Jeep released an all-new Grand Cherokee for 2011 and significantly upgraded every aspect of the vehicle. The flagship Jeep retains the uncompromising off-road capability of its predecessors thanks largely to a trio of available four-wheel-drive systems and an optional air suspension that offers five height settings. Selec-Terrain electronically calibrates the vehicle to handle different conditions via a five-position dial. The Grand Cherokee will spend most of its time on dry, paved roads, though, where it behaves like a typical luxury SUV. The base engine is Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, which offers a respectable 290 hp. The optional 5.7-liter V-8 makes 360 hp and is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Horsepower fans will likely opt for the new SRT8 model and its 470-hp, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine. Surprisingly — at least to those familiar with past Grand Cherokees — interior quality and execution are the biggest strengths of the new version, with standard features such as keyless ignition and satellite radio and optional features that include a heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, and a navigation system. Jeep has covered all the mid-size-SUV bases with an efficient V-6; an optional 5.7-liter V-8 that can tow up to 7400 pounds; and now a track-tuned SRT8 model that can blast from 0 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, run a thirteen-second quarter mile, and reach 160 mph.

Drive: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim levels: Laredo, Limited, Overland, Overland Summit, SRT8
Body style: SUV, 5-passenger
Engines: 3.6L V-6, 290 hp, 265 lb-ft
5.7L V-8, 360 hp, 390 lb-ft
6.4L V-8, 470 hp, 465 lb-ft
Transmissions: 5- or 6-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 105.4 cu ft
Capacities: Towing 5000-7400 lb; cargo (rear seats up/down) 35.1/68.7 cu ft

The Grand Cherokee was new for 2011, so the big news for 2012 is the SRT8 model. It comes with a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine that produces an awesome 470 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. Non-SRT8 Grand Cherokees get minor mechanical changes to improve efficiency, namely, a new six-speed automatic transmission for the 5.7-liter V-8 and standard electrohydraulic power steering for the V-6 models.

Front and side air bags, traction and stability control, roll mitigation, ABS, brake assist, and hill-start assist are standard. An optional tow package adds electronic trailer-sway control. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and rear cross-path detection are optional, as well.

All: 12-17 mpg city/18-23 mpg highway

  • Upscale interior
  • Excellent off-road capability
  • Hilariously fun SRT8
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Dated five-speed automatic

Looks great, drives well.

  • Ford Explorer
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