2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee: One More Gear Tames the HEMI

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It was about a year ago when I first got my hands on the new-for-2011 model year Jeep Grand Cherokee.  Looking bigger, better and more refined than ever, the Grand Cherokee had a few nit picks that could have made it just the teensiest bit better.  For 2012, Jeep decided to make a few of these changes.  Let’s check ’em out.

Well, I’m not going to rehash the Grand Cherokee.  We already know it’s one fine SUV and has been filling the coffers of Chrysler and FIAT quite nicely.  The unibody Grand Cherokee sailed into 2012 model year with only a few changes.  A few of them were notable for me.  One was the new USB jack that replaced that infuriating iPod-only cord that was too short and too stiff.  The USB is located in the center console and is much better than the iPod-only cord.  The iPod info is still displayed on the old school radio that seems to have been around for a while now.  The Garmin navigation looks easier to use and the resolution and colors look better than they did for 2011 MY.  Reminds me of the unit I saw in an Avenger earlier this year and that isn’t a bad thing.

The biggest change for 2012 might not seem like much but it makes all of the difference.  The majority of people I talked to that have driven the Grand Cherokee said that the Pentastar V6 was the way to go, for the 2011 MY.  Well, I’d venture to say that the HEMI is the way to go for 2012.  The HEMI goes from a five-speed automatic to a six-speed unit that really changes the character of the HEMI.  I didn’t notice better fuel economy like you might expect.  I noticed faster, gentler shifts which resulted in less wheezing coming from under the hood.  Less lurching.  More refinement.  The six-speed lets you cruise at 75 MPH at a ridiculously low RPM.  The 2011 Grand Cherokee was an animal with the HEMI.  I thought it was like a starved lion but the 2012 moves into Olympic marathon runner status.  I just wanted to keep driving it.  It’s strong, athletic, lean, and just wants to keep going.  The transmission feels like it caught up to the price tag of the Grand Cherokee Overland.

I wasn’t a big fan of the gold color of the Grand Cherokee that showed up but the ride was even better than it was last year because this Overland trim didn’t have the 20-inch wheels.  If you have a desire to tow, go off-road, or just be pampered, the Grand Cherokee is the way to go.  Chrysler didn’t have to change anything to the Grand Cherokee.  It was selling just fine how it was.  By updating the little things it made the Grand Cherokee just that much grander for 2012.

Items to fix for next year: Add illuminated push button start, cooled seats, and auto leveling headlights.  If we could just get that 8.4″ screen from the Chrysler 300 in there I might be able to look past everything else…keep up the great work!

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