For Jeep enthusiasts, a sighting yesterday in downtown Toledo was like spotting a Sasquatch having coffee in a local bistro.
Parked on North Huron Street, sans camouflage, was a camera-shy 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee "Overland" edition - whose official public unveiling is still months away.
The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the first, and arguably Chrysler Group LLC's most important, vehicle launch since the automaker emerged from bankruptcy last June.
Chrysler executives have said the launch is so important to get right that they took the unusual step of withdrawing the sport utility vehicle from public view after first introducing it at the New York International Auto Show in April, 2009.
The 'Overland' logo honors its Toledo roots at the Willys-Overland plant.
Security has been tight since then, so it was extremely unusual when one of the vehicles - a right-hand-drive, top-of-the-line Overland - showed up yesterday in Toledo.
Most passers-by did not notice or recognize the unreleased vehicle.
The SUV, sporting manufacturer's plates from Michigan, was produced at Chrysler Group LLC's Jefferson North assembly plant in Detroit.
But prominently emblazoned on the vehicle's tailgate was an "Overland" badge, harkening back to Jeep's historic Willys-Overland roots in Toledo.
The right-hand-drive, top-of-the-line Overland sported a Michigan manufacturer's license plate.
The 2011 Grand Cherokee was parked downtown for about 30 minutes yesterday between The Blade and One Government Center.
Grand Cherokee last had an Overland edition in 2009 with a sticker price of $45,600.
The Overland was dropped for the 2010 model year, but it is scheduled to return when 2011 models go on sale in June, according to local dealers.
Pricing for the vehicle is still a closely guarded secret, the local dealers added.
Chrysler unveiled the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee at the New York show in 2009, when the automaker still was owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.
However, the 2011 model was "pulled back" for major upgrades after Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy with its new partner, Italian automaker Fiat SpA.
The 2011 Grand Cherokee will be Chrysler's first vehicle to carry the automaker's new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine as the standard power plant.
The engine will deliver a reported 290 horsepower.
According to Allpar.com, a Web site that closely follows developments at Chrysler, the new Grand Cherokee's fuel economy will improve by 11 percent.
Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:
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