Jeep has got you covered. We can say this without even having to know what it is you want, because there's hardly an option or configuration that you won't find in the 2014 Grand Cherokee. There are three different engines, three different four-wheel-drive systems (plus rear-wheel drive), four different trim levels – not counting SRT – two different suspension setups and five different settings for various off-road terrain conditions. If you happen to check the box for Quadra-Lift, you'll also have five different ride-height settings for the driver-selectable air suspension.
As you might expect with so many customization possibilities, the way a buyer checks the options sheet can have a profound effect on the final product and its capabilities, to say nothing of its price. Nowhere is that more true than with the Grand Cherokee's choice of engines, with the brand-new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 stealing the spotlight from the still excellent gasoline-fueled 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 5.7-liter Hemi V8 powerplants that carry over from last year. No matter which engine you choose, though, it will be paired up with Jeep's new standard eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF. This, ladies and gentlemen, is very good news indeed.
We took to the ranch lands surrounding Austin, Texas at Jeep's invitation to put the 2014 Grand Cherokee through its paces, both on road and off. Read on for our initial report card.
Before we get to the 2014 Grand Cherokee's slightly revised styling, let's break down the most salient reasons why the new diesel engine is so important for Jeep. First, with 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, this oil-burning mill, which is manufactured in Italy by well-known supplier VM Motori, has the guts needed to get the Grand going in fine fashion. The fact that it does so with minimal sound intrusion, no in-cabin rattling or shaking to speak of and instantaneous startup thanks to new ceramic glow plugs is icing on the cake. And the cherry on top? Up to 30 miles per gallon on the highway – 28 with four-wheel drive.
Real-world mileage will be the best of any comparable SUV in the world.
Just as impressively, the new Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel has earned city ratings of 22 mpg with rear-wheel drive or 21 with power to all four wheels. Real-world mileage should prove to be the best of any off-road capable luxury SUV in the world – when switching from the Hemi to the diesel on back-to-back driving loops, our average mpg jumped from 14 to 24. A full tank of fuel will enable the Jeep to travel a whopping 730 miles before requiring a refill, and both oil changes and urea refills should be about 10,000 miles apart.
Opting for the diesel won't bring any compromises in utility, either. Both the V8 and EcoDiesel models can tow up to 7,400 pounds (four-wheel drive drops all ratings by 200 lbs, and the the V6 manages up to 6,200), and while acceleration from the oil-burner may not match that of the Hemi and its 360 hp and 390 lb-ft, it's certainly no slouch. It's also worth mentioning that the base gasoline V6 engine is perfectly adequate as well, with the eight-speed making the most of the Pentastar's 290 hp and 260 lb-ft.
Naturally, there's a dollars-and-cents penalty for all that diesel-fied performance, and we'll get to that a little later. Suffice it to say, though, that we're smitten with the engine/transmission combo and would have to think twice, and maybe even a third time, before buying a Grand Cherokee without it.
Now that the engine talk is over (for now), let's talk style. The Grand Cherokee is available in four different trim levels. In order of price, they are Laredo, Limited, Overland and Summit, which is standard with just about everything and new for 2014.
No matter which model you choose, all of Jeep's traditional elements are here, including the seven-slat grille and squared-off wheel arches, but it's all been smoothed out a bit for the new year. The grille itself has shrunk in height, as have the headlamps, which now feature LED elements. At the rear, the tailgate is now one piece – no more separate opening for the glass – and there's a new aerodynamic spoiler at the top and larger taillamp clusters on each side. The changes are indeed subtle, but they're enough to make the 2014 model stand apart from the 2013.
The exterior changes are subtle, but they're enough to make the 2014 model stand out.
Each individual trim level gets unique exterior bits. Laredo models come with a body-color grille, side mirrors, door handles and chrome headlight trim. The lower cladding is dark gray. Seventeen-inch wheels come standard, and 18-inchers are optional. At the rear, a lone exhaust outlet peeks through the lower valance.
