, beh 1st/2nd rows 68.3/36.3 cu ft
Ground clearance 8.7-11.5** in
Approach/departure angle 26.3-35.9**/26.4-29.2** deg
Load lift height 32.4/31.9** in
Curb weight 4470-5210 lb (mfr)
Weight distribution, f/r 51/49 to 55/45%
Max payload capacity 1480-2030 lb
GVWR 6500-6800 lb
Max towing capacity 7400 lb
Fuel capacity 24.6 gal
CHASSIS
Construction Unibody
Suspension, f/r Control arms, coil springs,anti-roll bar/multilink, coil springs

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Jeep Grand Cherokee

Fair Market Price
$29,771
Editors' Overall Rating
Basic Specifications
MSRP: $29,995
Mileage: 17 / 25
Engine: 3.6L V6
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