By Al Vinikour
Throughout history there have been some classic skirmishes: you say tomato and I say tomahto; paper or plastic; I could have had a V8. But perhaps the most notable of all is the deadly debate of whether to buy a vehicle that specializes in off-roading or one that is a family ride. Just like Mighty Mouse, Jeep has come to save the day and after putting it through a multitude of paces there’s no doubt that with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee you can have your cake… and eat it, too.
As a starting point, the Grand Cherokee is the most awarded SUV ever and has long been defined as the ultimate premium SUV. For instance, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee delivers a best-in-class 30 mpg highway thanks to a new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 and a new eight-speed transmission. This engine has 240 horsepower and a whopping 420 lb-ft of torque, gives the Grand Cherokee a range of more than 730 miles, and a towing capacity of 7,400 lb. But Jeep offers two other engine choices (three if you count the blowtorch that powers the Grand Cherokee SRT, but we’ll get into that later) – a 3.6-liter V6 with 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque and a driving range of over 600 miles, and a 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi with an “adequate” 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. All are available with either two-wheel or four-wheel drive.
Is the 2014 Grand Cherokee good looking? Will Giselle Bundchen do in a pinch? Of course. Among the changes for the 2014 model year are an aggressive yet refined exterior, new signature LED lighting, individual models that are more readily identifiable, premium ornamentation and other minor embellishments Just to embellish one, the front and rear LED lighting makes Grand Cherokee instantly recognized night or day; a real feat in an automotive world with so many “me too” offerings. A ring of red LED lamps follows the outline of the stop lights and illuminates when the headlamps are on. Plus, the rear lighting features a dispersed pattern for a seamless lighting effect, unlike other LED systems where individual filaments can be seen. That may work for a 53-ft Fruehauf trailer, but doesn’t do much for a luxury vehicle.
As mentioned, each model in the lineup has a unique exterior. The models are the Grand Cherokee Laredo, Grand Cherokee Limited, Grand Cherokee Overland and the top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee Summit. Dimensions are all the same: wheelbase of 114.8 in, overall length of 189.8 in seating for5 (in a 2/3 arrangement), total passenger volume of 105.4 ft3 and maximum cargo volume of 68.3 ft3. Wheel and tire sizes range from 17 to 20 inches.
However, a Jeep’s stock-in-trade is its go anywhere 4x4 systems, and rthe 2014 Grand Cherokee three of them: Quadra-Trac 1, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II. Plus, the Quadra-Lift air suspension system raises the ground clearance from 8.7 to 11.3 inches. We took one of the V8 4x4s through a very complex and potentially-hazardous off-road track the Jeep folks built at a ranch in the Texas Hill Country, utilizing every technology Jeep has available for this type of driving. The faint of heart would rather be gored by a Texas longhorn steer than attempt driving through the “gates of Hell” that Jeep created. Yet there was only one thing that posed a problem; the girly-man in front of us who was skittish about each new challenge throughout the 30-minute “battle.” He should have driven in style on one of Texas’s fine roads, and gone to an outlet mall to buy some designer dresses. But… I digress.
As nice as the new Grand Cherokee’s exterior is, the interior doubles your pleasure and doubles your fun more than Doublemint Gum ever could. The layout of the instrument panel is beautiful. There are two large dials within a stylized housing that Jeep calls a “curvilinear gauge cluster.” (I had to look that word up. It means, “contained by or consisting of a curved line or lines,” in case you weren’t sure.) It frames a 7.0-in customer-configurable multiview display. There’s a large center console with a deep storage bin, two excellent cupholders, and to its left is a science fiction-looking shift lever. It took a little getting used to because I kept going into Reverse instead of Park but it’s so pretty that you really can’t get mad at it. The center stack features a new Uconnect 5.0-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen, depending on equipment levels. Controls for the radio and climate are found below the screen, and the air registers are perfectly placed, plus the dual settings mean the drive and front seat passenger don’t have to fight over temperature.
Each Grand Cherokee model has its own unique style of luxury and ambiance based on materials and color patterns, and both the Laredo and Limited models feature dark wood trim on the dash and doors. Again, depending on model, upscale cloth or premium leather is used, but unique to the Summit is a premium suede-like material that covers the A-pillars and headliner.
Pricing isn’t modest but then neither is the product. A base Laredo 4x2 has an MSRP of $28,795 and runs up to the Summit 4x4 with an MSRP of $50,995. These prices do not include a $995 destination charge or options.
As promised, here is a brief description of the land rocket known as the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. It has a lot of unique design features, but you’re really not buying a $64,000 vehicle because it’s named after your three favorite letters of the alphabet. If a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 that delivers 470 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, is bolted to an eight-speed transmission and has a 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds, a quarter-mile time in the mid-13s, and top speed of 160 mph doesn’t get your blood pressure into the stratosphere, then — even if you could afford it — don’t risk life and limb; look at one of the other four Jeep Grand Cherokee models. There’s something for everybody. However, the SRT will make a man out of you, even if you began life as Daddy’s little girl... or girly-man.