Among many updates to the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, none is more important than the return of diesel.
Jeep deleted the diesel option in 2009 but restores it this year with a powerful new turbodiesel. The 3.0-liter V-6 can tow up to 7,200 pounds and, with rear-wheel-drive, return 30 mpg highway.
Like the other engines in the Grand Cherokee family, the diesel is paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. It replaces last year’s five-speed on all trims and makes smooth, quick shifts while boosting efficiency.
The exterior gets attention, too, with new LED daytime running lights, available bi-xenon headlights and mildly freshened sheet metal. Inside, there’s a configurable driver-information screen and an available 8.4-inch touch-screen control panel.
Grand Cherokee trims range from the entry-level, V-6-powered Laredo ($30,985, RWD/$31,990, AWD) to the rear-drive-only 470-hp, $64,500 SRT, which is marketed as a separate model.
All other trims (Limited, Overland and the new top-level Summit) are available with a choice of three engines, a 290-hp V-6, the 360-hp Hemi V-8 or the turbodiesel, which makes 240 hp and 420 stump-pulling pound-feet of torque.
Back in 2009, when Grand Cherokee transitioned from truck-based SUV to car-based crossover, fans feared the loss of its off-road chops. Electronics saved the day, though, and today buyers choose from three 4WD systems, a height-adjustable air suspension and a traction-control system that can be adjusted for optimal performance on varying surfaces (snow, mud, sand and rocks).
Few true SUVs, let alone crossovers, can best the Grand Cherokee’s capabilities in rugged terrain.
Equipped with the top-level QuadraTrak II 4WD system and Quadra-Lift air suspension, my loaded Overland 5.7L was smooth and quiet around town and on the road. At speed, ride quality was very good and the air suspension quickly damped excessive body motions.
The GC’s cabin is spacious and nicely finished, though the driver’s seat cushion lacks thigh support and. In the mother of all first-world problems, the seat warmed unevenly.
The new transmission includes an Eco mode that optimizes shift points for fuel efficiency and, in V-8 models, deactivates cylinders under light loads. On models equipped with air suspension, Eco mode lowers ride height by a half-inch at highway speeds, enhancing aerodynamics.
Equipped with 4WD, the 3.6L V-6 earns EPA ratings of 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway/19 mpg combined; RWD fetches 17/25/20. Properly equipped, a 3.6L Grand Cherokee can tow up to 6,200 lb.
The EcoDiesel optional is good for 21/28/24 4WD and 22/30/25 RWD. The 5.7L V-8 weighs in at a substantially lower 14/20/16 and 14/22/17.
Less expensive than the diesel by $1,300, the gas engine matches the diesel’s towing power, though with a hefty efficiency penalty. At current fuel prices, diesel owners should recoup their investment at about 35,000 miles.
Its superior low-end power gives diesel the edge when towing and in low-speed, off-road conditions. Grand Cherokee buyers owe it to themselves to explore its many benefits.
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4X4
Vehicle base price: $29,990
Trim level base price: $46,195
As tested: $51,680
Optional equipment included adaptive cruise control; Forward Crash Warning with Accident Mitigation; Advanced Brake Assist; blind-spot warning and Rear Cross Path Detection; 5.7L Hemi with engine fuel-saver technology; heavy-duty brakes; 3.09 rear axle.
EPA rating: 14 city/20 highway
Mid-grade fuel recommended