SUV Review: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Summit

Overview Diesel power returns to Jeep’s flagship off-roader
Pros Frugal and torque-rich diesel; class-leading off-road capabilities; luxury sedan-like on-road manners.
Cons The super luxurious Summit Grand Cherokee will likely never leave a paved road.
What would I change? Make the diesel available at lower trim levels.

CALABOGIE, Ont. — Real off-roaders will tell you: it’s torque, not horsepower that will get you out of the mud or over a boulder. So those who take their SUVs off-road will be happy to see the return of diesel power to the very off-road capable Jeep Grand Cherokee after a six-year absence.

Already flush with an available six-cylinder and a pair of eight-cylinder gas engines, Fiat-Chrysler’s Jeep brand has added a turbocharged diesel mill — branded EcoDiesel — to its mid-size, five-passenger, four-door sports utility vehicle’s engine menu. It’s part of a thorough refresh for 2014 that also includes updates to the Jeep’s interior, a new transmission, more towing capacity and improved all-around drivability to the current, fourth-generation model that’s been around since 2010.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Summit

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Summit
John LeBlanc, Driving

2014 Grand Cherokees start with the $41,690 (all prices include freight and pre-delivery inspection fees) Laredo with its 290-horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque six-cylinder gas engine. The diesel, though, can only be had on the mid-range $49,890 Limited trim level as a $4,995 option.

While over $53k may seem like a lot for a vehicle with a Jeep badge, keep in mind, rival diesel-powered luxury SUVs — like the $66,585 BMW X5 xDrive35d, $64,515 Mercedes-Benz ML 350 BlueTec and $56,885 Volkswagen Touareg TDI — are tens of thousands of dollars more expensive when comparably equipped. My Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel tester was specced with the topline $65,040 Summit trim level. Add the diesel engine, $195 metallic paint and $225 CD Player, and the total for my Jeep came to $70,455.

Rated at 240, the EcoDiesel’s horsepower is not the engine’s bragging point. But the robust 420 lb.-ft. of torque — 30 more than the Jeep’s 5.7 L V8 — definitely is. Mated to the Grand Cherokee’s standard-and-new-this-year eight-speed automatic transmission, the diesel’s immediate torque (available at a low, low 2,000 rpm) is not only felt right off the line, but also during passing manoeuvers on the highway.

There's plenty of torque on hand (420 lb.-ft. to be exact) in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel's 240-horsepower, 3.0 DOHC six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine.

There’s plenty of torque on hand (420 lb.-ft. to be exact) in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel’s 240-horsepower, 3.0 DOHC six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine.
John LeBlanc, Driving

The diesel engine is also felt when it comes time to fill up. While rated at 9.8 litres per 100 kilometres city and 7.0 highway, after a week of urban, highway and un-paved road driving, I saw an average of 9.9 L/100 km in the Jeep diesel — or about a 30% improvement over a 5.7 L V8 Grand Cherokee I previously drove.

While the basic goodness of the Jeep Grand Cherokee has only been improved upon with the 2014 models, the addition of the new diesel engine is a real boon, not only for on-road fuel economy gains, but also for off-roading fun.

Fiat-Chrysler people admit that few Jeep owners take their vehicles off-road. But they should, because as refined as the Grand Cherokee can be on pavement, it’s a beast off the beaten track, proven by a morning I spent rolling around a gravel pit adjacent to Calabogie Motorsports Park.

Grand Cherokee Laredos start with the full-time, all-wheel-drive Quadra-Trac I system. Optional on Limited and Overland models but standard on the Summit is the Quadra-Drive II system that comes standard with Selec-Terrain and offers an electronic-slip differential and a two-speed transfer case. Summit Grand Cherokees also get the Quadra-Lift air suspension that can raise or lower the Jeep to five different heights.

Inside the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Summit, occupants are cosseted in climate-controlled, leather-lined comfort.

Inside the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Summit, occupants are cosseted in climate-controlled, leather-lined comfort.
John LeBlanc, Driving

Similar to Land Rover’s Terrain Response, Jeep’s Selec-Terrain allows the driver to choose five different drive surfaces via a console-mounted dial. Married to the stability and traction control systems, 12 different settings for power, throttle, braking and transmission adapt to either on- or off-road conditions. Select Park mode, and the Jeep squats down 38 millimetres. But for my off-roading trial, I picked Off-Road 2, which raised the Grand Cherokee’s ride height by 270 mm.

Even with the extra ride height, the Wrangler is Jeep’s most-capable off-roader. Period. But compared to its rivals, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Summit would be my choice if I partook in any serious off-roading.

During my few hours tooling around the track’s gravel pit, the big and luxurious Jeep acquitted itself amazingly well on slippery rocks and easily climbed and descended steep hills using its hill-descent and hill-ascent controls (not available in a Wrangler, by the way). The immediate punch from the diesel also helped navigate some of the pit’s steeper inclines. And the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters allowed for easy gear changes when necessary.

All the while, I was surrounded in climate-controlled comfort, listening to my favourite satellite radio station and feeling quite confident the Jeep’s off-road capabilities were in no way being maxed-out. And once I was done mucking around in the gravel pit, I simply reset the Grand Cherokee’s various controls back to their on-road settings and enjoyed a luxury sedan-like drive back home to Ottawa.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Summit

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Summit
John LeBlanc, Driving

The Specs

Type of vehicle Mid-size sports utility vehicle
Engine 3.0 DOHC six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine
Power 240 hp @ 3,600 rpm, 420 lb.-ft. @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission Eight-speed automatic transmission
Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires P265/50R20
Price (base/as tested) $62,445/$37,750
Destination charge $1,695
Natural Resources Canada fuel economy (L/100 km) 9.8 city, 7.0 highway, 9.9 as tested
Standard features Leather seating; front and rear heated seats; cruise control; power locks; remote keyless entry; power windows; power mirrors; power tilt/telescopic steering wheel; power sunroof; voice-activated navigation system; and more.
Options $4,995 EcoDiesel engine; $195 metallic paint; $225 CD Player

About John LeBlanc