Exploring New Technologies
With 7,500 miles rolled on to our ’11 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s odometer, we are still very much enjoying our time with the SUV. This vehicle offers exceptional comfort in a daily driver role, not only offering outstanding around town and highway performance, but also a slew of entertainment options for passengers, such as Sirius satellite radio and a rear seat entertainment system.
One of the best features of the Grand is the 360hp 5.7L Hemi V-8, if you can afford the fuel bill. With plenty of reserve power for passing and seamless cruising up long grades, the Hemi is well matched to the Grand and the five-speed automatic that it is paired to. The Multi-Displacement System-equipped engine has the ability to switch to only four cylinders at cruise and in low load situations to save fuel. However, if your driving style is such that you are going on a lot of short trips or aren’t doing a lot of highway miles, you might not find yourself in the fuel-saving mode often enough for it to make a big difference. If this is the case, be prepared for real world fuel economy numbers that will hover in the 12s. Without an all-highway tank during this quarter, our best tank registered at 14.73 mpg, while we averaged just 13.14 mpg during the quarter. As curious about highway numbers as you are, we have a few trips already planned for the next report to gauge what the Grand is capable of on the highway.
During this quarter we used the Grand to prerun our OTY routes and had a chance to sample the Selec-Terrain feature, where you can adjust various parameters of the Grand Cherokee’s four-wheel drive system with the twist of a knob. Depending on the setting and transfer case position, the Grand will vary torque split, ride height, transmission output, throttle sensitivity, brake application, and control the rear ELSD. Overall, the settings of Sport, Snow, Auto, Sand/Mud, and Rock do a good job of managing the Grand’s traction to the terrain that is being traversed.
This Jeep is capable in the dirt, no doubt about it. However, it isn’t as comfortable as you might expect. The air suspension isn’t as refined as some of the competition, and when the Grand is lifted to its highest Off-road 2 setting (2.6-inches of lift) it serves up a stiff ride that can sometimes be harsh, especially over rippled surfaces or whoops. As we’ve discovered, it is intended more for short, slow speed obstacles. The more common Off-road 1 setting (1.3-inches of lift), which is appropriate for most wheeling situations, is less harsh, but the rear can still be felt topping out on the trail with an audible clunk coming from the rebound springs. We’ve found that the Grand, at normal ride height, allows for the best ride on the trail, however you may find yourself constantly choosing between settings as you toe the line between ground clearance and ride comfort.
Our only concerns during this quarter were a buzz over certain freeway surfaces and a clunk that started emanating from the rear cargo area on an otherwise solid vehicle. The clunk could normally be heard when backing out of driveways at low speeds and turned out to be the rear shocks and mounts, which were replaced under warranty by Don-A-Vee Chrysler-Jeep in Placentia, California. The buzz turned out to be a trim piece on our mirror bezel, which we fixed by snapping it back in to place.
With our Grand feeling solid as a rock again, we’ll be driving in to the next quarter aiming to get some more highway miles under the belt and further our exploration of the new technologies on the trail.
Report: 2 OF 4
Previous reports: Nov ’11
Base price: $41,910
Price as tested: $47,750
Four-wheel-drive system: Full-time, two-speed
Miles to date: 7,491
Miles since last report: 3,689
Average mpg (this report): 13.14
Test best tank (mpg): 18.31
Test worst tank (mpg): 11.41
Oil change: $26.01
Problem areas: Rear shocks and mounts
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Great daily driver, perfect size, packed with technology
Not: Ride harshness in the dirt, fuel economy around town
“I can hear a clunk every time I back out of my driveway.”
“Rear passengers love the heated seats and the fact that seatbacks can be reclined.”
“Lots of commuting lately has me thinking it’s road trip time in the Grand!”
“Dealership experience was great, clunk seems to be gone.”
“I love driving this rig every day.”