4×4 Review: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Does Off Road In Rugged Style

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Updates to the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee make it truly news-worthy. There are new drivetrains, more luxurious appointments, and a bevy of options that give it greater off-road prowess; and its sizzling sibling- the high-performance, lap-of-luxury 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT is breathtaking!

One of the original mid-sized luxury SUVs to come to market in 1992, this newest version seats five and is an authentic competitor to Land Rover, BMW, and other high-end sport-utes. And according to Chrysler, the Grand Cherokee Limited with Jeep’s new EcoDiesel V-6, is the lowest-priced diesel SUV on the market.

Not Same Ol’ Grand

The exterior strikes a nice visual balance between refined and rugged, with a front grille that has been redesigned to give it more character overall, with distinguishing trim around each of the signature “Jeep” vertical slots. Slimmer headlamps and a shorter upper grille, put a check in the “more refined” category, while 17-inch all-season tires (standard on base Laredo models) and a beefy lower grille have “rugged” creds – plus, depending on the trim level, tires get as big as 20 inches.

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Photography by Stuart Bourdon and Chrysler Media.

The rear has new, larger tail lamps with smart LED lighting, a larger, more aerodynamic rear spoiler, and a re-sculpted tailgate. Dual exhaust tips are standard on all Limited, Overland (we took an Overland for a week-long, extended-test session) and Summit models. Front and rear LED lighting, including bi-xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps on higher end models, make Grand Cherokee grandly bright on the road.

Interior Appointments

Inside, passengers sit in a roomy and comfortable space dominated by technological features. The updated center stack has either a 5-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen, depending on the trim level, with climate and audio controls easy to reach and use. A leather-wrapped shifter is a punctuated stake in the ground below the stack.

The new, leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel has paddle shifters and sits in front of a curved information display with details on temperature, gas mileage, speed, trip mileage, and more, easily read at a glance. The standard audio system is a six-speaker set up with AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sirius XM; dual-zone climate control is included on all models, as are two 12-volt power outlets.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

Our Overland offered a luxurious interior with eight-way adjustable, heated and vented front seats; and paddle-shifters on the wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel mounted to a power tilt and telescoping column. The center stack offered the larger touchscreen system and full-tilt-boogie HD audio system (lower left); while below that, a leather-wrapped shifter (lower right) could be easily palmed to master the eight-speed auto tranny.

Of note, we appreciated a tasteful collection of new color schemes and trim materials that add quality and panache. Standard upholstery is fabric, with a variety of leather trims available depending on the trim level.

Base Grand Cherokee models have manual driver and front passenger seat adjustments and a fold-flat front passenger seat, as well as overhead and console storage, plus tie-downs to secure goods and gear in the rear cargo compartment.

Power Up

Under the hood, the newest Grand is powered by the same Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 engine that delivers 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. EPA fuel economy estimates are up however, and are rated at 17/25 mpg city/highway for the front-wheel drive version and 17/24 mpg city/highway with four-wheel drive.

Two optional powerplants can be ordered: a 240hp, 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel that grinds out 420 lb-ft of torque. A 5.7-liter V-8 is rated at 360hp and 390 lb-ft of torque and delivers an expected 14/22 mpg city/highway (14/20 with 4×4). The V-6 is more efficient, with EPA estimates coming in at 22/30 mpg city/highway for two-wheel-drive and 22/28 mpg city/highway for all-wheel drive models.

Eight-speed automatic transmission

The eight-speed 845RE automatic transmission is a big deal. It helps deliver better fuel mileage on the highway; and offers quicker and more smoother shifts than its predecessor – a bonus for off-roaders.

Also on board is an improved, lower crawl ratio of 44.1:1; a 46-percent improvement from previous models. All engines are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual control through the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

We were impressed by the Grand’s on-road ride which feels more refined and responsive. During a handful of days with the Overland model, it spent quite bit of time on the highway under brisker acceleration and higher speeds than we probably would like to admit to our loved ones, but the Overland handled it all with grace. Typical trips back and forth to such innocuous locales as hardware and grocery stores were made into enthusiastic events.

Traction Capabilities

Four-wheel drive is available on all Grand Cherokees, with choice of two transfer cases: Quadra Trac I is a full-time 4×4 and optional for V-6 models; Quadra-Trac II has low, neutral and full-time active 4×4 settings for V-6 and V-8 motors at the higher end of the SUV’s trim spectrum. Our Overland carried the V-6 and Quadra-Trac II combo.

