One of the things that this long, lousy winter reminds us of is that in some parts of the country, you simply have to have a tough vehicle that will take you nearly anywhere, no matter how brutal the conditions.
Enter the Jeep Grand Cherokee, or in the case of this week’s test vehicle, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4×4, one of six trim levels available in this midsize SUV model.
Jeeps have long been known for their toughness and capability and for 2014, the entire Grand Cherokee line has been significantly upgraded to build on that core strength and add refinement and sophistication.
Among the new-for-2014 features is an optional 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine that delivers an estimated best-in-class 30 miles per gallon (mpg), driving range of more than 730 miles and best-in-class towing capability of 7,400 pounds.
Also new this year is an eight-speed automatic transmission, which is used on the EcoDiesel, the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine or the optional 5.7-liter V-8. Our tester was equipped the 290-horsepower Pentastar V-6, which delivered reasonably lively acceleration and ample passing power. In this configuration, the Grand Cherokee has a towing capacity of 6,200 pounds, EPA ratings of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg highway and a best-in-class range of more than 600 miles.
And for drivers who need to battle seriously adverse terrain, Jeep offers a choice of three different four-wheel-drive systems, as well as its Quadra-Lift air suspension system and its Selec-Terrain traction management system. In short, this is pretty much of a go anywhere, do anything vehicle.
That the Jeep Grand Cherokee is strong and capable shouldn’t come as a surprise; those have been core Jeep values for just about forever. If you haven’t driven a Jeep in some time what might surprise you are all the features that come standard, as well as the level of luxury and sophistication the Grand Cherokee has now.
Our tester had myriad safety and security features in the optional ($1,795) Advanced Technology Group, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation, Advanced Brake Assist, and Blind Spot and Rear Cross Path Detection. And that’s on top of the standard back-up camera and ParkSense Rear Park Assist System.
On the inside, there’s what Jeep calls its Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen radio with integrated climate and infotainment controls, a 7-inch customer configurable multiview display cluster, and Uconnect Access via mobile and cloud-based voice texting.
The quality and comfort of the Jeep Grand Cherokee are readily apparent from the time you step in. The front seats are both heated and ventilated and feature 8-way power adjustments, with memory on the driver’s side. Standard on the Overland-trim models is a stitched-leather instrument panel with available open-pore wood, as well as wood trim on the top portion of the leather-wrapped steering wheel. In the back, there’s rear-seat footwell and rear door-pocket ambient lighting.
Other goodies on the inside: There is 36.3 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second row, and that space features a storage unit with a rechargeable flashlight and grocery hooks on both sides. The spare tire compartment includes removable dual storage bins for secure storage of muddy gear or other items. A power rear liftgate is standard or available on all 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee models.
Frankly, the quality of the interior blew me away. As noted, Jeeps have always been tough; now, though, the Grand Cherokee truly feels like a premium luxury car. The cockpit is easily on par with high-end European or Japanese SUVs and crossovers, including some that cost a great deal more than the $48,985 as-tested price of our Jeep.
Likewise, the driving dynamics of the Grand Cherokee were impressive, with excellent handling and stability. Visibility is outstanding, as you would expect in any SUV. The view is good from all angles.
Overall, Jeep has done a sensational job with the upgrades on the Grand Cherokee Overland. And though it is not an inexpensive vehicle, it delivers excellent value for the money and the wide range of trim levels, option packages and powertrains makes it exceedingly flexible for most any need.
VEHICLE TYPE: Five-passenger, four-door SUV, all-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 3.6-Liter V-6, 290 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque.
TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 114.8 inches.
OVERALL LENGTH: 189.8 inches.
CURB WEIGHT: 4,754 pounds.
EPA MILEAGE RATING: 17 city, 24 highway.