Jeep's new Grand Cherokee premium SUV represents a major update for the venerable model. Jeep fitted it with advanced off-road systems to handle demanding terrain and updated the interior for comfort. We participated in a preview drive that took us over some tough obstacles.
Jeep is taking steps to transform itself into a modern car company, and the 2011 Grand Cherokee is evidence of success. This vehicle retains Jeep's off-road reputation while adding a luxury interior competitive with the likes of Lexus.
Although the sides and rear of the Grand Cherokee are toned down, keeping stylistic flourishes to a minimum, it incorporates classic Jeep touches such as trapezoidal wheel arches and the seven-bar grille.
Following an industry trend, Jeep updated the interior with soft plastics, making surfaces pleasant to touch. Real wood trim runs along the dash, and leather seats include heating and cooling functions.
We were surprised to find adaptive cruise control in the Grand Cherokee, a radar-based system that will bring the car to a full halt if traffic is stopped ahead. A button on the steering wheel spoke lets you set the following distance.
Jeep is unfortunately stuck with a five-speed transmission for the 2011 Grand Cherokee, leading to lower highway fuel economy. Although not marked on the gate, moving the shifter left or right from the Drive position manually shifts gears.
The Selec-Terrain controller is new in the Grand Cherokee, letting you easily select a four-wheel-drive program suitable for conditions. These modes affect transmission, four-wheel drive, traction control, and suspension programs.
Heading into a rock garden, the Grand Cherokee showed how well it could handle small boulders. Along with its good clearance, all-wheel-drive systems applied the right amount of hold and power to each wheel, as needed.