At first glance, the new Grand Cherokee is more lux than truck. But those refined lines and interior comfort are only gloss on a big, brawny, beast of a 4 x 4.
By Holly Reich
THE BIG PICTURE
Decked out with polished 20-inch aluminum wheels, plenty of chrome, and over-sized olive colored leather seats, the go-anywhere Grand Cherokee has serious bragging rights. And it was just as at home in the rough and ready terrain of New York City streets as it is traversing streams and forging off-road paths. Jeep has succeeded in finding that balance between uptown SUV luxury and backwoods capability.
I was in the Grand Cherokee 70th Anniversary edition, which is similar to the 2012 fully loaded Grand Cherokee Laredo. The “wow” features included dark olive leather seats with perforated inserts and chestnut-colored stitching, Berber floor mats with chestnut binding, and graphite and chrome-plated finishes. The look: full-on Western cowboy with rough stitching on the steering wheel, real wood trim, and man-sized plushy, contoured seats. The dash is simple but stylish, ergonomically fit for a woman, and easy to read and navigate. And minor things, like the simplicity of the brake (step and release), ample reading lights that turn on with a push, and a manual steering wheel remind you that this is a Jeep.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has two rows with plenty of leg and headroom. Built to hold five (okay, let’s say three kids in the back), the SUV definitely can fit four grown-ups. And you can be sure that there are enough cubbies, cup holders, and extra storage spaces. This vehicle just begs for kids (and grown-ups) to throw muddy boots and loads of gear into the ample cargo area.
You can’t get better than this. The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee was the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) “Top Safety Pick” with more than 45 safety features. The 2012 model gets 50 safety and security features. Safety and security features include: electronic stability control, side-curtain and seat-mounted side air bags, and active head restraints all come standard. Blind-spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection system, adaptive cruise control, and Forward Collision Warning are also available.
GIZMOS AND TECH
The Jeep’s 4 X 4 system has 70 years of engineering behind it so you can be sure that it’s up there with the best. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to drive through the wild in NYC, but I must say that hill descent control came in very handy descending upper Park Avenue in Manhattan, which is actually quite steep. When you are driving a vehicle this heavy, you want to know that you aren’t going to slip into the car in front of you.
But when you are going off-road or even on the beach, there’s one big fat control dial that allows the driver five different driving conditions. They are: sand/mud, sport, auto, snow, and rock.
Another way that Jeep Grand Cherokee cushions the ride is with the Quadra-Lift air suspension system. Five height settings include: Normal Ride Height is 8.1 inches of clearance, Off-road 1 lifts the vehicle an additional 1.3 inches, Off-road gives an additional 2.6 inches of height for 10.7 inches of ground clearance, Park Mode lowers the vehicle 1.5 inches from normal height for easy ingress/egress and roof rack loading while Aero Mode lowers the vehicle .6 inches from normal height for ideal performance and fuel economy.
I used the Jeep Grand Cherokee for city and highway driving, which, as I have mentioned before, is no piece of cake in NYC. Traffic is bad, the roads are worse, and drivers, well, all I can say is that you better have good reflexes. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, for all its heft, had great responses, ready power, a suspension that held up to potholes, and all-around good visibility. The steering is heavy; I had to to use strength to park it in a parallel spot. Bottom line — on the Long Island Expressway, this truck was super fast and flexible.
Authentic is a good word to describe this Jeep which has 70 years of on- and off-roading behind it. The Grand Cherokee Jeep has accumulated more than 30 awards from a collection of leading organizations, making it the most awarded SUV ever.
Yes to the size, styling, and versatility of this mid-sized SUV.
The ease of the interior. All the controls were easy to read, reach, and use.
Fuel economy has been improved, but nevertheless the 4 x 4 V8 models weigh in at 14-city/20 hwy.