Class Meets Capability – Ditch the Lexus GX 11 and the BMW X5
It’s early December and Jeep sent us to Jackson Hole, WY to test the new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee in its Overland 4X4 fitment, along a 45 mile on-road course, and through two tough off-road trails full of tight, twisty, tree-packed trails, through dry river beds, and steep, muddy ascents and descents.
The all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee sports a host of new features and design changes.
- Choice of three 4×4 systems, a new Jeep Selec-Terrain™ system with five terrain settings and a new Jeep Quadra-Lift™ air suspension system
- Improved fuel efficiency with all-new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 delivering 16 mpg city / 23 mpg highway
- 45 + safety and security features including electronic stability control (standard), side-curtain and seat-mounted side air bags (standard), active head restraints (standard), Blind-spot Monitoring (BSM)/Rear Cross Path (RCP) detection system, adaptive cruise control (ACC) and Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
- New all-weather package for harsh environmental conditions
- A variety of advanced technology/connectivity/infotainment features including Bluetooth® handsfree calling and streaming audio, Uconnect® Web and SIRIUS Backseat TV™
- All-new CommandView® dual-pane sunroof provides twice as much glass surface than a standard sunroof and extends from the windshield to the rear of the vehicle.
- Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit – the most luxurious, distinctive and comprehensively equipped Grand Cherokee ever
“With the all-new 2011 Grand Cherokee, Jeep has created the benchmark, premium SUV,” said Mike Manley, President and Chief Executive Officer — Jeep Brand, Chrysler Group LLC. “Unique innovations such as our new Quadra-Lift air suspension system and Selec-Terrain traction control systems separate Jeep from the crowd and take the new Grand Cherokee to the next level of 4×4 capability. The new generation of the iconic Jeep Grand Cherokee delivers the perfect blend of on-road refinement, superb craftsmanship, world-class design, improved fuel economy, innovative features and legendary, real-world capability.”
Quadra-Lift Suspension & Selec-Terrain Traction Control System
Quadra-Lift adds up to 4.1 inches of lift span that is supported by four-corner air springs that provide a cushioned, premium ride. Quadra-Lift operates automatically, or may be controlled manually via console controls. The Quadra-Lift air suspension system features five height settings for optimum ride performance:
- Normal Ride Height (NRH): 8.1 inches of clearance offers improved fuel economy and aerodynamics during on-road driving
- Off-road 1: Lifts the vehicle 1.3” and provide 9.4” of ground clearance
- Off-road 2: Lifts the vehicle 3.9” and provides 10.7” of ground clearance
- Park Mode: Lowers the vehicle 1.5” from NRH for easy ingress/egress and roof rack loading
- Aero Mode: Lowers the vehicle .6” from NRH and is controlled by vehicle speed and adjusts for optimal performance and fuel economy
The all-new Selec-Terrain traction control system lets customers choose the off-road setting for the optimum experience on all terrains. This feature electronically coordinates up to 12 different powertrain, braking and suspension systems, including throttle control, transmission shift, transfer case, traction control and electronic stability control (ESC). The Selec-Terrain’s control dial allows the driver to choose from five driving conditions in order to achieve the best driving experience on all terrains:
- Sand/Mud: Traction control and Quadra-Lift operate with sensitive response to wheel spin, and torque is tuned for optimal performance
- Sport: Provides enhanced on-road “fun-to-drive” capability
- Auto: Automatically adapts to any on- or off-road situation
- Snow: Vehicle traction adjusts for ultimate performance over snow-covered roads
- Rock: Quadra-Lift air suspension system raises to maximum height (10.7 inches) and the transfer case, differentials, and throttle coordinate to provide low-speed control
With the front air dam removed, and the available Quadra-Lift air suspension system, the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee features a 34.3-degree approach angle, (compared to 32.3 on previous model), a 29.3-degree departure angle (compared to 27.5 on previous model) and 23.1-degree breakover angle (compared to 20.4 on previous model)..
Our on-road tests included winding, wet and icy mountain byways. We drove the Grand Cherokee Overland 4X4 outfitted with the optional 5.7 liter MDS V8 Hemi with VVT that grinds out 360 HP and 390 lb.-ft. of torque which may be impressive for some cars, but seemed just a tad inadequate for a 5,210 pound vehicle. It was coupled with a 5-speed automatic transmission (6 speed, if you include the 2nd gear split) that tended to hang onto its gears too long. Nevertheless, our on-road tests were quite amazing – the vehicle hugged the road nicely even in adverse conditions and did so in opulent style. The interior of the all-new Grand Cherokee Overland is an eye-pleasing blend of warm wood, rich hand-stitched leather and smooth metal. The center stack, steering wheel controls, off-road controls and navigation and sound system are complex, but not complicated and easy to reach and use. It’s much like an Apple computer – lots of functionality, but you don’t need the manual to figure it out.
Off-road, the Grand Cherokee Overland truly impresses. After a long, freezing-cold day of off-roading several other Jeep vehicles and standing in knee deep snow, I slipped into the warm, lavishly appointed Grand Cherokee – with the heated seats and steering wheel already turned on – and tiredly headed to the more extreme trail. I was accompanied by one of the Jeep PR folks and we spoke of past 4-wheel drive adventures on the Rubicon trail and Moab, Utah. As we were halfway through the trail, he asked if I was ever going to put it into 4-wheel drive or raise the suspension. I thought about this momentarily and replied “nah… it seems to be doing just fine.” which it did I might add. Only when we reached the toughest part of the trail, a deeply rutted, slippery footpath that twisted in two directions and snuck between two very large trees, did we engage 4-wheel drive and raise the vehicle. We crested that tough ascent without spinning a single wheel – impressive. The combination of adjustable ride height, computer controlled off-road systems and the Electronic Limited Slip Differential (ELSD) delivered remarkable off-road traction. The IFS and IRS suspension systems supplied adequate suspension movement and soaked up all but the largest bumps.
Aside from tipping the scales, which causes a less than expected MPG and power to weight ratio aside, there is absolutely nothing else that you won’t love about the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland. Trust me – I tried quite hard to find something I didn’t like about the all-new Grand Cherokee, but frankly I like it a lot.
Compared to a like-equipped Lexus GX 460 Premium or a BMW X5 xDrive 351 Premium, priced at approximately $57,000 and $60,000 respectively, you get a helluva lot of vehicle for your money, and one that you can certainly take further off-road if the need arises. And, in this testers opinion, you get not only a more capable 4-wheel drive SUV, but one that is as nicely appointed, if not more so. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland won’t give you the “See how much money I make” bragging rights that the BMW or Lexus will, but that’s not what the Jeep lifestyle is about. It’s about getting to your destination safely, comfortably and with a level of off-road confidence that few other can achieve. In short, you’ll feel like a million bucks driving it, but it won’t cost you a lot of hard-earned dough.
The Overland edition Grand Cherokee is an amazing blend of a sumptuously appointed interior, superb exterior styling, smooth on-road handling and incredible off-road capabilities. While I’m confident most people won’t take their $42,000 luxury SUV through tough trails, it is indeed every bit a Jeep, and it gives its owner the confidence that they certainly can get through the nasty if the need arises.
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland - Additional Images