- Looks far more expensive than it is
- Eight-speed automatics all over the place
- Ecodiesel's 30-mpg rating, 730-mile range
- The best infotainment features, and the most usable
- A 470-hp, 0.90g Jeep? Yes, please
- What's with that wan little grille?
- Almost every version's over $30k
- HEMI seems somewhat pointless now
- Base Laredo goes without rearview camera, options
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee adds great turbodiesel fuel economy to a resume already blushing with talent.
With an SUV’s off-road capability but a crossover’s car-like ride, and its own take on rugged style, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a study in contradictions—but they resolve into one impressive, capable, attractive vehicle. The result is an appealing alternative to even more expensive vehicles from BMW, Porsche, Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz.
The Grand Cherokee, along with the Ford Explorer, is one of the "original" SUVs that kicked off the suburban utility craze in the 1990s. It's come so, so far--not the least in fuel economy. For 2014, it gains a new turbodiesel engine option, which gives it better highway fuel economy than some luxury sedans we can name.
Without the chopped, blocky look of the last-generation ute, today's Jeep Grand Cherokee is quite a handsome ute. We're at a loss as to what Jeep was thinking with the new grille: it's an inverse of the usual seven bars of chrome, underplayed to a fault, a discreet piece in a niche that doesn't put too high a value on discretion. The regularity of its SUV shape has been de-blanded in back with new LED taillamps, so there's less in common with the X5 and Touareg, and more with the 1992 original. The cabin? It's as rich as the ones at Sundance, with marvelous textures and materials on the pricey models, and great layout and design even on the basic Laredo. It underscores one of the real strengths of Chrysler since time immemorial--the way it can finish a cockpit, given the right budget and time constraints.
Interior space is still quite good, and if anything, fit and finish has gotten better. New color schemes and new trim options, like open-pore wood, push the Grand Cherokee ever higher into luxury-vehicle terrain, though it doesn't have the third-row seating or funky-flexible interior of some bigger crossovers. It also lacks features like GM's center-front airbag or Ford's rear-seat belt airbags, but it does have hill ascent control, which maintains steady throttle while the Grand Cherokee scrabbles up surfaces a Flex or Enclave can only dream about.
The visible changes are few compared to the updates in running gear. For starters, a new eight-speed automatic boosts mileage in all powertrains. The base 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 carries over, making 290 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque but now rated up to 25 mpg on the highway—for more than a 600-mile range. The HEMI V-8 still makes 360 hp, but now gets 21 mpg on the highway. Towing is up to 6,200 pounds or 7,400 pounds, respectively. The optional air suspension has a new Eco mode for reduced ride height at speed, and steering gets electrohydraulic actuation on all versions except the V-8s.The truly important news under the hood is the Grand Cherokee Ecodiesel. The 3.0-liter V-6 earns an estimated 30 mpg on the highway, and has a stated range of about 730 miles on a single tank to go with best-in-class towing capacity of 7,400 pounds.
Oh, did we forget the SRT? It's missing its "8" appendix, but still scorches along with a 470-hp HEMI and a 0-60 mph time of about 4.8 seconds. With launch control and a sporty 70-percent torque split to the rear in Track mode, it's one of the best-handling SUVs we've driven.
The Grand Cherokee still has a fluid feel on pavement, but it's also vastly talented off-road. The most advanced versions can still clamber over boulders and logs with ease, and the new automatic enables a lower crawl ratio that suits the Ecodiesel especially well. The Quadra-Lift air suspension continues, as do the three four-wheel drive systems—Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, and Quadra-Drive II—as well as the Selec-Terrain management system, which automatically caters the powertrain settings for the terrain (Sand, Mud, Auto, Snow, and Rock).
On the infotainment front, the Grand Cherokee stays in front with new Uconnect screens (five-inch or 8.4-inch) and its cleaner, simpler interface. Piped-in 3G data adds cloud-based services like voice-to-text and natural-language navigation via voice commands. Finally, there's a Summit edition with every feature imaginable, including a 19-speaker, 825-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, including 12-channel amplifier and three subwoofers. At that level, the only option is a Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system--and we'd take iPads and WiFi connectivity in any case.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The rugged good looks still look good, but a tamer grille has watered down the Jeep in the Grand Cherokee.
