Full Review from CR:
Something of a Swiss Army Knife among midsized SUVs, the Grand Cherokee is a versatile, well-rounded vehicle. When properly equipped, it is capable on or off road, and it makes a good choice for trailer towing. The ride is comfortable and the interior is quiet and well finished.
A 2014 freshening brought a significant boost to the Grand Cherokee's road-test score. Improved controls, better fit and finish, and a new eight-speed automatic, which improves performance, are high points of this update. Unfortunately, the transmission does nothing to improve overall fuel economy on the V6 version we tested.
What sets the Jeep flagship SUV apart from its competition is the wide range of powertrains and available trim levels. Those choices can make it anything from a comfortable suburban errand runner to a sure-footed off-road vehicle. Buyers can choose from V6 and V8 gasoline engines or a new diesel, rear or all-wheel drive, and six trim levels to suit their needs. The key is to weigh those options carefully before signing on the line, because the versatile Jeep can get expensive fast.
Why buy one:
Why not buy one:
- Versatility and towing capability
- Off-road capability when properly optioned
- Very refined, with a quiet well-finished cabin, plush-ride, and supportive seats
- Optional Uconnect entertainment system is one of the most user-friendly available
- Offers a diesel engine for thousands less than the competition
- Has the refinement and capability of expensive German competitors, but with a much lower sticker price
- Fuel economy is not class leading, and the new eight-speed automatic transmission did nothing for mileage
- Somewhat pricier than many competitors
Best version/options to get:
- BMW X5 if you want something sportier
- Lexus RX if you want something more luxurious
- Nissan Murano for something less expensive
- Dodge Durango shares the Jeep's platform but has three rows of seats
The mid-range Limited includes desirable features like a back-up camera, power liftgate, and heated leather seats and steering wheel.
The optional Uconnect 8.4 touch-screen radio is well designed and easy to use. A $4,000 Luxury Group of options adds HID headlights, a power-adjusting steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, and ventilated front seats. But getting blind spot detection requires the $1,695 Technology Group.
We'd go for the 3.6-liter V6 unless towing a large trailer was in our plans, in which case we'd skip the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and get the 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel, with its added fuel efficiency and torque.
There is also a wide variety of off-roading options available as well as air suspension. Unless you plan to go off-roading, most buyers will do well sticking with the regular four-wheel-drive system and theconventional suspension.
There is also a wide variety of off-roading options available as well as air suspension. Unless you plan to go off-roading, most buyers will do well sticking with the regular four-wheel-drive system and the conventional suspension.
The Driving Experience
The Grand Cherokee is relatively responsive for a heavy SUV, with a fairly prompt turn-in response. Body lean is not excessive in turns, partly thanks to the firm suspension. The freshening added a new electric steering system that is somewhat vague on-center and less communicative than before.
At the track, the Jeep was secure and predictable at its handling limits, and stability control kept it on its path. It posted a decent speed of 50 mph in our avoidance maneuver with no surprises.
Most Grand Cherokees will be equipped with the base 290-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine, which provides adequate power. Optional choices include a 360-hp, 5.7-liter V8 (Hemi) or a 240-hp, 3.0-liter turbodiesel. High performance SRT models get a 470-hp, 6.4-liter V8 (Hemi). All engines are matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission introduced with 2014 models. Rear-wheel-drive is standard; four-wheel-drive is optional.
Adding three more gears from the new transmission does a lot to improve performance, responsiveness, and drivability with the V6, which struggled to haul around the 4,900-pound Grand Cherokee with the previous five-speed box. Zero-to-60 mph acceleration is improved by a full second, but overall fuel economy remains 18 mpg. We did measure a slight boost in city mileage.
The new transmission is generally smooth, but tends to upshift early to save fuel, which adds to response time and can be annoying around town. Turning off the default Eco mode helps a lot, but you'll have to do that each time you start the car. Ours tended to shift in and out of top gear frequently to maintain a steady 65 mph, hurting fuel economy there. The electronic shifter is somewhat quirky and may take some getting used to. Finding reverse on the first try can be challenging. Shifts can also be made with steering wheel mounted paddles.
