2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

AUSTIN, Texas — 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 Jeep is the most awarded SUV ever and has long been defined as the ultimate premium sport utility vehicle. It has so many attributes it would take a Cray SuperComputer to store and list them all.

For instance, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee delivers a best-in-class 30 mpg highway thanks to a new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 (240 horsepower/420 pound-feet of torque) and a new eight-speed transmission. The range of the new EcoDiesel is more than 730 miles, and bring the boat — the EcoDiesel-powered Grand Cherokee has a towing capacity of 7,400 pounds.

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 V-6 (290 horsepower/260 pound-feet of torque) that offers a driving range of over 600 miles and a 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi with an “adequate” 360 horsepower/390 pound-feet of torque. All are available in two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

To say the 2014 Grand Cherokee is great-looking is like saying Giselle Bundchen will do in a pinch. There’s no doubting the vehicle is in fact a Grand Cherokee. However, among the changes for 2014 is an aggressive yet refined exterior, new signature LED lighting, premium ornamentation, and several other design cues.

Just to embellish one, the front and rear LED lighting makes Grand Cherokee instantly recognized night or day. A red ring of LED lamps follows the outline of the stop lights and illuminates when the headlamps are on. The rear lighting features a dispersed pattern for a seamless lighting effect, unlike other LED systems where individual filaments can be seen.

Each model in the lineup has a unique exterior. They are the Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, Grand Cherokee Limited, Grand Cherokee Overland and the top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee Summit. Dimensions are all the same: wheelbase, 114.8 inches, overall length, 189.8 inches, seating capacity, five (in a 2/3 arrangement), total passenger volume, 105.4 cubic feet and maximum cargo volume, 68.3 cubic feet. Wheel and tire sizes range from 17 inch to 20 inch.

The 2014 Grand Cherokee’s stock-in-trade is its go anywhere 4x4 systems. There are three of them: Quadra-Trac 1, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II. Its Quadra-Lift air suspension system raises the ground clearance from 8.7 inches to 11.3 inches.

We took one of the V-8 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 aspect of 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.

There was only one thing that posed a problem to us; the girly-man in front of us who was skittish about each new challenge throughout the 30-minute “battle.”

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.” It frames a 7-inch customer-configurable multiview display. There’s a large center console with a deep storage bin, two excellent cupholders and to the left is a science fiction-looking shift lever.

It took a little getting used to because we kept going into Reverse instead of Park but it’s so pretty that you really can’t get mad at it. The centerstack features a new Uconnect 5-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen. Controls for radio and climate are found below the screen. Each Grand Cherokee model has its own unique style of luxury and ambiance based on materials and color patterns. The Laredo and Limited models feature dark wood trim on the dash and doors.

Venting is perfectly placed and the dual settings really satisfy the passenger’s and driver’s individual taste. Again, depending on model, upscale cloth or premium leather is used. Unique to the Summit is a premium suede-like material that covers the A-pillars and headliner.

We're not  going into how much safety is built into this vehicle primarily because it’s much too plentiful to describe in anything less than an encyclopedia-sized article. Let’s put it this way; it didn’t get to be a Jeep Grand Cherokee because any facets of it are questionable.

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. Prices do not include a $995 destination charge.

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 6.4L HEMI V-8 that delivers 470 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque that’s bolted to an eight-speed transmission and has a 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds; 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 because 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.       

— Al Vinikour and Jim Meachen