There aren’t many SUV models we can name that come in variants ranging from fuel-sipping diesel through tire-shredding HEMI V-8, or from bare-bones cloth interiors through premium leather with real wood trim. In fact, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee may be unique in the number of versions it serves up, as well as in the capabilities each delivers.
While the Jeep Grand Cherokee is at home in the city, it can also be equipped to travel far beyond where the buses run, which is becoming a bit of a rarity as more manufacturers turn their attention to crossovers that may look the part, but don’t serve up genuine off-road capabilities. The real beauty of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, then, is that it can be configured to meet the needs of groups as diverse as soccer moms and those whose idea of a weekend drive involves trails not accessible without serious four-wheel drive.
While Jeep has refreshed the Grand Cherokee’s looks a bit for 2014, the real news comes under the hood, with the available 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine, a first in the segment. Not only does this engine offer impressive fuel economy (up to 30 mpg highway in rear-drive models, or 28 mpg highway in four-wheel-drive models), but it returns a range of up to 730 miles on a tank while delivering a rated towing capacity of 7,400 pounds. Mated to the new eight-speed automatic transmission, it also offers superb low-speed crawling capabilities, an important consideration for those who actually go off-road.
On the other end of the spectrum lies the returning Grand Cherokee SRT (note the deleted “8” from its name), which again relies on a 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 to crank out 470 horsepower, good enough for a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds. Only available in four-wheel-drive form, the SRT can send up to 70-percent of its torque to the rear wheels in track mode, for a truly entertaining driving experience. It may not be the best choice for towing or driving further off-road than a gravel parking lot, but it does deliver serious amusement on pavement.
In between these extremes, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is also available with the 3.6-liter, 290 horsepower Pentastar V-6 (which can also be ordered with the eight-speed automatic transmission) and the 5.7-liter, 360-horsepower HEMI V-8. No matter which option you select, all include improved fuel economy over the previous model.
While engine choices may be simple enough, drivetrain choices can be daunting. In addition to the rear-wheel drive available on certain Jeep Grand Cherokee models, there are three returning variants of all-wheel drive to choose from, including Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, and Quadra-Drive II. With higher-end models, the pneumatic Quadra-Lift suspension is also an option, and it can help both off-road driving (by adding ground clearance) and on-road driving (by lowering the body to reduce drag and improve fuel economy).
Opting for the Quadra-Trac II or Quadra-Drive II will also get you Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system, which allows the driver to choose one of five settings (Sand, Mud, Auto, Snow or Rock) for traction optimized to conditions.
Inside, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee can be equipped nearly as well as luxury rivals costing thousands, if not tens of thousands, more. Jeep seems to have stepped up its quality game for 2014, and the interior materials as well as interior fit and finish seem to be improved from previous years. On the infotainment side, Chrysler’s Uconnect system can be had with a 5.0-inch or 8.4-inch screen (depending upon trim level), while 3G connectivity allows passengers to enjoy internet access. The range-topping Summit edition even includes a 19-speaker, 825-watt Harmon Kardon audio system, delivering better sound than most buyers get in their living rooms.
For complete details on the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection