When you think of Jeeps, images of bucking, olive green Army buggies or rugged, off-road Wranglers might come to mind. But if that’s what you think, you don’t know the new Grand Cherokee. The Kansas City Automotive Examiner recently had the chance to spend some time behind the wheel of a newly redesigned 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Sport 4X4. And as you will see, there is nothing here to remind you of the rock-crawling kidney-killers of the past.
Well, there is one thing. If you look closely, the left headlight and steering wheel have little badges that proclaim “Since 1941,” and the right headlight has a small, chrome silhouette of that original General Purpose vehicle. That’s a great little nod to history, and it also hints to the hidden potential that lies beneath this luxurious facade.
The most exciting part about this particular test vehicle can be summed up in four letters: H-E-M-I. In the new Grand Cherokee, this optional mill is good for 360-hp and 390-lb/ft of torque. Even at more than 5,200-lbs, this bus ran like a Challenger. It may be an SUV (crossover, if you prefer), but it is easy to forget that you’re not driving a muscle car. Drop that gear selector down into “Sport” mode, and you really have a stop light screamer.
This lovely power plant is mated to a new eight-speed transmission. This, plus cylinder deactivation technology, is meant to increase fuel mileage. And it is better than last year. Jeep claims 14/city, 20/highway, and 16/combined. The computer in our test vehicle was just over 15-mpg at the end of the week, but it hadn’t been reset since the driver cruised to Kansas City from Texas. The point is, for what it is, it does pretty well. It’s obviously no Prius, but sometimes you have to pay to play.
Even the air suspension was trick. It could be raised or lowered manually depending on what you were trying to accomplish, or it would hunker down in the lowest position on the highway or in Sport mode. The four-wheel-drive system had settings for rock, sand, mud, and snow, and it has a hill-descent feature for serious off-roading. Like most people, we never left the pavement during our brief test drive. But even as an on-roader it did what it was supposed to. The ride wasn’t punishing at all, and it was perfectly comfortable both on the open road and down side streets.
SRT excluded, the Summit model like this one is top-of-the-line for 2014. And it shows. The rich interior was finished in dark Grand Canyon Jeep Brown leather, and it had a nice array of leather, French stitching, and modern wood grain throughout. Even the visors and headliner were covered with soft, expensive looking material.
Many of the vital functions were controlled through the 8.5-inch touch screen. Of course it had Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, voice activated/syncable phone capabilities, and navigation. There was also a huge panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, and dazzling 20-inch wheels.
This particular Jeep had a sticker price of $54,685. Now while that’s not chump change, most people guessed that it would be higher. Considering everything you get here, and compared to similar vehicles by other manufacturers, that number didn’t seem all that unreasonable. Everything’s relative, you know.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Sport was a surprise from start to finish. It was loaded with features; loaded with luxury; and loaded with performance. If the idea of a muscle car that can haul a huge load of people and gear to an off-road camping trip in style and comfort appeals to you, give this vehicle a look.
To learn more about the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, visit http://www.jeep.com/en/2014/grand_cherokee/.
Finally, for a comprehensive photo slideshow of our 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee test vehicle, click this link.