AUSTIN - Just three years after rolling out the completely redesigned Grand Cherokee to rave reviews and garnering numerous awards for it, Jeep has taken its biggest SUV back to the drawing board and revamped it substantially for 2014.During a recent media introduction, Jeep showed off the attributes of the newly revised model during extensive on- and off-road driving around the Texas capital and in the nearby Hill Country.This five-passenger unibody sport utility is now more luxurious, fuel-efficient, and trail-capable than ever before.But the big news is under the hood: There's an all-new clean-diesel engine available in the Grand Cherokee: a 3.0-liter V-6 that cranks out 240 horsepower and 420 foot-pounds of torque, and gets up to 30 mpg on the highway.It can also tow trailers weighing up to 7,400 pounds, Jeep says.Also new is an eight-speed automatic transmission, which is standard with other engines available in the Grand Cherokee as well - the 3.6-liter V-6 and two Hemi V-8s, the 5.7-liter in regular models and 6.4-liter in the special SRT version.Prices for the 2014 Grand Cherokee regular models begin at $28,795 (plus $995 freight) for the base two-wheel-drive Laredo, and range as high as $47,995 for the ultra-luxurious Summit version. In between are the Limited, starting at $35,795, and the Overland, at $42,995. The SRT is $62,995.Unfortunately for those of us on a budget, the diesel engine is not offered on the Laredo model. It starts with the Limited trim level, and adds $4,500 to the price of whichever model it's on. The rear-drive diesel Limited is the least expensive, at $40,295.This engine gave us plenty of power on twisty Hill Country roads, even on uphill sections, and it was surprisingly quiet for a diesel. There was some diesel noise at low speeds, but it wasn't noticeable at highway speeds.Diesel EPA ratings are 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway for the two-wheel-drive models, and 21/28 for the four-wheel drives. That compares with 17/25 for the Pentastar V-6 rear-drive and 17/24 for the four-wheel drive. That engine produces 290 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque.The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 has a cylinder-deactivation mode that cuts it down to four cylinders during level highway cruising for improved fuel economy. Output is 360 horsepower and 390 foot-pounds of torque, and EPA ratings are 14 city/22 highway (two-wheel drive) and 14/20 (four-wheel drive).Jeep says the diesel two-wheel drive has a highway range of up to 730 miles on a tank of fuel. To keep the diesel's exhaust clean enough to meet U.S. air standards, it has an eight-gallon urea tank that lasts for about 8,000 miles, the company says. Dash warnings let the driver know when the tank needs refilling, and the engine won't run if the urea runs out.For those who want the ultimate in Grand Cherokee luxury, there's the new Summit model, which comes with a chrome-on-chrome grille, 20-inch wheels, dual rectangular exhaust outlets, LED taillights, and an interior that includes Natura-Plus leather.There are heated/ventilated/memory front seats; wood trim interior accents are available in black or "Jeep brown." The Summit also comes with premium suede-like front side pillars and headliner.Summit models include a 19-speaker, 825-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with a 12-channel amplifier and three sub-woofers.There is a new Eco mode on the Grand Cherokee to help increase fuel economy. Jeep says it's designed to optimize the transmission's shift points, lower the air suspension to a more-aerodynamic ride height (above 52 mph), and, with the V-8, to turn on cylinder deactivation. The Eco mode is automatic, but can be turned off by pushing a button in the center instrument stack.All models come with new headlights, LED daytime running lights, and a variety of safety and security features.Available are such technologies as Front Park Assist, Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation and Adaptive Cruise Control.The available Uconnect system comes with an 8.4-inch touch-screen radio with climate and infotainment controls. There is also a seven-inch multi-view instrument cluster in the dash above the steering wheel.Steering-wheel paddle shifters allow for manual shifting of the transmission.As before, there are three available four-wheel-drive