Before it was brand-new in 2011, the Jeep Grand Cherokee looked old, and low-rent. It was dated when it was new. The lavish, on-point renovation that came for the 2011 model year fixed all that, giving the Grand Cherokee the spot-on proportions and stance it has today.This year's light retouching doesn't backtrack at all, but it does water down the Jeep appeal up front. The Grand Cherokee used to wear seven chrome bars on its face like it was passing time in some fabulous supermax facility. For 2014, for reasons we can't fathom, the grille is smaller, thinner, and those chrome bars are all but gone. The Grand Cherokee has an "innie" now, with body-color bars and wan little chrome lines around them, an anti-Jeep at least from that narrow perspective. A statement this concise needs the perfect punctuation. If Mercedes can flaunt Flavor Flav-sized logos on the M-Class, the Grand Cherokee's grille bars should be wide enough for Weber.
Otherwise, today's Grand Cherokee is one pretty, sophisticated piece. The details are fine, if the sideview reminds us some, or a lot, of the BMW X5 or VW Touareg. The LED taillights, at least, have more bite this year, and that addresses the derivative look of the rear end nicely. Rear LED taillights and a spoiler lifted from the SRT edition are standard on all versions now, while from the nose and tail, the lower fascias are different, pierced by dual exhausts on most models and on the SRT.
The Grand Cherokee's cabin went from deer blind to Sundance studio back in 2011, and the new stitched-leather dash and ambient lighting are perfect touches for a glamping atmosphere on the top trim levels. Even on the basic versions, there's a chunky three-spoke steering wheel, a usefully arranged center stack of controls capped with inoffensive metallic-plastic trim, and a five-inch LCD touchscreen for audio. On Limiteds, Overlands, and Summits, Jeep applies real wood trim on the dash, doors, and the steering wheel. It begs to be touched, in the same amount the last-generation vehicle wanted to be left alone. It's in its best light in Summit's organic coloring, under the natural light of the panoramic roof. This is Chrysler's best interior, and it's fairly amazing in how it feels like an M-Class, which is sort of is, or a Cayenne, which it supersedes in many ways.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The automatic is finally up to speed--finally, the Grand Cherokee's handling and off-road talent have a worthy gear-changer.
Not many cars can go from plain civic duty to muscular track challenger in the same body style. The Jeep Grand Cherokee can do it while wearing hiking boots. That makes it one of the most well-rounded vehicles on the planet.
It's a case of one body, three very different missions. The Grand Cherokee tackles competitors like the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class, even the prosaic Subaru Outback, by being many different things at once, whether it's a frugal diesel cruiser, an inexpensive family SUV, or a high-powered luxury machine.
V-6 or V-6, gas or diesel?
All Grand Cherokees start out with a common base engine and transmission. The 290-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 is Chrysler's bread and butter, found in almost every one of its products. With flex-fuel capability and variable valve timing, but without direct injection, it has good power at the wide middle of its powerband, and in the Grand Cherokee it sounds tamer and more refined than in some of the older Chrysler bodies.
An excellent eight-speed ZF automatic is standard across the lineup now; it's also paired with paddle shift controls where the paddles aren't quite long enough to function as perfectly as they could (audio buttons mounted on the back of the steering wheel get in the way). The smoother operation the gearbox offers over the old five- and six-speed units doesn't just give the Grand Cherokee a more comely attitude--it also comes with a 2-mpg highway mileage improvement, helped along by an Eco transmission mode and the tailgate spoiler now applied to all models. With the new transmission, towing is up from 5,000 to 6,200 pounds, too.
One step up is the most interesting Grand Cherokee powertrain, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel six supplied by VM Motori. With 240 horsepower but 420 pound-feet of torque, it gives a towing option with 30-mpg highway economy versus the HEMI. It has a diesel sewing-machine throb at idle lets you know you're in one--and it's fairly loud from 2500 to 4000 rpm. Still, with a 0-60 mph time close to that of the V-6, towing capacity of 7,400 pounds, and unbelievable tractability off-road, the diesel's a great alternative to either of the gas powertrains, not to mention the substantially more expensive turbodiesels from VW, BMW, Mercedes and even Porsche. It's a $4,500 option on Limited, Overland, and Summit models.
The other engine option on those versions is Chrysler's 5.7-liter V-8. Though it doesn't wear a HEMI badge, it acts just like one, with the grunt and pull of a Charger and the sweet, musical V-8 engine note to go with the tug. It's aurally superior, but the HEMI's not such a huge improvement in everyday driving that it's worth the immense fuel-economy penalty. Towing is up to 7,400 pounds and thanks to the eight-speed automatic, cylinder deactivation, and an "aero" air-suspension mode, gas mileage is up 2 mpg on the highway cycle.
