2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Road Test Review
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the most fuel efficient and advanced Jeep yet
Scores High: Fuel-efficient diesel engine, superb 8-speed automatic, advanced infotainment system
Scores Low: Still some hard plastic interior surfaces, high-speed acceleration slightly reduced with diesel
Total Car Score Analysis
A brand like Jeep, steeped in history and tradition, faces a growing challenge in the modern world. On the one hand, Jeep vehicles can’t risk losing their legendary status as rock-crawling rock stars. On the other hand, Jeeps have to live up to increasing standards for on-road ride quality, fuel efficiency, in-car technology and overall refinement. Expecting one brand, or one vehicle, to satisfy all of the above might seem unrealistic. Yet the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee delivers in each of these areas, while also offering a high-performance thrill ride for buyers of the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT (covered separately).
Jeep has an established pattern of refining the Grand Cherokee’s style over the past 20 years. The latest 2014 Grand Cherokee continues this pattern. Its trademark seven-slot grille and trapezoidal wheel arches remain, but new LED taillights are standard on every trim level, with LED daytime running lights optional on the Limited trim and standard on the Overland and Summit trims. The new headlights frame a shorter upper grille that sits above more pronounced fog lights. A rear roof spoiler, designed originally for the SRT model, proved so effective that all Grand Cherokees adopted it for 2014. The spoiler sits above a revised tailgate with a larger Jeep badge and standard chrome dual exhaust tips on all Limited, Overland and Summit models.
Jeep has made it easier to distinguish the various trim levels available for the 2014 Grand Cherokee. The base Laredo comes with a body-colored grille and side mirrors, as well as with dark gray lower rocker panels and 17-inch alloy wheels (18-inch wheels are optional). The Grand Cherokee Limited model adds chrome trim to the seven-slot grille and lower front and rear fascias. It also adds standard 18-inch wheels, but 20-inch wheels (and bi-xenon headlights) are optional.
The Grand Cherokee Overland gets standard bi-xenon headlights, body-colored lower panels and 20-inch standard wheels. The new Summit model sits at the top of the 2014 Grand Cherokee hierarchy. It comes standard with adaptive (swiveling) headlights, high-pressure headlamp washers, a chrome mesh pattern in the upper grille and unique lower body panels in dark gray separated by a chrome strip. Summit-specific 20-inch, five-spoke wheels (with a satin clear coat finish) help distinguish this premium Grand Cherokee, as do rectangular dual exhaust outlets and a large “Summit” badge on the tailgate.
The big news for the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the introduction of an all-new 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine, available on Limited, Overland and Summit models. Offering 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, the diesel engine is rated to tow 7,400 pounds and returns 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway (for 4x2 models, 21/28 mpg for 4x4 models). This engine is connected to Jeep’s all-new 8-speed automatic transmission, which effectively maximizes the diesel’s narrow powerband for capable low- and high-speed acceleration. We still noticed a slight reduction in acceleration at higher speeds with the diesel (compared to the Grand Cherokee’s gasoline engines), but this was a subtle and worthwhile trade-off given the diesel’s expanded range (730 miles on a tank) and improved towing and off-road performance.
And make no mistake – the Grand Cherokee remains a near unstoppable off-road force. Even the basic Quadra-Trac I 4x4 system delivers full-time four-wheel drive through a single speed transfer case. It directs power to the front and rear axles with an even 50/50 split. Quadra-Trac I comes standard on 4x4 Laredo models with the 3.6-liter V6 (gasoline) engine. This engine makes 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque; it delivers 17 city mpg and 24 highway mpg (25 highway mpg on 4x2 Laredos).
The upgraded Quadra-Trac II system provides a two-speed transfer case to 4x4 Limited and Overland Grand Cherokees. Quadra-Trac II detects wheel slip and can instantly direct up to 100 percent of engine power to either axle (based on sensor feedback and throttle input). This system, combined with the new 8-speed transmission, also creates an incredible 44.1:1 crawl ratio, a 46 percent improvement over the previous Grand Cherokee equipped with a 5-speed automatic.
Jeep’s advanced Quadra-Drive II adds an electronic limited slip differential to further enhance traction while off-roading. It’s optional on the Limited and Overland models, but comes standard on the Summit. Both Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II include Selec-Terrain, Jeep’s traction control system with five settings: Sand, Mud, Auto, Snow and Rock. Off-road enthusiasts looking for more ability will want the Quadra-Lift air suspension (optional on Limited, standard on Overland and Summit). The Grand Cherokee’s normal ride height provides 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Quadra-Lift adds 4.2 inches of lift span, including a lowered “Aero” mode that reduces aerodynamic drag for increased fuel efficiency.
