2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jun 30, 2010

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2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Buying Advice

The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the best car for you if you want an affordable five-seat SUV that has premium-class aspirations – and basically delivers on them.

The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee should carry over little changed from the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was all-new inside and out. The 2012 Grand Cherokee will remain a four-door wagon with fine on-road manners, top-level 4wd capability, and decent cargo-carrying capacity. New developments could come in the form of a diesel-engine model or resurrection of the high-performance Grand Cherokee SRT8 – though maybe not until after model-year 2012.

Should you wait for the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee or buy the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee? If you’re panting for this new Jeep and a trusting loyalist, buy the 2011 Grand Cherokee. If you’re hesitant about Chrysler’s first application of the all-new V-6 Pentastar engine or the new suspension and traction systems, wait for the 2012 Grand Cherokee to see how these fresh technologies fare in the hands of early adopters.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee could gain a new color choice or two, but otherwise won’t be visually distinguished from the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’ll return as cleanly styled midsized SUV that signals a more rounded look for this line. While Grand Cherokee isn’t technically a crossover, it does employ unibody construction in which body and frame are essentially a single unit, as in the manner of cars and crossovers. This is in contrast to the shrinking number of old-school SUVs, such as the Toyota 4Runner, in which the body attaches to a separate frame. Expect the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee lineup to again be comprised of three basic trim lines: Laredo and Laredo X, Limited, and top-line Overland. In addition to possible new colors, expect Chrysler’s Mopar parts division to come up with some creative aftermarket parts and add-ons.

Mechanical: The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee is likely to be mechanically unaltered, though reports persist that Italy’s Fiat, parent company of Chrysler and Jeep, may apply some of it its advanced engine technology to boost the power of Grand Cherokee’s V-6. That 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 will return as the standard engine on all 2012 Grand Cherokee models. Again optional on all will be the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, which should stay at 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. Speculation has Fiat fortifying the Penastar with elements of the high-efficiency Multiair system used on some of its European models. A more precise way to balance an engine’s air/fuel mix, Multiair could increase the Pentastar’s horsepower by 10-15 percent, according to the reports. As it is, the V-6’s 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque are sufficient for most chores. But the V-6 strains to move the heavy Grand Cherokee with much verve, especially if the Grand Cherokee’s packed with passengers and cargo or hauling a trailer and trying to merge with fast freeway traffic. Throttle response and fuel economy likely would both improve if Jeep exchanged Grand Cherokee’s five-speed automatic transmission for a six-speed automatic, though model-year 2012 may be too soon for such a move. As opposed to crossover SUVs, which typically augment front-wheel drive with a light-duty all-wheel-drive system, Grand Cherokee follows traditional-SUV custom with standard rear-wheel drive (2wd) or optional four-wheel drive (4wd). In fact, it offers three 4wd systems of escalating complexity, capability, and cost. All are effective, and the top two, called Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II, provide excellent off-road prowess. Available again to support Grand Cherokee’s go-anywhere credentials will be an adjustable-height air suspension and Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system that automatically coordinates engine, traction, and suspension systems to suit a variety of on- and off-road conditions. The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee should continue with trailer-towing ratings of 5.000 pounds with the six-cylinder and 7,400 pounds with the V-8.

Features: Don’t expect the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee to add new features so compelling you’d need to put off the purchase of a 2011 Grand Cherokee. But if you’re among the legions of Jeep fans that prefer a custom look, expect a passel of appearance-modifying options from Mopar to be made available. Otherwise, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee will continue with a fine array of standard and optional features. Hand stitched leather upholstery, real wood cabin trim, a two-pane panorama roof are among them. So is rear-seat DVD entertainment with satellite TV, plus a navigation system, iPod USB interface, and Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone connectivity. Safety features will again include trailer-sway control, blind-spot mitigation, rearview camera, and backup warning systems.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee won’t be announced until shortly before the model goes on sale. Jeep’s pricing strategy, however, suggests a 2012 base-price range of around $32,000-$45,000. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Jeep’s was $780 for the 2011 Grand Cherokee.)

