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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee - First Drive

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on May 26, 2013
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Photographers: The Manufacturer

In our ever-changing world of technology and late-breaking news, the next best thing always seems to be just moments away. Auto manufacturers aren’t oblivious to this reality, and have reacted in ways once unheard of. Take for example the ’14 Jeep Grand Cherokee. For those up on their new vehicle releases, you may recall that it was only a little over 2½ years ago that Jeep completely revamped the Grand. In what appears to be a move from the iDroid-berry phone playbook, Jeep has released the newest version of the Grand in record time. Luckily, there is much more to this fresh-faced SUV than a few software upgrades.

Grand New
Since the 3.6L Pentastar V-6 and 5.7L Hemi V-8 engines remain relatively unchanged for the new model year, we spent most of our time planted in the highly anticipated and all-new 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 models. The 3.0L is a VM Motori Italian diesel that’s fitted with direct injection and a water-cooled turbo. The clean-diesel engine uses urea injection and one tank of the DEF fluid is said to last 10,000 miles. While this isn’t the first time that a turbocharged diesel Grand has been offered in North America, it is the first with a 50-state-legal low emissions tag.

The turbocharged 3.0L EcoDiesel is a low CO2 emissions engine producing 240hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. The common-rail injection system works with the variable-geometry turbo to net a fuel economy rating of 21 city and 28 highway on 4x4 models. Nearly as impressive is the fact that it’s rated to tow 7,200 pounds (4x4 models).
The diesel is back and it does not disappoint

Coupled with the new ZF-sourced eight-speed transmission (now standard across the Grand model line), the 3.0 L V-6 diesel is a torque-rich engine that doesn’t disappoint when you bury the pedal. While you will notice some slight turbo lag, along with a little diesel chatter, we found the EcoDiesel very quiet and responsive. With the 4.71 First gear, there is plenty of grunt off of the line. Even going over hills and steep grades seemed effortless thanks to 420 lb-ft of torque. For those looking to travel extreme distances on one tank, the 4x2 EcoDiesel Grand’s are said to deliver an incredible 720-mile range.

The eight-speed transmission has allowed for fuel economy improvements across the Grand line. It also provides a new crawl ratio of 44:1 (a 46-percent improvement over the previous model). This crawl control is especially noticeable behind the 3.0L EcoDiesel and creates a smoother and more linear-power feel behind the V-6 Pentastar and V-8 Hemi engines.

As hyped as the 3.0L EcoDiesel is, the eight-speed transmission is big news too. You may think, as we did at first, that an eight-speed trans would constantly shift and search for the right gear. Thankfully, this fear was unfounded. Behind every available engine combo we tested, the transmission shifted almost seamlessly and rarely hunted between top gears. It also gives both the 3.6L and 5.7L a fresh and more responsive feel. Clever tuning and torque management has made the eight-speed a great one-size-fits-all transmission. Its ability to easily mitigate the SRT Grand’s 470hp, also gives us high hopes of long-term durability. Our only complaint is that the new electronic shifter is clumsy and sometimes confusing to use.

In the Dirt
For those of you in the market for a 2x4 Grand, they are available, but we stayed planted in 4x4 models. While there are three 4x4 variations, only two provide you with a two-speed transfer case. The Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II fit you with a 2.72:1 low range and can be optioned with the Quadra-Lift air suspension that nets an impressive 11.3 inches of ground clearance. Yes, the Grand is still affixed with a fully-independent suspension, but despite our bias towards solid-axles, the Grand can hold its own off-road.

Laredo, Limited, Overland, and Summit models all receive unique front ends and molding to showcase the different models. Painted flares are also now available from the factory. The rear spoiler was said to be so effective when aero testing the SRT Grand, that it became standard. A front park-assist option and backup camera are also two new features to help you navigate safely.

On our wheeling outing over a private off-road course in Austin, Texas, we found the most effective setup to be the Quadra-Drive II with the electronic limited-slip rear differential. The brake-assisted traction control in Quadra-Trac II works OK, but requires a bit more wheelspeed to engage than we would like. We would love to see a front and rear selectable locker option like what is available in the Wrangler Rubicon, or at least an optional front ELSD. All of the models we tested off-road were fitted with the optional Quadra-Lift air suspension and had the lower fascia removed to increase the approach angle.

