2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee/ Grand Cherokee SRTPosted on February 24th, 2013
Mid-cycle refresh adds diesel engine, infotainment technology
By Nina Russin
When Jeep launched the current Grand Cherokee two-and-a-half years ago, the new car redefined public perception of the brand. Jeep had long been known for its vehicles’ off-road capability, but suffered against competitors in terms of fit and finish.
The 2012 Grand Cherokee maintained Jeep’s reputation for ruggedness, but added an interior rivaling premium brands. Athletes at the 2012 ALV of the Year program picked the Grand Cherokee over the Land Rover LR4.
This year, Jeep refreshes the 2012 model with significant updates, adding a new V-6 diesel engine option with a 730-mile driving range between fill-ups. An eight-speed automatic transmission available across the line-up extends fuel economy, as well as improving the car’s launch characteristics.
Engineers also enhanced the Grand Cherokee’s off-road capability with a speed control option that enables the driver to increase and decrease speeds by one kilometer increments for severe uphill and downhill grades.
There are four trim levels, ranging from the base Laredo priced from $28,795 to the new Summit which sits above the Overland. Pricing for the volume-leading Limited model starts at $35,795, while the Overland is priced from $42,995. The new Summit grade starts at $47,995 for the rear-wheel drive car and $50,995 for the four-wheel drive version. Pricing does not include a $995 destination charge.
Grand Cherokee SRT delivers distinct styling, more power and performance
For the first time, Jeep is launching the SRT version of the Grand Cherokee at the same time as the base model. The SRT version is focused specifically on the road, competing against Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. Power comes from a 470-horsepower hemi V-8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, giving the Grand Cherokee 4.8-second zero-to-sixty acceleration.
A new launch control button sets the air suspension at full firm for stability at wide-open throttle. Once the driver depresses the button he has five seconds to release the brakes. The system stays in effect till the driver lifts off the throttle.
Performance pages enable the driver to record eighth and quarter-mile times, lateral acceleration, braking and more. The owner can save information to a USB drive, SD card or the cloud and share information with other SRT owners using a 3G connection.
The SRT exterior sports a black grille with black headlamps and tail lamps, black badging, unique front fascia and rear spoiler. The model also gets unique five-spoke 20-inch rims.
Pricing for the Grand Cherokee SRT starts at $62,995.
Test drive in Texas
At a recent media event in Austin, Texas I spent time behind the wheel of the 2014 Grand Cherokee, gasoline V-6, diesel and SRT models. Texas hill country provided ample opportunity for both on and off-road driving.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is a game-changer. While the new transmission extends fuel economy across the board, it works exceptionally well with the diesel, due to the engine’s abundance of low-end torque. The new gearbox also makes the SRT car more practical for everyday driving by fuel economy a mile-per-gallon.
The transmission tended to hunt on the gasoline V-6 test car. There was also a noticeable chuggle during off-the-line acceleration on moderate hills. I was able to feel the transition between the liquid and friction couplings: something that was completely absent on the diesel and SRT models.
Curb weight for the Laredo test car with the V-6 engine is 4,677 pounds. The engine revs extremely low, about 1500 rpm, to maximize gas mileage during low load situations. In order to have enough power for hard acceleration and climbing the engine has to rev about 2000 rpm higher, and the driver can feel the downshift.
Although the diesel engine is smaller, it has significantly more torque. Peak torque of 420 foot-pounds is available as low as 2000 rpm, while the gasoline V-6 engine’s 260 foot-pounds of peak torque doesn’t come on until 4200 rpm: a much deeper dip into the throttle. As a result the diesel is a champ off road where slow and steady is the name of the game. It also carries a towing rating 1200 pounds higher than the gasoline V-6.
The downside to the diesel is its premium price: the Limited grade costs $40,295 as opposed to $37,795 for the V-6. Overland and Summit grades cost $4,500 more than comparably equipped gasoline V-6 models.
The owner can also expect to shell out more for gasoline. Checking prices around the Austin area during the test drive, diesel averaged about forty cents more per gallon. On the flip side, our average fuel economy was about 25.9 miles-per-gallon for the diesel Grand Cherokee as opposed to 15.8 miles-per-gallon for the gasoline V-6.
Both V-6 and diesel models have electric power steering as opposed to conventional hydraulic systems on the eight cylinder engines. Hydraulic power steering has the advantage of better on-center response, which is particularly important for the performance-oriented SRT model. Electric power steering saves some weight under the hood and reduces internal pumping losses to enhance gas mileage.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Grand Cherokee in a firm, linear manner
Visibility around the perimeter is good, I appreciated the optional blind spot monitoring system on the Summit model. It saved me from looking around some rather thick B pillars to monitor traffic in adjacent lanes. All Grand Cherokees have thick rear pillars for structural integrity. Blind spot monitoring eliminates these blind spots while moving forward, while the rearview camera on the Summit test car made it easier to see while driving in reverse.
The new speed control feature extends the car’s off-road prowess to a degree that would probably surprise most drivers. Although climbing slick rock with a 55 degree incline in a Jeep Wrangler might not turn heads, doing so with a full-sized Grand Cherokee probably would.
