There’s no questioning the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s off-road prowess. In 2002 the company took a bunch of journalists to Zambia and Botswana where we put the vehicles through a gruelling gaunlet of sand, rocks, bush, steep inclines and anything else that nature could throw at it. By the end of the trip the Jeeps’ resale value had plunged dramatically thanks to a lack of journalistic driving prowess. But one thing had been made very clear: Jeeps are mean machines when it comes to the great outdoors. However, most premium SUV owners tend to stick to the road during their daily routines and that’s where the 2011 Grand Cherokee’s performance will be judged.
When I took delivery of the Grand Cherokee Limited it immediately struck me with its looks. There’s only so much car designers can do with an SUV, but in the Grand Cherokee’s case it has worked out for the best with a shape that looks streamlined yet solid and powerful. In my opinion it is one of the best-looking SUVs on the road today. My review vehicle came with the optional chrome package that added even more pizzazz.
The interior lives up to the exterior with fine leather seats, wood accents and instrumentation in the right places. The only quibble I have is that the plastic centre console looks at odds with the rest of the premium package. But that pales in comparison to all the features that are loaded into the Limited. Multi-function steering wheel, iPod connector, radio/cd/MP3 player with six speakers, USB port that downloads to the inbuilt hard drive, Bluetooth connection for your mobile, rear camera, navigation system, keyless entry and start Its a very long list. Plus the new Grand Cherokee addresses one critique levelled at previous models by giving rear passengers another 10 centimetres of legroom.
But it is on the road that the Grand Cherokee really impresses by putting some Crossover vehicles to shame. In other words, this 4×4 drives more like a car than an SUV. Unless you accelerate hard the engine is quiet, the suspension extremely smooth in soaking up bumps, there’s little body roll, cornering is good, the brakes excellent and the power steering has just the right resistance. At 100km/h the Cherokee cruises sublimely. Yes, this vehicle isn’t the fastest out of the starting gate as the torque only really kicks in at around 4,000 revs and another 20 horsepower or so out of the 3.6 litre engine would have been welcome. But these are minor shortcomings when compared to all the things that are right in this package.
The 2011 Grand Cherokee has not had a facelift but has been completely redesigned from the ground up. The smooth driving characteristics are thanks to the completely new independent front and rear suspension. The Cherokee also feels extremely solid due to the structure’s torsional stiffness, which Jeep says is 146 per cent greater than the previous model. This explains the reduced noise, vibration and harshness.
The Grand Cherokee is also more frugal with a 10 per cent improvement in petrol consumption over the previous V6 model. The new 3.6-litre Pentastar is rated at 11.4L/100km (combined), delivers 210 kW (286 hp) of power and 347 Nm of torque at 4,300 rpm. It’s a smooth engine that pairs well with the five-speed automatic transmission. There’s no hunting for gears and you barely register it when the gears shift.
Selecting the vehicle dynamics is as simple as pressing a button on the all-new Selec-Terrain traction control system. You can choose from ‘Sand/Mud’, ‘Auto’ where the vehicle automatically adapts to any on- or off-road situation, ‘Snow’, ‘Rock’ and ‘Sport’ for enhanced on-road capability, although the latter doesn’t seem to make a huge difference.
After living for four days with the Grand Cherokee Limited I came to the conclusion that there was a lot to like and nothing major to dislike. Then you come to the price of around $37,400 for the Limited in the UAE, which I rate as a very good deal for a vehicle with this amount of refinement, driveability, looks, safety features and specs. If you are in the market for an SUV, the Limited should definitely be taken for a test drive.