What it is: The 2011 Grand Cherokee is the first year of the all-new, fourth generation of Jeep SUVs. The new Grand Cherokee has been well received by the media, and I was eager to get behind the wheel. I was very pleasantly not disappointed. My test model was the base-level trim referred to as ‘Laredo,’ powered by Chrysler’s new 3.6L Penstastar V6 which is rated at 290 horsepower and 260 lb-feet of torque. The near-legendary 5.7L V8 is available with 360hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. My test model had minimal options, just a towing package and a convenience group that gives you Bluetooth phone access and some other basics, but it still felt like a complete package. I wouldn’t describe the interior as luxurious, but it didn’t feel cheap at all. The seats were comfortable (I logged nearly 1,500 miles in the driver’s seat) and my passengers enjoyed the smooth ride and the very capable entry-level stereo choice. The ride of the car on the freeway in particular was incredible for an SUV. It rode more like a $60,000+ luxury SUV than a $30,000 off-road capable vehicle. Jeep does offer some serious options for the off-road focused crowd. Five trim packages are offered, each with 4X4 available. On the Overland trim, you get a two-speed transfer case as well as Jeep’s new Quadra-Lift air suspension. You have a control knob in the vehicle that allows you to choose between five different settings which include ‘Normal Ride Height’ which puts the ground clearance at 8.1,” ‘Off-road 1,’ which gives you an extra 1.3” of ride height, ‘Off-road 2,’ which provides 2.6” extra ride heigh, ‘Park Mode,’ which lowers the car 1.5” to ease entering/exiting the vehicle and loading the roof rack, and finally, ‘Aero Mode,’ which lowers the vehicle .5” at highway level speeds to increase fuel economy. The Grand Cherokee may be just as handsome as the other SUVs out there, but it bring some serious off-road technology to the fight as well. Price: Base price: $30,215. Overland 4X4 trim base price: $41,910. As tested: $33,135. Upsides: Great looking and great performance. Downsides: Gas mileage is average at 16 city and 23 highway (with the V6) Summary: I really enjoyed the Grand Cherokee. Jeep has turned the Grand Cherokee into one of the leading SUVs available with the new transformation. It’s extremely smooth riding and should have no problem with anything that 90 percent of y’all would throw at it on a regular basis, even in Laredo trim form. Need more capability? Jeep offers it in spades. Jeep is definitely heading in the right direction, and it’s getting pulled there behind the Grand Cherokee.

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