If you want more power and don't mind spending another $2,195, the 5.7-liter V8 might fit the bill. The Hemi V8 shuts down four cylinders when cruising to help save fuel, but fuel economy isn't exactly a strong suit. What it does deliver is plenty of pull. Based on our experience with this drivetrain in the Ram 1500 (Hemi V8 and eight-speed automatic), it likely cuts one second from the V6's 0-60 mph sprint. The eight-speed is a great match to this engine, always smoothly picking the right gear. Expect about 15 mpg overall, one better than our tested 2011 Grand Cherokee V8 4x4 with its five-speed automatic.
A more efficient alternative to the V8 is the turbodiesel V6. Thoroughly refined and modern, the new diesel produces none of the smoke or smell you might expect, and little of the noise. If 240 hp doesn't sound like much, consider that this engine supplies a whopping 420 pound-foot of torque, which is 30 pound-foot more than the 5.7-liter V8. That makes for plenty of mid-range grunt, which is what you need for pulling a trailer.
Jeep claims the diesel will deliver 28 mpg on the highway with four-wheel-drive and 30 mpg with rear-wheel-drive. We'll see how the Grand Cherokee diesel does in the real world when we buy one to test.
Like other diesel engines in large vehicles, you need to add diesel emissions fluid periodically. Otherwise, once it runs out, the Jeep will refuse to start. Refilling the fluid is easy, done through a filler port next to the fuel filler. It typically costs around $6 a gallon at auto parts stores and normally needs filling about the time of each oil change.
If a racetrack-ready SUV is more your speed, there's the fire-breathing SRT Grand Cherokee with its 6.4-liter V8. You'll have to feed it premium fuel, but it will run away from most other SUVs.
The Grand Cherokee is somewhat unusual among midsized SUVs in that it offers real off-road capability. With programmable modes for snow, sand, and rock, the electronic AWD system quickly transfers power to whichever wheels have grip, and our Limited had no problem climbing our rock hill. Ground clearance is not great, so it's best to use care to avoid damage to the exhaust system and oil pan. The hill descent control feature works well.
Various off-road packages include a "Trail Rated" fender badge and more hard-core off-road equipment. Options include underbody skid plates and more sophisticated four-wheel-drive systems. Quadra-Trac II adds a low range for true off-roading, while Quadra-Drive II adds an electronic limited slip differential. Optional air suspension can raise the Jeep for more ground clearance or lower it for easier access. For most buyers with limited off-road plans, the more basic four-wheel-drive systems and the conventional suspension is enough.
Gasoline V6-powered Grand Cherokees have a towing capacity of 6,200 pounds. Diesel and V8-powered models are rated for 7,400 pounds with rear-wheel-drive or 7,200 pounds with four-wheel-drive.
Our V6-powered Grand Cherokee took 18.1 seconds to tow our 5,000-pound test trailer from 0-to-60 mph. That's a decent performance. The eight-speed automatic helps out, cutting nearly one second from the tested 2011 V6 five-speed. In our experience, the Jeep is a capable and stable tow vehicle.
If you plan to tow with your Grand Cherokee, get the factory Class IV tow package. It includes heavy-duty cooling and a bigger alternator, a self-leveling rear suspension, a full-sized spare tire, and well-designed hitch and trailer electrical connections. There's also a wire pigtail for hooking up an electric trailer brake controller under the driver's side footwell.
This heavy SUV rides well, especially for a vehicle with its off-road capability. Steady and compliant, body motions are well controlled but there is an underlying firmness that is more noticeable at low speeds. Lateral motion is quite minimal, and the Grand Cherokee is composed on thehighway.
With a quiet and refined V6, modest wind noise, and virtually no road noise, the cabin is quieter than most competitors, and some rivals costing considerably more.
