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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel - First Drive

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on March 7, 2014
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By now, you’ve likely heard about the new 3.0L EcoDiesel engine that is making a splash in a big way for Ram and Jeep. A few months ago, we logged over a 1,000 on- and off-road miles in a diesel-powered Grand (“Four Wheeler of the Year,” Feb. ’14). While we got to see exactly how well the peppy SUV handled in the dirt, there were still a few practical application tests that we wanted to run the EcoDiesel Grand through. For this, we got the keys to a ’14 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. Aside from being equipped with the ever-important EcoDiesel engine, our tester was fitted with two important options needed for our testing-Trailer Tow Group IV and Quadra-Lift Air Suspension.

We selected those options so we could see how the Jeep Grand Cherokee performed towing at its max 7,200-pound tow rating. Compared to slightly larger SUVs, such as the 5.3L-equipped ’14 Chevy Tahoe 4x4 that has a max-tow rating 8,200 pounds, the Grand is an attractive alternative for those looking for a midsize SUV, but still need a higher tow rating. Pumping out 240hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, the turbocharged diesel’s power figures may not sound overly impressive, but consider the following. In 1998, a Dodge Ram 1-ton truck equipped with the massive 5.9L inline-six Cummins diesel engine was only rated at 215hp and 420 lb-ft of torque when mated with an automatic transmission.

Towing Tough
To get an idea of what towing 7,200 pounds feels like, we took a trip through the Coastal Carolina plains to retrieve a vehicle with a curb weight of approximately 4,700 pounds. This rig would ride atop our trailer, which weighs around 2,500 pounds. Since our tester was equipped with the optional Quadra-Lift Air Suspension, it automatically adjusted and leveled the vehicle once we had the trailer attached. Typically, we are fans of the standard coil-sprung suspension on the Grand, but the safety and handling benefits of being able to keep the Jeep level while towing far outweighed the occasional clunk made by the air-ride.

For the first leg of our trip, the trailer was unloaded and the torque-rich diesel pulled it with no fuss. If it wasn’t for the occasional rough road bouncing the trailer around, you wouldn’t have known it was behind you. Stopping the empty trailer weight wasn’t an issue either.

With over 7,000 pounds in tow, we didn’t expect the Jeep Grand Cherokee to be a race car, but we were extremely surprised at how powerful the engine was. There was never any struggle or drama from the EcoDiesel. Even passing and moving through stop and go traffic, we never felt underpowered or left holding up the pack. We accredit some of the Grand’s performance to the ZF eight-speed transmission. The 4.71 First gear helps you come out of a stop strong and get moving with purpose. Shifting was never clunky, and we enjoyed that we could easily use the paddle shifters to control the gear count. Manually downshifting using the paddle shifters helped keep speed in check too, but a tow/haul mode that we could have just clicked on, would have been nice. An exhaust brake would also be a helpful feature for the EcoDiesel, but it’s probably not likely to appear on the Grand anytime soon.

Our average cruising speed over the course of our towing excursion was around 65 mph on the highway. It’s important to note that we were in a very flat part of the country. Keeping that in mind, the fuel economy numbers while towing were pretty amazing. Towing just a touch over the manufactures suggested rating, we managed 18 mpg!

Daily Grand
Although our main purpose for this article was to see how the Grand would tow, we did manage to spend some time with the Jeep in a more traditional everyday driver setting. Living with the Limited EcoDiesel is pretty luxurious and fun to drive. Placing the Grand in Sport mode created the best handling and performance, making a quick trip up to the store even more enjoyable-especially with the paddle shifters in play. The Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen is extremely easy to use and pair devices with and your significant other (as well as yourself) will appreciate the ultra-plush seating. Maybe our biggest gripe is the price. Our tester had a slew of bells and whistles that fed the price up to a staggering $48,785. That’s nearly as much as a ¾-ton truck!

Luckily, you can build and price an EcoDiesel Grand for much less. Considering that the diesel is barley audible and the push-to-start feature waits for the glow plugs to heat so you don’t have to remember, this modern diesel doesn’t have any of the negatives that used to be associated with the classic rattleboxes. Given what the Grand is up against, you would be hard pressed to find a SUV that can offer more, for a better price. So, if you’re hunting for new midsize SUV, we suggest placing the EcoDiesel Grand on your radar.

What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Ample power, smooth transmission, excellent fuel economy
Not: Clunky air suspension, no built-in trailer brake controller
Our Take: The do-all diesel SUV we’ve been waiting for

Low CO2 emissions and urea-injection make the EcoDiesel a 50-state-legal option. The DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) tank (which fill-port sits next to the cap-less diesel fill) is said to allow a range of up to 10,000 miles. VM Motori is the Italian diesel manufacturer that is responsible for the V-6 EcoDiesel and opting for one in the Grand will set you back a cool $4,500. Using an electronically controlled, variable-vane, and water-cooled turbo, the engine churns out 240hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, while netting an EPA estimated 21 city/28 highway.

Quick Specs*
Vehicle/model: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4
Base price: $37,795
As tested: $48,785
Engine: 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 turbodiesel
Rated hp/torque (lb-ft): 240/420
Transmission: ZF 8HP70 8-spd automatic
Transfer case: MP 3022 full-time 2-spd
Low-range ratio (:1): 2.72
Frame type: Steel uniframe
Suspension, f/r: Short- and long-arm independent, Quadra-Lift air spring and shock assemblies, upper and lower control arms, stabilizer bar/Multilink, Quadra-Lift air springs, twin-tube shocks, aluminum lower control arm, independent upper links (tension and camber), plus a separate toe link
Axles, f/r: ZF 7.7-in/ZF 8.9-in w/electronic limited-slip differential
Axle ratio (:1): 3.45
Max crawl ratio (:1): 44.2
Steering: Electro-hydraulic rack-and-pinion
Brakes, f/r: 12.9 x 1.2-in vented discs, two-piston pin-slider calipers/12.6 x 0.55-in solid discs, single-piston pin-slider calipers
Wheels (in): 18 x 8
Tires: P265/60R18 Michelin Latitude Tour
Wheelbase (in): 114.8
Length (in): 189.8
Height (in): 69.3 (standard height), 72.3 (w/air susp position 2)
Width (in): 84.8
Weight (lb): 5,275
Approach/departure angles (deg.): 26.3 (standard), 36.1 (w/air susp position 2, air dam off)/24.0 (standard), 27.1 (w/air susp position 2)
Minimum ground clearance (in): 8.2 (standard), 10.4 (w/air susp position 2)
Payload (lb): 1,270
Max towing capacity (lb): 7,200
Fuel capacity (gal): 24.6
Fuel economy (mpg): 21/28
Observed city/highway/towing: 22.87
Options as tested: Customer Preferred Package 22H ($3,000), Off-Road Adventure II ($2,495), 3.0-Liter V-6 EcoDiesel Engine ($4,500), Destination Charge ($995)
*As tested

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