The legendary Grand Cherokee is one of the best all-around sport-utility vehicles going; turbo-diesel engine a very interesting option; stoplight-racer SRT has standard launch control and eight-speed transmission for fast getaways.
Turbo-diesel V6 has more torque than a gasoline “Hemi” V8, but base 3.6-liter V6 is perfect for all-around use; optional 360-horse V8 is a towing and heavy-hauling favorite; the SRT8’s 470-horsepower “Hemi” V8 lights a rocket under the Grand Cherokee’s platform, if that’s your thing; eight-speed automatics standard across the board.
Although now well into its fourth generation, the rugged five-passenger Grand Cherokee remains one of the most popular vehicles in its class. To keep it there, Jeep has come up with more than a few mid-life upgrades, both on and below the surface. While GC’s on- and off-road agility is largely attributable to the various suspension components it shares with the Mercedes-Benz ML-class tall wagon (Chrysler was once part of the German automaker), the Jeep is tuned very differently. Under the hood it uses the corporate 290-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 while the 360-horsepower 5.7-liter “Hemi” V8 is optional. However, Jeep reintroduced a turbo-diesel engine in the GC for 2014. Although similar in displacement and output to the last diesel, the 3.0-liter “EcoDiesel” (240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque) is sourced from Italian firm VM Motori rather than Mercedes-Benz. The EcoDiesel can deliver up 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway in rear-drive models, while 4×4 lowers that slightly to 21/28. Part of those savings are attributable to the eight-speed automatic transmission, even in the high-powered SRT8. With a 470-horsepower 6.4-liter “Hemi”, 20-inch wheels with stickier road-biased tires, upgraded brakes, active suspension and active limited-slip differentials that are now re-tuned to send more power to the rear in enthusiastic driving, the SRT is one Jeep that’s as much fun through corners as it is from a standing start. Jeep states the 4,500-pound beast will reach 60 mph in less than five seconds, which is made more repeatable thanks to standard launch control. Other more “normal” GC models — Laredo, Limited, Overland and Summit — are available in either rear- or four-wheel-drive. The Summit is a full-on luxury model that eclipses even the already spangly Overland and includes adaptive high-intensity-discharge headlights and dual exhaust tips, while inside everything is slathered in “Natura Plus” leather, open-pore wood trim, a faux-suede headliner and dual-pane moonroof. The Summit has an 825-watt 19-speaker Harmon Kardon surround-sound system. Most GC’s are ordered with four-wheel-drive, using either Jeep’s Quadra Trac II or Quadra Drive II, which includes Jeep’s Selec-Terrain control with settings for Sand/Mud; Snow; and Rock for off-road terrain plus a Sport setting for dry pavement.