2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee review

By James Tate of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.0

Bottom Line:

The new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee isn’t perfect by any means; some exterior design elements are awkward and a few things about the interior still feel a little down-market from its price range. However, those who see past these quibbles--and who opt for the new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel--will be rewarded with a legit all-terrain SUV that can pull off some stunts that will make even your Wrangler-rapt rock-crawling friends take notice.
Pros:
  • Excellent new EcoDiesel engine
  • Quadra-Lift air suspension
  • Good looking in any trim
Cons:
  • Confusing trim level and options packaging
  • Optional rear-seat Blu-ray disc player already dated
  • Some interior plastics (especially center console) feel cheap

The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to be the flagship of Jeep's lineup. Wrangler owners would argue with that contention, but the Grand Cherokee is Jeep's best-selling model, and it is also in the midst of a sales renaissance — not only in the U.S., but worldwide; sales outside North America have increased 250 percent since 2009. The 2014 Grand Cherokee offers many engine and powertrain options, including a new diesel — but at what point are there too many ways to draw up the same SUV?

View Pictures:  2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Model lineup
The 2014 Grand Cherokee is offered in five trim levels: Laredo, Limited, Overland, Summit and SRT. Base rear-wheel drive units start from $28,795 for the Laredo and climb to $35,795 for the Limited, $42,995 for the Overland and $47,995 for the Summit. Tack on an extra $2,000 for 4-wheel drive on Laredo and Limited models, and $3,000 to add it to Overland and Summit. The 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT starts at $62,995, with the Quadra-Drive II, Select Terrain traction control and Quadra-Lift air suspension all standard.

Under the hood
Here's the easy part: available engines include the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque; the 5.7-liter V8 producing 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque; and the new EcoDiesel 3.0-liter engine, good for 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. The SRT comes with a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 putting out 470 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque.

More difficult to understand are the various 4-wheel-drive systems, of which there are three available: Quadra-Trac I is the most basic, with a single-speed transfer case providing full-time 4-wheel drive. Quadra-Trac II uses "throttle anticipate" to stop tire slippage from a stop (with as much as 100 percent of power going to the axle with the most traction when needed); QTII has a 2-speed transfer case that catches and corrects tire slip as quickly as possible. At the top of the line is Quadra-Drive II, which adds an electronic limited-slip differential to the tech of the other two systems, enabling the transfer of torque not just front to rear, but also side to side. All variants are equipped with a new 8-speed, paddle-shift automatic transmission.

Inner space
Considering that most consumers who opt for the 2014 model will be spending somewhere in the mid-$30,000 to mid-$40,000 range, it stands to reason that Jeep would put great effort into the 2014 Grand Cherokee's interior. For the most part the revised interior is a success, with several standout elements, though the optional rear-seat Blu-ray disc player seems outdated in the digital-media era.

The instrument cluster in the 2014 Grand Cherokee is excellent, with a 7-inch screen that allows for a customizable readout that can include the status of the Select Terrain traction control and Quadra-Lift systems. In a particularly neat touch, the center image of the cluster changes along with the Select Terrain setting, showing the Grand Cherokee amid snow, rocks, sand, etc., depending on where the system is set.

The wood-trimmed steering wheel in the Overland and Summit iterations, along with heated and ventilated front seats, add layers of luxury and comfort to the Grand Cherokee's spacious cabin.

On the road
The Pentastar V6 feels like a brand-new engine connected to the 2014 Grand Cherokee's 8-speed automatic. With the old 5-speed transmission, the V6 felt tired and wheezy; now it's downright livable. Of course, the noise and feel of the 5.7-liter V8 is much more satisfying — that is, until you have to stop for gas. Why anyone would opt for anything but the new EcoDiesel engine is beyond us; mated to all of the available off-road bells and whistles, it makes for a torque-filled, highly capable all-terrain SUV. Some of the challenges we saw the 2014 Grand Cherokee take on during our press drive would stump all but the most ruggedly equipped Wranglers.

New safety features and driver assists include hill-start assist, ParkSense rear object detection (with front sensors on the Summit model), and forward-collision warning with crash mitigation, which alerts the driver when it senses a crash may be imminent.

On the road the SRT is two and a half tons of fun. We got to flog the 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT around the Formula One course at Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas — a place where the big Jeep felt anything but out of place. With 3.4 miles and two big straights, the race course gave us plenty of opportunities to test the limits of what the SRT Cherokee can really do. The handling of the SRT is spot on, and in Track mode it even allows for some swing-the-tail-out fun. That we can use the phrase "tail out fun" in regard to a 5,000-pound SUV speaks to the impressive work the SRT team has done with it.

The 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT even has a launch-control feature, which firms up the suspension, tightens the transmission shifts, and sends torque in a 30-70 front-rear split to help it achieve a 4.8-second zero-to-60-mph time. The SRT Cherokee doesn't feel as "immediate" off the line as a performance sports car, but let's see your Porsche 911 tow 7,200 pounds.

Right for you?
Jeep has gone out of its way to reward loyal customers who have made the Grand Cherokee its best-selling model. However, we wonder if Jeep has offered consumers too many choices. Anyone who feels the low-end grunt of the new EcoDiesel engine will see the V6 and V8 for the poorer options they are, and as a brand whose reputation is built on off-road capability, why Jeep offers so many 4-wheel-drive packages for the Grand Cherokee (not to mention rear-wheel-drive models, period) is a mystery. Go for a version with the Quadra-Drive II package, Quadra-Lift, Select Terrain and EcoDiesel; you'll be rewarded with an SUV that not only will take care of you in all seasons on the road, but will be able to tackle anything you want to throw at it off-road as well.

(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitatethis report.)

James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side asSenior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.

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BB05 - 9/19/2014 7:07:40 PM