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First drive: Jeep Grand Cherokee 2011 in the UAE

First drive: Jeep Grand Cherokee 2011 in the UAE


Chrysler held a two-day media event for the all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee in the UAE. And by “all-new”, we really do mean all-new. Now based on a Mercedes-Benz M-Class platform, that’s where the similarities end between the former siblings, as the Jeep is a completely unique vehicle.

The trip started off from the Al Badia Golf Course in Dubai. There, we got an eyeful of an entire row of new Jeeps, with both the 286 hp 3.6-litre “Pentastar” V6 and the 352 hp 5.7-litre “Hemi” V8 versions made available.

A walkaround of the 2011 car revealed a much more high-quality product that the awfully-built 2005-2010 one, and indeed also better than the 1999-2004 model. I should know, considering they had a few outgoing 2010 cars on hand, and I drove up there in my 2002 one. Chrysler’s quality had taken an embarrasingly major dip in the last few years, but they now seem to be on par with the “new” Chevrolet and Ford too.

With some keen observation, we determined that the V6 models have a single exhaust tip, while the V8 ones have a dual setup and larger wheels. All trim levels look pretty similar on the outside, even though prices range from Dhs 125,000 all the way beyond Dhs 175,000.

The interior is the best that Jeep has ever had. My 2002 had a soft-touch dash and hard-plastic upper door sills. The 2010 had a hard-plastic dash and soft-touch door sills. Chrysler has finally ditched the accountants and stuck soft-touch materials on both the upper dash and the door sills. Some hard plastics remain in the lower dash and bits of the doors, but these are minor concerns, considering the overall cushiness of the new trim as well as nicely-padded armrests and door inserts.

The only quality flaw we found in here was the finishing where the cloth headliner meets the windshield, which seems to be an issue in Chevrolet and Ford models too. They all do it in the same unfinished way. Ignore that, and the whole interior is pretty damn good in leather, with the top Overland trim level even getting stitched leather on the dash and doors. It is now a larger, more spacious SUV with good cargo room.

On the trip from Dubai to Al Ain, we drove the V6 Limited. The engine feels like any other V6-powered offroader, which is to say generally good as long as the engine is revved enough, but not offering the kick of a real V8. It will satisfy anyone used to Prados, Pajeros and Pathfinders. However, it doesn’t feel as quick as some would hope, no doubt weighed down by all sorts of new offroading tech.

On the highway, ride quality is good but not as smooth as, say, a Ford Edge crossover. Even with four-wheel-independent suspension and a unibody platform, the Jeep lets a bit of its truckishness show, but it is arguably a bit more refined than any of the Japanese “P” offroaders. Road noise is unnoticeable, but wind noise makes itself know at highway speeds on open roads.

On the way, we all took a detour through some severely rocky terrain that really put the Jeeps to the test. This bit was especially interesting because we did it all with street-biased tyres at full inflation. Setting the fancy new “TerrainSelect” system to ‘Rock’, we were climbing up and down cliffs, some at as much as 35-degree angles, as well as driving through extremely narrow trails with rocky walls just an inch away on both sides. The Jeep’s bottom hit the ground at some points, but the belly is protected by standard steel skidplates. Tyres burst on two different cars in the convoy, but they continued easily after slapping on a spare. The V6 did fine as it was, but we could see that those with the V8 Overland had an easier time thanks to jacking up the ground clearance using that model’s air suspension system. Either way, it was a gruelling yet easy exercise.

We headed back on the road, with the convoy speeding through the city of Al Ain playing catch-up with each other. Hopefully we didn’t get flashed by any radars, but the prognosis isn’t good. We reached the Al Ain Rotana hotel for an all-expenses-paid overnight stay, had a good time and headed out the next morning for a jaunt in the desert.

Heading out again in a V6 Limited, we briefly got lost on the streets, but found our way again using the navigation system which, incidentally, even has a trail-marking system so you know where you’ve been if you ever get lost offroad.

We reached the desert, somewhere near a camel racetrack, deflated the tyres and set off in the soft sand. The marshals actually asked us all to set the “TerrainSelect” system to ‘Sand’ and also to shift (using a button) into low-range gear. This would be overkill in normal circumstances, but we guess they didn’t want anyone to get stuck.

