Grand Cherokee's diesel delivers
AUSTIN, Texas -- Jeep will begin selling the re-engineered 2014 Grand Cherokee in the United States this spring with an optional 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine that delivers 240 hp and 420 pounds-feet of torque.
The engine plus a new eight-speed automatic transmission provides greatly improved low-end torque and towing ability as well as highway fuel economy of 30 mpg.
The basics: Jeep had planned a minor refresh of its top-selling model for 2014 when the eight-speed rear-wheel-drive transmission became available. Engineers overhauled the SUV's electrical architecture as well, adding Chrysler's latest Uconnect infotainment system, with an 8.4-inch center stack screen.
Exterior styling changes are modest: a smaller grille and restyled front and rear lighting. Inside, a new 7-inch programmable instrument cluster allows customers to display such information as the angle of all four tires as they traverse obstacles.
Notable features: The SUV's gasoline engines, a 3.6-liter V-6 and a 5.7-liter V-8, remain. Coupled with the new transmission, the engines get a 2-mpg increase in highway fuel economy over 2012 models. Even the SRT8 version, with its 6.4-liter engine, gets improved efficiency coupled with the new transmission.
The new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6, made by VM Motori in Italy, uses urea to reduce emissions. The diesel delivers V-8 power and torque but with a highway rating of 30 mpg. With a 24.6-gallon tank, the diesel Grand Cherokee's range is about 730 miles. The new powertrain also improves the SUV's crawl ratio, a vehicle's lowest gear ratio, for off-roading and rock-climbing.
What Jeep says: "It's always tricky doing a refresh with something like this because there's the push to make it look really, really different and there's a chance that in the process you're going to screw up the secret sauce" that made the Grand Cherokee so popular, says Mark Allen, Jeep's director of engineering.
Compromises and shortcomings: Low-end Laredo packages don't get the full 8.4-inch information screen; instead they get a 5-inch screen with primitive graphics. The diesel package doesn't come with a standard engine-warming system for extremely cold climates; the system is available only as an option from the dealer.
The market: The Grand Cherokee outsold every other SUV last year, regardless of size. Pricing for the base model Laredo will rise $1,100 for the 2014 model year to $29,790, including shipping. Jeep split its Overland Summit top trim into two levels, Overland and Summit. The diesel engine adds a $4,500 premium to the price, putting the sticker of a top end diesel-powered Grand Cherokee Summit at $53,490, including shipping.
The skinny: The eight-speed transmission offers better fuel economy and a quieter ride. Meanwhile, Chrysler's first light-duty diesel engine delivers plenty of power on demand to accompany its outstanding fuel economy.
You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at email@example.com.