According to Reid Bigland, president and CEO of Chrysler Canada, his company�s Jeep Grand Cherokee has "no natural enemies". Oh, sure, you�ve got your Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia, Range Rover, Porsche Cayenne, and Mercedes ML350, but in terms of an affordable yet upscale SUV with genuine off-road capabilities, the Grand Cherokee is in a league all its own, he insists. "It competes in three different markets: full-size SUV, mid-size, and large," he noted at the launch of the 2011 edition, in northern California. "It�s the 800-pound gorilla in this category."
Bigland also had some news on Chrysler�s current financial picture, and things are looking up, he claims. "Overall, Chrysler�s sales are up more than any manufacturer in Canada. We�ve made a $143 million profit so far this year, and by December, 75 per cent of all our models will be completely re-designed."
Including the Grand Cherokee, which receives a new body style, a new V6 engine, interior makeover, and revised 4WD systems. Although it�s no longer available with the Mercedes six cylinder turbo-diesel engine, a new "Pentastar" V6 gives the Grand Cherokee greater driving range, and better fuel economy than its predecessor. "Because of the cost of the engine and the price of diesel fuel these days, the business case for a diesel engine is harder to make than it used to be," adds Chrysler Canada�s manager of product marketing, Richard Cox. "You have to look at cost versus length of service." Apparently, you can drive the new V6 Grand Cherokee at least 1000 kilometres between fill-ups, and, with a base price of under $38,000, it�s priced below the outgoing model.
Based on the same platform as the newest generation Mercedes ML350 (this was one of the parting gifts from Mercedes when the two companies went their separate ways) , the 2011 Grand Cherokee will be available in four trim levels, with either the aforementioned V6 or Chrysler�s Hemi V8 for power. The Hemi can be had with a multi-cylinder displacement system and has Chrysler�s own variable valve timing system. It develops 360 horsepower in this configuration and is matched to a five-speed transmission. It will be offered on the Laredo X, Limited, and Overland models.
The base Laredo E will come with the new V6 only, and it develops 290 horsepower with a five-speed transmission, and Jeep�s Quadra Trac I 4WD system. This is one of three different systems, and they vary from model to model. The top of the line Overland, for example, has Quadra Drive II, with an automatic ride height adjustment Jeep calls Quadra-Lift. This item is pretty slick; hit a console-mounted button, and the vehicle will raise or lower itself up to 10 centimetres. Combine this with Jeep�s Hill Descent Control and the new stiffer body construction, and you have a true off-roader that will go anywhere you have the nerve to take it. The Overland version, as well as the other V8 models also offers Selec-terrain, which allows the driver to choose from five different settings, ranging from everyday city conditions, to low-speed rock crawling.
At the vehicle launch, we drove to an off-road course just outside of Hollister, California, and took our test vehicles over terrain that would stop most SUVs in their tracks. One little section, in particular, was especially entertaining. As you approached a 50 per cent downhill grade, the trail dropped down briefly and then climbed up over a berm….clambering up it, all you saw was a view of the clear blue sky and nothing else just before the rig dipped forward and slithered down the other side. If not for the Hill Descent Control feature, which works off the ABS system, it would have been a non-stop slide to the bottom. The Grand Cherokee may be an upscale SUV, but it is still a Jeep and off-road scrambling is part of its DNA. As Ed Broadbear, Chrysler�s VP of marketing put it: "Our typical buyer is a very desirable customer. At least half of them aren�t even interested in other models."
As befits an upscale SUV, the Grand Cherokee will come well-equipped. Standard kit includes an electronic stability control program, Hill Start assist (prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards when it�s stopped on an incline), power driver�s seat, 17-inch wheels and tires, Sirius satellite radio, dual zone air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering, fog lamps and so on. Step up to the top of the line Overland and you get leather interior, touch-screen navi, 20-inch wheels and tires, and interior wood trim…among other things. Marketing guy, Richard Cox, points out that this iteration of the Grand Cherokee is going out the door for some $5700 less than the 2010 version, and if you wanted to get – say – a Porsche Cayenne with the same level of equipment and extras, it�d run you at least $130,000.
Manufactured at Chrysler�s Jefferson plant, in Michigan, the new Jeep grand Cherokee is arriving at dealerships right about now.
AT A GLANCE
Type: Mid-size SUV
Price Range: $37,995 – $49,995
Engine: 3.6 litre V6 & 5.7 litre V8
Horsepower: 260 hp @ 4800 rpm & 360 hp @ 4250 rpm
Torque: 260 ft. lb @ 4800 rpm & 390 ft. lb. @ 4250 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Fuel economy (litres/ 100 km): 13.0 city, 8.9 hwy (V6 model) Regular fuel
Alternatives: Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia, Range Rover, Volkswagen Touareg, Chev Tahoe, Mercedes ML350, Toyota Highlander.