2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4 Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

   • SEE ALSO: Jeep Buyers Guide

How could I tell that the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4 that has been my test car for the past week had the V6 under its hood, not the V8? Easy, I averaged 22-mpg for the week.

Lack of power was not an issue, although the new eight-speed automatic would downshift when climbing steep highway grades, but with no loss of momentum. If I had needed to tow something, that something could weigh up to 6200 pounds. If I had wanted or needed to go off-pavement, the Summit's standard Quadra-Trac IIŽ dual-range four-wheel drive system, Quadra-Lift air suspension, and Selec-Terrain multi-mode traction management system combine to give it the serious abilities that make a Jeep a Jeep and second to none in the rough stuff. And just as capable in poor weather on pavement.

Positioned at the top of the Grand Cherokee lineup, the Summit has everything you might need or want. If it's optional in the Laredo, Limited, or Overland trim levels, it's standard equipment in the Summit. That means premium leather seating, with front and outboard rear positions heated, and front-seat ventilation. A panoramic sunroof. Plus a power-adjustable steering wheel with a wood-and-leather rim and information and audio system controls. A 19-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system with Sirius/XM radio and travel and traffic information. Interior trim is real wood. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation, and front park assist are all included. Among other goodies, many…

Options are limited to some exterior and interior colors, higher-profile tires on 18-inch wheels instead of the standard lower-profile twenties (good choice if you see dirt in your future), and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. The 3.6-liter, 290-horsepower V6 is standard, with a 5.7-liter, 360-hp V8 or the new 3.0-liter turbodiesel (240 hp, 420 lb-ft) optional. The only transmission is the new eight-speed by ZF.


Watch the introduction of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee


Jeep claims that its newest Grand Cherokee is the most luxurious ever. After a week with the Summit, I won't argue. With a $51,000 MSRP, it's not inexpensive -- except maybe compared to "premium brand" competitors that are unlikely to be any more capable or comfortable. Certainly, they have cachet -- but so does Jeep, with the ability to deliver.

I was hoping for inclement weather, which can mean a dusting or more of snow in the local mountains, and plenty of rain and mud. Alas, it's looking like a record drought year here, so even below-freezing temperatures meant little more that light frost. Which made the Summit's heated seats and steering wheel mighty attractive. Like many (most!) other cars and trucks, the Grand Cherokee has grown over the years. Sometimes that's bad, as it destroys the vehicle's essential character. Not here -- the original was criticized for not being all that roomy inside. That hasn't been the case for many years now. The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee will hold five people in comfort, on any road or approximation thereof, and it's not too big to fit on backwoods trails. Or a suburban mall parking space. It's no surprise that it's a class benchmark.

APPEARANCE: The current Grand Cherokee is now in its fourth year of production, so it's about time for freshened styling. Meaning nothing major, but there has been plenty of change to the details. The trademark seven-slot upper grille is a bit shorter, the headlights are smaller and slightly reshaped, and LEDs are used for the taillights. The wheel arches are still trademark trapezoidal, and the basic shape is instantly recognizable even though the current generation is the largest yet. It hasn't grown all that much, all the better for parking in the city and squeezing through tight spots on the trail. The Grand Cherokee looks right, whether in the country club parking lot or deep in the backwoods.

COMFORT: In Summit trim, the Grand Cherokee is a true luxury vehicle. Stitched leather and real wood, premium quality seats for all-day comfort, with the fronts both heated and cooled, power-operated everything, a panoramic sunroof… nothing else is really needed, and there were no options in my test car. Ground lamps in the outside rearview mirrors make night-time entry and exit safer. The main instruments are easily visible in all lighting, and at Summit level a navigation system and CD/DVD disc, hard drive, Sirius satellite radio, AM/FM, SD card, and auxiliary input audio system, both controlled via a touch screen and hard button interface or voice are standard. The interface is simple and intuitive. Interior storage spaces are found throughout. The five-inch increased wheelbase compared to the previous generation means over three inches more rear legroom and a couple inches more in the luggage compartment. The rear seat folds 60/40 when necessary, and a metal scuff plate and protective strips protect the load floor. Underneath that lurks a full-size spare tire, a good thing for off-road flats. Or on-road. At Summit level, a power liftgate is standard, and all models have "flipper" separately openable liftgate glass.

