The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee has a lot riding on its shoulders. It is amazing that this all-new Jeep even made it out the gate, given the tumultuous history of its development under the auspices of Chrysler’s former owner, Mercedes-Benz, and, of course, the fact that Chrysler was going through bankruptcy as the Jeep was nearing production. But it’s here, and it’s good, thanks largely to the Mercedes-Benz M-class, with which it shares significant components and engineering, even though Mercedes dumped Chrysler by the side of the road in the middle of the Grand Cherokee’s product-development cycle. As associate web editor Evan McCausland points out, “despite the Grand Cherokee’s dysfunctional heritage, the finished product is a rather cohesive vehicle, with few wrinkles in execution.” So cohesive, in fact, that the Grand Cherokee was one of the finalists for the Automobile Magazine 2011 Automobile of the Year award; however, there already have been some wrinkles.
We optioned our Four Seasons Grand Cherokee with all the bells and whistles, minus the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Starting with a $42,690 Overland 4x4, we added a rear DVD entertainment center for the sanity of those with kids ($1495); advanced warning and adaptive cruise control with blind spot monitoring ($1295); the off-road adventure II pack for the inevitable jaunts off of the tarmac ($295); and an engine-block heater ($50). With luxury amenities never seen before in a Jeep -- such as vented front seats, a heated steering wheel, and air suspension -- Jeep is gunning for Land Rover like never before. The grand total for our fully loaded natural green pearl coat Grand Cherokee came to a not insubstantial $45,805.
As for those wrinkles, associate editor Eric Tingwall noted that the “leather-covered dashboard is wrinkled and rippled and in some places looks perilously close to cracking. Clearly there is an issue with the adhesive used underneath the leather.” With a quick Google search, Tingwall discovered that other owners have reported similar problems, which is a shame because the French-stitched leather itself is indeed worthy of a Land Rover. We’ve also had to make peace with the fact that our early-production Overland model was mistakenly equipped with the entry-level Garmin-based navigation system, rather than Chrysler’s more sophisticated interface. We’ll live, especially since the rest of the Grand Cherokee’s cabin is pretty swell, and it’s a lot roomier than the last model.
Like the last Grand Cherokee, the new one is offered with both six- and eight-cylinder engines, but we chose the new Pentastar V-6 for our tester. Deputy editor Joe DeMatio commented: “I think the Pentastar is all the engine most buyers will need or want, unless they’re towing, in which case the optional Hemi V-8 increases capacity by 5000 pounds, to 7200 pounds.” Senior Web Editor Phil Floraday isn’t blown away by the Pentastar’s fuel economy, though, pointing out that “16/22 city/highway isn’t bad, but I’d really like to see a little better fuel economy from this brand-new, much-hyped V-6.”
Not only will this be a test for the car, but also our first Four Seasons test of the new Pentastar engine. We are looking forward to seeing the miles unfold behind the wheel of the Grand Cherokee. With Michigan’s snowy season just beginning, there is little doubt that we will enjoy having another capable SUV around the Automobile offices. But will we still love it come summer or will we be wishing for the anti-aging cream to turn back the clock to the Grand Cherokee’s glory days?
|Our Test Results|
|0-60 mph:||9.1 sec|
|0-100 mph:||24.7 sec|
|1/4-mile:||16.9 sec @ 86 mph|
|30-70 mph passing:||9.7 sec|
|Peak acceleration:||0.52 g|
|Speed in gears:||1) 54; 2) 88; 3) 113; 4) --; 5) -- mph|
|Cornering L/R:||0.74/0.72 g|
|70-0 mph braking:||184 ft|
|Peak braking:||0.98 g|