If you live in the parts of the good old U.S. of A. that got nailed with lots of snow and ice this season, a Trail Rated 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland would have been nice to have to get through deep, drifting snow. If you had one on a bitter-cold, wind-biting day, you’d merely have to slip into Grand Cherokee’s luxurious leather interior after you preheated it with the remote start function, then hit the front/rear window defroster buttons, tap another for heated seats, another for the heated steering wheel, twist a console knob for 4WD Snow mode and Ole Man Winter would no longer be intimidating.
The totally new Grand Cherokee comes with five driving modes: Snow, Auto, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock. And if you’re descending a steep, slippery hill, push the Downhill Descent button on the console and you can slowly creep down the slick surface without riding the brakes or downshifting. This could be an important feature for American hunters who truly go off-road in pursuit of their favorite game.
This 4WD system is one of three offered by Jeep. There’s Quadra Trac I, Quadra-Trac II (installed on my test vehicle) and Quadra Drive II with rear Electronic Limited Slip Differential.
If you encounter really deep snow, snowdrifts or rugged terrain where large rocks are encountered, Jeep’s Quadra Lift air suspension system lifts the body 4.1 inches from its normal mode. This allows a maximum ride height of 10.7 inches for more ground clearance to trek through the deep/tall stuff where lower-stance vehicles would get hung up. And with the front air dam removed, and in concert with Quadra Lift, the Grand Cherokee features a 34.3-degree approach angle (32.3 on earlier models), a 29.3-degree departure angle (formerly 27.5) and a 23.1 break over angle (20.4 previously). With these specs and aforementioned features, Grand Cherokee Overland is truly Trail Rated and not your typical 4WD crossover.
If you’ve owned a Grand Cherokee in the past, you’ll recognize that the 2011 is substantially improved. With five-passenger capacity, there are larger front and rear door openings (78 degrees) for better ingress/egress; more than 4 inches of increased rear-seat knee and leg room, larger cargo area (35.1 cubic feet vs. 29.5 in older models), under-cargo-floor dual storage bins, and a totally better ride and handling thanks to an all new front and rear independent suspension.
Grand Cherokee is offered with either a new Pentastar 3.6L, 290-hp V6 (260 lb.-ft. of torque) or optional V5.7L, 360-hp V8 (13 city, 19 highway EPA mpg) with 390 lb.-ft. of torque. I tested the latter, which is tow rated for up to 7,400 pounds. The engine sends power to the wheels via a Multi-Speed Overdrive automatic transmission that has park, reverse, neutral and drive gear selections. I would have liked to have tested the new V6 with the five-speed automatic, but the top-line Overland came V8-powered.
As equipped, there’s certainly no want for power—it was impressive. And so was the ride and handling. Goodyear Fortera P265/50R20 tires are standard on this package and Michelin Latitude Tour OWL P265/60R18 tires are optional. Wheels are cast aluminum. The new Grand Cherokee exuded a safe and secure feeling. Perhaps this is due to its heft, wide track stance, longer wheelbase (5.3 inches over prior models) and overall body stiffness (146 percent stiffer). Cargo space has increased; it now measures 38x45 inches with the split-folding/reclining rear seats up. Flip one or both and length increases to a full 6 feet.
As the top-shelf model, Overland comes with a host of standard goodies and convenience items: power lift gate; upscale interior; rearview camera; stability control; remote start; Sirius radio; rain-sensitive wipers; Autonet Web access; and 20 more. The options list is not long since every conceivable amenity is included. Of these extras are such niceties as: Advanced Warning/Adaptive Cruise Control ($1,295), which encompasses blind-spot and rear cross-path detection; forward collision warning and Adaptive Speed Control; Off-Road Adventure Package II ($275), which includes 18-inch OWL tires, skid plate, tow hooks, aluminum wheels and Trail Rated badging; 5.7L V8 ($1,495); engine block heater ($50); and Blackberry Pearl paint ($225). That list brings the base price of $41,120 to $45,240, with delivery. That’s somewhat pricey, but if you forego some of the high-tech niceties, Grand Cherokee is also available in lesser-priced Laredo E, Laredo X and Limited models. Also, all models are available in 2WD. Along with this pricing, buyers get a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, three-year/36,000-mile basic limited warranty and 24-hour towing assistance.
The new Grand Cherokee is truly a grand SUV. And while it doesn’t have third-row seating, stay tuned—Jeep has announced it is resurrecting the larger Grand Wagoneer. (Remember those, with the faux wood-grain paneling?) It will have three rows and seating for seven.