The Jeep diesel is back. Absent from these shores ever since the Grand Cherokee CRD departed at the end of the ’08 model year and went conspicuously absent when the Grand was redesigned for 2011, Jeep has reaffirmed its commitment to diesel in America with the introduction of the 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 sourced from Italian diesel engine builder VM Motori.
This diesel engine is wrapped in the shell of a redesigned ’14 Grand Cherokee (and later this year, the Ram 1500), which is packed full of technology and comfort, as well as updated styling. The new Grand is available in four trims, three engines, two- or four-wheel drive, and with a choice of three transfer cases—and that’s before you consider SRT’s version of the SUV.
The Grand Cherokee has a new face for the ’14 model, with a squattier grille and narrowed
Before we get too far along in our review, let’s hit the basics that most of you are probably chomping at the bit to know: How much? Price for the diesel option will cost you $4,500 on top of any Limited, Overland, or Summit trim level. Currently, the diesel will not be offered on the Laredo, as our understanding is that Jeep is offering the engine at what is essentially cost, which the company makes up for on the premium content of the higher-end trim levels. This puts the least-expensive version of the EcoDiesel-equipped Grand Cherokee at $40,295, which would result in a well-equipped, but option-free, two-wheel drive Limited. For comparison, a basic two-wheel drive, gas Pentastar V-6 Laredo starts at $28,795.
So what do you get for your $4,500? First off, in U.S.-spec trim, the diesel churns out 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, which out-grunts the gas V-6 by 160 lb-ft of torque and the V-8 by a not-insignificant 30 lb-ft of torque. Both gas engines trump the diesel on horsepower, to the tune of 50 hp and 120 hp, respectively. However, the diesel makes up for it with V-8 capability, sporting the same 7,400-pound maximum towing capacity of the V-8, while beating both gas engines in the fuel economy department.
The EPA estimates the diesel 4x2 models to get 22 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway, while 4x4 models take a small hit with a rating of 21 city and 28 highway. We expect real-world fuel economy numbers to be slightly higher and real-world range with the 24.6-gallon fuel tank will be around 700 road-conquering miles. With a unique mix of capability and efficiency, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel resides in the sweet spot between the Pentastar V-6 and Hemi V-8.
No one wants to see what the engine shroud looks like, so we popped it off to give you thi
The engine itself is a thoroughly modern mill, first launched for the ’11 model year. It has been offered and fully tested abroad in both the Grand Cherokee and the Chrysler 300. To date, VM Motori has shipped more than 60,000 of these V-6s to Chrysler.
Like the competitive 3.0L diesels in the marketplace, the EcoDiesel features DOHC, 24 valves, and common-rail injection. However, unlike the 72-degree Mercedes and 90-degree Audi/Porsche 3.0L diesel V-6, the 3.0L VM Motori engine uses a compact 60-degree angle. This, in conjunction with a compacted graphite iron (CGI) block and bedplate (Mercedes uses an aluminum bedplate) is said to make the bottom end of the EcoDiesel extremely strong and light, but with exceptional mechanical characteristics.
The valvetrain benefits from finger-follower actuated valves with hydraulic adjusters and chaindriven camshafts. Because of the unique 1-4-2-5-3-6 firing order, the EcoDiesel is able to deliver smooth power and controlled NVH and forgoes the use of power-robbing balance shafts. Also contributing to the low sound levels and emissions performance are the piezo injectors and common-rail fuel system that is pressurized up to 29,000 psi.
Other features of the EcoDiesel include swirl-control intake ports, a single water-cooled VGT turbocharger, an air-to-air intercooler, and piston-cooling jets. Low-voltage ceramic glow plugs aid fast startup in cold weather. On the emissions front, the EcoDiesel has what you’d expect from any other 50-state legal diesel on the market today, including water-cooled EGR, SCR, and DPF. The EcoDiesel is also rated for B5 fuel compatibility.
Conveniently, the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank holds 8 gallons of fluid and is accessed through the fuel door, not the interior, as in some of the European competition. Also, the expected 10,000-mile range of the urea tank was designed to coincide with the 10,000-mile service interval of the engine, making the transition of adding another maintenance fluid easier on the consumer.
