Jeep engineers and designers paid attention to the details with the 2011 Grand Cherokee, and we've come to appreciate them now that we've spent so much time with our Four Seasons test vehicle. All of the Grand Cherokee's new luxury touches elevate the Jeep flagship from its former status as a commodity crossover to a vehicle that can mix with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, the Lexus RX350, and the Land Rover LR4. We're talking about amenities like automatic high-beam headlights, and heated and cooled front seats, and a remote start system that turns on the heated seats and steering wheel and rear defroster when the temperature is close to the freezing point. Great stuff.
The Jeep folks were also smart enough not to ditch features from the old Grand Cherokee that still worked, like the steering wheel-mounted audio controls. "Jeep has had these back-of-the-steering wheel buttons forever, and they're great once you've memorized what they do," says senior editor Joe Lorio. "The right rocker is for volume, the left rocker is for seeking. It's that simple, and they fall right to hand, positioned at nine and three."
As much as the Grand Cherokee has evolved into a serious luxury vehicle, it still has its rough-road chops. Our Grand Cherokee Overland is equipped with Jeep's Quadra-Trac II four-wheel-drive system, which features a two-speed transfer case and five off-road modes. We've also got an adjustable air suspension and a full set of underbody skid plates. It's all easy to control via clearly marked dials and buttons in the center console, something copy editor Rusty Blackwell appreciated when he encountered flooded roads in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area during the NCAA men's ice hockey Frozen Four in April.
Finding his way around the MSP metroplex proved to be a frustrating endeavor for Blackwell, though, as he found the outdated navigation system to be too slow to refresh and hard to decipher: "The cartoonish car icon is dozens of miles long when you zoom out," he complained. However, assistant editor David Zenlea counters all of our kvetching with a very astute point: "It offers a big security advantage over a store-bought Garmin -- this one is impossible to lose and much harder to steal." Thank you, Zenlea, for bringing us back down to earth and reminding us that the navigation interface is only one minor problem in an otherwise impressive vehicle.
Associate editor Eric Tingwall aptly sums up our feelings so far -- "If you can forgive the sluggish five-speed transmission, the Grand Cherokee nails the fundamentals. The chassis and development teams have done a great job, with great ride, admirable handling, and fabulously weighted steering. They really sweated the small stuff."
|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|