On-road performance wasn’t left out in the new Grand Cherokee (Jeep knows that’s were most of them will be driven). The new 8-speed automatic pays dividends here, where the standard paddle shifters and rapid, rev-matched downshifts make it one of the most refined automatics available. Paired with the 5.7-liter V8 engine (360 horsepower, 390 lb-ft) the 2014 Grand Cherokee is capable of muscle-car-like acceleration, yet it still delivers 14 city mpg and 20 highway mpg (22 highway mpg for 4x2 models) thanks to cylinder deactivation technology and the aforementioned “Aero” mode on Quadra-Lift models. Effective steering feedback, confident brakes and minimal wind or road noise at highway speeds further contribute to the Jeep’s long-haul potential.
Interior Design and Function
Cranking up the premium atmosphere in the 2014 Grand Cherokee was as critical as the improvements in fuel efficiency and drivetrain refinement. This is reflected in a host of cabin upgrades, including high quality, soft-touch material on the upper dash and door panels. There’s still some hard plastic on the lower door panels and center console, even on top-end Summit, which feels a bit out of place in an SUV costing almost $50,000. Obvious changes for 2014 include a standard leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel with audio controls (and wood inserts on Overland and Summit models). A wide range of interior colors and wood trim is now offered across the model line. Leather seats are standard on Grand Cherokee Limited, Overland and Summit, while a unique “open pore” interior wood trim is included with all Overland and Summit models.
Perhaps the most engaging 2014 Grand Cherokee improvement comes in the form of its available in-car infotainment technology. Chrysler’s new Uconnect Access system is arguably the most advanced combination of voice recognition, Internet search functionality and high-quality displays available in the new-car marketplace. It takes the form of an 8.4-inch central touchscreen as well as a 7-inch TFT screen located in the gauge cluster. The TFT screen is standard on all 2014 Grand Cherokees, but the 8.4-inch screen and voice recognition technology come only on the Overland and Summit as standard equipment (it’s optional on Limited models). With Uconnect Access you can ask for directions to the nearest gas station, find the nearest Chinese food, get movie listings, contact emergency assistance or listen to and respond to text messages – all through voice commands. Uconnect Access also provides a rolling wifi connection that lets passengers surf the Internet on their tablets or laptops.
Behind the rear passengers the Grand Cherokee offers 36.3 cubic feet of space, as well as a dedicated spare tire under the cargo floor, a re-chargeable flashlight and hooks to keep grocery bags from tipping over. Fold the rear seats down and cargo space expands to 68.3 cubic feet.
Primary Features and Options
The base 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4x2 starts at $28,795 and includes automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, keyless entry, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six speaker audio system. Stepping up to the $35,795 Limited brings power mirrors, a Jeep logo on the door sill scuff plates, USB charging ports, a 115-volt power outlet, leather seats, heated front and second row seats, a heated steering wheel and a remote engine start system.
The $42,995 Overland adds a Dual-pane panoramic sunroof with a power shade, automatic headlamp leveling, automatic high beams, bi-xenon headlamps, power-folding mirrors, a full-size spare, rain-sensing wipers, a nine speaker audio system, ventilated front seats, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, the Quadra-Lift air suspension, a Harman Kardon navigation system and a trailer tow package with a Class IV receiver hitch. The $47,995 Summit adds headlamp washers, a 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning with crash mitigation, rear cross path detection, front park assist and “Summit” embroidered seats. A dual DVD rear entertainment package can be added to the Limited, Overland and Summit.
It’s Perfect For…
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee impresses us with an available, highly efficient diesel engine. It also engages us with one of the best automatic transmissions in existence. It also entertains us with some of the most advanced in-car technology you can buy. It also coddles us with a wide range of luxury features. Finally, it thrills us by crawling over nearly any obstacle that gets in its way. Very few SUVs can match this level of proficiency in this many areas, and none of them can do it at this price point.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is still a rock-crawling rock star, but it’s also much more.
Vehicle Tested: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $47,995
Options on Test Vehicle: Dual DVD rear entertainment system ($1,995), Destination Charge ($995)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $50,985
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The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of Chrysler LLC