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#8

in 2011 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $20,842 - $29,621
Original MSRP: $30,215 - $42,295
MPG: 16 City / 23 Hwy
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2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Reviewers feel that the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee delivers excellent off-road handling and even good performance on the pavement. Their only complaints concern the steering, which doesn’t offer much feedback.

Check out our 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee video to see how it stacked up on our test drive.

  • "As you might expect, the combination of a rigid body and independent suspension gives the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee a far smoother ride with much more body control. On a long trek through Northern California across narrow mountain roads and high-speed freeways, the Grand Cherokee proved impressive." -- Edmunds
  • "On-road, the '11 Jeep Grand Cherokee is more refined and more efficient, and doesn't give up anything for its slightly larger size. Off-road at Moab, it [sic] hard to imagine how it could get any better." -- Motor Trend
  • "The Grand Cherokee's ride comfort is its most impressive quality." -- Cars.com
  • "The GC's Benz architecture makes for a seriously pleasing ride on the open road, and with a triple-sealing strategy to separate engine and wind noise from the cabin, NVH levels are vastly improved. We're talking Lexus quiet." -- Autoblog

Acceleration and Power

Standard on all models of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a new 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Optional on Laredo, Limited and Overland models is an engine carried over from the 2010 model: a 5.7-liter V8 engine that makes 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. Both engines come with five-speed automatic transmissions.

According to the EPA, RWD V6 Grand Cherokee models net 16/23 mpg city/highway, while 4WD models will get 16/22. V8 models get 14/20 and 13/19 mpg with RWD and 4WD, respectively. These figures are slightly higher than the 2010 model’s numbers, but they’re still not great – especially when compared with crossover SUVs.

  • "The power is adequate for most situations, but we'd like more for the uphill sprints, highway merges, and inviting roads. Our V-6 Limited model was also burdened by inconsistent behavior from the standard five-speed automatic transmission." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Our only complaint is the lackluster five-speed transmission. When matched with the 360-hp V8, the automatic gives you the feeling that the power is available, yet not all of it seems able to come out and play. The 290-hp V6 feels like a much better match with the transmission, as the gear ratios are stacked closer together so you don't fall off the power curve when the transmission shifts up." -- Edmunds
  • "The V-6's performance is strong enough - which is good because Jeep expects 75 percent of Grand Cherokee buyers to opt for it - but it doesn't make the SUV feel quick. Once up to highway speeds, the V-6 cruises easily at 70 mph." -- Cars.com
  • "We enjoyed a brief stint in the variable valve timing-equipped 5.7-liter V8, and with 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, it does a more than an adequate job of motivating this massive slab of SUV." -- Autoblog
  • "The V-8 did offer a little more punch, but frankly the extra 100 horsepower didn't wow me. I'd be more than happy with the V-6 on a daily basis." -- North Star National

Handling and Braking

For 2011, the Jeep Grand Cherokee gets a new suspension that gives it much more comfortable on-road handling. Reviewers say it handles bumps in the pavement very well for an off-road vehicle, though they complain that the steering doesn’t offer much feedback.

For an even more comfortable ride, however, test drivers recommend the new Quadra-Lift air suspension system. It comes standard on Overland models and optional on other 4WD models. The system can be operated automatically or manually and features five different height settings for different situations.

  • "The GC's steering loads up predictably and doesn't have much on-center slack, which means it will work fine for the average buyer. The brakes don't provide a lot of feedback, but they are up to the task of dealing with the Grand Cherokee's considerable mass -- 4500 to 5200 pounds, according to Jeep's estimates." -- Car and Driver
  • "The suspension is supple, with consistent, moderately heavy understeer. It wallows in the corners if you push it to the limit. Ride and handling is exactly as you'd expect of any comfortable, modern highway cruiser." -- Motor Trend
  • "Where many SUVs can feel like dumb crates with unpredictable handling, Jeep kept the Grand Cherokee tight, with good damping response when hitting the inevitable bumps in the road." -- CNET
  • "We drove a couple Grand Cherokees with the coil-spring suspension that Jeep expects more than 75 percent of buyers to choose, and it proved very good. But once you experience the Quadra-Lift air suspension, you'll never be content with coil springs again." -- Edmunds
  • "The power assist remains even and relatively light regardless of speed or angle, but it's also devoid of feedback. Happily, the Grand Cherokee has great on-center response, confidently reacting to slight steering changes." -- Automobile Magazine

Off-Roading

The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee can conquer nearly anything off the beaten path. It’s available with a choice of three four-wheel drive systems. Quadra-Trac I is a full-time system with a single-speed transfer case; it doesn’t require any input from the driver. Quadra-Trac II includes a two-speed transfer case, and Quadra-Drive II features a full-time transfer case with a rear Electronic Limited-Slip Differential. The system detects tire slip and distributes engine torque to tires with the most traction.

The Grand Cherokee provides up to 8.6 inches of ground clearance with the standard suspension and up to 10.7 inches with the optional air suspension. New for this year, the Quadra-Lift air suspension system is standard on Overland models and optional on Laredo X and Limited models with 4WD.

The Quadra-Lift air suspension system can be operated automatically or manually and features five different height settings. Normal Ride Height provides 8.1 inches of clearance; Off-road 1 lifts the SUV an extra 1.3 inches to help clear obstacles; Off-road 2 provides an extra 2.6 inches; Park Mode lowers the vehicle 1.5 inches to make it easier to enter and exit; and Aero Mode lowers the vehicle half an inch to make the Grand Cherokee more aerodynamic and provide maximum fuel economy.

Reviewers say the air suspension system makes the Grand Cherokee comfortable both on and off the pavement. They also love the new Selec-Terrain system, which is standard on models with Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II. The system offers modes for five types of driving conditions: Sand/Mud, Sport, Auto, Snow and Rock.

  • "Once you've put the Grand Cherokee in the right position, though, it's effortless to scramble up the slick rock faces. Just gently lean into the throttle until the vehicle is moving forward and let the traction control take care of any excess. Tackling red rock from the comfort of a ventilated leather seat with the panoramic sunroof open to sweeping blue sky is a sweet -- if almost sacrilegious -- experience." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "[T]he 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee's hill descent control (a feature of this SUV's optional Quadra-Drive 4x4 system) modulated each wheel's speed, applying the right amount of brake to each tire and allowing us to creep down a hillside steeper than any rollercoaster at Six Flags. It was an impressive orchestration of braking and gearing control that took this comprehensively reengineered Jeep Grand Cherokee down a hill nobody would dream of being able to even walk down." -- Edmunds
  • "Difficult slick-rock climbs succumbed to the Grand Cherokee's electronically controlled traction aids just as readily as Hill Descent Control made inching down the other side a feet-flat-on-the-floor proposition. In fact, the electronics were so good we eventually shut some of them off just to have something to do besides steer." -- Road and Track
  • “The SUV felt secure and sure-footed at all times - even when looking up at the sky on a steep hill climb." -- Cars.com
  • “In some of the deeper ruts we were surprised the Grand Cherokee didn't bottom out, while small mounds tested the break-over angle. With front wheels over the ridge the vehicle only scraped bottom when we went over a little fast." -- CNET
  • "What impressed the most was the complete lack of skill necessary to navigate down the sandy, rock-strewn descent. We simply kept our foot off the pedals, turned the wheel a few degrees when necessary and then got back on the throttle when things evened out." -- Autoblog
  • "Hill descent control was amazing as we dropped down a long, steep hill without brakes at a crawl. The Grand Cherokee managed rocks, sandy climbs and hairpin turns with aplomb. No compromises here that I noticed." -- North Star National

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