In addition, Quadra-Drive II (not to be confused with Quadra-Trac II) is an option for higher-end models, set up with either the V-8 or EcoDiesel engine, which is an advanced traction management system that instantly detects tire slip and sends torque to wheels with traction.

The Grand Cherokee also earns props for off-road readiness through a couple of big-deal suspension and handling systems. Quadra-Lift (optional on mid-range and standard on higher end GC’s) is Jeep’s air suspension system with ride height settings ranging from 8.7 inches to 11.3 inches of ground clearance, as well as the option to drop the vehicle 0.6 inches closer to the ground for easier parking and better aerodynamics. A new ECO mode allows a lowered ride height at speed.

For true off-roaders, the SUV rates an impressive 35.8-degree approach angle, a 29.6-degree departure angle and 23.5-degree break-over angle with Quadra-Lift and the front air dam removed.

If three motors, eight transmission gears and two suspension systems aren’t enough variety, drivers also can also opt for Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction control master plan that manages with 12 different powertrain, braking and suspension systems, including throttle control, transmission shift, transfer case, hill-descent control and speed control.

The Selec-Terrain system provides a driver-adjustable knob that features settings for off-road terrain to accommodate rocks, mud, sand, and snow for instance; and the system helps the vehicle speed up and slow down in a graduated fashion, without having to rely strictly on brake or throttle, aiding with compromised traction surfaces.

During our evaluation of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland it saw its fair share of dirt roads and rocky trails from deserts to mountains.

For models without Selec-Terrain, Grand Cherokees come standard with traction control, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist. The Selec-Speed Control system allowed dialing in slow speeds, with a simple click of the paddle shifter; especially handy on steep terrain- a first in the industry.

Short- and long-arm independent front and rear multilink suspension components support the chassis, with twin-tube shocks (rear load-level for towing), a front stabilizer bar in front and a separate toe link in the rear rounding out the system. The suspension was taught when needed for highway control, but loosened considerably up under slower speeds when we drove on rugged off-road surfaces.

Decorative Delights

The 2014 Grand Cherokee is available in five trim levels: Laredo, Laredo E, Limited, Overland and Summit. Laredo comes with automatic halogen headlamps and fog lamps, heated folding exterior mirrors, 17-inch off-road tires and aluminum wheels, automatic dual-zone climate control, AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sirius XM radio with six speakers and 5.1-inch touchscreen controls, two 12-volt power points, steering-wheel mounted controls and shift paddles, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and cloth seats.

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The Overland model came with a 265/50R20 All-Season tire that was a good combo for street and dirt road use, and on rocks, but would have been problematic in mud.

The Laredo E trim package adds roof rails and options such as a power liftgate, Harmon Kardon navigation and power front sunroof, as well as power eight-way driver’s and four-way adjustable passenger seats.

Limited adds dual chrome exhaust pipes and chrome exterior mirrors, 18-inch tires and wheels, a 115-volt power outlet and USB charging stations, heated front seats, power driver and passenger eight-way adjustable seats with lumbar adjustments, leather seats and heated steering wheel, HomeLink, rear park assist, theft deterrent system and tire pressure monitoring display. Limited models also have bright metal scuff plates and accents.

Both Laredo/Laredo E, and Limited models feature dark wood trim on the dash and doors, as well as brushed aluminum with a gold tint that accents doors and handles.

Overland models include a power liftgate and dual-pane panoramic sunroof, automatic bi-xenon headlamps, approach lamps on exterior mirrors, 20-inch tires and aluminum wheels, rain-sensing windshield, nine-speaker stereo with Sirius XM and 8.4-inch touchscreen, premium leather seats with ventilated front seats, memory steering wheel with vehicle information, cargo net and rear cargo cover, and the Quadra-Lift suspension system (4×4 models).

The new rear end features larger LED tail lamps and a redesigned tailgate; and whether you like the new front end or not, with its restyled shorter grille and slimmer headlamps, the new Grand Cherokee is, in our opinion, the best new mid-size SUV on the highway or off-road.

Grand Cherokee Overlands also have stitched-leather instrument panel and open-pore wood, including wood accents on the steering wheel. The rear-seat footwell and rear door-pocket have ambient lighting.

The appropriately named Summit is at the top of the trim line, with all the bells and whistles of Overland, plus front headlamp washers, high-end polished wheels and a nineteen-speaker, 825-watt high-performance Harman Kardon surround sound audio system. The Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system is also standard, as are front park assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection.

