2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X2Posted on April 11th, 2013
SUV gets updated powertrain and refreshed styling
By Nina Russin
This year, Jeep updates the Grand Cherokee introduced in 2010 with an eight-speed automatic transmission, enhanced off-road capability, a new Summit grade, diesel engine and refreshed styling. The eight-speed automatic that first rolled out on the Ram 1500 increases fuel economy to 25 mpg on the highway for the six-cylinder engine.
Four-wheel drive models have a new speed control system that gives drivers better directional control on steep grades, while the new EcoDiesel V-6 tows up to 7300 pounds.
Product planners also kept buyers’ budgets in mind, realizing that we are still living in shaky economic times. The base Laredo model tested starts at $28,795, excluding the $995 destination charge.
Despite being the entry grade, the Laredo is by no means a stripped down car. A five-inch Uconnect touchscreen gives drivers access to satellite radio and HVAC settings, while a new TFT gauge cluster can be configured to provide vehicle information such as fuel economy, driving range and trip meter readings.
Eighteen-inch aluminum painted wheels are standard equipment. Styling changes to the exterior include a redesigned grille and headlamps, larger LED tail lamps, redesigned tailgate and different rear fascias.
Test drive in Phoenix
In February, I drove several of the new Grand Cherokee models on and off-road around Austin, Texas. This week, I spend additional time in the 4X2 Laredo, driving around the Phoenix metro area as well as some rural two-lane roads in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains.
I had the chance to spend more time studying the interior, loading up the rear cargo bay, and driving the car using the standard formula-style paddle shifters to select gears manually.
My experience confirmed my first impression: that the newest Jeep Grand Cherokee offers buyers a lot of car for the money, as well as the opportunity to tailor both the powertrain and interior to meet their individual needs.
Although it doesn’t have the brutish power of the hemi V-8, the Pentastar V-6 engine is a good choice for buyers who need better gas mileage. The new automatic transmission was a much-needed update. Not only does it extend fuel economy on the highway, but creates a much smoother transfer of power from the engine to the wheels.
When I drove the car on the Bush Highway east of town, I used the paddle shifters to manually select gears. Although gas mileage was slightly lower, increases engine speeds from 1800 to 3000 rpm produced a nice power boost, giving the car much sportier performance.
Unlike some systems, Jeep’s manual gear select holds on to the gear, rather than reverting back to ‘drive’ after a short period. It’s a helpful feature on hilly roads since it can save the brakes and give the car more power for towing.
The electric power steering system has decent feedback. There’s a slight lag in on-center response that is typical for these types of systems, but I felt well in control of the vehicle and had no problems performing quick lane changes.
The four-wheel independent suspension consists of a short and long arm setup in front and multi-links in the rear. It provides a comfortable ride around town, yet works quite well for towing and off-road driving.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the vehicle in firm, linear fashion.
Visibility around the perimeter is typical for this type of high profile vehicle. The one option I would have like to have had in the car is the rearview camera, which eliminates blind spots in the back corners and under the rear glass when the driver shifts into reverse.
I did not have problems monitoring traffic in the adjacent lanes. Over-the-shoulder visibility is fine, making merging into high-speed traffic a non-issue.
Interiors have traditionally been a sticking point for Jeep, but the current Grand Cherokee has changed all that with excellent fit and finish throughout. I found the cloth upholstery in the test car comfortable and attractive.
Product planners included the types of features important to buyers with active lifestyles: plenty of good-sized bottle and cupholders, a locking glovebox, 12-volt power point in the cargo area and plenty of tie-down hooks.
A covered bin at the base of the center stack provides hidden storage for cell phones and other electronic devices. The center console bin is large enough to hold a small purse or pack.
Second row seating holds up to three adults. There is enough legroom in the center position for an average adult to be comfortable around town and on short road trips. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin.
Standard keyless access and start enables the driver to unlock, start and relock the car without taking the key fob out of his pocket.
Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor, so the Jeep Grand Cherokee meets our bicycle-friendly standards.
All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control with roll mitigation, hill start assist and trailer sway control.
The 2014 Grand Cherokee is rolling into Jeep dealerships nationwide.
Like: A versatile, affordable five passenger sport-utility vehicle with decent gas mileage, and a high level of standard safety and convenience features.
Model: Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X2
Base price: $28,795
As tested: $31,285
Horsepower: 290 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Off-road: Yes, for all 4X4 versions
Fuel economy: 17/25 mpg city/highway2014, Best Value 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Jeep, performance, pricing, standard safety
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