2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4 Diesel Review By Carey Russ
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4 Diesel
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee? Didn't I just test one of those? Yes, indeed -- but that was the >2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit model, with the 3.6-liter "Pentastar" V6. With 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, and in top-of-the-line 4x4 luxury trim, it was a comfortable luxury vehicle with a 6200-lb towing ability and good for 22 miles per gallon during my week. Tough act to follow?
Maybe. But if you want torque, and you definitely do for towing and/or off-road ability, it's had to beat a diesel. And if you want reasonable fuel consumption with that torque, diesel is even harder to beat. Meet the newest engine under the hood of the Grand Cherokee, and one of the latest fruits of Fiat ownership, a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V6 from VM Motori of Ferrara, Italy. Producing maxima of 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, it gives the diesel Grand Cherokee the same towing ability as does the 5.7-liter V8 -- 7400 lbs in two-wheel drive form or 7200 lbs in 4x4 trim. EPA fuel economy estimates 21 mpg city, 28 highway. With a fairly even mix of both, I saw 26+. The recent V6 got 22, while a V8 I had a few years back was good for 16. Yes, diesel fuel costs more in most places, and the engine package, which includes upgraded cooling and alternator systems and heavy-duty brakes, is a $4500 option available in the mid-grade Limited and upscale Overland and Summit models. While there are diesel aficionados in the U.S., I suspect that the export market was the primary consideration, as diesel vehicles out-sell gasoline in Europe.
If you're thinking diesel equals slow, noisy, and smoky, it really is time to get out from under that rock. In the past few years, diesel has undergone the same sort of revolution that happened with gasoline vehicles starting in the late 1960s. Emission reduction is the name of the game, and engineers and even lawmakers have learned from the lessons of unleaded gasoline. Ultra-low sulfur diesel is the equivalent of unleaded gasoline, and there are a variety of exhaust after-treatments analogous to catalytic converters. Particulate traps eliminate soot. Advances in fuel injection further reduce emissions and improve efficiency. In the Grand Cherokee, the diesel is connected to the same new eight-speed automatic transmission as is found with the V6 and V8, and it's 50-state legal.
Yes, at start-up or idle a Grand Cherokee diesel sounds like a diesel -- from outside. It's much harder to tell from inside. There is a bit of diesel sound under hard acceleration, but it's not objectionable. Smoke and soot? Surely you jest. Acceleration is more than adequate, with 0-60 in about eight seconds. Yes, that's a half-second or so more than the V6, and a second more than the 5.7 V8. Not a Big Deal for its purpose in life, and if you really do want a Grand Cherokee dragster, there is the SRT version. 470 horsepower, 465 lb-ft, don't expect 25 mpg!
Other than the engine, this week's Grand Cherokee Limited was not much different from the V6 Summit of a few weeks back. Besides the engine, it had a long list of options that brought it nearly up to the same level of interior comfort and luxury, and nearly the same price, $49,185 vs. $51,990, although $4,500 of that was for the engine package. Pricey, but still a better value than the European imports. And every inch a luxury vehicle, with the ability to easily deal with nearly any road or weather condition.
APPEARANCE: How to visually distinguish a diesel Grand Cherokee from a gasoline-powered one of the same trim level: look closely for the "ECOdiesel" badge on the left side of the tailgate. Other than that, there is no difference. All have freshened styling for 2014, with a reshaped trademark seven-slot upper grille, smaller, revised headlights, some with LED running lights, and LED 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, in the country club parking lot or deep in the backwoods.
COMFORT: Inside, again no visual distinction compared to a gasoline equivalent. And very little diesel rattle, even at a cold idle. There can be a slight lag between pressing the start/stop button and the engine starting when cold; no such wait when it's warm. Such is the nature of a diesel. The Grand Cherokee has grown a bit since its debut, seemingly more inside than out. Which means there is plenty of space for four, or even five since the center part of the rear seat is flat, not too much higher than the contoured outboard sections, and the central tunnel in the floor is low. At Limited level the front seats and outboard rear positions are heated. Front ventilation is part of one of the option packages. Seat comfort is very good, as is visibility, with a rearview camera adding all-important rear visibility when backing. 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. All of the convenience and entertainment features expected in a luxury vehicle today are standard or available, including Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, external audio player and SD card music connectivity. A 60/40 folding rear seat and roof rails mean all of the cargo versatility expected from an SUV.
SAFETY: Jeep claims that there are over 60 standard or available safety and security features in the Grand Cherokee. 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 backup camera.
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: As mentioned above, forget slow and smoky. The Italian engine is a contemporary turbo-diesel, a 60-degree V6 with a sturdy compacted-graphite iron block and bed plate and aluminum alloy heads with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Optimum fuel economy and emissions are aided by high-pressure (29,000 psi) common-rail direct fuel injection and a variety of exhaust aftertreatments. It's legal in all states, and can run on B5 biofuel --- which is not kitchen-waste biodiesel*. As the old saying goes, horsepower is what you brag about, but torque is what you feel. If 240 horsepower (at 3600 rpm) doesn't sound like much, how about 420 lb-ft of torque, developed at 2000 rpm. Which is where the eight-speed automatic transmission keeps the engine most of the time. Instant and insistent motion, no waiting. Same towing ability as the V8, on considerably less fuel. It will be interesting to see how this engine does in the so-far diesel-averse US marketplace.
CONCLUSIONS: With its new turbodiesel, the Jeep Grand Cherokee adds fuel efficiency to its blend of rugged luxury and ability.
*Think of that as the diesel equivalent of leaded gasoline, at least in respect to deleterious effects on engine and exhaust systems. Used cooking oil was the original fuel for Dr. Diesel's engine, but time and chemical engineering march on. Cooking oil still can work in older diesels converted to use it.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4 EcoDiesel
Base Price $ 37,795 Price As Tested $ 49,185 Engine Type DOHC 24-valve V6 turbocharged and intercooled diesel, cast-iron block and aluminum heads, common-rail direct fuel injection. Engine Size 3.0 liters / 182 cu. in. Horsepower 240 @ 3600 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 420 @ 2000 rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic with manual-shift mode Wheelbase / Length 114.8 in. / 189.8 in. Curb Weight 5275 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 22.0 Fuel Capacity 24.6 gal. Fuel Requirement ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel Tires P265/60R18 109T m+s Michelin Latitude tour Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc, ABS standard 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 21 / 28 / 26 0 to 60 mph est 8.0 sec Towing capacity 7200 lbs. OPTIONS AND CHARGES Customer Preferred Package 22H (Luxury Group II) includes: automatic high-beam control and headlamp leveling, bi-xenon HID headlamps, LED daytime running lights, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, Uconnect 8.4A AM/FM/BT, 8.4-inch touch screen display, nappa leather seat trim, heated and ventilated front seats and heated outboard rear seats, power tilt-and-telescope steering column, dual-pane panoramic sunroof $3,000 Off-Road Adventure II -- includes: rear load-leveling suspension, QuadraDrive II® 4WD system, electronic limited-slip rear differential, "Trail Rated" badge, tow hooks, front suspension skid plate, fuel tank skid plate, transfer case skid plate shield, underbody skid plate, trailer tow group IV, deluxe rear tow hook, full-size spare tire, Quadra-Lift air suspension, 7- and 4-pin wiring harness, class IV receiver hitch $2,495 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine includes: 800-amp maintenance-free battery, heavy-duty 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, selective catalytic reduction (urea-def) heavy-duty engine cooling, 220-amp alternator, "Eco-Diesel" badge $4500 Uconnect 8.4AN Premium Navigation -- includes: HD radio, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link with 1-year subscription $ 400 Destination charge $ 995