Americans love comeback stories. The Yankees won four games straight in the 1996 World Series, for instance, and John Travolta revitalized his career by starring in "Pulp Fiction." So there would seem to be hope for the Jeep Grand Cherokee, a vehicle that's had a tough time recently but is set to make a pretty big comeback for 2011.
To start a comeback, it helps to be near the bottom. Conveniently, the previous Grand Cherokee had this covered. Though capable (as it's always been) off-road, the "JGC" was stuck with numerous drawbacks, including a cramped backseat, low-buck interior materials and poor gas mileage. In contrast, the new model is meant to be much more premium and now shares some of its parts with the similarly redesigned Mercedes-Benz ML-Class (Jeep was owned by DaimlerChrysler during the early development days of this vehicle).
This Grand Cherokee has been stretched out to open up more passenger room, mostly in the second row. It still seats five, but layout changes to the center stack and storage areas have brought about huge visual and functional improvements. The driver and front passenger areas are more sculpted and inviting, and the radio and climate controls are more easily seen and operated.
Under the hood, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee gets an all-new 290-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 that's vastly more powerful and fuel-efficient than last year's woeful V6. A 360-hp V8 is still offered as an option. To make sure the vehicle keeps a firm grasp on its off-road credentials, Jeep has made an air suspension available (it can raise the JGC's ride height) and a drive-mode selector that tailors the powertrain and suspension for specific types of terrain. Also new is a fully independent rear suspension (a first for the vehicle) that improves ride quality.
Overall, Jeep has done well here. As a choice for a midsize crossover or SUV, the 2011 Grand Cherokee is pretty competitive against models like the 2011 Ford Edge and 2011 Ford Explorer, the 2011 Honda Pilot, 2011 Toyota 4Runner and 2011 Volkswagen Touareg.
trim levels & features
The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a five-passenger midsize SUV that comes in Laredo, Limited and Overland trims. Each is available in 4x2 and 4x4 guises. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglamps, cruise control, keyless ignition, dual-zone air-conditioning, a power driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a CD player. The Security and Convenience Group adds remote ignition, Bluetooth, a cargo cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a USB/iPod interface. A back-up camera, a power passenger seat, leather upholstery and a nine-speaker stereo with HD radio, a subwoofer and a touchscreen interface are also available.
The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
In the government's new, more strenuous crash testing for 2011, the Grand Cherokee earned an overall rating of four stars out of a possible five, with four stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side crash protection. In testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Grand Cherokee received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength crash tests.