2011 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Luxury SUV
Fuel Economy (claimed): 14.1 l/100 km
Fuel Economy (tested): 17.1 l/100 km
In range-topping Overland specification, the Grand Cherokee comes with a healthy equipment list but a pleasantly low price-tag.
There’s also a stonking Hemi V8 nestled in the nose. It’s as smooth as it is strong, and adds real muscle to the Grand Cherokee.
This brick can really haul - but, sadly, most will find the V8’s thirst a bitter pill.
Quality: While the dash design is fresh and logically laid-out, there are a few large gaps and misaligned sections. The stitched dash looks top-notch on top, however the hard mismatched plastics further down are uninspiring and out of place.
Comfort: No squabbling over space here, the Grand Cherokee offers plenty of room in all directions. The downside is that front passengers tend to be a loose fit in the broad bucket seats.
Otherwise, there’s enough adjustment front and rear to suit all sizes, plus heated outer rear seats.
Equipment: Luxury and innovation fill the Overland’s equipment list: a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, Nappa leather seats with front power-adjustment, a powered steering column and heated wheel with cruise control, audio and trip-computer buttons, dual-zone climate control, adjustable air-suspension, auto-dimming xenon headlamps and a comprehensive safety package.
Storage: With the 60/40 split rear seats up, there's a generous 782 litres of cargo space in the boot. The boot lip is flush with the boot floor, and the rear seatbacks fold flat to create a sizable 1554 litre cargo area.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The big 259kW/520Nm 5.7 litre Hemi V8 makes the 2.3-tonne Grand Cherokee surprisingly swift. The trade-off is a heavy thirst for fuel, particularly around town, even with the fuel-saving cylinder-shutdown system.
The five-speed automatic is smooth and doesn't exhibit any obvious quirks or flaws. It would be improved however with a few extra ratios - even if only to help keep fuel consumption in check.
Off Road: Jeep offers a sophisticated Quadra-Drive II system which controls the dual-range transfer case and rear electronic limited-slip differential. It apportions drive automatically via a console-mounted rotary controller used to select the terrain type.
The Quadra-Lift suspension offers a huge 104mm range of height adjustment for a variety of driving situations. The upshot is that it is genuinely capable in heavy off-road terrain and can match wits and capability with even some of the more-focused off-roaders.
In reality, it might not see a lot of bush tracks, but the big Jeep is just the ticket for a slippery boat-ramp.
Refinement: All is hushed and isolated from within the cabin. Smooth gear-shifts and compliant suspension make for fuss-free travelling; just a slight hint of wind noise creeps in at highway speeds.
When pushed the V8 burble makes itself known, but it’s a very nice throaty growl and few would complain.
Suspension: Jeep's Quadra-Lift air suspension system allows ride height to be varied between 192mm and 271mm while moving (or 167mm when parked for easier access).
The all-independent air suspension delivers a smooth ride, but is a little too soft, wallowing over uneven surfaces.
The steering is light, with a surprisingly tight turning circle, but feels disconnected and vague. It's easy to pilot around town, and rides comfortably over pretty much any surface.
Braking: While the pedal feels soft and there’s a lot of pedal travel, the four-wheel vented discs of the Grand Cherokee cope well bringing the 2.3 tonne vehicle to a halt.
ANCAP rating: Not Tested.
Safety Features: Seven airbags (dual front, driver's knee, dual front side and full-length curtain), three-point seatbelts (front pretensioning), active headrests, ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control and traction control are standard.
Overland models also include Adaptive Cruise Control to automatically maintain the following distance from a vehicle in front, auto-dimming headlights, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision-warning (which warns if the vehicle is approaching a slower or stationary object too quickly) and rain brake-support which clears water from the front brake disks when the wipers are activated.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000 kilometres.
Service costs: Servicing intervals are set for every 12,000km, with an typical service costing between $470 - $500. The first major service is due at 48,000km, and costs roughly $1250.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volvo XC60 T6 ($67,990) - The only competitor to offer a stronger focus on safety, but a size smaller. Just as swift but without the thirst, although with a shorter feature list than the big Jeep. (see XC60 reviews)
Toyota Prado VX ($74,404) - A family friendly seven-seater, equally capable off-road with a more economical V6, but priced a little higher and lacking the luxury feel and presence of the Grand Cherokee. (see Prado reviews)
Volkwagen Touareg V6 FSI ($77,990) - Excellent interior presentation and a sophisticated drivetrain featuring an eight-speed automatic.
Although the purchase price is higher, it has start-stop fuel-saving technology bringing running costs down. (see Touareg reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With a luxurious equipment list, impressive safety features and a capable off-road chassis, the sharply priced Grand Cherokee Overland can seriously question the value-for-money equation of other off-roaders.
But it’s thirsty - and this marks it down. If city-duty is to be a regular feature of the Grand Cherokee’s work repertoire in your hands, then you’ll need to consider the hip-pocket penalty at the bowser.
There is however the turbo-diesel option if you can live without the V8 soundtrack.