Used Vehicle Review: Jeep Grand Cherokee, 2011-2016

Vehicle Type

SUV

Purchasing a used Grand Cherokee from this generation without a full once-over by a Jeep-trained technician is strictly not advised.

History Description

With decades of experience in delivering capability and confidence, Jeep Grand Cherokee went on sale in its current generation in 2010, as a 2011 model. Appealing to family and lifestyle-oriented shoppers, this popular five-seat model is the recipient of numerous awards for safety, capability and owner satisfaction.

Grand Cherokee competes with competitors from around the globe with an eye for real-world aptitude on roads more and less travelled, and numerous trim grades, engine options, drivelines and packages mean selection will be generous in the used marketplace.

Feature content includes premium audio system upgrades, wood trim, rare leather trim options, xenon lighting, climate controlled seats, navigation, Bluetooth, sunroof, memory seating, heated steering wheel, and plenty more. Favorite features with shoppers include the remote start system, available rear-seat entertainment consoles, a household power outlet, and the available air suspension system.

Note that 2014 saw Grand Cherokee updated with a revised interior, new fascias, new feature content, and improved interfaces. The 2014 model-year updates also saw the newly available 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 engine added to the options list.

Engines/Trim

Trim grade nomenclature sees Grand Cherokee Laredo models opening the bidding in most years, with Summit, Limited and Overland models representing higher-grade units. Standard power comes from the Pentastar V6 engine, a 3.6L unit with the better part of 285 horsepower. An available 5.7L Hemi V8 offers 360, and the EcoDiesel turbo V6 puts 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque on tap.

Look for two available 4x4 systems, one a full-time unit that functions as an AWD system, while the other offers low-range and a locking centre differential. Quadra-lift is the Grand Cherokee’s air suspension system, and the SelecTerrain system allows drivers to dial in the current off-road driving terrain via selection of several specially tuned drive modes, including Rock, Mud, Sand and more.

Note that Grand Cherokee was also offered with a high-output engine and performance chassis, in SRT8 guise.

What Owners Like

Grand Cherokee owners typically report a solid and high-quality feel to the ride quality both on the road and off, a comfortable and nicely-styled cabin, a potent upgraded stereo system, good lighting, and a tremendous sense of confidence in challenging conditions. Performance from the EcoDiesel engine, as well as fuel consumption, is highly rated. Performance from the Hemi V8 is highly rated, too. Fuel mileage? Not so much.

What Owners Dislike

Some owners wish for a roomier rear seat, better rearward visibility, and more accessible up-front pricing of the diesel-powered model.

Here’s a look at some Jeep Grand Cherokee Owner Reviews.

The Test Drive

Start your test drive of a used Grand Cherokee by confirming that the seller will allow you to take the model in question to a Jeep service centre for a pre-purchase inspection if you decide to buy it, or that they’re willing to meet you at said Jeep service centre for said inspection.

Purchasing a used Grand Cherokee from this generation without a full once-over by a Jeep-trained technician is strictly not advised.

On board, scrutinize the Grand Cherokee’s interior electronics with an eye for issues, as some owners have reported battery and alternator problems which can result in a machine that won’t start, sketchy operation of certain systems, and even non-functioning accessories. If any issue presents itself, be sure to have a Chrysler mechanic check it out. Parasitic power loss (or discharging of the battery when the vehicle is turned off) is not entirely non-existent here, and software updates and a battery trickle-charger are your best defense against waking up to a dead battery.

Be double-sure to check for proper operation of the UConnect system, if equipped: set a navigation destination, place a call via Bluetooth, cycle through various media sources, and the like. Check that the heated and chilled seats work on both settings, that the remote tailgate and fuel-door release buttons are functioning properly, and that the back-up camera is working, too. Double check for proper operation of all steering-wheel-mounted controls as well.

Run the climate control system through its paces, noting that some owners have reported issues with blend-door actuators, which control the distribution of air through the cabin. Set the temperature to max hot, and max cold, and ensure that air, at the temperature of your choosing, is flowing from all of the selected vents as you work the climate control system through its paces.

