Forget the old Chrysler; the automaker is calling themselves "The New Chrysler".
This is a pretty smart move because the old Chrysler has had its share of problems, both financial and mechanically. But if you remember, they did offer "rich Corinthian leather".
It was just two years ago it looked like the automaker may go under for good. But thanks to a government bailout and some ownership changes, (including part ownership by Italian brand Fiat and the recent 6.3 billion purchases from T-D bank) Chrysler is reinventing themselves, and that includes the entire line up under the Chrysler umbrella including Jeep.
In the past, the 4x4's were know for their off road capability, squeaks, rattles and not being the most reliable SUV on the road.
This is where the "New" part comes in; the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Starting with a complete redesign, Jeep is looking to be king of the road and trail. And after spending some time behind the wheel of a 2011 Grand Cherokee Laredo, I think they have a good chance of doing that.
The first thing about the new Jeep you'll notice are the new looks. The same rugged Jeep flavor is there with the familiar looking grill, but with a few new bends in the sheet metal, a tired design gets a much needed update.
I was handed the keys to a Dark Charcoal Pearl example outfitted with the "X" package along with a number of other bells and whistles.
I didn't really need the keys as one of the features is keyless entry.
The first thing I noticed when climbing inside was how Jeep has really classed up the interior. No more bargain basement materials. The leather is soft, the wood is real, and in the center stack, no touchy, hard to use Chrysler navigation system, there's an actual Garmin in there. Ingenious!
The controls are ergonomically laid out and easy to use. Just about anything you need to do from audio to cruise control to blue tooth are located on the front and back of the steering wheel.
The gauges are easy to read and a nice blue display in between your tach and speedo will give you all your standard vitals from trip meters, mpg, average speed, miles to empty and so on.
Also on the dash you'll see a little "start" button that fires up the optional 360hp 5.7 liter V8. The sound is awesome! Nothing beats the rumble of a V-8. The gas mileage that comes with the sound is not so awesome. The EPA puts it at 13 city and 19 highway. My combined mileage around town was 14. But I have a heavy foot and the magical sound the engine makes is worth a few MPG. If you want to get a little more economical, there is a 290hp V6 available that turns in a 16/23 in the EPA mileage department.
In the off chance you want to drown out the V8 burble, the Cherokee I was piloting had the optional 506 watt stereo. It sounds great and with XM and iPod connectivity, yeah, I was rocking out.
On the road the new independent front and rear suspension delivers a smooth ride on all but the bumpiest of roads…. 20 Bypass, I'm talking to you.
When the roads turn from bumpy to snow or dirt covered, a cool and very functional little dial on the center console gives you the options of dialing up a few different 4 wheel drive options: 4wd low, snow, auto, or sand and mud. You can also choose a "rock" and "sport setting". "Sport" turns off the traction control when you feel like having a little fun in the slippery stuff.
Jeep really put a lot of thought into the little details. While a number of cars only come with a can of Fix A Flat and an emergency roadside number these days, in the new Jeep you'll find a full size spare. And if you have to change it in the dark, there's even a rechargeable flashlight in located in the hatch. That's brilliant thinking.
At night, or early morning as my case may be, the interior lighting is a nice touch. A soft blue hue lights everything from the dash, door handles and cup holders.
Your warranty is a 3 year 36,000 bumper to bumper with a 5 year 100k mile power train.
Overall the new jeep fits in with the "New" Chrysler. Pricing is competitive in this arena of the SUV market. A base Grand Cherokee starts at a tick over 30k and a fully loaded Overland with all the options will take you into the mid 40 range. This is where you'll get perks like an air-suspension and a special interior.
The only thing that could make it better is by bringing back the SRT-8 package.
My likes: Well put together, quality materials, nice new looks, and that humming V-8 purrr.
My Dislikes: If the sun comes through the windows or optional sunroof just right, it's impossible to see the display screen. A bit thirsty.
Next month: Ford Taurus Limited
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