Another Generation And One Less Solid Axle For '11
The '11 Jeep Grand Cherokee fills the silhouette of a crossover SUV.
And rightly so, because that's exactly what it is. We can't deny that it's certainly the most capable vehicle in that class. But what exactly does that mean and how capable is it really?
Jeep enthusiasts typically refer to the different Jeep models by acronyms (CJ, TJ, ZJ, WJ, and so on). Images of and info about the '11 Jeep Grand Cherokee surfaced over a year ago, but there was never an official acronym issued, until now. Unfortunately, the new acronym is about as unnoteworthy to the Jeep enthusiast market as the '11 Grand itself. The new Grand is still a WK, even though it shares more with the Mercedes M-Class than it does with the '05-'10 Grand Cherokee. Long gone are the days when the Grand Cherokee was a twin solid-axled enthusiast Jeep that enjoyed copious amounts of aftermarket attention in the form of lift kits, rocker guards, conversions, and so on. Much like its Mercedes counterpart, the '11 Jeep Grand Cherokee seems too sophisticated for such frills. But don't let its sophisticated side fool you into thinking it can't go off-road in stock trim.
We recently had a chance to get behind the wheel of the '11 Grand Cherokee on- and off-road in Moab, Utah. For the first time ever the next generation Grand Cherokee is less capable off-road than its predecessor-at least in our opinion. The pendulum seems to have swung more to on-road performance. But even though the new WK is the most refined Grand Cherokee ever offered, it's still able to tackle more difficult trails than the average WK buyer would ever consider attempting.
The '11 Grand is the first application of the 290hp flexible-fuel all-aluminum 3.6L Pentastar V-6. The new engine features an 11-percent improvement in fuel economy over the previous six-cylinder, delivering up to 23mpg. That's up to 500 miles per tank of fuel in the next-gen WK.
The 5.7L Hemi V-8 returns as an option and maintains the 7,400-pound trailer tow capability when properly optioned. The V-6 is rated to pull 5,000 pounds.
The new-gen WK is available with three different 4x4 systems, Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, and Quadra-Drive II.
Quadra-Trac I uses a single-speed transfer case that delivers full-time four-wheel drive without any switches or levers to pull. Think of it as the street T-case. This is what most vehicles in the crossover category consider good enough.
Quadra-Trac II implements a push-button two-speed transfer case that uses a variety of sensors to determine if there is tire slip. When tire slippage is detected, as much as 100 percent of available torque is instantly routed to the axle with the most traction. We found that in some cases traction is not enough to move the Jeep forward without a little more throttle.
Quadra-Drive II utilizes the Quadra-Trac II transfer case and ups the ante with a rear electronic limited-slip differential (ELSD). The system instantly detects tire slip and smoothly distributes engine torque to tires with traction. The vehicle can also anticipate low traction and adjust in order to proactively limit or eliminate tire slippage. If you plan on using the Grand Cherokee off-road more often than the typical user you'll want the Quadra-Drive II system.
New to the Grand Cherokee is the optional Quadra-Lift air suspension system which features five manually- and automatically-controlled height settings. Normal ride height (NRH) provides 8.1 inches of ground clearance. Park mode lowers the Jeep 1.5 inches from NRH for roof rack loading and easy ingress and egress. Aero mode lowers the Jeep .6 inches below NRH; it is controlled by vehicle speed and adjusts for improved performance and fuel economy. Off-road I lifts the vehicle an additional 1.3 inches over NRH for added height in clearing obstacles. Off-road II lifts the Jeep 2.6 inches over NRH for a maximum of 10.7 inches of ground clearance.