Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland combines style, power
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee has always been a special sport-utility in that it offers both refinement and off-road capability.
Most mid-size SUVs that also fill the mid-priced range offer less of the off-roading specs that Jeep owners expect. So here’s the new 2011 Grand Cherokee, again with a more high-end look to its styling, but again able to off-road with the likes of a Range Rover.
Yet the tested Grand Cherokee Overland 4×4, the most upscale Grand Cherokee, starts at $41,120 compared to $47,650 for the Range Rover LR4 tested a couple months back. This one looks better and from a performance standpoint these are fairly evenly matched.Start with the engines. The Jeep features a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 delivering 360 horsepower compared with a 5.0-liter V8 in the LR4, with a slightly higher 375 horsepower. The lighter Jeep, just 4,850 pounds compared with 5,833 pounds for the Rover, feels much peppier. That’s a big weight difference to be pulling around town.
That translates into better gas mileage, too, albeit still 14 mpg city and 20 highway for the Jeep, according to the EPA. The Rover is rated 12 mpg city and 17 highway. My experience was a satisfying 19.7 mpg in the Jeep, in about an even mix of city and highway miles, compared with 14 in the LR4.
While the Grand Cherokee’s power is impressive, so is the smoothness with which that power is put to the road. Jeep’s multi-speed overdrive automatic transmission does an expert job of meshing with the motor here to deliver a luxury feel that helps justify the Overland’s price.Naturally, it’ll go off road and pull you out of most treacherous situations with its all-wheel-drive system that can be adjusted to fit highway or off-road conditions.
With Jeep’s QuadraLift air suspension system, you can increase the ride height by 4.1 inches and the ground clearance to a maximum of 10.7 inches.
The Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system lets you pick from six settings ranging from Sport, which lowers the vehicle about a half an inch for better aerodynamics on the highway, to the Rock setting, which gives you that 4.1-inch rise. Auto is where most of us will leave the system, but you also can select Snow, Sand/Mud and Park, which drops the Jeep 1.5 inches for easier exit and entry.
On road, the Jeep delivers a firm, but comfortable ride and the handling is good for an SUV. You can turn into corners well with only a slight top-heavy feel in tight turns.
Folks who use their SUVs for towing will be happy to see a 7,200-pound tow rating, about 500 pounds lower than the Rover. This model also featured a $1,495 package that included heavy-duty four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.
The test vehicle also came with a $1,295 package that included safety equipment such as adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot warning system, rearview camera and forward collision warning. That all worked well, and the blind-spot system is vital as more motorists insist on passing on the right.
Other extras included its bright metallic “Inferno red” crystal coat paint job for $225 and rear reclining seats for $1,250. All the add-ons pushed this to $44,915, still less than the Rover’s base cost.
Note, too, that there are several lower cost Grand Cherokees available in two- and four-wheel drive. The base Laredo 4X2 starts at $30,215 and features a strong 290-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 that is rated 16 mpg city and 23 highway. A Laredo 4X4 starts at $32,215. There’s also a Limited model between the Laredo and Overland.
The Grand Cherokee interior is attractive and quiet, befitting its luxury image.This one was fancier than most, with a black leather interior with fake wood dash and door trim and pewter-look accents around the console, center stack and steering wheel hub. There are also chrome inserts around the gauges.
There’s a large dual sunroof overhead, plus comfortable power seats with a power lumbar control. Both the front and rear seats are heated, with the front seats featuring two-speed cooling. The bottom cushion is fairly flat and the back has moderate contouring. Two memory settings also are standard for the driver’s seat.
While most controls were easy to use, the Grand Cherokee loads the steering wheel hub up with 12 buttons, including a bunch of confusing arrows for maneuvering through the trip computer system. Other auotmakers have figured out how to make this much simpler.
The Jeep has a power rear hatch, and split seats in back to increase cargo room, and a good stereo with satellite radio.
You could pay more for a luxury mid-size SUV that’ll allow you to clomp around off-road. But why?