The V6 did exceptionally well in the sand, likely helped along by the low-range, and we never felt like the trucklet would bog down, even when climbing seriously steep dunes or traversing over soft sand. We were all following a marshal’s lead car, and while the route we took didn’t involve extreme stuff like sliding down sideways along slopes, we were still surprised that they chose certain pointy dunes and even a steep sand climb that was probably as tall as a four-storey building. Expectedly, various people got stuck on these, even when driving the V8 Overland, but considering we had absolutely no issues with the more “basic” V6 Limited, it was all obviously novice-driver error.

All the cars we drove had the lower part of the front bumper removed to avoid damage during offroading. The plastic lip piece, fitted for better onroad aerodynamics, can be removed by simply unscrewing a series of clips.

After lunch and check-out at the hotel, we drove back to Dubai, this time in a V8 Overland. Buyers of the lower Laredo and Limited trim levels will be happy to note that the ride quality is pretty much the same even with the Overland’s air suspension system. The Overland also handles pretty much like the Limited, as far as we can tell, which is to say, class-leadingly well for an offroader, and closer to a premium German SUV in feel than a lumpy Japanese 4×4 around turns. The steering was a bit firm though, even while there was precious little feedback, but juggling the not-too-big Grand Cherokee in tight areas is a piece of cake, with help from the optional rear camera.

Those thinking the Hemi-powered Overland is a rocket will be disappointed. Being a car engine fitted in an SUV that has gained weight over the years, the Hemi felt more like a powerful V6 engine in this application. It is still a quick truck, but that initial low-end kick expected of a torquey beast is just not there, building up power smoothly into the higher revs instead. And we couldn’t find the manual-shift capability on the 5-speed automatic.

To make things even more interesting, somewhere between Al Ain and Dubai, it started raining heavily, cutting down visibility and slowing down traffic on the road. After the initial shock of the sudden downpour, I flicked on the wipers and the headlights, then slowly started gaining speed, ending up cruising at 120 kph again on the fast lane as if nothing was amiss. Needless to say, I was glad I was in a shiny new Jeep as puddles formed on the highway. We didn’t lose time reaching Dubai, which happened to be as dry as a bone, the dirty cars being the only proof that we drove in rain.

After the event, I hopped into my 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee to go home, and felt good and bad at the same time. Good because my much-lighter Jeep has the decommissioned 235 hp 4.7-litre “Powertech” V8, which has more low-end kick than either of the newer engines I just tested, making it more entertaining on take-off. Bad because the new Jeep is a much nicer overall vehicle that is now a class above what I own.

What do you think?

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Comments

  1. (After the event, I hopped into my 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee to go home, and felt good and bad at the same time. Good because my much-lighter Jeep has the decommissioned 235 hp 4.7-litre “Powertech” V8, which has more low-end kick than either of the newer engines I just tested, making it more entertaining on take-off)….

    What is that mash!!!!… you are doing it again!!… just like when you did the comparo between the wrangle and your jeep… everybody knows that the wrangle is an amamzing truck, but you made your jeep be way too much practical and better… and here too…

  2. Interior is really simple. And the new steering wheel design looks better.

  3. not sure what to think of this one
    – boring design
    – fairly high starter price at aed 125k compared to the mid size conmpetition
    – traditionally questionable quality

    given the high price, i would probably spend the extra 10k and opt for a prado 4l..

    let’s see how the new explorer comes along..

  4. Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

    @E.A.: The Powertech 4.7 was a 4×4 engine built for torque and offroading. Sticking car engines into SUVs is a different story. Plus you just proved that I am not giving a fake positive review for the 2011, since I got free hotel stay and tons of Jeep ads.

  5. The new explorer is a crossover….

  6. Marc;

    who told you that you can get a pradowityh 135k? the base model comes at 151k, and they have and option with 197 that doesnt even has a navigation, the fully loaded prado now costs 220k …. for God sake, I dont know who is still buy prados till now, the other day I found that the new porsche cayyene costs only 230k … only 10 k from prado???????????

  7. Unfortunately … People still buy Prados, they are in road …huge numbers… even the new models … although for the price of top spec Prado (if its really for 220k..as someone said), you can buy two Pajero that also with offers..