Limited models step up the style game with chrome grille slot frames, side mirrors and door handles. LED lighting elements are optional. More chrome surrounds the lower fascia up front, and dual exhausts add some flair to the rear. Standard wheels are 18-inch satin chrome alloys and polished 20-inchers are optional.
Step up to the Overland model and you're rewarded with standard LED lighting, chrome tow hooks and body-color trim all around that replaces the dark gray. Wheels are standard 20-inch five spokes, polished with mineral gray highlights. The top-of-the-line Summit model gets a lot of unique detailing that includes chrome mesh grilles, a larger front bumper, body-color wheel arch moldings and contrasting dark gray rocker moldings with chrome trim, rectangular exhaust openings and unique satin clear coat wheels measuring 20-inches in diameter.
Jeep's designers have created different interior color and trim treatments for each model level.
Inside, Jeep has added a dual-pane sunroof that it's calling CommandView (oh, how they love their marketing monikers...) on the Overland and Summit machines, with the more traditional single-panel sunroof offered on Laredo. Limited models can be optioned with either sunroof.
More interestingly, Jeep's designers have created different interior color and trim treatments for each model level. Laredo and Limited models were "inspired by the cultures and environments of Morocco and New Zealand." The Jeep Brown and Indigo Blue scheme of the Overland was "inspired by the blue-hued dark gray walls of Mount Vesuvius" while the Jeep Brown and Light Frost motif was "derived from the geographic diversity found in the Asian country of Nepal. Summit models come in either black or Jeep Brown with copper accents, inspired by the Grand Canyon and seen in our gallery of images.
Overland and Summit models step up their game with open-pore wood in a differing shades, which we greatly prefer over the high-gloss lacquered pieces more common in the auto industry, and the Summit goes one step further still with an Alcantara-like material covering the A-pillars and headliner. The overall interior ambience changes between all of the available models, and, plain-Jane Laredo aside, they all look and feel like premium spaces with a clear design direction.
LCD screens track off-road capabilities like the angle of its front wheels and the articulation of its suspension.
All models offer up 35.1 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, or 68.7 cubes with those seats folded down. More from the measuring tape: you'll find 40.3 inches of legroom up front and 38.6 in the rear between its 114.8-inch wheelbase. You won't find a third row of seats in the Grand Cherokee, so if your clan is larger than five, you'll have to look elsewhere.
Tech-junkies will be happy to note that the 2014 Grand Cherokee is the first Jeep vehicle offered with Chrysler's latest Uconnect Access system. An embedded cellular chip allows remote connectivity from the road for safety purposes, such as to contact 911 or remotely lock or unlock the vehicle, and a mobile app can be used with a smartphone or tablet for a number of unique uses. Voice commands are new for 2014 and can be used to operate the navigation system or any number of apps like Pandora, iHeart Radio and Slacker. Users can also send and receive text messages or use their new Grand Cherokee as a wireless hot spot.
Besides price, if there's any real drawback to offering such technology and its attendant 8.4-inch screen, it's that models without the equipment are forced to fill that space with a smaller five-inch touchscreen and plenty of plastic trim that doesn't exactly scream "premium."
There probably isn't a more capable sport utility vehicle on the market today.
Our advice is to get the Uconnect system to go along with the seven-inch LCD set into the gauge cluster directly in front of the driver. Between the two screens, the Grand Cherokee can display a huge amount of data to its occupants, from the current configuration of the four-wheel-drive system to the car's ride height, navigation or radio information. There are also screens to help the driver track the car's off-road capabilities, showing such useful information as the angle of its front wheels or the current articulation of its suspension.
We took the Grand Cherokee off the beaten path a few times and consistently came away with the feeling that there probably isn't a more capable sport utility vehicle on the market today, save Jeep's own Wrangler and possibly something from Land Rover. With the Quadra-Lift air suspension in its uppermost setting, there's 11.3 inches of ground clearance to go along with a 35.8-inch approach angle, a 29.6-inch departure angle and 23.5-degree breakover angle. Said another way, there are very few situations likely to be encountered by a properly equipped 2014 Grand Cherokee driver that they won't have the ability to conquer, including passage of the famed Rubicon Trail.