While the engine is similar to the one used for European markets, the U.S.-spec version does have some differences. The injection system on the U.S. engine is more robust than the European engine to deal with lower fuel lubricity, and it adds a few sensors for OBDII compliance. Both engines have the same torque output, but the Euro version gets 7 additional horsepower.
Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system makes using the four-wheel-drive system as easy as choosing yo
Regardless of the engine, all ’14 Grand Cherokees are equipped with the new eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, which aids in fuel economy and has a wide-ratio spread, a low First gear, and aggressive torque converter lock-up. The quick-shifting gearbox features Electronic Rage Select and manual-shifting capability via easily reached steering wheel paddles. With more than 40 different shift maps, the transmission adapts to driving situations on the fly to deliver optimum gear selection and shift performance for the current driving situation.
While the EcoDiesel may be the big news for ’14, it isn’t the only thing that has changed with the Grand. Known internally as the WK2, the ’14 version benefits from a few external styling tweaks that include new front and rear fascias and distinctive LED lighting. Laredo, Limited, and Overland trim levels have removable front air dams to increase off-highway approach angles, while Summit models get a fixed bumper cover that is reminiscent of the SRT Grand’s more sporty face. Redesigned 17-, 18-, and 20-inch wheels round out the external changes.
Also revised is the Grand’s luxurious interior, which now has an 8.4-inch touchscreen in t
One area of the Grand Cherokee that needed no attention was the exceptional interior, yet Jeep made a point to freshen it up anyway. The center stack is all new and houses an updated switchgear and an optional 8.4-inch touchscreen display. A new instrument cluster replaces the traditional analog speedometer with a configurable 5-inch TFT multifunction display, and Jeep makes copious use of soft-touch materials throughout the cabin. Still available on Overland and Summit models is a leather-wrapped dash, while the Summit takes opulence to an all-new level with a suede-like headliner.
Depending on the trim level, new interior color schemes are richer, with contrasting piping and real open-pore wood—a departure from the shiny lacquer of most vehicles. New, richer color combinations include Morocco (monotone Black interior, gold-hued metallic accents, Miknasa Walnut trim), New Zealand (two-toned Black and Light Frost interior, Nador Brown Walnut trim), and Vesuvius (Jeep Brown and Indigo Blue interior, brown Zebrano trim).
The Grand’s rear seats have ample space and even recline, while the cargo area is expansiv
Jeep also made sure the Grand was up to date with the latest technology, including the most recent version of Uconnect, which is cellular-supported and can give one-touch 9-1-1 dialing, or turn the interior of the Grand Cherokee into a rolling Wi-Fi hotspot. The Grand is capable of running popular apps, such as Pandora, iHeart Radio, and Slacker, and the navigation system has also been upgraded to include 3D mapping. The Grand can even read and reply to text messages when paired with a phone that uses Message Access Protocol.
All models, except for the Summit, have a removable lower bumper fascia to aid in off-road
As Jeep has always been known for off-pavement prowess, the ’14 Grand continues this tradition. For starters, the crawl ratio is now a 46-percent-lower 44:1 and when matched with the diesel, has the grunt to crawl over just about anything. For those planning on taking the trail less traveled, we highly recommend the available Off-Road Adventure II package. When checking off this box, the Grand is equipped with 18-inch wheels, full skid plating, and the excellent Quadra-Drive II four-wheel-drive system.
Quadra-Drive II uses an active full-time transfer case with an electronically controlled clutch pack and axles with a rear electronic limited-slip differential. This advanced four-wheel-drive system has the ability to transfer power to the wheel with the most amount of traction, ensuring the Grand never loses forward progress. Quadra-Drive II is matched with Quadra-Lift air suspension and can lower at highway speeds for improved aerodynamics, or lift up for increased ground clearance. From the lowest of the five settings to the highest, Quadra-Lift has a range of more than 4 inches. At the tallest setting, the Grand sports a 35.8-degree approach angle, a 23.5-degree breakover angle, and a 29.6-degree departure angle.
