HALF MOON BAY, Calif. -- The feedback from owners and potential buyers was clear as Chrysler Group planned to redesign the Jeep Grand Cherokee for the 2011 model year: The vehicle had lost its luster with SUV enthusiasts.
“The Grand Cherokee did not come across as something they aspired” to own compared to BMW and Lexus models, said Phil Jansen, the Grand Cherokee's chief engineer. “Everybody [here] had a mental picture of what had to be done.”
Shipments of the redesigned version begin this month.
The basics: Carryover areas essentially are limited to the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, the five-speed automatic transmission and the four-wheel-drive systems. Everything else is new, Jeep says.
Development was centered on five areas that owners and potential buyers criticized: rear seat packaging, interior refinement, fuel economy, ride and exterior styling.
Clinic participants did not want a revolutionary change in Grand Cherokee's styling, Jansen said. But they wanted “something that has a little more elegance to it, a little more sculpture to it.”
Knee and legroom was the rear-seat issue. The solution: The wheelbase was stretched, resulting in four additional inches of interior space for rear-seat passengers.
Inside, hard plastic materials have been replaced with soft-to-the-touch materials -- leather trim on the door panels, for example. The top-of-the-line Overland model has real wood on the instrument panel and steering wheel. Chrome trim accents the interior.