In 2011, Chrysler Canada was turning a corner. Overall sales were up and the company was making money.
Jeep's flagship SUV, the Grand Cherokee, also received a major overhaul, which included new body style, a new V-6 engine, interior makeover, and revised 4WD systems. Although it was no longer available with the Mercedes six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, a new Pentastar V-6 apparently gave it greater driving range and better fuel economy than its predecessor. Jeep claimed that you could go up to 1,000 kilometres between fill-ups.
Based on the same platform as the Mercedes ML350, and manufactured in Jefferson, Mich., the 2011 Grand Cherokee was available in four trim levels, with either the V-6 or Chrysler's Hemi V-8 for power. The Hemi was offered with a fuel-saving, multicylinder displacement system and featured Chrysler's own variable valve timing system. It developed 360 horsepower and was matched to a five-speed transmission.
The base Laredo E, meanwhile, came with the new 3.6-litre V-6 only, and developed 290 horsepower, also with a five-speed transmission. Jeep's Quadra Trac I 4WD system was standard issue and was one of three different systems, varying from model to model. The top-of-the-line Overland, for example, had Quadra Drive II, with an automatic ride height adjustment that Jeep called Quadra-Lift. Hit a console-mounted button, and the vehicle raised or lowered itself as much as 10 centimetres.
All trim levels of this generation of the Grand Cherokee came well-equipped. Standard kit included an electronic stability control program, hill start assist, power driver's seat, 17-inch wheels and tires, Sirius satellite radio, dual zone air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering and fog lamps. Step up to the top-of-the-line Overland and you got leather interior, touch-screen navi, 20-inch wheels and tires, and interior wood trim.
There are no safety recalls for this year of the Grand Cherokee – either from Transport Canada or the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA, however, has nine service bulletins out there, with a whopping 81 complaints registered. The service bulletins include a myriad of software issues for the suspension and various electrical accessories, plus issues with the transmission torque converter and hard starting under some circumstances.
The vast majority of these issues appear to be related to the powertrain control module, which manages a variety of vehicle functions. Complaints about this component are many. A sampling: "sitting in heavy traffic, Jeep stalled and caused a traffic backup," "while driving at 30 mph, the vehicle stalled … vehicle was inspected and diagnosed as having a TIPM [powertrain module] malfunction," "found myself in a bad part of town and the vehicle would not turn over." By far, the majority of complaints registered with NHTSA concern faulty powertrain modules and prospective buyers are advised to check this out before signing on the dotted line.
Consumer Reports likes the comfort level, fit and finish and ride quality of this Grand Cherokee, but gives the V-6 version a "worse-than-average" used-car prediction, while the V-8 model receives this organization's worst possible rating. Comments from owners: "Had to have rack and pinion replaced months after taking delivery," "this is a disappointing vehicle" and "the security system horn sounds intermittently without provocation."
J.D. Power gives the 2011 Grand Cherokee an "about-average" grade for overall quality and "better-than-most" marks for overall performance and design. Predicted reliability, however, falls short, getting a below-average grade. More comments from owners: "dog climbs on arm rest and can lock doors," "lack of smooth acceleration is very frustrating," "feels completely secure on ice and snow" and "love the rear park assist."
From a $38,000 base price in 2011, the Grand Cherokee's value has held up surprisingly well. A base Laredo V-6 model is going for $20,000-$30,000, while the middle-range Limited fetches $6,000-$7,000 more. The top-of-the-line Overland with a V-8, meanwhile, is worth at least $30,000 stretching to the high $30,000s. V-8 models fetch $1,000-$1,500 more than the V-6 versions.
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Original Base Price: $37,995; Black Book: $29,575-$39,375 (V-8); Red Book: $20,525-$28,425
Engines: 3.6-litre V-6 and 5.7-litre V-8
Horsepower/Torque: 290 hp/260 lb-ft for V-6; 360 hp/390 lb-ft for V-8
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 13.0 city/8.9 highway (V-6); regular gas
Alternatives: Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia, Range Rover, Volkswagen Touareg, Chevrolet Tahoe, Mercedes-Benz ML 350, Toyota Highlander
Correction: In the Tech Specs list above, the horsepower for the V6 model is 290, not 260 as stated earlier.