I tested multiple trim levels and all four available engines, including the high-performance SRT Grand Cherokee.
More Power, More Choices
The biggest changes to the 2014 Grand Cherokee over the previous model are mechanical (click here to compare 2013 to 2014 models). Two engines are carried over from 2013: a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 making 290 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque and a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 pumping out 360 hp and 390 pounds-feet of torque. Now added to the mix is a new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6, making only 240 hp but churning out a huge 420 pounds-feet of torque. All engines are now teamed with Chrysler's increasingly common eight-speed automatic transmission, replacing the earlier six-speed. Both the EcoDiesel and the Hemi are tow-rated to 7,200 pounds in 4x4 versions or 7,400 pounds with rear-wheel drive, but the diesel's advantage will be fuel economy. Preliminary estimates put Hemi mileage at 14/22 mpg city/highway (4x2) and 14/20 mpg (4x4), but the diesel is expected to turn in a stunning 22/30 mpg (4x2) and 21/28 mpg (4x4) with a range of more than 730 miles.
As with the current Grand Cherokee, the 2014 model boasts three optional four-wheel-drive systems, an available adjustable air suspension and a traction management system. Quadra-Trac I provides full-time all-wheel drive; Quadra-Trac II adds a two-speed transfer case with a low range; and Quadra-Drive II builds on that by adding an electronic limited-slip differential. The Quadra-Lift air suspension raises the Grand Cherokee's ground clearance by 3.9 inches from its normal height to 11.3 inches for off-road use or down 0.6 inch for high-speed aerodynamic improvement. It can come down another full inch when parked to allow easier entry, exit and loading.
The Selec-Terrain system has five driver-selectable terrain modes that correspond to potential conditions: Sand, Mud, Auto, Snow or Rock. Each electronically activates the appropriate combination of 12 different powertrain, brake and suspension settings to optimize traction and ground clearance.
How It Goes, Stops and Climbs
I sampled both the EcoDiesel and Hemi V-8 on-road and drove the V-6 Pentastar in Jeep's off-road testing route at a press introduction in the hill country around Austin, Texas. The Hemi is powerful, throaty and smooth with the new eight-speed automatic. But the diesel is the one to have — as an option on the Limited, Overland or Summit trim levels only — despite a hefty upcharge: $4,500 more than the V-6 and $2,300 more than the Hemi option. The immediacy of the diesel's torque is impressive. One never forgets that this is a diesel; while Jeep has done a commendable job damping the distinctive clatter from the motor, full-throttle applications sound like a tractor-pull at the county fair. The thing is, in a big SUV like this, that diesel rumble actually puts a grin on your face. In highway cruising situations, the diesel is whisper quiet and unobtrusive. Combined with its best-in-class highway fuel economy, it could prove to be a popular option for buyers interested in efficient towing or highway commuting.