  8. mash – i drove the V6 on saturday ..the red one in the pictures which is the mid range or the Limited model.
    i loved the vehicle in terms of finish and fit and the interiors. the test drive was held at al badia resort but it was only a few mins of off-road and on-road thing with the off road course being abt 5 mins from the resort. amazing tech for novice off roaders and easy to use them. on road i felt that the suspension is a bit stiff while moving over speed bumpers while as u said..the low end torque is lacking but great engine grunt and power propels you from 40kmph to 120kmph in no time with great feel of the steering.
    i just felt that the driver seat is quite small in size even for average size passengers but leg room in the second row is awesome.
    the prices were AED 137,000 for the laredo, AED 150,000 for the V6 Limited, AED 170,000 for the V8 Limited while the Overland is about AED 195,000 with only the V8

  9. The Grand Cherokee sticker price is between Dhs 111,000 to Dhs 155,000 ( before discounts) at Chrysler dealers in the USA. Seems to be quite a mark-up. For approx. the same price, the 7 – seater Ford Explorer 2011 seems to be a more attractive bet.

  10. @ Samer

    who told you that you can get a Porsche Cayenne with 230k? Base model starts at 242k 😉

    Theres still a good market for the Prado and you can pick up a decently packaged vxl unit for 140-150k .. Alfuttaim is getting rid of their stocks and tagging them as Managers Special.

    Ofcourse there will be the niche buyer who would be interested in the additional offroad features and tech gizmos such as proximity radars (which work with the cruise control) and the price goes up to 207k but not everyone wants them. Current pricing is 189k for the vxl 2010 model with navigation and 4 cameras when I last checked.

    Coming back to the main topic, I want to see an offroad comparo test btwn these two – new Grand Jeep Cherokee and the new Volkswagen Touareg, both of which are also featured in this website’s advert space.

  11. Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

    Nice user perspective, Ansach. And amazing the prices they quoted you, since they told me completely different lower prices. But then again, there seems to be a ton of options and the UAE dealer might be offering only loaded models of each.

  12. mash – ansach = anil 😉

    btw..the only options they mentioned were the different models they had displayed..with the three variants coming fixed with these options. the basic laredo is missing all the luxury features such as satnav, leather, rear camera, etc while the overland and limited V8 im not sure what the difference is

  13. hey Mash..does the Laredo come with low-range or is it a single-speed transfer case?

  14. Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

    All have low-range, unless you buy a 2WD version from USA.

  15. ohh.ok…their site however, says that the Laredo comes with a single speed transfer case!

  16. Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

    ^Now you’ve introduced doubts. I’ll check it out!

  17. Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

    ^Looks like you are right. The Laredo is just all-wheel-drive without low-range. So-called Quadra Trac 1. Completely different from before, when the Laredo was the basic offroader.

  18. in that case, isnt the price tag a l’il high?? 🙂

  19. Hey Mash, stumbled upon a video of the New Grand Jeep Cherokee being assembled at the Jefferson North assembly plant in Michigan and assumed yourself and the readers of this first drive just might be interested ~
    http://tinyurl.com/3xqslwl
    a lil long vid but interesting

  20. Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

    Cool, dude.

  21. I would like to buy Grand cherokee Limited 5.7 2011full option,
    please provide me with the price I will take it to my country Saudi.
    I will come to UAE and pay for then shipp it to Saudi
    thnaks

  22. The new jeep grand cherokee laredo include the LOW RANGE for GCC area.

  23. Whether should i buy cherokee v6 model or prado txl model?

  24. Take a look at Trading enterprises website they have a V8 ,6.1 L called SRT8

  25. I own 2007 Model Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.7L Limited, bought brand new – now completed single handedly 125,000 km and fully Western Motors serviced in Abu Dhabi – and wish to migrate to a newer, better 4X4. Genuine advise from 4X4 experts solicited, in all aspects, comparing Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.7L or any other makes.

  26. I am looking for a good SUV, 4×4 car and I am confused between the Jeep and the For Edge. I can found all options including Navigation, Xenon, Front Sensors in the Jeep, where I cannot find in the Edge. While, in the Edge, there is the nice My Ford Touch, which is exciting and tempting.

    Can someone advise ?

