2014 Earth Aware Vehicle Buyer's Guide
Featuring Top 10 Green SUVs & CUVs
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Eco-Diesel Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
Road & Travel Magazine's Top 10 Picks
Pity the poor diesel. Here are these great, fuel efficient vehicles with long-lasting, hard-working engines and plenty of grunt and panache that regularly ply the narrow streets and Autobahns of Europe. And so many Americans -- by habit or perhaps bad memory or repute -- just give them a routine thumbs down. That may change as word gets out about the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel green sport utility vehicle.
There's a little (OK a lot) of Euro influence in this latest generation of the classic Americana staple. And one with an Italian accent at that. (For those uninitiated, Italian automaker Fiat now owns a big chunk of Jeep's parent Chrysler, a relationship that doesn't appear to do anything but make us smile -- so far.)
So despite its Yankee roots, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel is a good example of transplanting something worth transplanting. Capiche?
Anyone who's driven, or ridden, in the latest Grand Cherokee version as we recently did on the test tracks at Chrysler's Proving Ground in Michigan, will appreciate the feel, the function, the flow of the most sophisticated of Jeeps ever in the lineup. A sleeker, less Jeepy (AKA dirty from the trenches) handsome stud in classy fittings sits poised to take on toned, more sophisticated duties once the thrill of the gutsy trail ride is over. The fact we haven't mentioned mileage until this point (more in a minute) illustrates we can have fun in our wheels without that overwhelming sense of guilt, or empty wallet syndrome (at the fueling pump). And isn't still savoring the ride a big part of the going green battle?
From the outside, the eco-friendly Grand Cherokee is still distinctly Jeep, with its requisite seven-slot nose (contemporized), yet with a hungry air intake and more aerodynamic body than we recall on a Jeep, and a nice, high beltline adding a splash of dash to the overall structure. A slight, high-mounted rear spoiler and dual exhausts (check out the top-line Summit) suggest we should have plenty of express road time built into our travel plans. We think this is one model that should live in neighborly comfort with that Audi Q5 or Cadillac Escalade in the suburban garage next door, even when start up exudes a muted diesel purr.
Inside expect a well-appointed cabin designed to sooth, excite and accommodate all at the same time, the necessary credentials of any worthwhile premium sport utility these days. That includes leather, handsome, sensibly laid-out dash with navigation system, high tech connectivity and a sporty, three spoke steering wheel heavily loaded with the expected function buttons including paddle shifters.
When we get to the underpinnings, that's where our attempt at an Italian accent comes in handy. Despite Jeep's American name and heritage, going diesel in this instance brought in some Continental influence in guise of Fiat's grunt-worthy, long-loping 3.0-liter, V-6 diesel powerplant, manufactured by and imported from Fiat's Italian subsidiary VM Motori. That adds up to 240-horsepower and an astounding 420-lb. ft. of torque, meant to leave no prisoners in its off-road/on-road scrambles that, according to Jeep, can accommodate a 7,400-pound towing assignment or trail ready off-road duties. Preliminary 4X2 mileage ratings clock in at 22 city/30 highway, with a boost from the industry leading, obstacle melting ZF eight-speed automatic transmission inside. The requisite 4X4 drive for those true off-roaders ekes out 21 city and 28 highway miles.
With autos now embracing clean, green diesel technology, the old specter of a smoke billowing clunker is fading as fast as a semi in the rear view mirror struggling up a mountain side. As with all clean diesels, the secret ingredient is a slight misting of urea sprayed on exhaust to lower CO2 emissions, by toning down nitrous oxide and particulates that could escape into the atmosphere without it and that makes it possible for diesels to join the green revolution in the U.S. It's also an ingredient that requires a (mandatory, not optional) periodic refill when the spritzer well runs dry. No one has yet figured out a substitute for that sometimes maligned substance, so expect a stop every 10K-20K miles or so to have that little tank topped off. Fortunately that's not a big ticket item.
If you plan to go for the green (diesel) gas station pump in a Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel, remember there's a one-time penalty for doing so in terms of the initial cost of $4,500 over the Limited 4X2 V-6 gas model's $35,795 base price excluding $995 in destination charges.
Going upmodel can run that up several thousand. But, once the initial sticker shocks wears off, there are fewer stops for fill-ups, a promised 730 miles of uninterrupted driving and the expectation of kicking off the odometer at all zeros at least twice, maybe thrice. Even by themselves, those bonuses have to be a psychological advantage.
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