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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude 4x4 Review By Steve Purdy

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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude 4x4

By Steve Purdy
The Auto
Michigan Bureau

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude we’re testing this week does not even have an altimeter. I was expecting an off-roader capable of plying the high mountain trails of the Sierra Nevada Mountains while making us feel like adventurers roughing it. Well, I was partly right. It is capable of some fairly serious off-roading even without an altimeter or tilt gauge, but we certainly were not roughing it.

The Grand Cherokee is a 5-passenger midsize, rear- or four-wheel drive uni-body SUV/CUV. With decent ground clearance and a variety of four-wheel drive options it can be configured to challenge some not-for-wussies trails if you like. But you’ll more often find it plying the suburban environment making folks feel tough while they haul groceries from Trader Joe’s.

This current Grand Cherokee design dates back about four years and we expect it is due for a refresh. Our “Altitude” tester, based on the Laredo 4X4, is a special edition trim package introduced this year. The big, 20-inch black aluminum wheels shod with meaty tires make the most obviously macho statement. The lack of chrome, black grille, special body cladding and flaring, shiny chrome dual exhaust outlets and no-nonsense fascia, front and rear, add to the ambiance.

Inside we find a fairly luxurious cabin with leather steering wheel, leather seats with suede inserts, paddle shifters, power sunroof and 8.4-inch touch screen. Like the outside we find very little chrome and only a few shinny bits. A few matte metal surfaces and a classy light-gold center stack panel embellish the dash and steering wheel. The stubby electric shifter sticks out of the console close to the dash and a deep cubbie under the armrest provides decent storage. To their credit the Jeep interior designers have positioned the USB, auxiliary port and 12-V outlet behind a little door at the base of the center stack where it is more easily accessed.

Interior volume matches or beats most of the competition with comfortable seating for five full-size people. The rear seatbacks fold for a flat cargo area providing 67.5 cubic feet of space. With the rear seatbacks up we still have a generous 38.3 cubic-feet, which was plenty for our months-worth of recycling.

The Grand Cherokee’s powertrain impressed us with both its power and efficiency -Chrysler’s 3.6-liter PentiStar V6 mated to the new 8-speed automatic transmission. (You can also have a new 3.0-liter diesel or a 5.7-liter V8 in the Grand Cherokee if you like, and both will have this same 8-speed automatic.) We have 290 horsepower at our disposal, which feels like plenty for this 4,900-pound vehicle, particularly when the revs are kept optimum by the transmission. The EPA rates this combination at 17 mpg in the city, 24 on the highway and 19 mpg combined on regular fuel. For most of our week we averaged 21.5 mpg with a variety of driving environments. Then we made a jaunt to the northern woods and I reset the trip computer for the ride home. We managed 25.1 on the 165-mile freeway drive back at a steady 70 mph. Fortunately traffic was light so I could travel at the speed limit without being a hazard.

Towing capacity is listed at an impressive (for a uni-body vehicle) 7,400 pounds and payload at 1,320 pounds. That means you can tow your boat or travel trailer without worries. The diesel version will tow about 1,000 pounds more.

The diesel-powered Grand Cherokee is rated at 30 mpg on the highway and has a claimed cruising range of 730 miles with the 24.6-gallon fuel tank. In order to justify the extra cost of that powertrain – probably in the neighborhood of $4,000 – you would need to drive a lot of miles over the life of the vehicle.

The sticker shows the base price of the Laredo 4X4 at $31,395, and that is a reasonably well-equipped vehicle. Beyond that we have on this one the $5,700 Customer Preferred Package that includes the Altitude Package: those beautiful 20-inch black wheels, integrated voice command with Bluetooth, heated suede seats with fancy stitching, power driver’s seat, Uconnect audio, cargo compartment cover, remote start, power rear liftgate, dual exhaust, and plenty of other stuff. The power sunroof costs $995 extra, for a total, with destination charge, of $38,485.

Jeep’s warrantee covers the vehicle for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 100,000 miles.

Thinking back to earlier in the week and my first drive in the Grand Cherokee Altitude I vividly recall the throttle response. It was one of the smoothest and most positive I’ve experienced. Other driving dynamics are good but I’m still not fond of the electric shift. I find it often in a position I did not intend. Suspension is firm enough to confirm we’re not in a common sedan but not so harsh as to be trucky, except when on a particularly rough and jouncy road surface.

When we think about past generations of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, sophistication and decent fuel mileage would not have been front and center. Now both are. This is a sweet, comfortable and classy ride, and I managed 25 mpg on the highway.

Now that’s impressive.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved\