2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee gets improved engine, interior for best ever model year

Off-road, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee remains one Off-road, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee remains one of the most capable all-terrain-vehicles ever made -- not that 99 percent of Grand Cherokee owners will ever experience this. Photo Credit: Cars.com

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Chrysler's 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee pretty much saved the company's bacon as it struggled to pull itself out of a demoralizing bankruptcy. Now Jeep is presenting a refreshed 2014 Grand Cherokee even as the old one is still propelling the brand to record sales numbers, and the problem is this: How do you improve on what is already a good thing?

The 2014 Grand Cherokee is a subtle refresh, with money spent simply on what needed improvement, and the result is now one of the best vehicles Jeep has ever made.

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    I tested multiple trim levels and all four available engines, including the high-performance SRT Grand Cherokee.

    More Power, More Choices

    The biggest changes to the 2014 Grand Cherokee over the previous model are mechanical. Two engines are carried over from 2013: a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 making 290 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque and a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 pumping out 360 hp and 390 pounds-feet of torque. Now added to the mix is a new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6, making only 240 hp but churning out a huge 420 pounds-feet of torque. All engines are now teamed with Chrysler's increasingly common eight-speed automatic transmission, replacing the earlier six-speed. Both the EcoDiesel and the Hemi are tow-rated to 7,200 pounds in 4x4 versions or 7,400 pounds with rear-wheel drive, but the diesel's advantage will be fuel economy. Preliminary estimates put Hemi mileage at 14/22 mpg city/highway (4x2) and 14/20 mpg (4x4), but the diesel is expected to turn in a stunning 22/30 mpg (4x2) and 21/28 mpg (4x4) with a range of more than 730 miles.

    As with the current Grand Cherokee, the 2014 model boasts three optional four-wheel-drive systems, an available adjustable air suspension and a traction management system. Quadra-Trac I provides full-time all-wheel drive; Quadra-Trac II adds a two-speed transfer case with a low range; and Quadra-Drive II builds on that by adding an electronic limited-slip differential. The Quadra-Lift air suspension raises the Grand Cherokee's ground clearance by 3.9 inches from its normal height to 11.3 inches for off-road use or down 0.6 inch for high-speed aerodynamic improvement. It can come down another full inch when parked to allow easier entry, exit and loading.

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    The Selec-Terrain system has five driver-selectable terrain modes that correspond to potential conditions: Sand, Mud, Auto, Snow or Rock. Each electronically activates the appropriate combination of 12 different powertrain, brake and suspension settings to optimize traction and ground clearance.

    How It Goes, Stops and Climbs