Chrysler is pulling out all the stops on this Jeep Grand Cherokee launch because they clearly want this to be a global vehicle to rival SUV’s such as the Range Rover and the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. This will be the first Jeep vehicle to utilize Chrysler (Fiat) Group’s Compact U.S. Wide (CUS-wide) platform and new independent front and rear suspension. Fiat’s light-weight and high-strength steel architecture is the basis for the underpinnings of the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee but it is built at Chrysler Group’s Toledo (Ohio) Assembly Plant.
Jeep has dropped the boxy front end for 2014 with a very aggressive new nose job. The current Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of my favorite SUV’s due to its stately look, beautiful interior, and supple ride. However, sticker and gas prices have held up record sales. Thus, Chrysler/Fiat have let the Italian designers loose on the exterior and brought a few more powertrains to the buffet table. Yum! For 2014, consumers can have a lean 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir four-cylinder engine or a brawny 3.0 liter turbo-diesel. This will give the nearly full-size SUV a fuel economy of 31 mpg or 30 highway miles per gallon, consecutively.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee was the first to use Chrysler Group’s new 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 engine. This Pentastar V-6 engine creates 271 horsepower and 239 lb.-ft. of torque- which is capable of towing 4,500 lbs. with the optional tow package.
However, my time in the Eco-Diesel was the most enjoyable due to the efficient power delivery that seems perfectly matched to an SUV of this size. No need for Hemi head-snapping acceleration in a high-centered vehicle that is home on the streets and on the sand dunes. The huge 420 lb.-ft. of torque spins the 8-speed transmission up and pulls anyone or anything you have loaded into this Grand Cherokee. The 240 horsepower provides some extra grunt when the turbocharger boosts the engine after 2000 rpm. There is never a lack of power at any speed from start all the way up to redline.
Furthermore, this engine is quieter than gas-powered equivalents. A diesel-powered Grand Cherokee makes a lot of sense due to the 7,400 pound towing capacity. I tow lots of large trailers, boats, campers, and utility vehicles on weekends and vacations. Having a one-ton pickup to handle these loads makes towing safe and easy, but a truck as big as mine also makes daily driving a hassle. This Jeep can handle the bigger trailers and can get people to work and home with easy. Parking lots are actually fun and narrow city streets are a breeze, especially to the higher seating position. Many women like SUV’s just because they can see other vehicles and track people more easily.
Chrysler (Fiat) has taken their European 3.0 liter diesel that uses a 24-valve dual-overhead cam V-6 design for some quiet and efficient power. The CO2 emissions are almost non-existent and smoke is completely gone with extra clean-diesel emission juice injected at the tail pipe. The exhaust system requires some extra attention every 10,000 miles but there are no tune-ups required, no spark plugs to replace, and no ethanol-gasoline issues to worry about. Just change the oil when recommended and drive this engine for hundreds of thousands of miles.
Best of all, the Eco-Diesel powertrain delivers 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the open road (2WD). The Grand Cherokee 4x4 is estimated at 21/28 mpg, however, this Eco-Diesel can achieve even higher mileage with some gentle right-foot work. This gives the Grand Cherokee a range of over 730 miles per tank on low-sulfur diesel.
There are also three new four-wheel-drive systems that Chrysler re-named the Jeep® Active Drive I with a one-speed power transfer unit (PTU); the Jeep Active Drive II with two-speed PTU and low range gearing; the Jeep Active Drive Lock with two-speed PTU with low range gearing and a locking rear differential. They also have adopted a new Jeep Selec-Terrain traction control system with up to five customized modes – Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock. We shall see if these new off-road technologies really improve traction in the rough stuff after a longer test drive.
When Jeep releases a new “Trail-Rated” vehicle, there is a line of Jeep enthusiast’s ready to torture the Jeep on boulders and trails all over the US. So far, so good. Very tough trails have been successfully traversed and the diesel was perfectly matched to the task. Having a range of up to 720 miles on one tank means off-roaders can travel by highway to their distant trailheads, explore for the weekend, and get home without the hassle of extra fuel tanks.
However, not many will want to take this beautiful an SUV into the bush and mud. The Overland edition’s interior is attractive and comfortable, but with more luxury options. The build quality coming out of Detroit in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is remarkably good. Models for 2014 include a base Laredo, nicely equipped Overland, loaded Overland and over-the-top Summit. There are new bi-xenon headlamps with signature LED daytime running lamps (DRL) that dress up this Jeep.
The Natura leather and exotic open-pore wood trims give the Grand Cherokee that same schizophrenic personality of most luxury SUV’s. Why build a highly capable off-road machine and then dress it up to the nines. The worlds of rock climbing and Rodeo Drive are not highly compatible. What luxury car owner would even know what a “crawl ratio of 44.1:1” means? Who is going to pay $50k and hang that vehicle off the side of mountain or bury it in a muddy river- except journalists like myself who don’t have to clean up the Jeep at the end of day?
That notwithstanding, this new Eco-Diesel 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee includes more than 60 electronic safety devises such as Front Park Assist, Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Selec-Speed Control. With sensors and cameras, I was able to use these proximity aids when crawling over a rock bed to avoid the big boulders and bushes. Chrysler has included even more driver safety systems than the competition and at a lower price point than the aforementioned premium SUV’s.
The US market also gets the easy to use Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen that controls everything accept the steering, accelerating, and braking. This high-resolution screen controls the audio, integrated climate controls, navigation, and infotainment systems. It also includes Chrysler’s new Uconnect Access via Mobile and cloud-based voice texting. Forgive the whining here but it is a little annoying that even the seat heaters have to be controlled through this Uconnect screen. The dash now gets a 7-inch multiview display cluster that can interchange information needed by the driver.
We also drove the new Quadra-Lift air suspension system which offers five height settings for a better ride on all surfaces. The normal ride height is set at 8.7 inches of clearance and offers the best fuel economy and handling with improved aerodynamics on the road. Setting “Off-road 1” lifts the vehicle an additional 1.3 inches from NRH for added height in clearing obstacles (10.0 inches). “Off-road 2: raises the Jeep an additional 2.6 inches from NRH to 11.3 inches of ground clearance. My 5’2” wife liked the “Park Mode” which lowered the vehicle 1.6 inches from NRH to make ingress/egress easier on her short legs. Finally, when the Grand Cherokee is up to highway speeds, it lowers 0.6 inches to “Aero Mode” for optimal performance and fuel economy. The vehicle will also lower to Aero Mode when the traction selector is set to “Sport Mode.”
There are too many electronic systems to list in this review and suffice it to say, I want to highlight the new 3.0 liter Eco-Diesel powertrain over any of these driver’s aids. With power for most any job, comfort for 5 adults, and true Jeep capability, this 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland is one nice vehicle- for those who can afford it. And don’t forget the potential 30+ mpg of clean-diesel economy. The Eco-Diesel does the job with beautiful efficiency.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Eco-Diesel
Price As Tested = $54,780
18-Inch x 8-Inch Polished Aluminum Wheels $0
P265/60R18 BSW All Season On/Off-Road Tires $0
3.45 Rear Axle Ratio $0
8-Speed Automatic 8HP70 Transmission $0
3.0-Liter V6 Eco-Diesel Engine $4,500
Luxury Group II $3,000
Chrome Edition Group by Mopar® $995
Trailer Tow Group IV $795
Advanced Technology Group $1,995
Uconnect® 8.4AN AM/FM/BT/ACCESS/NAV $400