Although the former model could have done the same thing in the hands of a skillful driver, the new technology makes this performance accessible to a broader audience by using on-board computers and actuators rather than a mechanical throttle to control the car. It’s similar to the more widely used downhill descent control systems that maintain slow speeds without the driver having to apply the brakes.
Grand Cherokee SRT makes sport of the daily commute
The Grand Cherokee SRT has a completely different character than the off-road oriented base car. Both its price and its performance orientation limit the car’s appeal to a specific group of drivers. Although Jeep considers cars such as the Porsche Cayenne to be competitors, the Grand Cherokee is much more of a traditional muscle car, with a large displacement engine, aggressive hood scoop and big brakes.
However unlike the muscle cars of the 1960s and 70s, the Grand Cherokee SRT has the versatility to function as its owner’s primary car. Fuel economy during our test drive was about 14.5 miles-per-gallon, and unlike many competitors, the engine does not require premium gasoline.
The powertrain as a whole is quiet and vibration-free under normal driving situations. The engine works quite seamlessly with the eight-speed automatic transmission. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel enable the driver to choose gears manually. In sport mode, the transmission will hold the gear the driver chooses up to redline.
Visibility out the front is not quite as good as for the base car because of the SRT model’s large hood scoop. However drivers should be able to compensate by adjusting the seats upward. Blind spot monitoring and a rearview camera are both standard, eliminating blind spots in the back corners and below the rear glass.
The ride is also surprisingly compliant for a vehicle with 20-inch wheels and low profile tires, thanks to the adjustable air suspension. Going through a section of road construction, I did not feel beat up by the chassis. A track mode integrated into the Selec-Track system gives the chassis a rear-wheel bias for better performance at speed.
Steering response is excellent at all speeds, with the precise on-center response buyers expect in a high performance car. Brembo six-piston calipers in front and four piston calipers in the rear give the car exceptional braking capability, stopping the car in 116 feet from 60 miles-per-hour.
Designers drew their inspiration from natural color combinations for the base model. Color combinations echo palettes from the Grand Canyon, Vesuvius and Morocco. The SRT interior comes in two color-ways: black and sepia. A flat-bottomed steering wheel has large formula-style paddle shifters for the track.
An available 8.4-inch center stack screen is wonderfully easy to read in a variety of lighting situations. On the base car, the screen displays HVAC and audio selections, control settings, navigation and apps. Sirius travel link on the test car gave me information on area weather forecasts, fuel prices, movie listings and sports.
Redundant steering wheel controls allow the driver to change the digital information display on the TFT gauge cluster, engage the Bluetooth and change audio channels with minimal distraction.
I found the seats on all grades tested comfortable for drives several hours in duration, with good lower lumbar support. Keyless access and start allows the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket.
A two-piece center console bin is large enough to hold a purse or small pack. A locking glovebox provides secure storage inside the passenger compartment.
The new electronic gear shift lever in the center console is ergonomically designed, and intuitive to operate. A concealed bin at the base of the center stack includes USB, auxiliary and iPod ports, with enough storage room for those devices.
Thanks to a relatively low floor tunnel, the second row can comfortably seat three adults. The Grand Cherokee’s spacious storage area easily meets our bicycle-friendly standards with the rear seats folded flat.
All models across the line-up exceed the ALV minimum 3500-pound towing standard. The V-6 gasoline engine tows up to 6200 pounds, while the diesel and V-8 engines tow up to 7400 pounds. Towing capacity for the Grand Cherokee SRT is 7200 pounds.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control with roll mitigation, hill start assist, trailer sway control and daytime running lamps.
New available safety features include front park assist and forward collision warning with crash mitigation. The Uconnect system notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision.
Additional available safety features include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection and adaptive headlamps on the Summit grade.
The base model rolls into dealerships in March with the exception of diesel-equipped cars, which begin arriving in the second quarter of 2013. The Grand Cherokee SRT goes on sale the beginning of April.
Like: The newest Grand Cherokee expands on the 2012 models’ winning formulas with enhanced off-road capability and a new diesel engine. The SRT model is a modern muscle car with the versatility to tow heavy trailers and better fuel economy for everyday driving.
Dislike: The eight-speed transmission on the V-6 gasoline model tended to hunt on hills, with more shift shock than the diesel or eight cylinder models.
Models: Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SRT
Base price: $28,795 (Grand Cherokee); $62,995 (Grand Cherokee SRT)
As tested: $34,980 (Laredo 4X4), $56,490; (Summit 4X4 with diesel); $64,885 (Grand Cherokee SRT)
Horsepower: 290 Hp @ 6400 rpm (gasoline V-6); 240 Hp @ 3600 rpm (Ecodiesel); 470 Hp @6000 rpm (SRT Hemi V-8)
Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm (V-6); 420 lbs.-ft. @ 2000 rpm (Ecodiesel); 465 lbs.-ft. @ 4300 rpm (SRT Hemi V-8)
Zero-to-sixty: 4.8 seconds (Grand Cherokee SRT)
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Off-road: Yes for all but the SRT model
Fuel economy: 17/24 mpg city/highway (V-6 gasoline 4X4); 21/28 mpg city/highway (Ecodiesel); 13/19 mpg city/highway (SRT Hemi V-8)2014, Luxury Offroad 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Jeep, performance, pricing, standard safety
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