Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Auto Reviews & News

January 19, 2011

Chrysler goes upscale with new Grand Cherokee

(Continued)

For off-road driving — which is really what the Grand Cherokee is designed to do — there is a new air suspension system that can vary the ride height depending on what you're trying to accomplish. Five settings cover everything from extreme off-road driving (giving you 10.7 inches of ground clearance) to a special low-rider mode that makes it easier to climb in and out of the cabin.

Jeep also offers the Selec-Terrain traction control system that uses computers to help you gain footing in different conditions. A knob lets you pick from sand/mud, sport, auto, snow and rock to adjust the powertrain, brakes and suspension for better performance.

In fact, all the luxury and off-road tech is reminiscent of a Land Rover, although for a lot less money. It starts just over $30,000.

If you select enough options, you get a vehicle that pushes the limits of luxury for the Jeep brand, offering things you just wouldn't expect from a tough, American off-roader. My test car, for example, had a power lift gate in back, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled seats, radar cruise control and a stereo with a hard drive to store MP3 music files.

It's also got a high-class body. One relative, who admittedly isn't a car buff, mistakenly thought it was a Lexus. The styling is sleek, at least by Jeep standards, and provides a wonderfully fresh interpretation of what a Jeep ought to look like.

Overall the new Grand Cherokee is a sign Chrysler is getting back on track. It's a major improvement over the old model, especially inside the cabin, but it's also not sacrificing the off-road capability that made Jeep famous.

Derek Price is editor of The Herald-Banner in Greenville, Texas. CNHI News Service distributes his automobile review column. He can be reached at carcolumn@yahoo.com.

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