Beyond all comprehension is the Grand Cherokee SRT, an SUV that answers a lot of questions no one has--but does it with such passion and conviction, you'll listen every time. It easily compares with the likes of the ML63 and Cayenne at a big discount. The 6.4-liter V-8 rips off 470 horsepower, shunting it to all four wheels on a variable basis through an eight-speed paddle-shifted automatic. Chrysler claims a thrilling 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds, and adds launch control this year so owners can see those numbers, repeatably, on the SRT's Performance Pages screen. That isn't the only impressive number: the quarter-mile's pegged in the mid-13s, top speed hits 160 mph, and 60-0 mph braking cuts things short in just 116 feet. It's true performance art, and extravagant in ways you might never associate with the Jeep name.If you're unaware, today's Grand Cherokee is related to the Mercedes M-Class, back from the days of DaimlerChrysler. The relationship shows up in many ways, all of which make this the best-performing Grand Cherokee ever. The body is stiffer and sounder than ever before, and that enables the steering and the independent steel or electronic air suspensions to do their jobs more precisely than ever. The Grand Cherokee's suspension just gels with the steering to create crossover-like road manners, without the boundy ride and the slow steering responses of the past. With the Limited, Overland, and Summit editions, there’s an improved Quadra-Lift air suspension that can raise the Grand Cherokee from 6.4 inches to 11.3 inches off the ground through five modes—great for off-roading, and even more settled on-road.
For the times you want to explore new territory, the Grand Cherokee can be ordered with one of three all- or four-wheel-drive systems. The basic Quadra-Trac I has a standard locking differential in the middle, with power split 50:50 front to rear, but no low range. Quadra-Trac II can split torque variably from front to rear, as traction disappears at either end, up to 100 percent in theory; a lower crawl ratio makes it even more terrific off-road this year. Quadra-Drive II adds on an electronic limited slip differential across the rear axle so that the Grand Cherokee can respond even more intelligently to slipping and sliding. You’d want the most extreme choice for the most extreme duties, but the base setup is lightweight, simple, and more than enough traction control for crossover-SUV drivers.
Beyond that, the Grand Cherokee is one of the few vehicles that can be fitted with hardcore off-road talent. Jeep grafts a Selec-Terrain system to the "II" systems. Selec-Terrain lets you choose one of five traction-control modes according to driving conditions: Auto, Sand, Mud, Snow, and Rock. (The former Sport mode is selected on the shift lever.) It’s useful stuff—if you don’t already know to take it slow and steady when conditions aren’t perfect. Some versions earn the Trail Rated designation--those with Selec-Terrain and an off-road package--and we've seen how they earn it, scrambling up 200-foot, 55-degree inclines with a new Selec-Speed system that puts a steady amount of force into the drivetrain, and controls it in 1-kilometer-per-hour increments. It's brainless off-roading, all granted by electronics and anti-lock brakes.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Comfort & Quality
If possible, the Grand Cherokee's cabin has only gotten better, with new trims and colors complementing great seats and a spacious cabin.
There's more cabin space and cargo room in this Grand Cherokee than in Jeeps of the past. That's because the latest generation sports a longer wheelbase than before, and the space it grants is used more effectively. Not only that, it's finished in more appealing materials, to a higher standard--and that adds luster and value to the Jeep's sticker price.
In its 2011 redesign, the Grand Cherokee grew by 5.3 inches between its side wheels. Now riding on a 114.8-inch wheelbase, the Grand Cherokee benefits from a smoother ride as a result, but also has adult-friendly leg room front and back as a result. It also has larger doors that open up 78 degrees, making entry and exit easier than ever.
In the front seats, driver and passenger get wide cushions with a fair amount of bolstering. On base models in prior years, we've felt the standard-issue Laredo cloth seats were pretty flat, with bottom cushions that were a little too short. Even then, with a little adjustment, it wasn't difficult to find a good driving position in the Grand Cherokee. It has very good foot room and a mostly flat floor in front, and with the available sunroof, still leaves a couple of inches of headroom for six-footers.
In this year's update, we drove various Summit and SRT models, and found better comfort, still with some flatness in the bottom cushion on the front seats. The SRT has way more support formed into its bolsters, of course. And the Grand Cherokee's cabin is wide enough to put some distance between those passengers, too--they can make elbow contact on the center console, or rest an arm on the door panel, but it's by choice.
Small items won't get lost inside this Jeep. There's a console bin ahead of the shift lever that contains all the audio ports--which are ringed in soft light--but there's only just enough room for a small smartphone. The two-level console bin and bottle pockets on doors are useful, but the rest of the door pockets aren't very long or deep.
