Jeep is known for crafting go-anywhere, do-anything vehicles, but the 2014 Grand Cherokee Summit surprised me with a level of comfort and convenience that is equal to many top luxury sedans.
By TOM STRONGMAN
Soft leather, suede trim on the A pillars and items such as a heated steering wheel, heated front and back seats, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, panoramic sunroof and a large, 8.4-inch touchscreen display in the center of the dash are all standard on the Summit, the new top Grand Cherokee.
Polished aluminum 20-inch wheels and several tasteful bits of chrome trim complete the Summit’s visual package.
Mike Manley, Jeep brand CEO, says, “We have taken the industry’s most highly acclaimed SUV and elevated it to an even higher level.” The goal, he said, was to make the Grand Cherokee a pleasure to drive on any and all roads, including the most demanding trails, in all weather conditions.
From my week with this Jeep, I would say that goal has been met with ease. The Summit was quiet and smooth, free from the kind of rough ride one might expect of a vehicle that is known for its ability to conquer off-road obstacles as easily as it does a freeway on-ramp. The dark brown leather interior was both handsome and inviting.
The Grand Cherokee is available in Laredo, Limited, Overland and Summit models. Base prices start at $28,795 and range to $47,995 for two-wheel drive.
There are three engine choices: a 3.0-liter V-6 diesel, a 3.6-liter V-6 and the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that was in the test car. While the V-8’s muscle is fun, the penalty is a fuel economy rating of 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway for four-wheel drive. The two-wheel-drive diesel, on the other hand, is rated at 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. The four-wheel-drive 3.6-liter V-6 slots in between with a rating of 17 mpg city and 24 on the highway.
The transmission is an eight-speed automatic.
The diesel would be my first choice, although I have not driven one, but the extra cost is substantial. Car and Driver reports that that getting the diesel on a four-wheel-drive Summit adds $5,000 to the price. You have to drive a lot of miles for the fuel savings to justify the added cost.
Based on my experience with the Dodge Durango and a 2013 Grand Cherokee, I would pick the 3.6-liter V-6 as a good compromise between power and economy.
The Grand Cherokee has three four-wheel-drive systems, plus Quadra-Lift air suspension and a Selec-Terrain traction management system that lets the driver choose sand, mud, auto, rock and snow settings for the all-wheel drive.
The air suspension has five settings. It can raise the vehicle 1.3 inches or 2.6 inches for added ground clearance during off-road driving. Park mode lowers the vehicle 1.6 inches, and aero mode lowers the vehicle 0.6 inches at highway speeds for better fuel economy.
The base price of the test car was $50,995. Options included the Hemi V-8, electronic limited-slip rear differential, anti-lock brakes, the 3.09 rear axle and the Quadra-Drive II four-wheel-drive system. The sticker price was $54,685.
Three years or 36,000 miles, with a 5-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
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