The Grand Cherokee has many flavors, from a vanilla V6 up to a meaty 6.3-liter V8. For 2014 a diesel engine is joining the list adding a fuel-efficient torque laden option. The engine is shared in the Chrysler family and also serves under the hood of the Ram 1500: the 2014 AutoGuide.com Truck of the Year. And for good reason. In both the Ram and Grand Cherokee, the engine is a gem.
|Engine: 3.0-liter diesel with 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Towing: V8 and diesel 4×2 models can tow up to 7,400 lbs or 7,200 lbs for the 4×4.
Fuel Economy: 21 mpg city, 28 highway and 24 combined for 4×4 models.
Price: $29,395 to start, EcoDiesel models start at $41,890 including destination fees.
SEE ALSO: 2014 AutoGuide Truck of the Year
Excessive noise, vibrations and bad smells, often associated with diesel engines, are mostly absent here. There is more noticeable unwanted engine noise than with the V6 or even the V8 HEMI-powered Grand Cherokee, but it isn’t overly intrusive. Starting up after sitting outside through a cold winter night, the engine clatter is the loudest, but that mostly fades away once it warms up. It’s also worth mentioning that we faced average temperatures between 14 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the engine never took longer than three or four seconds to start in the morning.
Low-end grunt is the most noticeable trait of this engine. Torque is a strong-point for any diesel, and Chrysler’s 3.0-liter is no exception. Even at highways speeds, the motor always seems to have accessible power.
An eight-speed automatic transmission makes sure that all the power is used effectively and the gearing setup never misses a beat when it comes to shifts. Fuel economy benefits too. The EPA pegs the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel at 24 mpg combined for four-wheel drive models, and our time with this Jeep returned an average of 23 mpg.
An air suspension system is another trick up the Grand Cherokee’s sleeve. Not only does it allow the driver to choose from a range of suspension settings and heights, but the system will also lower the vehicle to improve aerodynamics at higher speeds. The drop is not noticeable and the system works well in the background while providing a solid suspension feel that allows the Grand Cherokee to offer reasonable handling and a comfortable ride.
The GC diesel is rated to tow 7,400 lbs in rear-wheel drive form and 7,200 lbs for the all-wheel drive model, and is fitted with a 3.45:1 rear-end axle. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to pull anything with this vehicle, but we have had a chance to pull a large amount of weight behind the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. In that application with a 3.55:1 rear end, the motor handled the task with ease. Towing won’t feel the same in a unibody crossover as it does in a body-on-frame truck of course, but the engine power will remain strong.
To help tackle the elements, this top-trim Grand Cherokee is fitted with that air suspension system that we mentioned earlier, but it also gets a proper transfer case that allows the first-gear crawl ratio to come in at 44.1:1.
And we needed it. Setting the Selec-Terrain system to “Snow,” we tackled a solid two feet of the white stuff in some spots along with some shallow water crossings. Throttle calibration is controlled well, allowing you to crawl along at a slow and steady speed, while the torque of the transfer case combined with the diesel engine feels strong enough to uproot a tree.
We did eventually get stuck, which exposed a weakness in the air suspension. Once immobile, we switched it out of snow mode to try and get more top-end power into the wheels. The issue is, when the wheels are freely spinning in the stuck snow, the air suspension decides to drop out of its off-road height setting, which meant that the body of the GC was now sitting on the snow.
This lead to another discovery: the lack of tow hooks on the Summit-trim GC. Granted, this is the most luxurious version of the Grand Cherokee which will probably spend most of its time on pavement, but any vehicle equipped with drive modes like “Snow” and “Mud” should include easy to access recovery hooks. We ended up hooking the tow strap to a part of the axle, which meant crawling underneath, in the freezing snow, to hook it up. Eventually, we yanked it out.
Mature Beyond its Price Tag
As other AutoGuide.com reviews have agreed, the interior of the Grand Cherokee is luxurious beyond its price point with as much style as vehicles twice its price. Our tester was outfitted in Summit trim, which includes a seven-inch LCD gauge cluster, wood accents and comfortable stitched leather that covers just about every surface, including much of the dashboard.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Review
The center console is laid out sensibly and simply, while the 8.4-inch touchscreen found there runs Chrysler’s fantastic UConnect infotainment system. It is intuitive and the graphics make it simple to understand. Likewise, the seven-inch screen in the LCD gauge cluster is intuitive and makes pertinent information easy to access.
The one and only problem with the interior ergonomics that we found is the operation of the gear shifter. It is a finicky controller that can have you putting the vehicle in park while looking for reverse and it requires acclimation. Chrysler should consider installing the shift knob that it uses in many of its other vehicles, which is clear and easy to use.
Things to complain about on the diesel-powered GC are few and far between, until it comes to the price. The diesel engine is only available with the Limited, Overland and Summit trimmed Grand Cherokee, which means that the cheapest diesel-equipped model you can starts at $41,890. Just to get the oil-burner, you have to drop an extra $4,500 over a V6-powered Grand Cherokee, or $1,305 over the V8 HEMI motor.
The decision to purchase really comes down to how you will use this vehicle. Frankly, the V6 is a fantastic motor when hooked up to the eight-speed, and will return comparable fuel economy and a pleasurable drive experience. But if torque and fuel economy are absolute priorities, then the diesel-powered Grand Cherokee is the only choice.