2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo: More than ready for prime time

27 Jun 2011 | 2,350 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds Want to know where Chrysler is headed? Look no further than the 2011 Jeep.   On second thought, look at the new Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, too. Bu today we're focusing on the Grand Cherokee Laredo, a greatly improved and vastly more competitive product for the company. Grand Cherokee has always stood for luxury and rugged off-road performance. But in our view, you would have to go back to the first generation way back when to find one that truly personified both those qualities. It seems that in the last five or ten years or so, quality fell, materials for the interior were mediocre at best, and the Grand Cherokee ultimately lost its edge. Not any more. Grand Cherokee's got game again.   The interior, first of all, is fully competitive with anything else on the road. Gone is that awful monotone gray expanse of a plastic dashboard, and the use of materials that shouted "cheap."  Now it's all low gloss, aluminum, soft touch and not a single gap or loose string anywhere. There's nice ambient lighting around door handles and the rings in the cup holdiong center console.  And finally, the new model has more color and contrast than the drab greys and pablum brown that so dominated Chrysler's color palette for years. So when Jeep commercials talk about good old American pride in making a darn good product, and why this is what we do, you can take it to the bank.  It's for real.     And the ride quality is smooth and tranquil,  handling potholes, road buckles and all manner of mayhem under tire with little or or no impact on the interior or the passengers. There's an all-new all lindepedent rear suspension this time, and it really makes a difference.  And the new Grand Cherokee we tested at Automobile Journal came with Chrysler's new 3.6 liter, 290 horsepower "Pentastar"  V-6, which provided considerably more oomph than we experienced with previous Jeep Grand Cherokees. The mileage rating is 16/22, and the estimated annual fuel bill for Grand Cheroke eis $2,502,  based on 15,000 miles of driving and  gasoline at $3.00 a gallon.   Our red Laredo had a base price of $32,215. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglamps, cruise control, keyless ignition, dual-zone air-conditioning, a power driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a CD player. The Security and Convenience Group adds remote ignition, Bluetooth, a cargo cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a USB/iPod interface. A back-up camera, a power passenger seat, leather upholstery and a nine-speaker stereo with HD radio, a subwoofer and a touchscreen interface are also availablex. Problems? The Jeep Grand Cherokee still seems a bit cramped to us, and the amount of room for hauling stuff also looked pretty small to us, too. And a minor quibble--- the ring that you turn to crank up fan speed for the climate control fan, seemed really cheap and not ion keeping with the rest of the interior. Let's hear some "clicks' or something when we turn on the fan. Still, the Grand Cherokee is a huge improvement for Jeep as a brand and Chrysler as a company.  There's a reason why more consumers are turning to the Chrysler brand, and the new Grand Cherokee provides more than ample justication for that.

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