Broad estimates would have the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo base model priced from around $32,000 the Limited from around $39,000 and the Overland from around $41,000. To these base prices, expect the V-8 to add around $1,500. Opting for 4wd should add about $2,000, with specific Off-Road Adventure packages adding $500 to $2,200, depending on the equipment.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Fuel Economy back to top

Mileage estimates for 2012 models were not available in time for this report, but barring introduction of fresh engine technology or new transmissions, 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee fuel economy ratings should repeat at 2011 levels.

That means a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the V-6 engine would rate 16/23 mpg city/highway for a 2wd version and 16/22 for a 4wd version. The 2012 Grand Cherokee with the V-8 would rate14/20 mpg for a 2wd version and 13/19 for a4wd version. The V-6 should again be tuned to run on 87-octane gas or E85 ethanol while full V-8 performance will require 89-octane.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Release Date back to top

The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee should go on sale by mid 2011. Jeep is likely to release official information about the 2012 model at the New York auto show in April, 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee back to top

What sort of sales start the all-new Grand Cherokee gets off to will help determine whether Fiat would OK customer cash-back incentives on Jeep’s flagship. As it is, the 2011 model’s base prices were actually lower than those for comparable versions of the previous-generation 2010 Grand Cherokee.

The possibility of adding Fiat’s critically lauded Multiair system is a promising development and one the Italian automaker likely would consider a feather in its engineering cappello. Fiat is also familiar with the fuel-economy and torque advantages of diesel engines in vehicles like this. That may help smooth the way for introduction of a U.S.-market Grand Cherokee diesel -- perhaps as early as model-year 2012.

Chrysler very briefly offered gas-electric hybrid versions of its now-discontinued Dodge Durango/Chrysler Aspen SUVs, teaming the Hemi V-8 with a battery-powered electric motor. So it has experience with hybrid technology in a vehicle with specifications similar to those of the Grand Cherokee. But sales of those earlier hybrid SUVs were terrible. It’s debatable whether Fiat believes any corporate-average fuel-economy points to be gained from a Grand Cherokee Hybrid would offset the chancy economics of such a project.

Sources differ about the timing of the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee. Chrysler has a huge amount on its plate, with a goal of refreshing or replacing virtually every model in the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep and Ram truck stable over the next few years. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is an extremely important vehicle to Chrysler and Fiat; it is sold in more than 100 markets around the globe. It’ll be updated as soon as feasible to keep up with the competition. Whenever it arrives, the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee will have improved fuel economy, and there will likely be diesel and hybrid models.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Competition back to top

Ford Explorer: Explorer mounts a comeback effort based on a full redesign for model-year 2011 that dumps a truck-like body-on-frame chassis for a lighter car-type crossover platform. New styling, upscale features, and a fresh engine lineup highlighted by a four-cylinder version of the Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharged engine make news. Off-roading won’t be Explorer’s forte, but it should do well enough away from pavement to suit most of its audience while promising big advances in on-road handling, ride, and refinement. 

Land Rover LR4: Eyeing a Hemi-powered 4wd Grand Cherokee Overland with all the gee-gaws? Consider spending your $47,000 or so on this well-bred Brit. The boxy LR4 oozes character and backs it up with surprising refinement, a strong (375 horsepower) but thirsty (12/17-mpg) V-8, and unquestioned off-road credibility. Seven-passenger seating is available with the child-sized third-row seat.

Toyota 4Runner: Toyota’s got a pure midsize crossover SUV in the Highlander and that gives it the luxury of aiming the 4Runner at the die-hard but ever-shrinking audience that wants a traditional body-on-frame SUV. 4Runner delivers with a rugged demeanor that’s more at home off pavement than on. And its base four-cylinder engine is cowed by this heavy SUV. But 4Runner’s available with three rows of seats and wears its macho styling with a swagger.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Next Steps