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New York show: Jeep unveils grandest Cherokee

Officially out: The Benz-based Jeep Grand Cherokee was first sprung in congress documents.

Grand Cherokee emerges at New York, but Benz-based Jeep flagship could be year away

9 Apr 2009

FIRST revealed in official Chrysler LLC documents tendered to US Congress in February as part of the number three US car-maker’s survival plan, the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee flagship has been revealed at this week’s New York Auto Show.

Claimed to represent a quantum leap in design, quality and refinement over the current Grand Cherokee, which arrived in Australia just four years ago in 2005, the all-new Jeep range-topper was developed before Daimler split with Chrysler 18 months ago.

Apart from its new-from-the-ground-up Mercedes-Benz ML-based monocoque chassis, the new Grand Cherokee features include ‘Quadralift’ adjustable air suspension and a “world-class” new interior, as evidenced by these images of the top-shelf Limited variant.

Though the exact timing of its Australian release is yet to be locked in, Chrysler Australia has confirmed that at least a diesel-powered right-hand-drive version will become available here – most likely powered by a variation of the current model’s 3.0-litre turbo-diesel Benz V6.

There is no word yet on the local availability of the Chrysler group’s all-new flexible-fuel 3.6-litre petrol V6, which makes its debut in and is the headline act of the new Grand Cherokee powertrain line-up, nor the 5.7-litre HEMI petrol V8 that has also been revealed.

Diesel and petrol engines have been confirmed for export markets including Australia, but whether that includes a variation of the outgoing model’s 4.7-litre petrol V8 – or a successor for the 6.1-litre SRT8 V8 – is unknown.

Either way, Grand Cherokee customers could have to wait until 2011 to take delivery of the mould-breaking new Jeep hero.

Chrysler Australia public relations manager Jerry Stamoulis told GoAuto that local timing was up in the air.

“They have announced that a diesel version of the right-hand drive will be available to us, but as for timing there’s been no confirmed date and if that means 2010 or 2011 we won’t know for at least a few months.

“Of course, the V8 and new 3.6-litre V6 are appealing to us, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”

9 center imagePowering the entry-level version of the 2011 Grand Cherokee, the all-new 3.6 replaces the 3.7-litre petrol V6 that was discontinued for Australia’s 2008 model year. An all-aluminium 60-degree engine, it features double overhead camshafts (DOHC) and variable valve timing to deliver 209kW (up 33 per cent) and 353Nm of torque from 4800rpm – up 11 per cent.

Chrysler’s new V6, which should also eventually power Jeep’s mid-size Cherokee and Chrysler’s next-generation 300C (also revealed in February’s congress documents but not shown at New York), is claimed to improve fuel consumption over the previous 3.7 V6 by 11 per cent. It will again be mated to a W5A580 five-speed automatic transmission. Combined with a three-gallon-larger (93-litre) fuel tank, the V6 is said to be good for an 800km range.

Chrysler’s legendary HEMI V8 has been uprated for the 2011 Grand, in which it will deliver 268kW (up from 240kW) and 520Nm of torque (up from 500Nm) from 4250rpm. Mated to a 545RFE automatic transmission, it features variable valve timing and Chrysler’s fuel-saving Multi-Displacement System (MDS).

Jeep says the HEMI-equipped Grand Cherokee 4x2 will offer an unrivalled 3350kg towing capacity, while three different four-wheel drive systems will be available in the US: Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II with Electronic Limited-Slip Differential (ELSD).

In addition, five terrain settings will be available via a new Selec-Terrain system in conjunction with Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II – Auto, Sand/Mud, Sport, Snow and Rock.

Then there is Jeep’s version of Mercedes’ adjustable air suspension system, dubbed Quadra Lift, which is able to lift the vehicle 115mm in parking mode, up to a maximum ride height of 282mm.

No matter the specification, Jeep says all 2011 Grand Cherokees will be “Trail Rated”, indicating that “the vehicle has been designed to perform in a variety of challenging off-road conditions identified by five key consumer-oriented performance categories: traction, ground clearance, manoeuvrability, articulation and water fording”.

