A diesel entry from Detroit
Even though I personally only review one car per week, I typically try to get some seat time behind every single one of the test cars we have kicking around the DoubleClutch.ca garage. There are some that surprise me and others that come in exactly where I expected them to. This week, I had the pleasure of spending some quality time with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel, and it blew my expectations right out of the water.
Earlier this winter, I actually had the chance to briefly drive this very Grand Cherokee. At the time, it had under 500km on it and hadn’t been broken in yet. I didn’t really have an opinion on it one way or another, so my views coming out of this road test were particularly shocking. Despite contrary belief, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel does not use a Mercedes-Benz or Chrysler-made motor. Under the hood is a Fiat-sourced 3.0L V6 diesel. Coming out of it are some typical diesel-esque numbers – 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. I’ve spent quite of bit of time with diesel vehicles this winter, so I have a pretty good idea of what I was looking for out of it.
The Jeep accelerates with confidence, but its weight is very obvious and it does nothing to hide it. It feels heavy and therefore planted to the ground at any speed. Peak torque kicks in early and propels the behemoth to highway speeds without any struggle whatsoever. I will say though that the diesel motor in the Grand Cherokee doesn’t feel nearly as refined as the Mercedes-Benz or BMW units. There is a good amount of diesel clatter – whether you’re inside or outside, there’s no mistaking this for a diesel. In comparison, the Volkswagen Touareg TDI as well as the Mercedes-Benz ML350 Bluetec are significantly quieter.
Where the Grand Cherokee’s powertrain does really excel is the transmission. The 8-speed ZF automatic is absolutely lovely. In normal “D” mode with the “Eco” setting enabled, the gearbox does everything in its power to ensure you’re in the highest gear possible to maximize efficiency. The short gearing does mean that by the time 30 km/h is achieved, the Jeep is in fifth gear. If you need passing power, just give the throttle a friendly tap and the truck will downshift quickly to get you going without any fuss. In “Sport” mode, the EcoDiesel comes alive and holds gears longer.
I wholeheartedly encourage the availability of a diesel option in more mainstream SUVs. Jeep has decided that the Grand Cherokee’s diesel powertrain option is only available on the Overland and Summit trim levels, the top two. The engine is an option costing a few dollars shy of $5,000. This engine is great, and will undoubtedly sell well, but I would love to see this motor offered on the lesser Laredo/Limited trim levels. My tester came equipped with nearly everything offered on the Grand Cherokee, minus the rear DVD entertainment system. The as-tested price is a steep $69,955. I know that sounds silly amounts of expensive, but bear with me – every single part of the Grand Cherokee looks and feels premium. One cool toy I really did enjoy was the adjustable air suspension. The truck automatically lowers when parked, and has a few height settings including off-road modes to have the perfect ground clearance for any situation.
For just shy of seventy large, the Grand Cherokee Summit EcoDiesel comes with legitimately every toy you might expect. Heated/ventilated seats and heated steering wheel? Check. Uconnect with Garmin navigation? Check. Intelligent key system with factory remote starter? Check. 19-speaker sound system with a subwoofer that bumps seriously loud? Check and check! Other noteworthy toys include radar-guided cruise control, ParkSense with a reverse camera, and Forward Collision Warning. All of the toys work very well and everything is nicely integrated. Much like every other model from the Chrysler family with this Uconnect system, I seriously appreciate the use of physical buttons for the most commonly used functions. I would prefer to have physical buttons for the heated seats, but they can be programmed to automatically turn on with vehicle ignition.
My observed fuel economy on the EcoDiesel was a bit better than I had predicted. Jeep says it’s supposed to get as low as 7.0L/100km on the highway. Naturally I didn’t expect to get anywhere close to that considering the bitter cold temperatures, but I couldn’t get the Grand Cherokee to do any worse than 9.8L/100km. When at highway speeds, the behemoth actually hunkers down into “Aero” mode to reduce drag. I did test the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel on the highway, and over an extended period, it returned a particularly surprising 8.1L/100km. The huge fuel tank does make for particularly pricey fill-ups, but the overall consumption is very, very good. We tested an Overland equipped with the 5.7L V8 last year, and couldn’t do much better than 12.9L/100km on the highway.
I did have a couple little gripes with the interior. For one, the shifter isn’t really that intuitive. When left alone, the transmission works well, and the paddle shifters are pretty responsive. However, the shifter alone is a bit tough to get used to. It resembles the one in the Audi A8, but I found myself going into “Park” when aiming for “Reverse” a couple times. I also accidentally engaged “Neutral” when aiming for “Reverse” once or twice. Also, I’m not exactly on board with the placement of the button to close the power trunk lid. It’s located on the inside of the trunk itself, so you’re required to push it, then quickly back away to avoid being smacked by the trunk – not exactly as convenient as it could have been. On a positive note, the remote starter works flawlessly – I particularly liked how it’s pre-programmed to turn on the heated seats and steering wheel so you’re a tiny bit warmer as you get into the car – a very classy touch.
The week I spent with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel left me with an interesting conundrum. As a truly capable, rugged, handsome and comfortable SUV that’s proficient in virtually any task you might throw at it, this thing is great. On the other hand, vehicles like the Volkswagen Touareg TDI Execline with the R-Line package can be had for a few thousand dollars less than the Jeep. The BMW X5 is right in line with the Jeep’s pricing too. Where the Jeep does excel is features and luxury. Though there are competitors from luxury marques that are priced similarly, I don’t think any of them feel quite as upscale as this entry that’s “Imported from Detroit”.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Gallery