For 2011, Jeep's top-of-the-line trail crawler is built on an all-new platform, a version of the one beneath the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. (The Grand Cherokee version is designed for more extreme off-road use than the Mercedes.) The new SUV has the most polish of any Jeep to date, and retains its off-road chops.
The Grand Cherokee comes with either a new 3.6-liter V-6 or a 5.7-liter V-8, both with a five-speed automatic, and three four-wheel-drive systems to choose from. Selec-Terrain, which competes with Land Rover's Terrain Response, makes off-roading very easy. Push the appropriate button, and you're ready for the dirt. Add the myriad lux options available in the four trim levels, and this vehicle offers perhaps the greatest number of permutations in this year's SUOTY.
There were pros and cons with both engines. With the V-6, the Grand Cherokee reached 60 mph in 8.6 seconds; the 5.7-liter knocked that down to 7.5. Off-road, the Jeep is still a Jeep, crawling uphill in loose dirt without any difficulty. The Grand Cherokee's five-speed auto pales next to competitors' six-, seven- and eight-speed units.
There was universal praise for the interior, where testers liked Jeep's materials choices and overall fit and finish. They noted that the cabin was clean, simple, and easy to use, and also looked elegant. Minor gripes included an unusually fat steering wheel rim section and excessive tire noise.
Does the Jeep Grand Cherokee have what it takes to be the crowned the 2011 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the year? Tune in on October 19th to find out who takes the title!
Read More: First Drive: 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee