Elegant Beast Arrives To Save the Day
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel arrived with perfect timing, like some superhero swooping in to rescue a damsel in distress. Well, I’m not really completely comfortable with that analogy, but the arrival of the EcoDiesel coincided with one of the worst storms of the decade hitting Northern California. It actually made me feel like a superhero. I found myself looking for rivers to ford, or at least flooded roadways to navigate. I wouldn’t have been phased with a mudslide or two, but, alas, didn’t encounter any of those either. A few downed branches and plenty of rain was all I had to challenge the Jeep. It laughed and motored on.
Jeep’s reputation precedes any vehicle with that nameplate and a seven-bar grille, so even though its almost 60 grand price tag belies the division’s rugged off-road roots, it should come as no
Ready for any storm
surprise that the Grand Cherokee Summit 4×4 exuded confidence in inclement weather.
So, here’s a slight diversion on the price of this elegant beast. The base price for a Grand Cherokee is slightly higher than $30,000, but that’s for a two-wheel-drive model, which, of course, does not qualify as a real Jeep. The diesel is only available in higher trim level models like the Summit we tested, so the torque and fuel economy will take you above $50,000 on the Monroney. It was the Blu-Ray entertainment center that boosted our models price up a bit, so there are savings to be had.
Diesel Engines Brings Along More Equipment
The EcoDiesel package is a $4,500 option that includes a heavy-duty battery, electronic limited-slip rear differential, anti-lock four-wheel disc heavy-duty brakes, a selectic catalytic reduction aftertreatment system and a unique EcoDiesel badge. There’s nothing bad or superfluous in that group, other than the badge, and the diesel rumble will do the job to announce the powerplant in your vehicle on arrival. And a 30 mpg highway tag is a nice touch, too, particulary for a vehicle of this size and heft.
Power and fuel economy in a spiffy package
But back to the car. The price tag may be a little steep, but it’s not out of line among its SUV compatriots, particular those with a pedigree approaching Jeep’s (which would be basically Land Rover—everyone else may be capable, but they haven’t won a war lately).
The array of equipment designed to deal with those environmental catastrophies I never encountered is vase. Start with Quadra-Trac II (or Quadra-Drive II, Jeep seems to use the terms interchangeably), one of Jeep’s classic four-wheel drive systems. Add Selec-Terrain, which dials in the vehicle’s transfer case and front and rear differentials for the type of landscape you’re engaging, i.e., auto (the wimp’s way out—let the Jeep decide), snow, rock, sand/mud and sport (not really a terrain, but a way to kick the rear wheel drive punch of the grand Cherokee into gear and move on quickly). The rotary dial still seems a bit non-traditional, but since it’s all electronically driven, it makes sense. And it works.
Jeep Moves Beyond Its Rustic Roots
Jeep has moved well beyond its rustic roots and the Grand Cherokee is the epitome of that movement. While the original CJ was pretty bare-bones when it came to technology of any sort, this Grand Cherokee has all the latest tech, from a rear-view camera, park assist, blind spot and rear cross path detection, forward collision warning w/crash mitigation, hill start assist (it is a Jeep after all so you’ll be starting on some hills) and a 8.4-inch touch screen display. Along with that, this Jeep has Chrysler’s Uconnect system, which does work as advertised, integrated voice
The most upscale Jeep
commands with Bluetooth connections.
The comfort level is light years beyond those old Jeeps, or even the Jeeps of a few decades ago. This model had remote start with heated eight-way adjustable drive and passenger seats (and the second row is heated, too!) and steering wheel. So there are no excuses about braving the winter weather. The wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel, which is a nice touch of luxury, includes paddle shifters. Finally, the massive interior space can be filled with the 19-speaker premium sound system.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel features nine airbags and an array of safety technology, including Electronic Stability control (ESC), Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM), an Antilock Brake System (ABS) and All-speed Traction Control. The supple suspension soaks up bumps and its responsive steering delivered a sense of total control.
Filling out the option sheet are some nice-to-have features such as 20-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, fog lamps and rain-sensitive windshield wipers.
Jeep has a fairly standard warranty package:
5-year, 100,000-mile Powertrain
3-year 36,000 Basic
5-year, 100,000-mile Roadside Assistance
It also boasts a 5-star safety rating.
So the Jeep Grand Cherokee arrived to save the day during the worst winter storm of the season. It didn’t even seem like a challenge for this solid player. The suburban challenges of rain and wind didn’t faze the Jeep. If anything, it overpowered everything the weather threw its way.
It’s not really downhill from here
The fuel economy from the power-laden diesel was as advertised. It wasn’t a challenge to keep the mpg in the high 20s, although the torque from the engine did encourage some aggressive driving.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel is the poster child for American off-roading (or pseudo-off-roading in most cases). It’s big, puts its driver and passenger up high with a commanding view of the road, has plenty of power and technical prowess. It’s so American it should come wrapped in the stars and stripes.
Then you read the federally mandated window label two items jump out immediately.
Country of Origin: Engine – Italy
Country of Origin: Transmission – Germany
It might be a little disconcerting, but then you see:
Final assembly – Detroit, MI
All is as it should be. I don’t mean to make too much of this since Jeep has passed in ownership from French and those two countries the Jeep helped defeat during WWII during the past three
Look Close-the history’s still there
decades. All the while, it remains true to its roots as a potent off-roader that has now graduated to a near-luxury vehicle packed with advanced technology. The EcoDiesel package takes it into a new realm of efficiency and, while pricey, delivers on its promises with power as well as fuel economy. The Grand Cherokee remains the benchmark for this category of SUVs.
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Fuel Cells, Electric Motors Join Gas & Diesel Engines
It’s a whole new world. WardsAuto World has been calling out the 10 Best Engines for 20 years. The list has been dominated by the basic internal combustion engine configurations—V8s, sixes and fours, usually fueled by gasoline. During the past decade, hybrid-electric and diesel engines have joined the crowd and a few electric powertrains have been honored. But 2015 looks like a watershed—two traditional (though very modern) and very powerful V8s were picked along with a turbodiesel V6, three four-cylinders (including one in a boxer configuration), two three-cylinders, an electric motor and, for the first time, a fuel cell powerplant.
Wards may be fast-approaching the point where they will need to rename the award and drop the “engine” moniker. Traditionally, electric motors are not described as engines and fuel cell
Hyundai’s fuel cell electric takes a prize
“powerplants” are really electrochemical reactors designed to create the electricity to run the electric motors found in fuel cell cars.
The bigger import of this year’s 10 Best Engines is its reflection of the diversity of choices the American consumer now faces in the showroom. No longer is the choice between bigger or smaller engines with a commensurate amount of horsepower. Small, turbocharged engines now offer power as impressive as much larger ones, but with the added benefit of excellent fuel economy. Even big gas engines like the two V8s picked this year deliver 20+ mpg highway miles (along with up to 700+ horsepower!). Diesels don’t smoke any more, but continue to offer great torque and significant fuel economy improvements compared to similar-sized gasoline engines. A variety of hybrid powertrains are now joined by pure electric motors capable to head-snapping acceleration without using any petroleum. Finally, fuel cells have entered the mix and because of their technological achievements are likely to make regular appearances in Ward’s lineup.
Here’s a list of this year’s winners with some key notes are their significance:
- Hyundai’s fuel cell. Ward’s may be rewarding Hyundai for its aggressive marketing as much as its technology, but fuel cells are remarkable machines, taking in hydrogen, creating the electricity to run the Tucson for more than 250 miles and emitting water vapor out of the tailpipe. I suspect next year we may see another fuel cell “engine” from Toyota, Honda or maybe Mercedes in the mix.
- BMW’s ground-breaking i3 electric motor. While the motor is impressive, BMW also may be singled out for the package it comes in as well. We just road-tested the i3 and the motor
BMW’s electric is among the 10 best engines
may be the most BMW part of that package.
- Ford Fiesta’s 1-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Well, now we’ve moved back to the traditional engine, except in a tiny three-cylinder configuration, something previous to this decade relegated to loss-leader econoboxes, East European machines of dubious quality and motorcycles. They’ve grown up now, not in size, but sophistication. The Fiesta engine is a great representative of the genre; we’ll have a road test of it coming up soon, but we can give you a hint—it really works great.
- Mini’s 1.5-liter turbocharged three–cylinder engine. Minihas a reputation to keep up as a “fun” car, so it took three cylinders and made them fun and
Small but mighty
powerful enough to keep up the Mini tradition while also delivering more than 30 mpg.
- Subaru’s 2-liter turbocharged boxer four in the WRX. Subaru’s engine may be a fairly traditional four-cylinder but its configuration is not traditional at all. The boxer format, usually only found in high-end sports cars, helps the engine to crank out excellent horsepower while still delivering good fuel economy.
- Volvo’s 1.8-liter turbo four found in the S60. The Wards editors found the power output and fuel economy of this engine exceptional. It stood out from among the 15 turbocharged four-cylinder engines considered for this year’s awards.
- Volkswagen’s 1.8-liter TSI turbo four found in the Golf. This engine is the poster child for the advancement of gasoline-fueled engines in their quest to try to emulate the efficiency of diesels. Since VW is one of the world leaders in diesels, it looks like they have done quite a job of applying some of the technological advances from compression-ignition engines to the spark world of gasoline, with a trifecta of great results in power, fuel efficiency and emissions. We’ve driven this engine and it gives no quarter to any of its challengers.
- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ turbodiesel 3-liter V6 found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 pickup. Last year Wards had three diesels among its final 10; this year one made the cut, but it’s one that’s tearing things up. We’ve been in the Jeep powered by this powerful but fuel-sipping engine and we’ll have the test up soon. Suffice it to say, it deserves its place in the group.
- Corvette’s 6.2-liter V8. What can you say? Here’s a push-rod V8 cranking out 455 horsepower and still delivering more than 21 mpg on the highway. Where’s the sacrifice? Where’s the
Torque & fuel economy is the diesel’s forte
pain at the pump that comes with exotic-car level performance. It’s so last century, GM seems to be saying. I’ve driven this car with the seven-speed manual and it’s a blast—not Clean Fleet Report material, but plenty of fun.
- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ V8 found in the Hellcat Dodge Challengers and Chargers. Does anyone really need 707 horsepower or a 204 mph top speed? Of course not! But is it a fun challenge for a mass market car company to crank out a car or two with an engine packing those performance stats? Not even a rhetorical question. This supercharged V8 takes an already potent Hemi engine and changes up to 90 percent of its components and software to boost its performance up into the stratosphere. Oh, but did we mention this engine also delivers 22 mpg highway if you lay off the throttle? Such is the way of performance in the 21st
It’s quite a group and one that is likely the forerunner of many to come with a variety of different powertrains all delivering the delicate combination of power and fuel economy that consumers demand. We at Clean Fleet Report think the quest for best ways to move a car down the road is going to continue to turn up great new technologies and we look forward to reporting on those as they arrive on the scene.
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