Stopping distances were respectably short for a midsized SUV in wet or dry conditions. The brake pedal had good feel and was very easy to modulate.
Low-beam halogen bulbs provide good visibility and intensity forward and to the sides, but irregularities in the pattern create streaks and lines that detract from overall uniformity. A sharp cutoff can also reduce visibility going over dips and bumps. High beams provide an improvement in both distance and intensity.
Inside The Cabin
Interior fit and finish:
The interior is inviting and nicely finished, with soft-touch padded surfaces on the door panels and dashboard top, and abundant wood grain and chrome trim. Storage compartments are lined. Switches have a quality feel, with rubber-rimmed knobs and door controls leftover from the Jeep's Mercedes-Benz lineage. Even the cargo area is neatly trimmed, with finished compartments surrounding the full-size spare tire. Most components fit together well.
Just a few issues keep this interior from ranking among the best in its class, including a few lumpy seams on the seat cushions and so-so fitting plastic covering the A pillar instead of the fabric we'd expect in an interior of this caliber.
Drivers will find plenty of head, leg, knee, and foot room in the Grand Cherokee, with a generous range of adjustment for the seats and tilt and telescoping steering wheel. One gripe is that wide center tunnel intrudes on right foot room around the throttle pedal, pushing the driver somewhat off-center.
The Jeep's upright styling and big windows all-around help visibility greatly. Some children complained that the high beltline made it hard to see out from the backseat. Front windshield pillars are not too wide, but rear pillars create the typical blind spots common in SUVs. Big side door mirrors are a bonus.
A backup camera is standard on Limited and higher-trim models, but you can't even get one as an option on lower-level versions. This important safety feature should be standard throughout the line. At least if you pay up to get the camera and the big Uconnect screen, the large display works well.
Another annoyance is that the helpful blind-spot and rear cross-path detection systems are only available on Limited and higher models as part of a $1,695 package, which includes active cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision warning.
Big front seats are very supportive without being confining, with a well-shaped backrest and good lateral support. Cushioning is on the firm side, but remains supportive on long trips. There are plenty of power adjustments, including lumbar for good lower-back support.
The rear seat is comfortable and spacious, even for three people. There's plenty of leg, head, and knee room and the seatback reclines for comfort. Well-shaped cushions supply good overall support and posture. A nearly flat floor helps provide good foot space, and there's decent toe room under the front seats.
It's a bit of a climb to get in or out, and some of our smaller drivers used the steering wheel to help pull themselves in. Other than that, access isn't hard, front or rear. Large square doors are big enough that you don't need to duck to get in or out, and there's no need to step over the flush door sills. There's a decent-width footpath into the back, but it's not quite generous.
Higher trim levels, including our Limited, have a hybrid display combining an analog tachometer, fuel, and temperature gauges with a digital screen for the speedometer and other information. Everything is clear and easy to read, and the display can be configured different ways, with options to select what the speedometer looks like and what ancillary information you want to see. The system delivers a lot of information, but set up involves scrolling through menus using a five-way controller on the steering wheel that can be cumbersome at first.
One feature we like and wish more cars would adopt is an easy to spot button to turn off the big center touch-screen display, which is great for reducing visual overload at night.
The Jeep's optional Uconnect 8.4-inch touch screen entertainment system is one of the best designed of its type available in a car today. It does a lot of things right, with a large and easy to reach screen and icons, fonts, and on-screen buttons that are big and simple to use. And system logic is straightforward and simple.
Adding to its ease of use is the use of hard buttons and knobs for some frequently used climate and radio adjustments, including fan speed and radio volume and tuning. But other changes still require you to first pull up the respective audio or climate screen.
Steering wheel controls are big and simple to use. We really like Chrysler's choice of mounting toggles for radio tuning and volume on the back side of the steering wheel, where they're easy to use and help reduce clutter on the front of the wheel.
