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Grand Cherokee SRT, diesel driven

by David Zatz on

Chrysler made a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel available to the media for limited testing at their Proving Grounds last week. Hooked up to an eight-speed automatic, the VM diesel generates 240 horsepower, less than the V6 engine, but also pumps out 420 lb-ft of torque, well above the Hemi’s capacity. Fuel mileage easily beats both gasoline engines in both city and highway cycles, at 21 city, 30 highway with rear wheel drive (20/28 for 4×4).

The Grand Cherokee itself remains a well-fitted luxury car, with an extremely quiet interior, comfortable seats, good fit and finish, and by-the-way fine off-road capabilities when equipped properly. The diesel and automatic transmission were well tuned, working together smoothly.

From within the vehicle, there is little indication that a diesel lies under the hood at first; it starts up quickly, as one expects from modern high-pressure-injection diesels, and idles quietly. From the outside, it takes a practiced ear to tell it apart from a gasoline-powered car.

The difference becomes apparent when driving; between the tight transmission and the high torque, available throughout the operating range, this Jeep is far more responsive than the standard V6 or even the Hemi model. Power is instantly on tap, with a rewarding jolt whenever one hits the gas. While the gassers may well outrace the diesel in a sprint, this is the car you want for a quick highway pass, or simply for a richer “feel” — something akin to the old V8 reactions from the days when torque was king.

The eight-speed automatic not only keeps the engine in the best gears for economy, but it also means that the engine can be kept in the right power bands for maximum acceleration; the wide range avoids the tradeoffs one normally gets from a diesel, since they tend to have a low redline. We did hear one complaint from another writer about engine noise, but didn’t find it to be an issue, even under hard acceleration.

That said, for the ultimate in fast reactions, one can’t beat the Grand Cherokee SRT8. The torque of the 470 horsepower engine (470 lb-ft) is simply tremendous, and the tight ZF transmission lets you feel it all instantly. The exhaust is tuned for a muscle-car sounds, but you don’t need your ears to feel your neck snap back. The throttle response is nicely tuned so that you can drive gently, but not lose that wow! acceleration.

The Grand Cherokee handles curves quite well, but you do feel the mass of the SUV as you slam around those turns, which felt so good in the Dart GT. It can handle quite well, but one feels the weight (and top-bottom weight distribution) more.

We don’t have acceleration times for the Grand Cherokee diesel, but expect it to do 0-60 sprints and quarter miles less quickly than with the V8 gasoline engine. The SRT8 is reported as running 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds, and doing the quarter mile in the mid-13s, with fine stopping power (60-0 in 116 feet). We clearly felt the “dramatic improvement” in 30-70 and 50-90 acceleration; the eight-speed generally felt tighter and more responsive than the five-speed.

Both diesel and SRT engines have lots of torque — and you don’t need to wait to feel it.

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304


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