Making life easier on the driver is Jeep's Selec-Terrain traction control system with factory predetermined settings for sand, mud, snow or rock crawling. Auto mode can be used the rest of the time, and a Sport mode can be selected from the shift lever.
Quadra-Drive works so well that it's worth paying for if you plan to take your prized 'ute on less than terra firma.
Three different four-wheel-drive technologies exist that make off-roading a safer and more enjoyable experience. Quadra-Trac I is the base system, and it's always engaged with no input from the driver. There's no low range for serious off-road work, and the Selec-Terrain knob isn't included. Stepping up to Quadra-Trac II adds a two-speed transfer case and the traction control dial, and the system is smart enough to send up to 100 percent of torque to whichever axle has the most traction. The top-level Quadra-Drive system is even smarter, being able to send all available torque to whichever individual wheel has the best traction. Low range for both Quadra-named packages is improved for 2014, boasting a crawl ratio of 44.1:1 as compared to the last generation's 30.2:1 ratio.
We sampled the latter two systems and found both of them got us wherever we wanted. That said, Quadra-Drive goes about its business so well, with nary a squeak, groan, jerk or tug to distract the driver, that we think it's worth paying for if you really do plan to take your prized utility on something less than terra firma... or at least want to know that you could.
Of course, the Grand Cherokee is destined to spend the vast majority of its time on paved roads, and it shines in these cases as well. The ride is very pleasant, firm and well controlled but never jarring or harsh. Steering feels mostly natural, if a little overboosted, but appropriate for an SUV. For those keeping track, there's an electronic power steering setup with the V6 and diesel, while the Hemi V8 still uses the tried-and-true hydraulic system. Braking performance is also good, as is throttle response with all three engines. Comparing the top two engine choices, the diesel's instant off-idle torque feels great in normal driving, though the Hemi definitely comes into its own at higher speeds. If you don't really care about getting to 60 miles per hour in a hurry, you'll probably be completely satisfied by the Pentastar V6 engine. No matter which engine you choose, you'll appreciate the excellent eight-speed automatic.
It feels equally at home schlepping the family around as it does recreating scenes from your favorite zombie apocalypse movie.
With Selec-Terrain in Auto and Quadra-Lift in Normal Ride Height mode, ground clearance drops by 4.2 inches from its peak, making the vehicle easier and more comfortable to drive while also greatly improving aerodynamics. Jeep says its "ultra-stiff" structure and fully independent suspension are responsible for the Grand's refined manners. We won't argue, but we will point out how impressive it is that Jeep has engineered a vehicle that feels equally at home schlepping the family around every day as it does recreating scenes from your favorite zombie apocalypse movie at the local off-road park.
You'll have to do some math to see if you'd ever recoup the monetary difference of the diesel – $4,500 over the V6 or $2,300 over the V8 – if economy is your most important criteria. Here's some quick and dirty math to digest: If you drive 12,000 miles and average 25 mpg with the diesel, and assuming each gallon of fuel you pump in costs $4.00, you'll pay $1,920 to drive for the year. The same equation using 15 mpg as an average for the Hemi V8 – and using the 10-mpg improvement we saw with the diesel over the V8 and ourselves behind the wheel – yields a yearly fuel bill of $3,200. As always, your mileage will definitely vary, as will the price of fuel.
While on the subject of pricing, the most basic two-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee Laredo will cost $28,795, and four-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the bottom line. A Limited 4x4 will go for $37,795 and an Overland 4x4 will command at least $45,995. A top-of-the-line Summit 4x4 will tip the scales at $50,995. We figure a nicely equipped Limited model will run in the low $40,000 range, and don't forget to add $995 for destination no matter what model you choose.
Which way do you want your sport utility vehicle? No matter what your answer, Jeep's got you covered.
Let's recap: V6, V8 or diesel, two- or four-wheel drive, loaded to the gills with luxury or stripped to the basics. So, the question remains, which way do you want your sport utility vehicle? No matter what your answer, this Jeep has the bases covered.