The 2011 Grand Cherokee received over 30 awards and has earned the title of “most awarded SUV ever.” Marking a new era of products for the Chrysler corporation, Jeep did not rest on its laurels, instead rolling out an updated version of its luxury SUV for 2014 with interior and exterior refinements as well as major drivetrain updates including a new transmission and ‘EcoDiesel’ powerplant. As a result it’s now an even more appealing luxury SUV that’s still fully off-road capable.
|1. New 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine produces 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.
2. Diesel models get a 22/30 MPG (city/hwy) rating for 4×2 models and 21/28 mpg for the 4×4.
3. V8 and diesel 4×2 models can tow up to 7,400 lbs or 7,200 lbs for the 4×4.
4. Priced at $28,795 to start, EcoDiesel models start at $40,295 plus $995 delivery.
5. In dealerships in March, diesels will be available in Q2 with SRT models arriving in April.
NOW WITH 8-SPEEDS
One of the biggest changes across the board for the 2014 Grand Cherokee is a new eight-speed transmission. The news trans will be used in each engine offering including the Pentastar V6, V8 and EcoDiesel V6. The fully electronic transmission is designed to increase performance while also improving fuel economy, offering more than 730 miles of range on one tank with the diesel engine.
The eight-speed features 40 individual shift maps to account for a wide variety of factors for on- and off-road operation. Off-roaders will be pleased to hear that when the Grand Cherokee is equipped with the two-speed transfer case the new trans increases the crawl ratio up to 44.1:1 for improved 4×4 capability in slow-speed operation.
DIESEL TORQUE, DIESEL FUEL ECONOMY
While the Pentastar V6 and optional V8 engine will return for 2014, the biggest news is centered on the new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel. Of the four trim packages (Lardeo, Limited, Overland, Summit), the EcoDiesel is available as an option on all but the base $28,795 Laredo.
The 24-valve, dual-overhead-cam engine produces 240 horsepower, but the number that really shows its abilities is the 420 lb-ft of torque it produces, which Jeep notes is a 62 percent increase in torque compared to the V6. This provides the 3.0-liter V6 diesel a best-in-class towing capacity of 7,400 pounds.
As mentioned previously, the EcoDiesel engine can cover over 730 miles on a single tank, due to the 22 MPG city and 30 MPG highway rating on the 4×2 model (21/28 mpg on the 4×4). Jeep notes the fuel economy is an improvement of 43 percent compared to competitive gasoline-powered V8 SUVs in the segment. That includes Jeep’s own V8 which is rated at a best of 14 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.
Those in cold-weather climates will appreciate Jeep’s use of low-voltage ceramic glow plugs, which are designed to aid in cold-weather starting.
UPDATED LOOK AND GEAR
Exterior refinements provide the Grand Cherokee with a fresh look that’s sharp, including new headlights that include LEDs, a new 7-slot grill design, rear bumper updates and more.
Arguably the interior updates are the most notable, including a new center stack with an easy-to-use and simply massive 8.4-inch touchscreeen radio/navigation with integrated climate and “infotainment” controls.
The 2014 model also features a new 7-inch TFT (Thin-Film Transistor) instrument cluster for the driver that is customizable to a number of unique views and functions. A CommandView dual-pane sunroof is also new in the Grand Cherokee, and this is standard equipment on the Overland and Summit version (optional on the Limited). Each trim level also features unique interior accents to set them apart, including Natura leather, real wood inlay on the dash and steering wheels, copper accents on center stack and even a velvety ceiling and A-pillar lining, depending upon the trim level.
BETTER ON-ROAD AND OFF
On road, the eight-speed transmission is immediately noticeable on every engine option we tested. There’s improved low-end response and smoother shifting between gears when coming from a stop or merging onto the highway. Yet it’s the EcoDiesel engine that gets the nod overall in our eyes. It may be the more expensive of the engine options, but its low-end acceleration and overall performance make it feel like the best choice.
When it comes to off-road capability, Jeep hasn’t forgotten its roots with the 2014 Grand Cherokee. It performs capably for a luxury SUV and remains true to the Jeep name. It features up to 11.3 inches of clearance via the air suspension system, and even the fascia can be removed near the tow hooks on the front bumper to avoid scraping up the paint when out on the trail.
LEGENDARY JEEP CAPABILITY
We crawled up wet, rocky slopes and came off rocky ledges with no trouble in the Grand Cherokee. Sand and mud proved to be no issue for either. Overall, it handled our wide-ranged off-road course with no trouble, showing it still can get dirty if the owner chooses.
There’s a great deal on engineering that goes into the off-road capability of the Grand Cherokee, with three 4×4 systems are available including Quadra-Trac 1 (full-time four-wheel drive, single-speed transfer case), Quadra-Trac II (two-speed transfer case with ability to transfer torque to the axle with the most traction), and Quadra-Drive II (two-speed transfer case equipped with rear Electronic Limited-Slip Differential, or ELSD).
The Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II are also equipped with Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction control system, which allows the driver to choose different on- or off-road settings depending upon the terrain, which include Sand (closely monitors wheel spin), Mud (also checks for wheel spin), Auto (adapts to road conditions), Snow (adapts to snow-covered roads) and Rock (more low-speed control, raises air suspension to maximum clearance of 11.3 inches). Each function is simple to use and provides a notable change in various conditions.
One adjustment to the system on the 2014 model is the performance-oriented Sport Mode. Previously found on the Selec-Terrain controller, it is now operated via the new T-handle shifter. The standard paddle shifters also come in handy both on and off-road, making low-speed off-road crawling and tight and twisty roads a little more hands-on.
With Hill Descent Control already available, new for 2014 is Hill-Ascent Control, which will control the speed of the Grand Cherokee while in low-speed operation when climbing hills with the ability to adjust speed with the paddle shifters.
The 2014 model is in all ways an improvement from the already capable, luxurious and downright excellent Grand Cherokee. The addition of the eight-speed transmission makes it more fun to drive, while the EcoDiesel engine is not only fuel-efficient, but offers great low-end punch on road and off. And most importantly for Jeep die-hards, it still features true Jeep off-road credentials.
Make no mistake, the Grand Cherokee is a luxury SUV. But if you plan to get it dirty, you’ll know it was designed to handle the task. It still lives up to the Jeep name.