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The 2011-2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee

grand cherokee colors

The 2014 Grand Cherokee had an eight-speed automatic and 8.4” touch-screen. For 2013, the major change was the new Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. Also see Maserati Levant.

The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee was the first new-car launch of the Fiat-controlled Chrysler. Journalists almost universally praised it; it swept the car awards and put Chrysler back on the map.

The standard engine was the smooth 290 horsepower Pentastar V6, which garnered just one mile per gallon less than the diesel-powered Mercedes ML350. The Hemi was optional, and Europeans gained a new 237-hp VM diesel.  In 2012, Hemi models moved to a six speed automatic (an updated version of Chrysler’s old five-speed), with updated wheel and option packages. [Grand Cherokee engines]

Jeeps on the mountain

The basic architecture was shared, in longer and more on-road-tuned from, by the Dodge Durango. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 has different 20” wheels, different suspension components, and the powerful 6.4 Hemi.

2011-2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee systems and engines

The front suspension is a long/short arm design; the rear is a multi-link design with variable rate springs (both were independent, with isolated cradles). The spare tire moved inside, rather than staying underneath.



The Quadra-Lift air suspension system, optional on 4x4s, had five height settings — two for off-road (raising 1.3 and 2.6 inches above normal, to a maximum 11.1 inches of ground clearance), one for highways (dropping the Jeep by half an inch for better aerodynamics), one was normal, and one lowered the car by 1.5 inches for entry and exit.

rear suspension

Using a reservoir tank and pressures of 220 psi, Quadra-Lift operated four-corner air springs automatically, or via console controls, with 4.1 inches of travel and continuous load leveling. The Aero control was automatic and speed-controlled. Phil Jansen, chief engineer on three generations of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, said that a central tire inflation was rejected because “The air suspension system operates at a high PSI and a low dew point (very dry air). To do such a system would have compromised the suspension's overall performance.”

front suspension

There is a front compressor, but only for repressurizing the system after it has been serviced, while connected to a nitrogen tank (using a hose behind the rear seat); the system can be depressurized using a scan tool. It is temporarily deactivated when jacking up the car or putting it onto a lift (Chrysler recommended using Sport mode for wheel alignments, Aero mode if doing an alignment using a scan tool.)


The Selec-Terrain™ was a traction control coordinating the braking, suspension, and engine systems, including throttle control, shifting, the transfer case, and stability control.

2011 jeep grand cherokee

Selec-Terrain™ was included with the Off-Road Group and Hemi, and was standard on Limited and Overland with all wheel drive. Choices were:

The approach, departure, and breakover angles were all increased over the 2009 Grand Cherokee, along with maximum ground clearance (with the air suspension). These angles are superior to those of the 2010 Equinox, Highlander, Pilot, and 4Runner (except ground clearance without Quadra-Lift). See our specifications page for approach, departure, and breakover angles, compared with competitors.

  2011-13 2008-10 2006-07 2001
Min. ground clearance 8.6 8.2 8.0 8.3
Approach angle 26.3°* 35.0° 34.1° 36.7°
Breakover angle 18.8°* 21.3° 20.6° 22.6°
Departure angle 26.5°* 27.5° 27.1° 28.6°
Drag coefficient 0.37 0.41 0.41 0.45

* Without air suspension. With: ground clearance 10.6, angles 34.3, 23.1, and 29.3

There was an off-road group, with or without QuadraLift, including Selec-Terrain, a four wheel drive transfer case with low range, tow hooks, and skid plates. Both required 18 inch wheels.

Four wheel drive systems

Quadra Trac I was full-time four-wheel drive, with a single-speed transfer case, and a fixed torque distribution of 48/52 front/rear with brake-limited differentials.

Quadra Trac II had a two-speed transfer case; it could sense quick movement in the throttle from a stop, and maximize traction before tires slipped. When a tire slips, all torque can be routed to the axle with the most traction.

