You can’t beat going Overland in ’11 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Rock.

  • Jan. 27, 2011 6:00 a.m.

The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is completely new from the inside out. This is the Overland model that can take occupants in luxury style over any terrain on the planet.

Rock.

It doesn’t get much simpler for something that, otherwise, is so difficult.

Rock is one on the five settings on the Jeep Quadra-Trac II four-wheel-drive system found on this week’s tester, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland.

Jeep actually offers three 4WD systems on the Grand Cherokee, the others being the base Quadra-Trac I and the other, called Quadra-Drive II. Quadra-Trac I has a single speed transfer case. Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II both have a two-speed transfer case and variable torque distribution. The difference is Trac II distributes torque up to 100 per front to rear while Drive II does it 100 per cent to any wheel.

Getting back to how simple Quadra-Trac II is to use starts with a large, rotary knob on the transmission tunnel with five settings from left: Sand/Mud, Sport, Auto, Snow, Rock. Selec-Terrain is also included on both Trac II and Drive II.

Auto is the everyday setting with torque split 40/60 per cent front/rear. Snow sees torque split 50/50 but the wheels aren’t locked. Sport routes 80 per cent of the torque to the rear.

Switch Mud/Sand and you have a 50/50 split for better traction at all four corners. Lastly Rock means just that. You can take rocks the size of a trash can in stride. And if you want, there is also a button that engages 4WD low for very serious terrain.

This is all topped off by another button that turns on Hill Descent Control. What this does is work the brakes and traction control to allow the Jeep to come down inclines of 45 degrees and more and trundle down automatically.

Having been in the driver’s seat, it literally is a leap of faith to nose over a cliff edge and see nothing but sky in every direction.

As you tip over, the next thing you glimpse is the ground below looking like a wall. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you have to remember to NEVER touch the brakes or gas because the system is doing it for you.

It’s sort like believing Hal will open the pod bay door, but it works every time.

And while all this is happening, you and your passengers are seated in the top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee Overland, easily the most luxurious Jeep ever.

There are two, maybe three other SUVs that can match the Grand Cherokee Overland’s prowess, not just in premium quality trim, but it the ability to get through every possible kind of terrain, but they can cost twice as much.

It was Jeep that invented the premium SUV segment the Grand Cherokee more than two decades ago. Since then, some four million have been sold.

The 2011 version is all new from the architecture that is 146 per cent stiffer than the 2010 to the new front and rear independent suspension that is based on the system used on the Mercedes-Benz GL SUV.

The 2011 Grand Cherokee is longer with an additional four inches of knee and legroom opened up for passengers in the back seat.

In line with the rest of the Chrysler family, larger vehicles offer a choice of a 3.6-litre V6 or a Hemi V8. Sadly, there is no longer a diesel version.

The V6 is new with variable valve timing that produces 290 hp and 260 lb/ft of torque with a fuel rating of 13.0/8.9L/100 km (22/32 mpg) city/highway. Jeep claims this is 38 per cent improvement in power and a 14 per cent improvement in mileage over the old V6. In fact, Jeep says the Grand Cherokee with the V6 will cover 1,046 km on one tank of regular fuel.

The other engine is the legendary 5.7-litre V8 now with variable valve timing with 360 hp and 390 lb/ft of torque. Fuel rating is 15.7/10.6L/100 km (18/27 mpg) city/highway with a range of 878 km on a tank of regular.

The Hemi incorporates multi displacement fuel management that shuts down four of the eight cylinders when the Jeep is travelling at a constant speed.

Both use a five-speed automatic transmission. Tow rating on the V6 is up to 5,000 lb and up to 7,200 with the V8.

There are four trim levels starting with the Laredo E at $37,995.

I mentioned these new Grand Cherokees are pretty loaded with even the Laredo E boasting electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, Hill Start and trailer sway control, dual zone climate control and most noticeably, a 17 per cent (36.3 cu ft) improvement in cargo volume.

The Laredo X at $42,995 adds more trim like 506-watt surround sound infotainment centre and leather seating. Both Laredo models are equipped with the Quadra-Trac I 4WD system.

The Limited ($46,995) and Overland ($49,995) feature Quadra-Trac II with Quadra-Drive II not available until July, 2011. Also optional ($1,900) on the Laredo X, Limited and Overland is the Hemi.

The Hemi option includes the Trailer Tow Group and heavy-duty engine cooling because many buyers of a Hemi Jeep do a lot of towing.

One thing about the Hemi is the feel of way the torque flows. In the Challenger, Charger and now the Jeep I’ve driven with the new variable valve technology, it just feels so good especially with a stab of the gas pedal every now and then.

When I drove the Grand Cherokee for the first time last October during “Drive Day” testing by the new Canadian Automotive Jury, what impressed me the most, as well as the other judges, was the strides made on the interior.

Because Jeeps in the past somehow always had to a have a boxy, rugged exterior look, that got carried over to the interior with not always great results.

You will find none of that on the Grand Cherokee Overland.

The large centre stack helps split the front into a twin cockpit design. The instruments are chronograph-like in appearance and the wood rimmed and heated steering wheel is a very high lux touch.

At the rear, a power liftgate is standard as is the ParkView backup camera which really helps as this is a large and long vehicle.

In my opinion, this is one of the best, if not the best, vehicle Chrysler makes, and has made, in a long time.

Couple that with the high resale value of anything branded Jeep, and you have a winner both on- and off-road.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 2011

Body Style: Luxury five-seat SUV.

Drive Method: front-engine, four-wheel-drive.

Engine: 5.7-litre, OHV V8 (360 hp, 390 lb/ft)

Fuel Economy: 15.7/10.6L/100 km (18/27 mpg) city/highway

Towing Capacity: 7,200 lb

Price: $49,995; as tested including $1,000 Federal Green Levy, $53,195.

Website: www.jeep.ca

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