Grand Cherokee Selected Official Winter Vehicle of New England
This has been the winter to try men's souls to badly paraphrase a historical saying. It's been so tough that even the annual winter awards judging event for the New England Motor Press Association had to be postponed due to, well, winter, before the Grand Cherokee could be annointed.
You know it's a bad winter when a hardy group of automotive journalists gets cowed by the weather, especially when we're driving the very vehicles designed to laugh in the face of all that winter can throw our way here in New England. Fortunately it didn't stop us for long and we were able to gather for judging on a recent Saturday in Middleborough, Mass., a town probably best known for once being the home of General Tom Thumb.
Fittingly, some will accuse automotive journalists of being mental midgets, but in this case our collective brains made the right choice in the selection of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee as the Official Winter Vehicle of New England. You're not going to find a more complete package at an affordable price that can take anything winter throws its way, as well as the remaining three seasons.
I've waxed enthusiastic about the Jeep Grand Cherokee in the past. When it first came out, I summed it up as the American Range Rover in a review in the Boston Globe and it's a sentiment shared by a lot of other journalists. I've driven the Grand Cherokee in difficult conditions off-road, as well as the Range Rover, and it performs just as ably for tens of thousands of dollars less.
The Grand Cherokee has three new 4x4 systems as well as a terrain system with a choice of five settings (including snow, which has been more than put to the test this winter in New England). The Quadra-Lift air suspension system can raise the ride height to 10.7 inches or lower it to 6.6 inches. The Jeep Wrangler, a much less sophisticated vehicle with serious off-road chops, has a maximum ground clearance of 10.6 inches.
The driving pleasure is enhanced by an all-new 3.6-liter, Pentastar V-6 that produces 290 horsepower and 260 lb. ft. of torque while getting 22-mpg highway and 16-mpg city in four-wheel drive. Just to beat the Range Rover comparison to death, it gets 18-mpg highway and 12-mpg city from its only available engine, a 5.0-liter V8.
While this didn't play into the final judging decision, a factor in the Grand Cherokee's favor has to be price. Pricing has dropped across the board from 2010 to 2011 on comparable models in most cases by a few hundred dollars (always better than a price increase). The Laredo 4x2, the base model, costs $30,995 – a $495 drop from 2010. The most expensive Grand Cherokee is the Overland 4x4 trim level that costs $42,995. (A 2009 Overland 4x4 cost $45,625 – no 2010 model was made.) All prices include destination.
Here is the complete list of the other winners.