The flagship of the Jeep line — the five-passenger Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicle — is both a grand and high-mileage traveler for 2014.
The roomy interior can be luxuriously appointed with stitched leather seats, panoramic sunroof, suede-like ceiling material and a Blu-Ray rear entertainment system with two video screens.
But that's not all: With the addition of an impressive diesel V-6 from Jeep's parent, Fiat of Italy, the 2014 Grand Cherokee 4X2 now boasts a federal government travel range of 615 miles on a single tank of fuel, the best ever for a Grand Cherokee. It is rated at 22 miles per gallon for city driving and 30 mpg on the highway, for an average of 25 mpg.
That makes the Detroit-built SUV third best in fuel mileage among diesel-powered SUVs sold in the United States, behind the 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 Bluetec with a four-cylinder diesel and a government fuel economy rating of 24/33 mpg. The 2014 Audi Q5 SUV with diesel six cylinder is second, with a rating of 24/31 mpg.
But neither German competitor carries enough fuel onboard to rival the Grand Cherokee's travel range.
The diesel Grand Cherokee is priced competitively when standard features like leather seats, eight-way, power front seats, heated steering wheel and rear backup camera are factored in. Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a 2014 Grand Cherokee 4X2 with 240-horsepower, EcoDiesel V-6 is $41,990.
The lowest starting retail price for a 4X4 Grand Cherokee with the diesel engine is $43,990.
These prices are higher than base Grand Cherokees with a gasoline V-6, though. Starting MSRP, including destination charge, for a base, 2014 Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X2 with 290-horsepower gas engine is $30,490. The lowest starting retail price for a four-wheel drive, 2014 Grand Cherokee Laredo is $32,490.
By comparison, the 200-horsepower, 2014 Mercedes GLK250 Bluetec starts at $39,905, and the 2014 Audi Q5 with 240-horsepower V-6 and all-wheel drive starts at $47,000.
The test Grand Cherokee, with brown metallic paint and with dark brown leather seats, looked sharp with its 20-inch wheels.
It was right-sized, too, driving like a small vehicle but providing good passenger comfort and ample cargo room of up to 68.3 cubic feet. In fact, the Grand Cherokee's 38.6 inches of rear-seat legroom is more than that of the GLK250 and Q5.
There were no running boards, as the vehicle was ready for off-roading with an easy Selec-Terrain traction management system and Quadra-Lift Air Suspension.
The 3-liter, double overhead cam EcoDiesel V-6 mated to an eight-speed automatic was the star, moving the more than 5,000-pound Grand Cherokee 4X4 tester with spunk, even on mountain highways.
Shifts were smooth, and torque of up to 420 foot-pounds came on by 2,000 rpm for always-pleasing acceleration. (A Grand Cherokee with gasoline V-6 has only 260 foot-pounds of torque.)
The fuel economy ratings are realistic, as the test SUV with four-wheel drive averaged 27.6 mpg with a majority of highway driving.
Jeep uses Chrysler's UConnect audio/navigation/interior settings control that had a quickly responding touchscreen and big-sized touch points in the test SUV.
The ride can feel bouncy on road humps and dips. There also was a tippy feeling when the Grand Cherokee was pushed hard in curves and corners, but the tester still held its line.
The automatic transmission gear shifter in the test vehicle did not reliably shift into the gear the driver wanted. Often, it moved into neutral gear, rather than reverse, unless the driver used a light hand to move the shifter.
Consumer Reports says reliability of Grand Cherokees with gasoline V-6 has been well below average. Diesel reliability is unknown.
There was one instance of the forward collision avoidance system in the tester activating without reason. It occurred as the test vehicle, traveling at the speed limit, approached an intersection and a green light. No one was in the intersection or in front of the vehicle, but the Grand Cherokee suddenly flashed "Brake!" in the instrument cluster and began to brake hard on its own as if it sensed an impending frontal collision. A check of driver complaints lodged with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed at least one other Grand Cherokee has exhibited this problem this year.
NHTSA also reports the 2014 Grand Cherokee has been the subject of five safety recalls.
In one recall, the vehicle could potentially keep accelerating briefly beyond what the driver wants while the adaptive cruise control is on. In another, the center shell of the brake booster might corrode and let in water. If water freezes inside, brake function could be impaired.
A third recall involved onboard computer disruption and loose alternator wires that might disable dashboard warning lights, instrument cluster illumination, the antilock brakes and the vehicle's electronic stability control. A fourth recall was for parking lights that might turn off because of electrical spikes in the lighting system, and a last recall was for wiring that might catch fire at the vehicle's vanity mirrors.
Original headline: Grand Cherokee: A grand, and long, ride
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