    • Hi Sherif,
      I’m looking the same options as you are – Grand Chareokee vs. Ford edge. Did you buy yet, if yes how’s your impression. I would love to get some details/advice.
      thx

      p.s. you can shoot me an email: [email protected]

  27. Hello. I’m considering purchasing the new Grand Cherokee Limited which I’m convinced is an excellent decision except that I’ve heard the dealer in the UAE has a substandard service center with bad customer service. Any input from existing owners?

  28. Hello,
    I am planning to buy a 4X4 car and i am very interested in Jeep grand cherokee. Can anyone guide me about this car or if there are any other options i have in the same range of 4X4 cars. [email protected]

  29. Went for offroading training session twice. Found out that current Cherokee is poor at offroading, during both the sessions found the Cherokee’s auto transmission getting hot and refusing to switch to 4wd mode, the ground clearance also didn’t seem to be enough once you venture deeper into desert, I had a very high respect for this car initially, but now it’s rather down the list if I have to choose an off roader that’s also a good family hauler. If it’s hardcore offroading choose basic offroaders, if it’s once in a blue moon offroading, and more of family hauling or occasional towing choose the Cherokee, of course the hemi one would be a bomb on road, was very sad with how it performed offroad. The instructor also pointed out that he has noted numerous transmission over heating issues if the desert situation gets tricky otherwise it’s seems to be a good car.

    • Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury Author

      What training was this?

    • the Cherokee or the Grand Cherokee?

    • @Vivek..It’s Grand Cherokee

      @Mash… the training session is the one you get if you buy new Wrangler or Grand Cherokee, normally there is a pool of new buyers, offcourse most of them have zero experience, and some are experts who have been buying jeeps for generations, the first training was free (Trading Enterprise), the second one was on request with some experts who participated, so got it for free, when they went out in groups, we followed.

  30. @Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury and everyone here hello i’m from qatar. i’ve been going through this site for some time and have been deciding to buy a 4×4 for some time now. As of now i have brought my choices down to the 2012 Grand Cherokee Limited for (163,000) and the Toyota Prado V6 TXL. Now the thing is i’m confused which to go for….the thing is half of mind tells me to go for the prado since its got no problems or if there are its easy to fix em…but the other half says go for the cherokee since it looks good and coz of the features!!! the question is what about the maintenance of jeep?? are the parts costly??? i have searched online but other than the jeep being a very good vehicle there is not much info i have found about its maintenance and cost of spare parts!!! could you please advice???

  31. the Toyota Prado V6 TXL goes for 159,000 QR and the grand cherokee limited for 163,000 QR

  32. Guys please be careful with going only on external appearances and marketing techniques (I am not implying by Drive Arabia as you guys get only a first impression and not a long term view). I bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee (Limited) 2011 in July 2011 and was very impressed by it. Unfortunately it has lived by its reputation of very poor reliability. I have been experiencing software and GPS issues from day one. The pad of the parking break came off in 5 months’ time and Trading Enterprises said it was not under warranty and I had to pay for it. I took the vehicle on an Oman trip (no off-roading and I have never used it for off-roading) around 6 months after buying the car and it wouldn’t start after doing an uphill (again on good tarred road.)I had taken it to Trading Enterprises and they said everything is ok. Now the vehicle has developed some engine issues as the Engine fault light (also called as MIL (Malfunction Indicator Light)) comes on. I cannot understand how a new vehicle can have so many issues?
    The Trading Enterprises technicians cannot seem to find what the issue is with and have reset the computers so that the MIL light goes off. Yesterday the light came back on. Worst of all is I am left without a vehicle for all these days and they refuse to give a spare vehicle. I had also called Chrysler Middle East who promised to get back on the issue but with no luck.
    I even searched the net on the same and came across lots of negative feedback on Jeep GC (the new model) at American forums where they are more transparent. To all aspiring Jeep owners, my suggestion is to do a research on the net before buying this vehicle. I really wish reliability issues were brought up so that other buyers are not caught off-guard after shelling out so much money for a product that only looks good. Another warning; please do not go by what the sales persons at the Trading Enterprises say as they are extremely economical in the “truthfulness” area. I honestly regret for not having gone for a Pajero or a Japanese car. This is the first time I ventured for an American vehicle and I consider it the biggest follies of my life.

  33. now im confused…. jeep or GMC

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