SAFETY: Jeep claims that there are over 60 standard or available safety and security features in the Grand Cherokee. Most are included at Summit level. There are the usual (mandated) air bags, plus one for the driver's knees. Four-wheel disc brakes with Electronic Stability Control with Electronic Roll Mitigation, Hill-Start Assist, and Trailer-Sway Control are standard, as is a multi-view backup camera and blind-spot monitoring system. Here, the ParkSenseŽ parking assist system work both front and rear, and the Forward Collision Warning with Mitigation system alerts the driver to potential hazards and may instigate emergency braking. Adaptive Cruise Control keeps a set distance to the vehicle ahead.

RIDE AND HANDLING: A unibody does not a crossover make. The Grand Cherokee, like the Cherokee before it, has used that construction since its inception. Which makes it lighter and more rigid, compared to a body-on-frame vehicle, for improved ride and handling and fuel economy. It's still far more SUV than crossover poseur, as, especially with the adjustable ride height Quadra-Lift air suspension and Selec-Terrain traction management system, it can handle any reasonably sane off-pavement situation. Leave the stump-jumping to the CJ/Wrangler crowd who brag about their frame articulation. The Grand Cherokee's fully-independent suspension is tuned softly, for on-road comfort and off-road ability, but good shock damping means no float or wallow. The GC is taller and heavier than a car, so quick, jerky steering wheel action is not advised -- as it true with any similar vehicle. Or any vehicle, period…

PERFORMANCE: The standard "Pentastar" 3.6-liter V6 should satisfy the needs and desires of the majority of Grand Cherokee buyers. Its 290 horsepower (at 6400 rpm) and 260 lb-ft of torque (at 4800 rpm) make it, on paper, seem like a high-revving sports engine. Although it's a contemporary dual overhead cam, 24-valve aluminum alloy design, independent cam phasing on all camshafts ensures plenty of low- and mid-range torque. The new eight-speed automatic transmission features a wide ratio range, to improve both acceleration and fuel economy, especially highway economy. Like most today, it's programmed for economy over performance -- but if more performance is needed, turn the default "Eco" mode off and press the "Sport" button. Acceleration is not deficient, even in Eco mode. If my 22-mpg average for the week seems poor, remember this is a 5000-pound SUV. The V8-equipped example I drove a few years back was good for 16 mpg. `Nuff said! And the V6 still has a 6200-pound towing ability. Want even better fuel economy in your Grand Cherokee? Check out the turbodiesel. I will, and soon.

CONCLUSIONS: The Jeep Grand Cherokee combines luxury with ruggedness.


Watch the durability testing for the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee


SPECIFICATIONS

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4

Base Price $ 50,995

Price As Tested $ 51,990

Engine Type DOHC 24-valve aluminum alloy V6

Engine Size 3.6 liters / 220 cu. in.

Horsepower 290 @ 6400 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 260 @ 4800 rpm

Transmission 8-speed automatic with manual-shift mode

Wheelbase / Length 114.8 in. / 189.8 in.

Curb Weight 4955 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 17.1

Fuel Capacity 24.6 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires 265/50R20 107T Goodyear Fortera HL m+s

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS

Suspension, front/rear independent short-and-long arm, coil springs / independent multilink, coil springs

Ground Clearance 8.7 to 11.3 inches with air suspension

Drivetrain longitudinal front engine, full-time active 4-wheel drive with low range

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 17 / 25 / 22

0 to 60 mph 7.5 sec

Towing Capacity 6200 lbs.

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Destination Charge $ 995


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