According to Jeep, the next Grand’s all-new and more spacious interior is now on par in terms of luxury with its European rivals, which presumably include the facelifted 10MY Range Rover also shown at New York, plus the ML/GL-class upon which it is based, Audi’s Q7, Porsche’s Cayenne and the BMW X5.

“Following in the footsteps of our all-new 2009 Dodge Ram, our all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee is another proud graduate of our Advanced Interior Design Studio,” said Chrysler’s vice-president of design Ralph Gilles. “We achieved a world-class interior by using fine materials and maintaining a laser-attention to details.” New features include the CommandView dual-pane sunroof that’s said to provide twice as much glass surface than a standard sunroof by extending from the windscreen to the rear of the wagon. The front section can be opened, while the rear section features a power sun shade for rear-seat passengers.

Luxury appointments include “premium” soft-touch interior materials, including a leather instrument panel and door uppers on the Overland model, real woodgrain trim, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, four-way power lumbar controls, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and starting, a rear-view camera and a power tilting/telescoping steering column with memory.

The new five-seater Grand rides on a 135mm-longer wheelbase at 2916mm and is 46mm longer overall and 76mm wider than before.

Jeep says it therefore delivers more interior cargo space and convenience, via wider front and rear door openings 78 versus 67 degrees), more than 100mm of extra rear-seat knee room, reclining second-row seats, 17 per cent more luggage space at 1028 litres, a larger glovebox, covered centre-stack storage bin, flat-folding front passenger seat (on Laredo variants) and removable dual storage bins in the spare wheel well.

Other new technology will include a powered tailgate with remote control, standard bi-Xenon headlights on Limited and Overland variants, and “segment-exclusive SmartBeam headlights that adjust to ambient light and oncoming traffic to deliver maximum lighting”.

The 68-year-old US off-roader brand, which claims to have invented the SUV concept, says the new Grand features all-new independent front and rear suspension systems and a body structure that is more rigid than the X5’s as well as being 146 per cent better than its predecessor in terms of torsional stiffness.

It says there are 5400 welds in the body alone, representing a 53 per cent increase in spot welds, a 42 per cent increase in arc welds and a 38 per cent increase in structural adhesive.

No fewer than 45 safety and security features are led by standard electronic stability control (ESC) including Electronic Roll Mitigation, Hill-Start Assist, Trailer-Sway Control and optional Hill-Descent Control. Full-length side-curtain and seat-mounted side thorax airbags will be standard, along with active front head restraints.

Thanks to new panels all round, Jeep says the new Grand Cherokee body is seven per cent slipperier, with a drag co-efficient of about 0.37Cd (versus a fridge-like 0.404 for the current model).

“Our all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is much more refined, focused and sportier than the model it replaces,” said Mr Gilles. “It has classic Jeep Grand Cherokee styling with sculpted athletic exterior refinements for 2011.” Chief cosmetic elements include a newer take on Jeep’s trademark seven-slot grille, round headlight within narrow (and no longer scalloped) headlights, a narrower daylight opening and trapezoidal wheelarches.

All models will come with black B-pillar appliqués and chromed side window surrounds, while chromed door-handles will be optional. The standard wheel size will be 17-inch, with 18-inch and 20-inch items (for Limited and Overland variants) on the options list. V6 models will have a single 3.0-inch exhaust outlet, while the HEMI-powered Grand Cherokee will feature twin chromed 3.5-inch outlets.

The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee will be built at Chrysler LLC’s 250-hectare Jefferson North Assembly Plant (JNAP) in Detroit, which was completed in 1991 to produce the first Grand Cherokee from 1992. JNAP is currently undergoing a 2.6-hectare expansion to replace its existing body shop, as part of a $A2.5 billion investment in new vehicle programs.

Read more:

First look: Next-gen 300C and Grand Cherokee laid bare

The Road to Recovery podcast series

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