Most of the space the Grand Cherokee gained in its 2011 redesign was devoted to making rear-seat passengers more comfortable. In the old Grand Cherokee, the knee and shoulder room were tight, for such a large, tall vehicle. Now three adults have a good shot at sitting in the back seat comfortably; two will be quite happy, with plenty of room to slouch and fold down the center armrest. The seatbacks recline and tilt forward 12 degrees in each direction for even better comfort, all the better to enjoy those four additional inches of leg room. This Jeep doesn't have a third-row seat option--for that, you'll have to switch to the Dodge Durango, and hopefully not a competitor like the Honda Pilot or Ford Explorer.
You can flip down the rear seats with a single lever, and on some versions the front passenger seat will fold flat, too—just in case that grandfather clock needs a new home. All versions of the Grand Cherokee are rated at the same storage space, at 36.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats, with a somewhat high but long cargo floor. The tailgate no longer has flip-up glass, but you can raise the entire liftback by power on all versions (standard from Limited on up); on the ritzy versions, the cargo area gets fine padding and trim bars. Our favorite storage detail: The removable dual bins hiding under the cargo floor, molded to fit around the spare tire.Trim quality has never been better in the Grand Cherokee. If it's possible, the addition of touchscreens and electronic gauges has made it look more pricey. The new Summit edition patterns its finishes and color choices after nature. It's like the most upscale L.L. Bean or Eddie Bauer edition you've ever seen, with a marked lack of bright finishes and earthy tones like copper and green paired with open-grain, matte-finish wood. In all, the Grand Cherokee is the best vehicle Chrysler builds, in terms of quality feel meeting the class targets.
Wind noise is more noticeable on all but the Ecodiesel model--the Grand Cherokee has big, square mirrors--but the diesel's clatter at idle is a bit loud.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
With more safety technology at hand, the 2014 Grand Cherokee might repeat its strong crash-test scores--but the results aren't yet in.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to do well in tests by the insurance industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The IIHS has dubbed the Grand Cherokee a Top Safety Pick for 2013, but with a "marginal" score in the new small-overlap test, it won't earn that honor for 2014.
The NHTSA, meanwhile, has given the Grand Cherokee a four-star overall rating, with four stars for front protection and a five-star rating for side impact protection--carried over from 2013. Through its mathematical modeling, it gives the rear-drive Grand Cherokee just three stars, a typical rating for SUVs, though the four-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee is rated at four stars.All the usual airbags and stability control systems are standard in the Grand Cherokee, as are trailer-sway control, hill-descent control and hill-start assistance--functions of anti-lock braking and clever programming. Active headrests are standard as well.
Bluetooth is standard, but a rearview camera is not offered on the base Grand Cherokee Laredo. It's an option on the Laredo E. On other models, safety options include parking sensors; blind-spot monitors; adaptive cruise control; and a collision-warning system that warns drivers when vehicles in the lane ahead are approaching rapidly.
A new features includes hill-ascent control, which allows the driver to set the 4WD Grand Cherokee in automatic climbing mode, with its very low forward speed checked in 1-kilometer-per-hour increments. We crawled up the 55-degree face of a rock outcropping 200 feet, with just a little bit of tire scrub, as the Grand Cherokee Summit diesel simply tugged its way unassisted to the top, set at its lowest 1-kph level.
The airy Grand Cherokee provides drivers with great forward visibility. The hood’s shaped to give a good sense of the front corners, and the very large side mirrors are almost square. The rear-seat headrests almost blot out the view to the rear quarter windows, though.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Performance pages, 825-watt audio, Nappa leather--what more could you want in a Grand Cherokee? Wifi? Done.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is offered in five (and a half) different trim levels, each with enough standard features to qualify it as a premium SUV. Most versions cross the border into true luxury-ute territory.
Standard equipment on the $29,790 2014 Grand Cherokee Laredo includes cloth seats; power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; 17-inch wheels; air conditioning; a tilt/telescope steering wheel; and keyless entry. All versions have an audio system with an AM/FM/CD player and SiriusXM satellite radio. On that Laredo, four-wheel drive is a $2,000 upgrade--but it is the only choice available. No options are offered on this version, which means it's an advertising special--a "low, low price" version that gives hope to skinflints, who usually end up paying more than $33,000 for a popularly equipped "base" version.
That "base" version is the $31,490 Laredo E, which adds a power driver seat as standard equipment, along with the ability to option up to low-range 4WD, a rearview camera, heated front seats, and navigation. Options on this version also include remote start, a power tailgate, and an off-road package.From this point, the Grand Cherokee pivots from family crossover into high-end hardware. Ascend to the $36,790 Limited and you'll get 18-inch wheels; leather seating with a power front passenger seat; a power tailgate; remote start; heated front seats; and a rearview camera. Options include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, navigation, and Selec-Speed control for off-roading. The $43,990 Overland adds on 20-inch wheels; LED daytime running lights; navigation; on 4WD models, an air suspension; Nappa leather seating with ventilated front seats; a panoramic sunroof; and a leather-trimmed dash. At the $48,990 Summit, you'll be rewarded with almost all of these features as standard equipment, but unique wheel and wood choices, including a matte "open-pore" finish, and a sueded headliner; only a Blu-Ray rear-seat DVD system is an option.
