2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee V-6 4x4

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee V-6 4x4 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee V-6 4x4
Instrumented Test TESTED

Jeep’s current-generation Grand Cherokee SUV has been such a success that it probably didn’t need an update to keep things rolling, but one arrived for 2014 anyway. We aren’t complaining, what with the ’14 GC’s new eight-speed automatic transmission, refined interior, and even more handsome sheetmetal. We have previously driven the Hemi V-8, put the new V-6 diesel in a comparo, and tested the hot-rod SRT, but this is our first full test of the volume V-6 model.

We were curious to discover how the new eight-speed—the only significant mechanical update—would improve the V-6’s drivability. In our long-term 2011 Grand Cherokee V-6 and a separate 2011 test model, we noted that the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 felt like it struggled against the SUV’s porky curb weight. The six makes its 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque high in the rev range, and the outgoing five-speed automatic had to work hard to keep the V-6 on the boil.

More Speeds, More Shifting, Better Use of V-6’s Power

The optional V-8 and the new diesel six move the Jeep with more bravado, but the eight-speed brings slightly more verve to the high-strung V-6. The transmission loves to shift, but the changes are as smooth as butter. The ratio spread keeps the V-6’s revs low at higher speeds, but the lower gears make the most of the Pentastar’s power. Still, the transmission’s brain clearly was programmed to upshift early and often, although you can calm it down by moving the shift lever to the Sport setting.

We recorded a 7.5-second 0-to-60 time for this test; that’s 0.6 second quicker than the best sprint registered by our long-termer. For a sub-300-hp SUV weighing 4987 pounds, that qualifies as quick. With the eight-speed, EPA fuel-economy ratings improve by 1 mpg each to 17 mpg city and 24 highway, and we saw 17 mpg. (Our long-termer returned 19 mpg, but its much longer stay provided the opportunity for more mileage-boosting freeway time.)

The dynamics carry over to 2014 largely unchanged. The Grand Cherokee still feels planted through turns, despite plenty of body roll, and the steering is accurate if numb. Our luxe Overland-spec test car’s standard air suspension delivered a cushy, isolated ride, and it affords the ability to manipulate ride height at the push of a button.

The fancy suspension works in concert with the Overland’s standard Quadra-Trac II four-wheel-drive system, which works automatically but offers a driver-selectable low-range setting and several terrain choices for the suspension and driveline. We sampled this setup in our first drive of the ’14 Grand Cherokee and found it worked as advertised. Less-extreme systems are available on lesser Cherokees, namely, Quadra-Trac I (regular full-time all-wheel drive) and Quadra-Drive II (same as Quadra-Trac I but with an electronically managed limited-slip center differential).

Look Out, Propeller, Three-Pointed Star, and Four-Ring Badges

Buyers can step into a four-wheel-drive, V-6 Grand Cherokee for as little as $31,790 in entry-level Laredo trim. Jeep offers the Limited and Summit trim levels as well; the $47,190 Overland tested here slots between those two. Standard equipment on our test model included heated leather front and rear seats (ventilated up front), a heated wood-rimmed steering wheel, a rearview camera, an 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment screen, a panoramic sunroof, bixenon headlights, a power liftgate, and 20-inch aluminum wheels. The $1795 Advanced Technology Group, which brings adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and mitigation, and blind-spot monitoring with cross-path detection, was our vehicle’s only option.

That’s a lot of high-zoot gear for less than $50,000, and when combined with the Jeep’s roomy cargo hold, on- and off-road abilities, and sumptuous interior, it makes for an extremely compelling alternative to similarly sized vehicles from Germany.