systems: Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II, along the optional Quadra-Lift air suspension and Selec-Terrain traction-management system.Quadra-Trac I provides full-time four-wheel drive with no driver input required, but does not offer low-range gearing for serious off-road driving.With Quadra-Trac II, you'll get a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing. This system also can automatically send all of the available torque to the axle that has the best traction.For those wanting the best setup for off-road, there is Quadra-Drive II, with a rear electronic limited-slip differential. This system has low-range gearing, as well.The Quadra-Lift air suspension has five height settings: normal, off-road 1, off-road 2, park and aero. Off-road 1 raises the vehicle as much as 1.3 inches above normal, for 10 inches of ground clearance; off-road 2 raises it 2.6 inches, for a total clearance of 11.3 inches.The Selec-Terrain traction control has sand, mud, snow, rock and automatic settings. It includes hill-ascent and -descent control for steep grades, especially when driving off road.There is a transmission Sport mode, which re-sets the transmission shift points for more-sporty performance.Among exterior changes on all models are a shorter upper grille, slimmer headlights, revised front fascia, and slightly raised fog lights. It still has the signature seven-slot grille design, along with trapezoid wheel arches.Overland and Summit models come with bi-xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, which are optional on the Limited.There is a new three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel, which has wood trim on Overland and Summit models. Laredo and Limited models have dark wood interior trim. Cloth seats are standard on the Laredo; the rest of the models come with leather.Among standard safety features are electronic stability control with electronic roll mitigation; four-wheel antilock disc brakes; and roof-mounted side-curtain air bags and seat-mounted side air bags for both rows. Optional are blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection.Uconnect, similar to the General Motors OnStar system, uses the Sprint cellular network to connect the vehicle with emergency personnel with a push of the "911" button on the rearview mirror. It also has voice-texting capability.There is 36.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. It includes a storage compartment with a rechargeable flashlight, and there are grocery-bag hooks on both sides. A power tailgate is available on all models; standard on higher-level trims.The 2014 Grand Cherokee is now arriving at Jeep dealers nationwide.The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The package: Full-size, five-door, five-passenger, V-6 gasoline- or diesel- or V-8 gasoline-powered, rear- or four-wheel-drive unibody sport utility vehicle.
Highlights: Substantial changes have been made for 2014, including exterior design tweaks, interior upgrades, a new eight-speed automatic transmission, an optional V-6 clean-diesel engine, and lots of available new technology.
Negatives: Can get quite pricey; diesel engine available only on higher trim levels.
Engines: 3.6-liter V-6 (gasoline); 3.0-liter V-6 (diesel); 5.7-liter V-8 (gasoline); 6.4-liter V-8 (gasoline, SRT).
Power/torque: 290 HP./260 foot-pounds (3.6-liter); 240 HP./420 foot-pounds (diesel); 360 HP./390 foot-pounds (5.7-liter); 470 HP./465 foot-pounds (6.4-liter, SRT only).
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Length: 189.8 inches.
Curb weight: 4,545-5,374 pounds.
Cargo volume: 36.3 cubic feet (behind rear seat); 68.3 cubic feet (rear seat folded).
Towing capacity: 6,200-7,400 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Fuel capacity/type: 24.6 gallons/unleaded regular (gasoline engines), except SRT, premium unleaded (recommended but not required); ultra-low-sulfur diesel (diesel engine).
EPA fuel economy: 17mpg city/25 highway (3.6, 2WD), 17/24 (3.6, 4WD); 22/30 (diesel, 2WD), 21/28 (diesel, 4WD); 14/22 (5.7, 2WD), 14/20 (5.7, 4WD); 13/19 (SRT).
Major competitors: Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia/Buick Enclave; Land Rover LR2, Range Rover Sport, Lexus GX 460, Nissan Pathfinder, Infiniti JX, Honda Pilot, Acura MDX, Lincoln MKX.
Base price range: $28,795-$47,995 (SRT, $62,995), plus $995 freight.
On the Road rating: 9.2 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.