The Jeep Grand Cherokee remains a thoroughly sturdy, off-road-capable midsize SUV along the lines of a Toyota 4Runner, albeit with a much nicer interior. The addition of the efficient new turbodiesel gives the GC even more scope.
PerformanceThe new EcoDiesel V6 is the way to go if you're serious about fuel mileage, towing and off-roading. Plus, it's actually quicker than the gasoline V6 version. While off-road grip is sensational, on-road handling is mediocre at best. The top-level Summit model tested here is the only GC that's not Trail Rated.
The EcoDiesel 3.0-liter V6 is all about torque, a full 420 lb-ft worth. With 0-60 mph in 7.7 seconds, it's quicker than the V6 gasoline GC. The 8-speed automatic is smooth, though the shifts are slow.
The Grand Cherokee nosedives and squirms during full panic stops, with a best distance from 60 mph of 121 feet, which is average. Although we noticed some fade in testing, around town the brakes provided decent power.
The GC's steering has a light effort, which should suit most people. Unfortunately it also doesn't have much in the way of feel, so you never really know what the front tires are up to on road or off.
Whether at the test track or on backroads, the GC feels lethargic and heavy. It has little roll control, meaning it leans considerably through corners. The stability control intervenes early and often.
The 8-speed automatic shifts seamlessly, though there's some jerkiness in stop-and-go traffic, and the engine requires more revs than you expect to get going. So much torque it easily holds one gear up long grades.
The EcoDiesel and Hemi V8 4x4s have the same tow rating: 7,200 pounds. Two-wheel drive models can tow 7,400, while gasoline V6 models can tow 6,200 pounds.
Oddly, this Summit model, with its low front fascia, isn't even Trail Rated, despite Quadra-Drive II and height-adjustable air suspension. Still, it's ultra capable at scurrying up steep off-road trails.
ComfortThe Grand Cherokee has excellent sound deadening plus supportive seats and plenty of room to stretch out. Although we expected good things from the air suspension, it suffers in the city and is largely incapable of soaking up smaller bumps.
The front seats are wide, overstuffed with padding, yet surprisingy firm. Adjustable lumbar and heating/cooling up front. Well-padded armrests. Rear reclining seatbacks have easy-access lever. Middle seat is livable.
Oddly, the Summit's air suspension struggles to soak up smaller pavement ripples, allowing significant vibration into the cabin. Definitely not the best urban vehicle. Big bumps, on the other hand, are absorbed with ease.
Diesel clatter makes it louder at idle than rival gas engines, but the EcoDiesel is considerably quieter at full-throttle, partially because it doesn't rev as high. Dual-pane front glass, nearly zero wind noise.
InteriorJeep made some improvements to the GC's interior for 2014. The Uconnect infotainment system, materials and controls are at the top of the class, though the touchscreen forces too many steps for certain functions.
Great new steering wheel. Solid, substantial controls. Large, grippy knobs for stereo volume/tuning/fan speed. But some climate control functions require 3-4 button pushes through the touchscreen. Ridiculous.
Wide-opening front doors. Step-in height is higher than average, but air suspension can be lowered when parked. Rear doors also open wide, though opening is compromised by rear wheelwell and wide rocker panels.
Despite the high seating position, there's still generous headroom up front. Good elbow room, too, and center console leaves room for driver's right knee. Excellent rear foot- and knee room, plenty of headroom.
The windshield pillars are fairly long and thick, hampering views on curvy roads. Most other pillars are narrow, and the tall side windows aid lane changes. Standard rearview camera and front/rear parking sonar.
Front bin has little space and cheap-feeling door. Door pockets are too narrow for most hands. Good anti-tip cupholders. Rear seats have one-touch fold-down. Trunk houses full-size spare, still offers 36.3 cu-ft.
ValueAlthough it may come as a shock that you can outfit a Jeep to $57,190, there are a ton of safety and luxury features here. This is a well-built truck, and the diesel's fuel mileage will pay for itself versus the Hemi V8 in a couple years.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Other than the front bin's flimsy door, the materials in this top-level GC Summit are fantastic. Tight yet supple leather, cool-looking open-pore wood trim, leather/wood steering wheel and a beautiful suede headliner.
The Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4 comes chock full of luxury/tech features, including a backup camera, blind spot detection, forward collision warning and vented seats. But then, it better for $52,190.
The $5,000 EcoDiesel option includes the top-level Quadra-Drive II 4wd system, an electronic limited-slip rear differential and vented rear brakes. It's worth it for the fuel mileage, tow capability and off-roading.
The EPA rates the GC EcoDiesel at 24 mpg Combined (21 City/28 Highway). We averaged a so-so 22.3 mpg in varied driving, but an impressive 27.4 mpg on our 116-mile evaluation loop.
The Grand Cherokee's 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty matches rivals, but the drivetrain warranty is good for 5 years or 100,000 miles, versus most competitor's 60,000-mile plans.
The 5-year/100,000-mile roadside assistance again tops most rivals mileage-wise. But Toyota and its 4Runner offer free maintenance for 2 years/25,000 miles.
Fun To DriveIn off-road or snowy conditions, we could see the Grand Cherokee being fun. Most of the time it's simply a solid, competent-feeling SUV. Especially with the turbodiesel, which is happy scooting around town or idling all day in the dirt.
Some low-speed lurchiness from the transmission/throttle and a stiffer-than-expected ride mar what is otherwise quite a nice, low-key and exceptionally quiet driving environment. This is an easy vehicle to drive.
The clattering turbodiesel and the Grand Cherokee's rock-crawling potential give this SUV some personality. And with 420 lb-ft of torque and low gearing thanks to the new 8-speed automatic, this thing is pretty quick.
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