Grand Total
So what does all this clean-diesel and Quadra-talk really add up to? Jeep has taken the Grand into a league that’s well beyond what most used to expect from a brand that built its legacy on rugged, no-nonsense wheeling machines. With a tow rating now up to 7,400 pounds and mpg numbers as high as 30, the Grand continues to be a very sensible and stylish SUV option for those needing a tow rig, family hauler, and everyday commuter.

Inside, the Grand is the nicest it’s ever been. An optional 8.4-inch touch-screen center display provides a host of options and services (including Wi-Fi), while a customizable gauge cluster is standard throughout. Another optional feature is Selec-Speed Control, which works with the Hill-descent and new-for-2014, Hill-ascent. Using the paddle shifters on the steering wheel you can increase or decrease the speed in either Hill modes.

SRT Great
We would be a bunch of red-faced liars if we didn’t admit that the new SRT Grand had us drooling, too. Due to its lack of two-speed transfer case and obvious on-road focus, it doesn’t make much sense in Four Wheeler. That being said, we did get a chance not only to throttle down on the fresh 470hp 6.4L Hemi on-road, but we hit triple digits with it on the Circuits of the Americas Formula 1 race track in Austin, Texas. Sliding around the stock SRT SUV on a super twisty road course gives you a new level of respect for the Grand’s performance potential. It also makes you thankful of the barrage of safety features!

What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Powerful and efficient diesel engine, eight-speed trans, ultra-nice interior, fun to drive
Not: Front fascia needs to be removed for wheeling, brake-assisted traction control, new trans shifter
Our Take: City-slicker looks with cowboy grit

Quick Specs
Vehicle/model: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Base price: $37,795 (4x4 Limited)
Engine(s): 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6, 3.6L Pentastar V-6, 5.7L Hemi V-8
Rated hp/torque (lb-ft): 240/420 (3.0L), 290/260 (3.6L), 360/390 (5.7L)
Transmission: ZF 8-spd
Transfer case: MP 3022 2-spd
4WD system(s): Full-time active, w/optional ELSD on Quadra-Drive II
Low-range ratio: 2.72:1
Frame type: Steel uniframe
Suspension, f/r: Short- and long-arm independent, Quadra-Lift air spring and shock assemblies optional, coil spring w/ gas-charged twin-tube shocks std., upper and lower control arms, stabilizer bar/Multi-link, Quadra-Lift air springs optional, coil springs w/twin-tube shocks std., aluminum lower control arm, independent upper links (tension and camber), plus a separate toe link
Axles, f/r: 7.7-in/8.4-in (3.6L only), 8.9-in (optional electronic limited-slip differential)
Axle ratio(s): 3.45:1 (3.0L & 3.6L), 3.09:1 (V-8)
Max crawl ratio(s): 44.19:1 (3.0L & 3.6L), 39.58:1 (V-8)
Steering: Electro-hydraulic power (3.0L & 3.6L), power rack-and- pinion (V-8)
Brakes, f/r: 12.9x1.2-in vented discs, two-piston pin-slider calipers/12.6 x 0.55-in solid discs, single-piston pin-slider calipers
Wheels (in): Optional 17, 18, and 20
Tires: Varies with wheel selection
Wheelbase (in): 114.8
Length (in): 189.8
Height (in): 69.3
Base curb weight (lb): 5,275 (3.0L), 4,875 (3.6L), 5,135 (V-8)
Approach/departure angles (deg): 26.3 std., 35.8 air pos II w/air-dam off/26.5 std., 29.6 air pos II
Minimum ground clearance (in): 8.6 std., 11.3 air pos II
Payload (lb): 1,270 (3.0L & 3.6L), 1,290 (5.7L)
Interior cargo volume (cu ft): 68.3
Max towing capacity (lb): 7,200 (3.0L), 6,200 (3.6L), 7,200 (5.7L)
Fuel capacity (gal): 24.6
Fuel economy (mpg): 21/28 (3.0L), 17/24 (3.6L), 14/20 (5.7L)
*Limited 4x4 models equipped with the MP3022 2-spd T-case used for base specs

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