Minor complaint: the combination turn signal and wiper control lever is used for one function too many, and a separate stalk on the other side of the steering column for wipers would simplify things.
It's easy to pair a phone with Uconnect. The system is more fully compatible withApple devices than with Android, providing iPhone users with displayed album information and choice of connection through either Bluetooth or a USB plug. Android is compatible only through Bluetooth. iPhone and iPod users can also call up artists or music genres by voice when connected by USB, a feature not available with Android devices.
Uconnect allows voice commands for radio, navigation, and phone. All work well enough, but voice control is not as advanced as Cadillac CUE or Ford Sync, which allow you to speak more naturally.
The navigation system allows addresses and points of interest to be selected by voice while driving, a handy feature not available in all systems. Chrysler uses a similar layout to Garmin navigation systems, so it will seem familiar to anyone familiar with their portable units.
Uconnect Access is a subscription service available on some Chrysler vehicles including the Grand Cherokee, and includes audio apps such as Aha, iHeartRadio, Pandora and Slacker radio, as well as the capability to send and receive text messages using your voice and remote door locking, unlocking and vehicle start using a smartphone. A 3G WiFi hotspot is also available at an extra charge, ranging from $9.99 a day to $34.99 a month.
The automatic climate system worked well, but we heard some complaints that it did not direct enough air to the floor vents in auto mode.
Our mid-level Limited model included welcome climate features like heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. These are controlled through the touch screen, but would be better still with dedicated controls.
There's a convenient open bin in front of the shifter that's just right for a smartphone. A two-level covered bin between the front seats includes a handy light that comes on when the lid is lifted.
Lights and visors:
The sun visors do not slide on their mounting rods for additional side coverage.
A concealed compartment under the radio contains a 12-volt power outlet, USB/iPod port, auxiliary jack and an SD card slot. There's another 12-volt outlet under the armrest in the center console. Rear passengers have access to two more USB ports that can be used to charge devices and a normal household (115-volt) outlet. The cargo area has an additional 12-volt power outlet.
With rear seatbacks folded, the cargo area can carry items up to 35.5 cubic-feet in size, according to measurements taken with our expandable pipe-frame box.
A power lift gate is standard on the Limited and higher trim levels, and can be opened or closed electrically using a button in the passenger compartment or the key fob. It can also be raised using its touchpad, and closed using a button in the cargo area. Cargo area features include a 12-volt power outlet, a few bag hooks, four sturdy tie-down points in the floor and a one-piece retractable security cover.
Payload capacity is 1,050 pounds.
A full-sized spare tire is included with the tow package, and rides in the car under the cargo floor. But it is not the same size as the other tires on the vehicle and should be used like a temporary spare. Vehicles without the tow package get an actual temporary spare.
Front belts have pretensioners and force limiters.
Front-seat occupants are protected by front and side air bags, and air curtains that are designed to also protect outboard occupants in the rear seats. A knee air bag for the driver is also standard.
The front-row head restraints are tall enough to provide protection even when lowered. Rear outboard head restraints fold forward for stowage and are tall enough when raised to provide protection. The rear center restraint is not tall enough, even when raised, to provide adequate protection.
Antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, and stability control are all standard on the Grand Cherokee. A rear backup sensing system and camera, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning, rear cross detection and accident avoidance systems are all optional.
Driving with kids:
Safety belts are mounted on short, rigid stalks set at an angle that can make it difficult to snug the belt without bunching. Despite this, forward- and rear-facing seats should prove secure in all rear positions when installed with the safety belt. LATCH anchors in outboard seating positions are easily accessed. There are three top-tether anchors on the rear seatbacks but they are hidden under the cargo floor flap and can be easily missed.
We expect reliability to be much worse than average, according to our latest subscriber survey.
2014 Limited 4-door SUV 4WD, 3.6-liter V6, 8-speed automatic
Towing package, sunroof, Uconnect 8.4N with navigation
This road test applies to the current model year of this vehicle.