EXTERIOR

At first sight, I thought the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee was a Porsche Cayenne. With a second glance, I noticed the distinctive front grille and realized that this was indeed a Grand Cherokee. It just looked better than ever. The softened exterior lines, sparkly chrome trim and large wheels housed under conspicuous fenders work together for a "wow" factor that I've never previously gotten from a Jeep. The 2011 redesign makes the Grand Cherokee look more like a crossover than an SUV, and crossover looks good on this Jeep.

Because of this redesign my children had an easier time getting in and out of the Grand Cherokee. It sits lower to the ground than a traditional SUV. Another bonus was the doors weren't unusually heavy, which worked well with the children.

I don't want to get too girly here, but the Blackberry Pearl paint color of my test car is worth mentioning. In a word: gorgeous. It was a deep, dark greenish-blue that resembled the deepest depths of the ocean (as I imagine them).

My test car had the optional 5.7-liter V-8 engine ($1,495), which includes a slick pair of rear exhaust tips with it. This engine produces 360 horsepower and moved the SUV around easily. The standard engine is a 3.6-liter V-6 that delivers 290 hp. The Grand Cherokee Limited I tested had all-wheel drive, but it's also available in rear-wheel drive.

With the addition of the larger 5.7-liter engine and all-wheel drive, fuel economy in my test car was a less-than-impressive EPA-estimated 13/19 mpg city/highway using regular gas. With rear-wheel drive, the V-8 engine gets 14/20 mpg. When equipped with the standard V-6 and all-wheel drive, the Grand Cherokee gets 16/22 mpg. It gets 1 mpg better on the highway with the V-6 and rear-wheel drive.

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