Among midsize SUVs, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the most versatile models on the market. As one would expect of a proper Jeep, the Grand Cherokee's off-roading abilities are exceptional, while an inviting interior and a platform co-developed with Mercedes-Benz give it the daily-driving refinement of a more expensive luxury vehicle.
The Grand Cherokee received a fairly thorough overhaul for the latest model year. While there may not be many outward signs of change, there were quite a few upgrades under the metal. Most notably, all gasoline-powered Grand Cherokee models received improvements that bumped fuel economy. Exact figures are not yet available.
Outside, the Grand Cherokee's well-balanced proportions, muscular wheel arches and chiseled character lines remain, but many details are new as part of the refresh. The front end has been redesigned for a softer look: a revised bumper slopes upward towards the front corners of the 'ute, and Jeep's familiar seven-slot grille is surrounded by a new body panel that extends under the headlights.
Other changes include a restyled lower fascia on both ends and new headlights with LED running lights. Around back are new LED taillights and a mildly refreshed tailgate. Jeep has gone to great lengths to differentiate the five different trim levels, with each now wearing a unique grille and lower front fascia.
The story is similar inside, with the overall architecture - including premium materials and an elegant design - staying the same. However, all models get a new three-spoke steering wheel and a redesigned gauge cluster that includes a configurable 7-inch LCD screen.
The Grand Cherokee's center stack benefits from either a 5- or an 8.4-inch touchscreen depending on the trim level. A new multimedia input includes a USB port, a SD card slot and an auxiliary jack, while a 12-volt outlet lets passengers charge mobile devices.
With 35.1 cubic feet of stowage space behind the rear seats, the Grand Cherokee has plenty of room for cargo; if that isn't enough, it can tow up to 7,400 pounds of extra gear when properly equipped.
New to the Grand Cherokee for the latest model year is the availability of Chrysler's Uconnect Access infotainment system (for a complete description of Uconnect Access, check out Leftlane's Spotlight On: Uconnect in-depth article).
Generally regarded as one of the more user-friendly infotainment setups on the market, Uconnect Access integrates most of the truck's audio, navigation and climate control functions into one unit. An 8.4-inch touchscreen mounted on the dashboard is the central component of the system, but redundant buttons and knobs for climate and audio volume and tuning are also included.
Uconnect Access features a voice command system that allows the driver to place phone calls, use the sound system, input navigation destinations and more without taking his or her hands off the wheel. Other notable aspects of the system include the ability to function as a Wi-Fi hotspot over a 3G network - for an additional monthly fee - and downloadable applications such as Bing search.
Jeep vehicles have a reputation to uphold in regard to off-road prowess, and the Grand Cherokee doesn't disappoint thanks to a Quadra-Lift suspension system that adds up to 4.5 inches of ride height. This nifty trick is accomplished by four-corner air springs that can also lower the truck to provide a cushioned, premium ride and better handling when the truck is on the pavement. Quadra-Lift operates automatically, or may be controlled manually via console controls.
Another aspect of this Jeep's off-road arsenal is a Selec-Terrain system, which allows the driver to configure the drivetrain and traction control system to best match the driving conditions (whether the vehicle is on or off the road).
For the latest model year, the Grand Cherokee benefits from several changes under the hood, with the most notable being the addition of a potent yet economical diesel engine to the options list and a new eight-speed automatic that serves as the standard gearbox across the line.
The oil-burning mill is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that produces 240 horsepower and a whopping 420 lb-ft of torque. Despite that power, it manages to return 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway in rear-wheel-drive form; opting for four-wheel-drive reduces mileage slightly to 20/28 city/highway mpg.
Buyers who prefer gasoline-burning engines can pick between a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that makes 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque and a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 that delivers 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft. of torque. The eight-cylinder comes standard with Chrysler's cylinder deactivation system.
All V6 models now feature automatic stop/start tech to reduce fuel consumption around town. Fuel economy figures for the upgraded engines will be certified later this year.
Regardless of engine selection, all 2014 Grand Cherokees come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be controlled by shift paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Grand Cherokee is offered in Laredo, Limited, Overland and Summit trim levels.
The entry-level Laredo comes standard with A/C, power windows and locks, cloth upholstery, manually-adjustable seats, an AM/FM/CD sound system with steering wheel mounted controls, fog lamps, automatic headlights, power heated exterior mirrors and 17-inch cast aluminum wheels.
The Limited trim brings leather upholstery, a navigation system, 6.5-inch touchscreen and a 40GB hard drive. dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front and rear seats, a nine-speaker, 506-watt sound system, remote start, a rear backup camera, a dual-pane sunroof, chrome exterior elements, bi-xenon headlights with an auto-leveling function and 18-inch polished aluminum wheels.
The Overland features premium Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power liftgate, a stitched leather instrument panel and 20-inch painted-aluminum wheels.
The Overland is also now available with a "High Altitude" package which includes unique exterior upgrades (dark chrome grille rings, dark chrome lower front and rear fascias, dark chrome fog- and tail-lamp bezels, gloss black HID headlamp finishes, black exhaust tips and black-finished 20-inch wheels) with a sport-tuned suspension and a host of interior upgrades (Nappa leather seating surfaces, black accent stitching, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a silver anodized instrument panel and bright silver pedal trim).
Finally, the range-topping Summit brings adaptive cruise control, a forward collision warning system, blind sport monitoring and rear path detection, front parking sensors, power-folding exterior mirrors, headlight washers, Jeep's Active Noise Cancellation system and an acoustic laminated windshield.
Standard safety features include Electronic Stability Control, Electronic Roll Mitigation , four-wheel ABS with rough-road detection and a four-wheel Brake Traction Control System. Other safety tech includes full-length side-curtain air bags which extend protection to front and rear outboard passengers, seat-mounted side thorax air bags that enhance protection for the driver and front passenger and active head restraints which deploy in the event of a rear collision.
Grand Cherokee buyers can choose from a wide selection of safety-oriented options including a lane departure warning system, Chrysler's Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation and an ecall system. Similar to General Motors' OnStar, ecall allows the occupants to dial 911, report a crash and get roadside assistance at the touch of a button.
Thinking about the Grand Cherokee because of its off-road abilities? In that case, the rugged Toyota 4Runner also merits consideration. If you're just looking for a tall vehicle with a decent amount of features and cargo space, check out the Nissan Murano, the Ford Explorer and the Honda Pilot.