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  • 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo X 4X4

    Posted on May 13th, 2011 ninarussin

    Premium sport-utility vehicle priced under $40,000

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

    Several weeks back I drove the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited: one of four available grades on Jeep’s flagship sport-utility vehicle. This week, I got behind the wheel of the Laredo X, which sits between the base Laredo E and Limited grades.

    Base price for the Laredo is $32,215, not including the $780 destination charge. The Laredo X option package adds about $4000, bringing the price above the $35,000 cut-off for our best value category. Still, the fully-equipped test car is significantly less expensive than either the Limited or Overland grades, which start at $40,000 for the four-wheel drive models.

    The Laredo X comes with leather trim, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, remote start, a rear-view backup camera, Bluetooth interface, 115-volt power outlet, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Power comes from a 3.6-liter V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission.

    Unlike the base model, the Laredo X is available with Jeep’s new all-terrain package, which automatically adapts the car’s steering, suspension and brakes to the road surface. The driver selects one of five settings using a rotary dial on the center console, and on-board computers do the rest.

    Selec-Terrain is part of an option package which also adds tow hooks and an engine block heater ($695). The car’s air suspension works in tandem with the system to increase ground clearance on uneven terrain. A sport mode lowers the body to improve aerodynamics at higher speeds.

    The Quadra Trac I four-wheel drive system on the Laredo has a single-speed transfer case, but still offers enough off-road capability to satisfy most drivers’ needs.

    Selec-Terrain adds confidence on off-road trails

    I took the Grand Cherokee to an off-road park northeast of Phoenix to see how the car’s four-wheel drive and Selec-Terrain control systems would work. While the trails I drove on couldn’t compete with the extreme terrain of the Rubicon trail, they were rugged enough to strip suspension components off of ordinary cars.

    If somebody had at some point graded the access road, it was not within recent memory. This, plus a fairly long hill with a steep grade made the area perfect for my test. I set the rotary dial on the “mud and sand” setting and moved onto the dirt.

    The Grand Cherokee maintained excellent traction throughout the off-road section. I felt the wheels slip slightly going up the steepest hill, but the four-wheel drive system quickly sent power to the tires with the best grip.

    Six-cylinder engine conserves fuel on long commutes

    2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

    Although the six-cylinder engine lacks the horsepower and low-end torque of the available hemi V-8, it may be a more practical choice for buyers in urban areas. Those who don’t need the V-8 power for towing or off-road driving enjoy significantly better gas mileage: about 3 miles-per-gallon according to EPA estimates.

    The Laredo model is almost 200 pounds lighter than the Limited, enhancing fuel economy even further.

    An “Eco” light on the gauge cluster lets the driver know when the cylinder deactivation feature is engaged. The system automatically cuts power to several engine cylinders when loads are low to further enhance fuel economy. Average fuel economy for my 130-mile test drive was 21.3 mpg: significantly higher than the EPA estimate.

    The 290-horsepower engine has ample power for accelerating into high-speed traffic and passing slower vehicles at speed. A six-speed automatic transmission would have enhanced gas mileage further as compared to the standard five speed version. However the gearbox works well with the engine, progressing smoothly through the gears with minimal shift shock.

    Steering feedback from the power rack-and-pinion system is good at all speeds. A 37-foot turning radius makes U-turns viable on wider suburban roads.

    The fact that the Grand Cherokee is a unit body rather than body-on-frame vehicle gives it handling more like a passenger car than a truck. On the flip side, the body is strong and rigid enough to withstand the rigors of off-road driving.

    The suspension consists of and short and long arm independent set-up in front and multi-links in the rear. Standard anti-sway controls in the rear suspension make towing safer. Towing capacity for the four-wheel drive Grand Cherokee with the V-6 engine is 5000 pounds: well in excess of our ALV minimum standards.

    Versatile interior

    Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior

    In addition to having luxury appointments such as leather trim, dual-zone climate control and satellite radio, the Grand Cherokee Laredo interior is also practical. I can’t say enough good things about the removable rubber floor and trunk mats. They are so much easier to keep clean than thick carpeting.

    A digital information display in the gauge cluster includes important vehicle information such as oil, transmission and coolant temperatures, tire pressures, driving range and fuel economy. Monitoring fluid pressures and temperatures can be critical when engine loads are high, when towing or driving on extreme off-road trails.

    Both the center stack screen and gauge cluster are easy to read in bright sunlight. The rear-view camera which comes with the Laredo X package eliminates blind spots in the back corners and underneath the rear glass. Lines superimposed over the camera image show the car’s trajectory based on steering inputs.

    The passenger compartment has abundant storage areas, including a locking glovebox and two-tier center console bin. All four doors have bottle holders. Overhead lighting over both rows of seating illuminate the interior at night.

    Vents behind the center console keep second-row passengers comfortable in the warm weather, while a 115-volt outlet allows kids to plug in games or a computer. Because the Grand Cherokee has a relatively low floor tunnel, three adults can sit in back.

    A cargo cover keeps items stored in back protected from prying eyes. Tie-down hooks help to secure larger items. With the rear seats folded flat, the Grand Cherokee easily meets our bicycle friendly standards.

    Standard safety

    The Grand Cherokee comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, vehicle stability and traction control. Hill start assist prevents the vehicle from sliding backwards when accelerating from a stop on steep grades. The Grand Cherokee comes with a five year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

    Chrysler builds the Jeep Grand Cherokee in its Detroit, Michigan assembly plant.

    Likes: An affordably priced full-sized sport-utility vehicle with off-road capability and a high level of comfort, convenience and safety features.

    Dislike: Five-speed automatic transmission cannot offer the fuel economy of a six-speed box.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Jeep
    Model: Grand Cherokee Laredo X 4X4
    Year: 2011
    Base price: $32,215
    As tested: $38,085
    Horsepower: 290 Hp @ 6400 rpm
    Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: Yes
    Towing: Yes
    Fuel economy: 16/22 mpg city/highway

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