Check the centre portion of the dashboard, around the defroster vent, for signs of bubbling or lifting. This issue was commonly covered under warranty, and isn’t altogether uncommon.

Have a technician scan for the presence of any stored trouble codes within the Grand Cherokee’s computer system. This is a good idea on any used car, as it can reveal potentially hidden issues, including a big one in the Grand Cherokee: early copies of the Pentastar V6 in 2011 may suffer from a cracked cylinder head, which can cause a misfire code to be stored by the computer. This issue was almost immediately corrected in production, and likely affects only a fraction of a percent of Grand Cherokee units produced in the initial year, but shoppers are advised to get a computer system scan if they’re considering a 2011 V6 model, just to be extra safe.

Another trouble code, P0128, may appear if there’s a problem with the thermostat on the Grand Cherokee’s V6 engine. Here’s some more reading. Changing a thermostat on the Pentastar engine doesn’t seem to be a particularly difficult or expensive venture.

Opting for an SRT model? Be sure you’ll benefit from its added performance, as you’ll be paying for it at each fill-up. Though the SRT variants of Chrysler’s products tend to be fairly solid in terms of reliability, and built to take a beating, owners are advised to confirm that the seller isn’t trying to pass off badly worn tires and brakes, and that the vehicle’s fluid-change schedule has been adhered to.

Considering an EcoDiesel? Spend some time reading this thread, to familiarize yourself with potential issues to be on the lookout for.

Have a mechanic inspect the cooling system, especially on earlier V6-powered models. Some owners have reported leaky radiators, which can be tricky and pricey to replace out of warranty.

Here’s some reading on a well-publicized recall surrounding the electronic shifter on some Grand Cherokee models, which may cause the vehicle to roll away after drivers exit, and in many cases (according to owners) because the driver hasn’t operated the shifter properly and engaged Park as per instructions in the owner’s manual. And here’s some more reading on other potential transmission problems, centering around the gear shifter, and programming of the gearbox itself.

As a general rule, avoid a model with the QuadraLift air suspension. Some owners have reported issues and system failure. Others have not. But in your writer’s weekly research of used vehicles over more than a decade, I’ve never found an air-suspension equipped vehicle that didn’t cause headaches at some point as it ages. Here’s some more reading. If you’re set on a model with the air suspension, budget for any extended warranty coverage that covers the system, and be double-sure to have the system checked out by a technician ahead of your purchase. Note that even a small leak in the air suspension system, possibly caused by a loose fitting, can cause added strain on the air compressor, wearing that component out more quickly, and resulting in a snowball effect to the issues. Corrupt software, which controls the air suspension system, can cause problems and accelerated compressor wear, too.

Two other notes:

First, beware of models running non-factory wheels, tires, engine or driveline components, and especially suspension components. These can, in some cases, cause issues and accelerated part wear, and are best avoided by the average shopper.

Second, note that though Grand Cherokee is not a model noted for top reliability and low running or repair costs, many owners say they’d purchase their Grand Cherokee again, according to this owner forum thread. For every owner reporting a problem online, hundreds of owners aren’t reporting that their Grand Cherokee performed perfectly on a given day. Translation? Online owner-reported reliability may be skewed, and your best defense, in any case, is a full pre-purchase inspection and extended warranty, if you’re set on this model.

The Verdict

For maximum peace of mind, a Hemi-powered Grand Cherokee without the air suspension is likely the safest bet. If you’re set on a Grand Cherokee, budget for a full pre-purchase inspection at a Jeep service centre, and be sure to have all major components, electronics systems, and software, checked by a trained technician ahead of your purchase. Add any extended warranty available for further confidence and protection from potentially-pricey repairs.

Here’s a hefty list of recalls.

Crash Test Results

IIHS: Top Safety Pick (2013)
NHTSA: 5-STAR (2015)

Currently available on autoTRADER.ca
With decades of experience in delivering capability and confidence, Jeep Grand Cherokee went on sale in its current generation in 2010... 8/18/2016 10:28:59 AM