Jeep — Full line gives breadth to change

By Al Vinikour

One of the most iconic brands in the entire auto industry is Jeep. Everyone knows the history of Jeep, from its indoctrination under fire in World War II to present day versatility. What most people don’t realize, however, is the work that’s been going on behind the scenes to create the brand’s entire line for 2011.

While its parent company (Chrysler Group LLC) has been going through economic gyrations to go into — and eventually come out of bankruptcy, Jeep designers and engineers have been developing products that will strengthen the base and increase sales of this vital element of Chrysler.

2011 Marks the 70th anniversary of Jeep and to celebrate it there are five distinct entries:

The “Big Daddy” of the Jeep Brand is the Grand Cherokee. Since its inception nearly two decades ago the Grand Cherokee has sold more than 4 million vehicles. Putting Grand Cherokee through a series of demanding off-road driving exercises is the equivalent of watching a lumberjack fell a tree while wearing a tuxedo.

2011 Grand Cherokee

A Selec-Terrain’s control dial allows the driver to select from five driving conditions in order to achieve the best driving experience on all terrains. Settings include Sand/Mud, Sport, Auto, Snow and Rocks. Furthermore, there are three 4x4 systems (Quadra-Trac 1, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II).

Every surface of the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee is new and designed for improved aerodynamics. The Coefficient of drag is 0.37, compared to the previous model’s Cd of 0.404. Like all Jeeps it sports the signature 7-slot grille. Tail lamps wrap around the rear quarter to the back of the vehicle, creating a balanced look. Standard 17- or 18-inch wheels assist in off-roading and optional 20” are available as well.

Two powertrains are available for the 2011 Grand Cherokee: the standard 3.6L DOHC V6 that produces 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and the 5.7L MDS V8 that produces 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is mated to the V6, while the V8 comes with a five-speed transmission with automatic or manual modes (Auto Stick). Maximum towing for the V-6 is 5,000 pounds and is 7,200 pounds for the V-8. 

Grand Cherokee is available in 2WD or 4WD and is comes in four trim levels. Pricing begins in the low $30 thousands for the base model and around $46 thousand for the top-of-the-line trim offering.

Compass was once a member of the “Lower End Club” of Jeep has been redesigned with styling cues and increased capability to make it more akin to a smaller Jeep Grand Cherokee. It now offers Trail Rated 4x4 capability with Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package.

2011 Jeep Compass

It has upgraded material soft touch points and high quality materials throughout.  It sports a new hood, front fenders, fascia and headlamps as well as a new grille (with chrome surrounding all seven slots). Furthermore it contains more than 30 safety and security features.

Off-road it will do everything its larger sibling can do. It offers two different DOHC 16-Valve I-4 with Dual VVT engines – a 2.0L rated at 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque and a 2.4L rated at 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. Two transmissions are available; standard is a five-speed automatic overdrive and optional is a CVT.

Compass comes in three trim levels and FWD or 4x4. Pricing starts at $19,995 for the base model to a $26,695 start for the high-end.

2011 Jeep Patriot, left, and 2011 Jeep Liberty

The Jeep Liberty, a mid-size sport utility vehicle introduced in 2002, continues its 4x4 heritage by offering two Jeep Trail Rated 4WD systems. The exterior has taken on a rugged, classic Jeep look. Its Jeep Sky Slider full-length open-canvas is an industry exclusive.

Liberty comes in three trim levels that offer a choice of 2WD or 4WD (except Renegade, which only offers a 4x4 version). A 2011 appearance package – 2011 Jeep Liberty Jet – is available on Liberty’s Sport and Limited models.

Powertrain is a 3.7L SOHC V6 that puts out 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. When installed with the Trailer-tow package it can tow 5,000 pounds. Base price is $23,995 for a 2WD Sport and ranges up to $28,995 for a 4WD Limited.

The 2011 Jeep Patriot is thought of as “the affordable compact sport-utility vehicle.” It sports new, aggressive exterior styling, ride and handling characteristics have been improved and Patriot boasts class-leading 4x4 capability and unsurpassed fuel economy.

Patriot is unmistakably a Jeep and the new exterior design complements the brand’s rugged off-road capabilities. Furthermore, Patriot is built for maximum cargo volume.

Patriot comes in three trim configurations – each available with FWD or 4x4. Like the Compass it’s available with a 2.0L or 2.4L I-4. Choices in a transmission are a five-speed manual or CVT-Automatic. It seats 5…four of them comfortably. Prices range from $16,695 for a Sport FWD to $24,595 for a Latitude X 4x4.

Long known as a “Jeep’s Jeep” and the benchmark off-road vehicle, Jeep Wrangler continues to hold its place in off-road ability. Among changes for the 2011 model year are all-new steering-wheel controls, standard electronic stability control, hill-start assist and trailer-sway control. It also has increased acoustical treatment resulting in significantly-reducing interior noise.

There are five new colors, and even though a vehicle that’s Detonator Yellow probably won’t pull you out of a box canyon, a Wrangler that’s Detonator Yellow most likely will. Wrangler is a two-door model; Wrangler Limited is a four-door.

2011 Wrangler

Power for Wrangler is a 3.8L OHV 12-Valve SMPI V-6, producing 202 horsepower and 237 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a six-speed manual overdrive transmission or an optional four-speed automatic overdrive. Wrangler seats four; Wrangler Limited seats five.

Wrangler has four trim levels and Wrangler Unlimited has five. Prices begin at $22,795 for the base Wrangler and go up to $33,495 for the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.

As would be expected there are volumes of available equipment and packages so that a potential purchaser can basically custom-design his or her Jeep. Each of the five Jeep models offer dual driving characteristics; thus on-road luxury and comfort and off-road ruggedness and ability are combined in the same vehicle. The only thing that hasn’t changed for Jeep in the last 70 years is the ability to get you in and out of any driving situation. And that’s a good thing.