2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel HD Video Review
The Grand Cherokee has been a big success for Jeep, covering a lot of ground in the marketplace. It traverses trails, tows big toys, and shuttles families back and forth from rugged activities like piano lessons and tee ball. While few of them are pushed into true boulder hopping duty, buyers like to know it’s possible. And to sneering Porsche and M3 owners out there I ask this- When’s the last time you unwound your car on a track? Yeah, I thought so.
The 2014 JGC is now gearing up for spring delivery, and they’ve held press launch in Austin, Texas to brag about it. There’s only one thing more fun than four-wheeling in a Jeep- Doing it in someone else’s.
The 2014 is a mid-cycle refresh of the rig that has been on my Top 11 List since the 2011 model. As expected, there’s a new grille. Ooh, ahh, the vents aren’t just molded in now. Headlights and tail lamps get trendy LED trim. A new luxurious Summit model has been added. That and some interior tweaks would be enough for most folks. Jeep goes further, adding three gears to the transmission for a total of eight speeds. A new V6 EcoDiesel gives torque junkies something to worship. FYI, the 290 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and 360 horse 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engines are carry-overs,
I’m focusing on the EcoDiesel since 1) it’s new and 2) its hand-of -God power is a joy off the line. Diesels have gotten a bad rap in the US. Just so you know, they are clean, quiet, efficient, and powerful. Drive one and you’ll understand. Instantly.
Let’s Do The Numbers
The EcoDiesel a 3.0-liter unit. Horsepower is 240, torque is a massive 420 lb-ft. Towing maxes out at 7,400 pounds. A rear drive Grand Cherokee has an estimated range of 730 miles on a single fill up. EPA rated fuel economy is 22 city/30 highway in 4×2 models (full-time 4×4 models get a 21/ 28 rating). That’s 30 percent better fuel economy with 62 percent more torque than the Pentastar V6. Driving the 4×4 diesel Overland model at highway speeds I easily saw 26 mpg. A lighter right foot should improve that.
The price? An extra $4,500 ($5,000 for the top o’ the line Summit). Yes, diesel fuel is often times more expensive and the EcoDiesel requires AdBlue fluid for its 50-state compliant emissions system (it’s as easy as adding wiper fluid). For some buyers these extra costs are worth every penny.
Seems the engineers purposely kept in a bit of diesel grumble during takeoff to match the rugged Jeep image. Once it’s up to speed the aural signature fades away. At highway speeds the Grand Cherokee is a quiet cruiser. It’s surprisingly refined on road with a softer ride quality than you might expect. There’s very little head toss on rough roads, the higher ride height is appealing to many SUV buyers.
Keep in mind there are three different all-wheel drive systems. I’m driving the top-line Quadra-Drive II with Quadra-Lift adaptive air suspension that adjusts ground clearance (up to 11.3 inches). Turn the Selec-Terrain knob on the center console to optimize the AWD system for mud, snow, sand and rock. Quadra-Lift will lower the Grand Cherokee a smidge at highway speeds to improve aerodynamics. Monitor the suspension articulation on the TFT display to position yourself through technical terrain.
The toughest trail many Grand Cherokees will ever see is a dirt road, people just want reassurance that their rig can scale a 45 degree rock face if need be. Jeep proves that by sending us on a moderately rugged course that ends with driving up that very thing. It might not look impressive in the video but the casual off roader in me had a WTF moment beginning the ascent. With effortless EcoDiesel torque on tap, the Jeep scampers up the grade with little more than a giggle.
The new eight-speed box provides an improved crawl ratio of 44.1:1. Steering wheel paddle shifters offer up convenient transmission control. Remove the front air dam and there’s a 35.8-degree approach angle, 29.6-degree departure angle and 23.5-degree breakover angle with the Quadra-Lift system.
On the equally steep way down, hill decent control is awesome if not surreal for those not used to it. All you do is steer, the computer works the throttle and brakes. Again, most owners won’t ever test the Grand Cherokee’s ability. If you encounter these conditions on a regular basis you either have a very remote home or need a better GPS unit.
Always Nice Inside
The conditions you cross might be nasty but Grand Cherokee’s interior is quite handsome. Jeep says the color pallets are inspired by places like the Grand Canyon and Morocco. While the IP looks much the same as a 2013 at first glance, fit, finish and materials are better. Jeep claims pushing the new Eco button gets you another mile or two per gallon. The eight-speed transmission gets a joystick-like lever that took me a few moments to figure out. The new leather wrapped wheel feels beefy.
A new seven-inch TFT display between the two gauges has a crisp look and enough pages to rival War and Peace (the engineers say somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 unique displays). There are plenty of ways to customize it including digital or analog style speedometers.
Heated and cooled seats are comfortable for long slogs across tundra or desert. The panoramic glass roof can be kept when ordering the Blue Ray/DVD entertainment system now, monitors have been relocated from the ceiling to the seatbacks.
Chrysler’s Uconnect user interface is simple, elegant, and one of my favorites. A five-inch screen is standard, my Overland tester gets an 8.4-inch unit. It’s easy to find what you want on the simplified menu with the responsive touch surface. Apps like Pandora and Stitcher mooch off the data plan of your smartphone.
It’s possible to make the car a Wi-Fi hot spot so friends and family can surf the web on the way to the wilderness. Speech –to-text capability allows you to respond to phone text messages by voice. While there are a few things that will cause a person scratch their head, Uconnect is intuitive enough to keep you from pulling your hair out.
Bringing Friends on Adventures
In back, there’s a decent amount of knee, leg and foot room in Grand Cherokee. Want to stretch out and get comfortable? Buy a minivan. The seats don’t slide fore and aft to max out leg or cargo room but the backs recline. A 110 household-style outlet rocks as do heated back seats and dual USB ports. Seat pockets get bag hooks, there are small cubbies in the door and the folding center armrest gets cup holders. The floor is relatively flat to help three average adults get cozy.
I’m at a press launch so no TP trunk test. Overall cargo space is large and useful, the seats fold down to create a space big enough to throw a couple of mountain bikes into. When a vehicle is designed for off roading a simple repair kit just won’t do, good to spare tire under the load floor. Grand Cherokee’s power port, bag hooks and tie downs are expected in a SUVs cargo hold but a rechargeable LED flashlight is a welcome surprise.
My gripes with Grand Cherokee are few. There’s no third row, though word has it Jeep is working on a new Wagoneer to rectify that (or just buy sister Dodge Durango). While fuel economy is improved, there are a lot of crossovers that will beat it. But considering the Grand Cherokee’s mission, those aren’t deal breakers for buyers.
When it’s available in late spring of 2013, a rear-drive base Laredo model will set you back $29,790 with shipping. The Overland model I’m thrashing begins at $46,990 with four-wheel drive. The EcoDiesel starts at about 41 large in the Limited model. Test drive it and I suspect you’ll be looking to scrape up the extra cash the power is just that addictive. Just tell your spouse how fuel-efficient it is.
Summing up, the 2014 Grand Cherokee has been nicely revised with better fuel economy across the board. Considering the composed road manners, JGC’s off-road prowess is astonishing. Competitors? Overland and Summit might go up against VW Touareg and Range Rover Sport. On the lower end you might consider Toyota 4Runner. With its combination of refinement, utility, capability, style and value, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is tough to beat.