Quadra Drive II added a rear electronic limited-slip differential.

AGM battery

The battery used Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) technology battery, which has stiffer separators holding the electrolyte in place; as a result, the cells do not leak even if the case is cracked, and the battery can withstand severe shock and vibration. They may have chosen this design because it sits under the passenger seat, within the cabin, ventilating via relief valves to the outside. To disconnect it, move the seat forward and take off the cover. There are remote jump-start posts under the hood.

belt routing

AGM is more efficient and has a much lower self-discharge rate, but owners can’t use standard battery chargers. The open circuit voltage is 12.65 volts or more.

Body and chassis

Mark Allen, stylist, wrote, “The ’99 WJ Grand Cherokee had a definite influence on the front end design of the ’11 WK.”

Torsional stiffness was 146% more than the current Grand Cherokee; it was stiffer than the BMW X5 and Toyota Highlander. With more than 3,700 mm of arc welding and 100 m of structural adhesive to augment welding, the new generation had a 53% increase in spot welds, a 42% increase in arc welds, and a 38% increase in structural adhesive.

The interior was considerably upgraded; an optional “CommandView®” dual-pane sun roof doubled the glass surface (the rear panel was fixed; both came with sunshades).

back seats

The wheelbase was lengthened by five inches, to 114.8 inches, but the overall length is just 1.8 inches longer — the overhang was cut to improve cornering and interior space. The new Grand Cherokee was also three inches wider. Larger front door openings (1.9 inches wider; 2 inches higher) and rear doors that open 78° (vs. the old model’s 67 degrees) increased access.

An optional fold-flat front-passenger seat added cargo storage capacity on Laredo. Rear seats reclined by 12° and moved forward as well.

The cargo bay had 6.8 more cubic feet of room (36.3 cubic feet total), and includes a storage unit and new grocery hooks. The spare tire compartment had removable storage bins, and a power rear liftgate was available.

Quality features

The company claimed 7.5 million customer-equivalent miles of durability and reliability testing of the all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, including road trips to hot and cold places. Lab testing included full-frame fatigue testing and 244 hours of wind noise and aerodynamic evaluations.

Phil Jansen wrote, “Early air suspension systems in the industry were not very reliable. Significant work on shock airbag durability, compressor capacity and airline routing was completed on the 2011 Grand Cherokee. We incorporated the reservoir and air lines inside to maximize system reliability.”

2011 jeep grand cherokee

The use of a Quality Assurance Fixture (QAF) allowed engineers to look at the interior of the vehicle on a “simulated perfect body” (a milled aluminum shell where all attachment points are matched exactly to CATIA modeling earlier in the program). This allowed changes and design improvements earlier in the manufacturing process.

The company also used Design for Six Sigma (DFSS), folding in “voice of the customer;” it was Chrysler’s first new vehicle to have more than 100 DFSS projects.

Exterior design and Jeep Grand Cherokee aerodynamics

Drag was cut by 7%, resulting in a cD of 0.37, down from 0.404. The removable lower front fascia was one part of that.

cargo bay

Seventeen-inch wheels were standard, with optional 18-inch and 20-inch wheels. Jeep Grand Cherokees with the Hemi V8 had 3.5-inch dual chromed exhaust tips, and those with the V-6 engine had a 3-inch single exhaust.

Mark Allen wrote: “For me, the ZJ [original Grand Cherokee] shows up first of all in the proportions, short front and rear overhangs ( you can't get that in a front-drive derived utility!), fast windshield and backlight, and flat roof. Details that are common are the thick D-pillar, trapezoidal wheel arches, [and] classic 7 slot 'harmonica' grille. Remember, the ZJ was originally intended as a replacement for the XJ series, it was the 1999 WJ that was designed from the start as a Grand Cherokee.”

Continue on to features and pricing... or to engines and transmissions...

Jeep Grand Cherokee at Allpar

ZJ, WJ (Pure Jeep)WK (Joint Development)WK2 (Current)

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