Also part of the package is Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system, which takes the guesswork out of how to configure the Jeep’s various settings. Simply choose between Sand, Mud, Auto, Snow, and Rock, and the Grand Cherokee will tailor all the important chassis settings for you. Of course, for those who want more control, the driver still has the ability to make adjustments.
Another new feature for 2014 is Jeep’s new Selec-Speed Control. Building off Jeep’s already impressive Hill Descent Control, Selec-Speed not only allows speed-limited hill descents but also incorporates the ability to ascend steep terrain with minimal driver input, making challenging terrain easier on less-experienced drivers. Think of it as cruise control for the trail, and you won’t be far off.
The EcoDiesel starts up easily and quickly settles into a distinctive diesel lope that is audible, but not intrusive. Whereas the Porsche Cayenne Diesel is so quiet it’s hard to know what’s under the hood, the Jeep sounds a little bit prouder about what it’s packing. To the diesel enthusiast in us, we think it’s great that the wonderful diesel sounds haven’t been completely neutered in the Grand Cherokee.
With 420 lb-ft of torque on tap, the Grand feels great around town, effortlessly launching off the limit lines and providing plenty of punch down low. Once underway, the Grand is quiet and poised as the EcoDiesel loafs along, feeling right at home between 65 and 85 mph. However, when passing is called for, the eight-speed automatic has the right gear in its repertoire and allows the diesel to spin all the way to its 4,500-rpm redline, building the necessary speed to overtake slower traffic with ease. Although the sensation of quickness disappears the faster you go, the needle sweeping by numbers on the speedo tells a different story. The smoothness of the engine and quality of the chassis just don’t transfer much sensation of how fast you are going, so those with a penchant for speeding tickets beware.
After a short day of driving in and around the Texas hill country, our initial impressions of the EcoDiesel were everything we thought they would be: quick, refined, and fuel-efficient. It’s good enough that we were left wondering why anyone would choose either of the other engines, unless one likes the sportier nature of the lighter Pentastar V-6-equipped Grand, or wants the sound and outright speed of the Hemi V-8. Capability-wise, the diesel wins against both engines, while serving up better fuel efficiency than either. In city driving, expect about a 10-mpg improvement over the Hemi, which does a lot to make the $4,500 entry price seem that much more reasonable.
Goals For Success
Jeep won’t tell us what percentage of sales the EcoDiesel would need to meet in order for it to be considered a success, but the company maintains that a strong business case exists, and we believe them. The original ’08 to ’09 Grand Cherokee CRD sold about 3 to 4 percent of the Grand mix without any marketing support, and today’s consumer climate is much more favorable to diesel models. Our conservative estimate is that the EcoDiesel will command 15 to 20 percent of the new Grand Cherokee mix, which will be available in showrooms by the time you read this.
Diesel has finally returned to the American SUV, and it is only appropriate that Jeep is the brand to carry that torch once again. If diesel buyers are as impressed with the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel as we are, know that a Wrangler EcoDiesel won’t be far behind.
Vehicle model: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel
Base price: $40,295
Engine type: 3.0L 60-degree V-6
Valvetrain: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Aspiration: Turbocharged, single VGT
Mfg.’s hp at rpm: 240 hp at 3,600 rpm
Mfg.’s torque at rpm: 420 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed ZF automatic
Axle ratio: 3.45:1
Suspension (f/r): Independent, short- and long-arm with air springs/Independent, multi-link with air springs
Steering: Electro-hydraulic rack and pinion
Brakes (f/r): 12.9x1.2-inch vented rotors, twin-piston caliper/12.6x0.55-inch solid disc, single-piston caliper
Wheels/Tires: 20x8-inch aluminum, P265/50R20
Curb weight: 5,065 pounds (2WD), 5,275 pounds (4WD)
Max payload capacity: 1,311 to 1,723 pounds (est.)
Max towing capacity: 7,400 pounds
Fuel capacity: 24.6 gallons
DEF capacity: 8 gallons
EPA city/hwy mileage estimates: 22/30 mpg (2WD), 21/28 mpg (4WD)