Posted Jan 14th 2013 12:01AM
Traditionally, automotive journalists can be heard muttering something to the effect of "Geeze, it's about time!" whenever a vehicle's midcycle refresh is revealed. As we routinely see and drive new models many months before the public even claps eyes on them in showrooms – and then go on to tweeze apart their minutia in our daily writings – perhaps some impatience is to be expected. With so much exposure to a given vehicle, it's fair to say we tire of most cars and trucks far more quickly than the average consumer.
Which is why we're pleased to say "Oh, is it time for that already?" when it comes to the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The current WK2 Grand Cherokee hit the market in 2011 and climbed its way into our hearts with its rugged good looks, go-anywhere capability and surprising refinement. We're not yet tired of its appearance or performance, but even so, we're very glad to see Chrysler giving its flagship Jeep some attention, including a much-anticipated diesel powertrain option and some other economy-minded measures.
The alterations are handsome, if not subtle touches from the "If It Ain't Broke" school of design.
The changes for 2014 start with a fresh look, including one of two different slimmer headlamp treatments (upper-rung models are treated to bi-xenon units with LED daytime running lamps, and Summit models feature dynamic corner lighting), along with reworked grilles and repositioned foglamps in new lower fascias. Redesigned taillamps incorporating yet more LEDs take up residence out back and the rear liftgate has received a once-over, too. We've seen the vehicles in the metal already, and the alterations are handsome, if not subtle touches from the "If It Ain't Broke" school of design.
More impressive is the interior rework, which includes a new three-spoke steering wheel with standard paddle shifters, a seven-inch configurable screen in the gauge cluster, reworked center stack with Chrysler's award-winning 8.4-inch UConnect infotainment system, and new electronic gearshift selector. In addition, there's a brace of optional active safety features including adaptive cruise control, front park assist and front collision alert. What we're most impressed with is designers' efforts to further differentiate trim levels on the 2014 Grand Cherokee. In particular, the new full-house Summit model features upgraded leather in more colors, open-pore woods and unique copper accents on black and brown interiors (we've seen the finish in person already, and it looks better than it sounds).
The new look and features are all well and good, but the main event here is a comprehensively updated powertrain menu, including the aforementioned alt-fuel option, a 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V6 that Chrysler expects will deliver 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Owners can expect EPA 21 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway (11.2 L/100km and 7.8 L/100km), and the model features a 3,357 kilogram (7,400-pound) tow rating to go with its leg-crossing cruising range of up to 1,175 km (730 miles) on a single tank.
The main event here is a comprehensively updated powertrain menu.
Regardless of whether the buyer chooses the V6 diesel, 3.6-litre Pentastar gasoline-fed V6 or 5.7-litre V8, there's a new eight-speed transmission to help improve fuel economy and smoothness. Chrysler says the V8, which is also fitted with cylinder deactivation, will see a five-per cent improvement in fuel economy, ringing up at 15/21 (15.7/11.2 L/100km) on 4x2 models and 14/21 (16.8/11.2 L/100km) on 4x4 examples. There's a new Eco Mode button to maximize economy, but pushing it will only deactivate the system, which governs items like shift points, cylinder deactivation and ride height, depending on model, as it defaults to active whenever the vehicle is turned on.
This wouldn't be a Jeep update if there weren't some off-road-minded upgrades, and there are a few changes to report. As before, there are three different 4x4 systems, but changes include an improved crawl ratio of 44.1:1, tweaked Selec-Terrain controller and hill ascent and descent control with new driver-determined speed capability.
The SRT model packs a revamped grille, LED headlamps, a new rear spoiler and 5-spoke alloys.
Then, of course, there's the road-oriented Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT performance model, which also receives the lion's share of the changes listed above. Visually, the SRT will pack a revamped grille, LED headlamps shared with higher-end Grand Cherokee models and a new rear spoiler. Also of note is the availability of a new set of more traditional five-spoke alloys (SRT boss Ralph Gilles acknowledged to us that the spidery 10-spoke wheels that the SRT arrived with in 2012 have proven to be somewhat controversial). The new overall look is a subtle improvement, but we wish designers would have found a way to better integrate (or remove) the LED daytime running lamp strip in the bumper, as it looks tacked on – particularly now that 2014's headlamps incorporate sleek new light pipes.
Performance enhancements for 2014 include a new launch control feature as well as a reworked Selec-Track system that funnels more torque to the rear axle to improve performance when Track mode is activated. The big news, however, is the quicker-shifting eight-speed automatic, which should not only help alleviate the 6.4-litre Hemi's prodigious thirst, it should also augment performance. Chrysler expects slightly improved 0-60 (0-96 km/h) times out of the 470-hp, 465 lb-ft powerplant, but more intriguingly, it notes that the block-downshifting capability of the new transmission should yield "an even more dramatic improvement in 30-70 mph (48-113 km/h) and 50-90 mph (80-145 km/h) real-world acceleration." Because the 2013 SRT was a bit lardy in this regard, apparently.
Chrysler has made one of our favorite SUVs even better to look at, drive and live with.
All-in, Chrysler appears to have handed down a couple of major drivetrain improvements (EcoDiesel option, eight-speed automatics across the board), along with a host of nips, tucks and adjustments that promises to make one of our favorite SUVs even better to look at, drive and live with. We'll know more when we get behind the wheel later this year.