Last look at the old-style Jeep Cherokee
summit daily auto writer
My focus today was going to be a $40,615 2009 model year Jeep Grand Cherokee which I drove back in the spring, but since then, a lot has happened. First, the 2010 model came along and dropped the engine that I was using (a 4.7-liter Flex Fuel V-8) and did away with the well-intentioned but not especially popular, German-made 3.0-liter diesel engine; if you search for a 2010 on your dealer’s lot, you’ll likely find current models sporting only the 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6 or the super-powerful but gas-sucking 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.
All of this is now doubly moot, as next spring will see the debut of a completely redesigned 2011 Grand Cherokee, which sounds like quite the vehicle indeed, especially after the rough year Chrysler has had.
Next year, the new GC will feature a much-improved base engine, a 3.6-liter V6 which has bumped the horsepower up to 280 (plus 260 lb.-ft. of hill-climbing, pull-your-friend-out-of-the-ditch-styled torque), as well as improving fuel economy by 11 percent. Those with company gas cards (does anybody still have a company gas card, besides state employees?) can still go crazy with the 357-horsepower Hemi.
Grand Cherokee also goes almost Euro-styled upscale with several technological advances, including the Quadra Lift air-ride suspension (4.5 inches of user-adjustable lift, giving you up to 11.1 inches of offroad clearance) and a new, Range Rover-styled SelecTerrain system, which dials up variations of throttle response, gearing and braking for sand, snow, mud and other terrain types.
To the joy of everyone over 5 feet, the new GC has also been blessed with new, larger door openings – I just looked at a review I wrote of the current Grand Cherokee when it first came out and I noted then my propensity to recurringly knock myself nearly unconscious every time I got in the SUV, thanks to a severe front window angle.
Rear passengers will also enjoy more knee and leg room (hooray); thousands more welds and an improved overall design will boost torsional stiffness by 146 percent, making it a more rugged machine.
That’s all find and well, but … I haven’t driven one of those yet (the pictures do look nice, and it’s not terribly different on the outside than the current 2010), so let me remind you of a few of the current model’s plusses, should you be trying to work some end-of-model-year magic with the dealers.
Grand Cherokee did indeed get wider, longer and beefier, starting in 2005, and it’s still a rugged and adaptable machine, minus the aforementioned forehead banging on the A-pillar. And despite all of those marginally Jeepy Jeeps which appeared in the past few years (the Patriot, for instance), the Grand Cherokee and its full-time Quadra-Trac II AWD system still made it a formidable off-road machine.
Interiors can get just a bit too urbane for my tastes (leather seats, rear DVD entertaiment systems and such), but since hardly any of its non-mountain owners ever get a vehicle more than slightly wet, such was the concession in design.
As you see from the picture above, we put the Grand Cherokee to the test up in the Flat Tops and, from what I remember of the weekend excursion, it got us through lagoon-sized mud puddles, over rocks and such in great style. I too will be interested to see what 2011’s makeover does to the big boy of American off-roaders.
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