Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Auto Reviews & News

January 19, 2011

Chrysler goes upscale with new Grand Cherokee

— For several years, Chrysler has made a lot of cars that looked great on the outside but disappointed on the inside.

The big 300 sedan is a great example. It's gangsta-styled body was gorgeous — almost Bentley-like — but its interior was just the opposite. It was roomy but also cheap, which was a big drawback for buyers who comparison shopped among models from Ford and GM.

As it entered its later years, the Jeep Grand Cherokee was the same way. It had rugged good looks on the outside, but inside it was putting on pretensions of luxury. It won over people for its off-road ability more than its cabin construction.

Well, there's a new Chrysler now, and it's finally fixed that problem with plastic interiors. The new 2011 Grand Cherokee shows how Chrysler has turned a corner.

Granted, there's a lot more to the new Grand Cherokee than its snazzy cabin, but that's what you will notice most if you've spent much time in its predecessors.

The new Grand Cherokee is classy inside. It feels solid. You want to touch it, love it and treat it carefully, which might seem odd for a rough-and-tumble brand like Jeep.

Soft materials help with the upscale feeling, but you also get the sense that designers paid more attention to details. Switches feel more precise; panel gaps are almost nonexistent; wood trim and strips of chrome make you wonder if you're in something expensive and European.

The driving feel isn't as big an improvement. It still feels like a Jeep, with a relatively firm suspension and that heavy, built-from-pig iron sensation over the road.

Acceleration is excellent with the 5.7-liter V8, although it's also available with a more efficient Pentastar V6 that gets up to 23 mpg on the highway.

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