The Ecodiesel drivetrain is a $4,500 option on these models; four-wheel drive is $2,000 on the Limited, and $3,000 on the Overland and Summit.
A special mention goes to the $63,990 Grand Cherokee SRT--yes, the "8" has been dropped from the name this year. It has its own standard features, from cosmetic touches like paddle-shift controls; power tilt/telescope steering; leather-trimmed and heated steering wheel; leather and suede seats; carbon-fiber interior trim; metallic pedal pads; and a vehicle information center in the gauges. There's also Performance Pages, which displays functions like 0-60 mph times, braking distances, and quarter-mile times, for those places and times that let you exercise the SRT's massive tires and HEMI horsepower. Options on the SRT include a dual-pane sunroof, a luxury package with leather trim and a power tailgate, and a harman/kardon 19-speaker, 825-watt audio system. SRTs also come with a free day of driving instruction at one of a handful of selected tracks around the country. All told, it's priced just below $73,000.
With all of its trailblazing intact, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is also one of the most digitally advanced utility vehicles available, period, even counting the Ford offerings with its "Touch" systems--the Flex, Explorer, Edge, and Lincoln MKT and MKX. It plugs into the data slipstream via the available Uconnect mobile package includes an 8.4-inch LCD touchscreen that controls infotainment systems, in tandem with voice and steering-wheel controls. Data services are 3G, and are provided by Sprint, wired into the car, which means streaming audio and voice-to-text functionality are built in, as well as wireless connectivity and in-car hotspots, making it even easier to stream video to portable devices and to passengers needing entertainment.
The main takeaway from Uconnect is that it's a bit easier and quicker to learn than Cadillac's CUE or Ford's MyFord Touch systems. While it has just as many steering-wheel buttons, it also has a persistent row of virtual buttons--shortcuts to favorite controls. The configurable 7-inch display on all models has "hot corners," meaning you can choose which information is placed in the gauges' periphery. On top of all that, it's laid out with clean, pretty, and well-rendered screens. It isn't perfect, though: voice commands are usually understood, but the underlying functions aren't always as rich--I couldn't choose a city and state as a destination without an address, for example.
On the Grand Cherokee SRT, the screen displays Performance Pages, which lets drivers measure acceleration and grip on their trip, even share the info through the Web with other SRT owners.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Fuel economy is excellent with the new EcoDiesel, and there's some improvement in gas-engine models, too.
A new eight-speed automatic does its part to bring the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee up to modern-day gas mileage numbers. Still, anyone truly looking for class-leading driving range will grok to the new Ecodiesel's 30-mpg highway ratings.
The EPA's published figures show the gas-guzzling Grand Cherokee SRT, at a lineup-worst 13 miles per gallon city, 19 miles per gallon highway, or 15 mpg combined. That's still a 1-mpg improvement over last year, all due to the switch up from an old five-speed automatic to a new ZF eight-speed automatic with an eco driving mode. Still, we observed only about 12.4 mpg on a limited drive on mostly flat Texas urban thruways.
On other HEMI-powered and V-6-powered models, mileage rises by a little more. The basic Grand Cherokee is rated at 17/25 mpg in rear-drive form, or 17/24 mpg with four-wheel drive. With a HEMI, the figures are for 14/22 mpg (RWD) and 14/20 mpg (4WD). Both are 2 mpg better on the highway cycle. Those numbers are competitive, not with the likes of the Ford Edge or Subaru Outback, but with vehicles like the seven-passenger Ford Flex and the GMC Acadia.
The Grand Cherokee Ecodiesel changes that calculus. It's rated at 22/30 mpg for rear-drive models, or at 21/28 mpg with four-wheel drive. It's more efficient than most five-seat crossovers--sometimes by a substantial margin--and its highway rating is closing in on that of compact vehicles like the Ford Escape and Chevy Equinox, which don't have its massive towing or its off-road capability.
It could be the best Jeep of them all, even. With its 730-mile cruising range, the Ecodiesel doesn't just render the HEMI V-8 an expensive and unnecessary upgrade--it makes us think twice about the Grand Cherokee's base V-6 when a diesel model can be specified for just about $4,500 more on the Limited version and up (from $41,290, in Limited trim).