SRT Experience

Sharing overall dimensions, a strong exterior profile and technology features with its Grand Cherokee stablemate, the SRT is a souped-up, more aggressive version of the full-size Jeep SUV. We drove it at Austin’s new 3.4-mile-long Circuit Of The Americas track and were impressed by the capability of all of its performance features and by its gorgeous looks.

On the outside, standard bi-xenon headlamps, SRT badging and black chrome exhaust tips define the high-performance look; the grille is black and glossy, while brake calipers are bright red. Standard tires are 20 inches, with polished aluminum wheels. A rear spoiler is integrated into the rear one-touch power liftgate, and performance badging abounds.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

The SRT is Jeep’s street-rod Grand Cherokee, with a 470hp 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 under the hood.

Like higher-end Grand Cherokees, the SRT version has an 8.4-inch touchscreen for infotainment, including a 3G connection for sharing data about the vehicle (and driver) stats with other SRT owners. The system uses UConnect to stream music and access other Internet applications like the Bing search engine.

Multiple 12-volt DC, 115-volt AC and USB power points are sprinkled throughout the interior, which also has a nine-speaker stereo system with AM/FM/CD/MP3 Sirius XM radio; the nineteen-speaker Harmon Kardon system in the Grand Cherokee Summit also can be ordered as an SRT option.

A power tilt-and-telescoping, three-spoke, heated leather steering wheel looks and feels posh, as does a ventilated leather-wrapped shift knob. Plush leather-and-suede seats are heated both front and rear; driver and front passenger seats have eight-way power adjustments.

The muscular SUV has a powerplant that justifies the 180-mph speedometer: a 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 making 470hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. The engine is matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission with a T-handle shifter for “Drive” and “Sport” settings. Full-time 4×4 is standard.

The Grand Cherokee SRT’s “launch” is controlled by a button behind the T-handle shifter on the center console. Sort of like a supersonic boost button on a futuristic vehicle, the control delivers awesome straight-line acceleration and makes micro-adjustments to controls for suspension and handling at the same time – instantly.

The button is part of the Selec-Track system, when the vehicle is in Track Mode, a setting where 70 percent of the engine’s torque is delivered to the rear wheels for a more pronounced rear-wheel-drive or performance-feel experience. In other words, it’s race track-ready.

Selec-Track, it’s worth noting, has been updated with better computer software to manage Auto, Sport, Tow, Track and Snow settings; the torque split change in Track mode made a major difference on the performance course.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

The grille is brawnier and the headlamps feature a unique black background to distinguish SRT from other 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee models while further accenting their jewel-like appearance (top). A power tilt-and-telescoping, three-spoke, heated leather steering wheel with the SRT logo looks and feels racy (lower left). The Grand Cherokee SRT’s launch is controlled by a button behind the T-handle shifter on the center console (lower right).

Like its more staid stablemates, the SRT rides on short- and long-arm (SLA) independent front suspension with coil springs, Bilstein adaptive damping suspension (ADS), upper- and lower-control arms (A-arms), and a stabilizer bar. Rear multi-link and coil spring suspension also has Bilstein ADS, an aluminum lower control arm, independent upper links (tension and camber), a separate toe link and a stabilizer bar.

Safety equipment includes traction and stability control, brake assist, front collision warning, blind spot monitoring, rear view camera, rain brake and hill start support, adaptive cruise control, security alarm and front and rear park assist.

The SRT features front ventilated and rear solid discs with Brembo six-piston calipers in front and four-piston calipers in rear wheels, plus vented rotors at all four wheels. And to test out those big brakes, all SRT owners and buyers can get the one-day SRT Track Experience. See if your test drive can be at the new COTA!

On-highway or off-road, the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee was an experience we completely enjoyed. It has lusty power, outstanding traction capabilities, steady handling, a comfortable and ultimately habitable interior, and whether you like the looks or not, in our opinion it’s the best new mid-size SUV in its class.

Stay tuned for more new vehicle evaluations from Off Road Xtreme!

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

About the author

Sue Mead

Sue Mead’s automotive career began as a freelancer for one of the premier off-road magazines in 1988, on the first team that included women as vehicle testers. Today, she travels the globe test-driving cars and trucks, and working as a photojournalist/feature writer for dozens of publications, specializing in 4WD and adventure stories. Her books include Monster Trucks and Tractors; Off Road Racing, Legends and Adventures; and Rock Crawling. She has been to 70 countries; competed in the Baja 1000; won the Open Production class at the 2011 Dakar Rally; and is an inductee into the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.
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