8.02.2011

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo X 4X4 Review


Front 3/4 view of 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in desert
The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Best looking Grand Cherokee ever?

Jeeps are famous for being able to go anywhere. Well, the Grand Cherokee has been to hell and back, thanks to owners (especially Cerberus) who didn't understand what the brand was all about and rushed not-quite-Jeeps to market while letting the Grand Cherokee get long in the tooth and behind the competition.

There wasn't much in American automotive business the past few years to suggest a successful U-turn could be pulled off on short notice, but not only did Jeep's new masters hang such a U, they then put it in 4 Low, climbed the tallest hill around and parked the new Grand Cherokee on it.



Rear 3/4 view of 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee parked with snow-covered mountains in the background
Rear view of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

No, that's not hype. Yes, the new Grand Cherokee is that good. Easily the most solidly built GC ever, with the magnificent new 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar engine, a powerplant so smooth I would have bet you stupid money not long ago that Chrysler of all companies could never build it. And it transforms the driving experience with a 38% bump in horsepower over last year's six, and an 11% increase in torque as well. All it needs is a six-speed automatic rather than the five-speed. It would help mileage, which is about what you'd expect...16 city/22 highway.

The Laredo is the first rung on the Grand Cherokee ladder. Even the "base" Laredo comes with Quadra-Track 4WD, Electronic Stability Control, Anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, hill start assist, trailer sway damping, speed control, a power 8-way driver's seat with power 4-way lumbar adjust, a six-speaker audio system with AM/FM/CD/mp3, a one-year subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio and an audio jack input for your mobile device. They also come with Power windows, tilt and telescope steering column, audio controls on the steering wheel, and 17-inch painted aluminum wheels. There's no such thing as a "stripper" Grand Cherokee.



Interior shot of 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Most improved player: The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee interior.

And as good as the mechanicals are, Chrysler really knocked it out of the park with the interior. Chrysler was notorious in the Cerberus years for having some of the worst interiors in the business...poor fit and finish and 99 Cent Store materials. No more. All gone. They've gone from worst to first. Leader of the class.

Our tester got gussied up even further by the press fleet folks, who added the Laredo 26X Package: Leather trimmed bucket seats, power 8-way driver and front passenger seats, both getting the power lumbar adjusters. They're heated, too. The audio system gets bumped up to include DVD and a hard-drive, plus 9 speakers, a 506-watt amplifier and subwoofer plus a USB port. That's $4080.

How about the All Weather Capability Group? Ours had it. Now, I'd suggest that a Grand Cherokee is already plenty capable in all weather, but $695 buys the Selec-Terrain system, tow hooks (in case you exceed capability?) and an engine block heater.

And the piece de resistance...another audio system upgrade...this time to a 30 gig hard drive that can hold 4,250 songs and throws in satellite navigation for the low, low price of just $395. At that point, I'll drop my usual objection to in-dash GPS.

Result: One seriously luxurious Grand Cherokee for $38,085. A vehicle you can take to the opera and not have the valets turn up their noses. But the goodness and real-honest-to-God-Jeepness of it will have you plotting a course for the Rubicon Trail on the weekend.

Just proves the old saying: Never say never. Chrysler and Jeep were down, but clearly not out. And now, the Grand Cherokee is king of any hill it cares to climb.

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