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Diesel Grand Cherokee Tow Test

Posted in Project Vehicles on May 1, 2009
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I figured once the Grand was loaded to the roof with clothes, tools and whatever, and the Scrambler on the trailer stuffed with spare parts that it would be at or over the maximum weight limit. With a published curb weight of 5,500 lbs and a max towing capacity of 7,400 lbs, I felt like it was right at the 12,900 lb limit by the seat of the pants scale. At 11,560 without driver, it was still at least 1,000 lbs from max. I could have thrown a few more of my spare axles on the trailer while in New Jersey.

Unlike many other magazines, when we are given a vehicle to test as a "Long Term" vehicle (read: "Here, borrow this for a year and tell the world what you think") we actually test the thing for a year and try to use it to the utmost. We don't beat on the thing for two or three weeks and then let it sit in the parking lot collecting dust. You see, we are Jeep guys at heart who happen to write a magazine, and we try to use the vehicle like you would, complete with doing our own maintenance in our own driveways.

So, for this installment, I stumbled across a Scrambler half a country away and figured what better way to put the long term tester through its paces than driving from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and back again dragging another Jeep along for the trip? If that wasn't enough, my goal was to do it in less than three weeks with five trail runs in five different states, while swapping bodies, engines, front clips and whatever other parts I could trade on the Scrambler along the way. Needless to say, the Grand Cherokee got a workout over about 8,000 miles of cross-country madness in a period of 17 days on the road all while attached to a trailer.

You can read more about my hair-brained scheme and Scrambler in the next issue of Jp magazine, but for the time being, here are some Grand Cherokee related notes from the coast-to-coast-to-coast tow test.

What It Really Costs
In the last installment, I broke down the first 13,000 or so miles to figure out what this diesel Jeep was costing me to run. In the interests of keeping a running tally, this chart starts with the $3323.09 from before, and tacked on all costs to date for a true dollars-per-mile over the life of the Jeep.

Total Parts and fuel to 13,005 miles $3,{{{323}}}.09
Cost of 679 gallons of diesel fuel $2,308.26
Case of Oil (oil change number three) $111.60
Mann Oil Filter (oil change number three) $12.69
Total Parts and fuel $5,631.35
$0.23/mile (over 24,664 miles)

Real World Mileage
Overall, I haven't seen a change in fuel mileage around California, but rolling down the road at near 12,000 lbs did put a dent in mileage and driving into a headwind for many of the plains states beat the mileage down even more. On this trip, the Grand has racked up our worst mileages to date. Then again, the Grand Cherokee towing another Jeep still gets better mileage than the Jeep on the trailer would get on its own if I was to drive it.

Average with empty trailer over 2,706 miles 17.{{{62}}} mpg
Average with loaded trailer over 4,867 miles 14.9 mpg
Worst Single Tank Fuel Economy (from
heading uphill into a 30mph headwind en
route to Cheyenne, Wyoming)
11.35 mpg
Best Fuel Economy (with empty trailer across
22.43 mpg (we got 438
miles out of one tank of
diesel while towing)
PhotosView Slideshow

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