I hadn’t driven a Grand Cherokee in a long time, so I was looking forward to this drive. I like Jeeps. The GC and the Wrangler in particular are right-sized, hard-working machines that in recent iterations have been polished to an impressive shine—they’re refined, good-looking, and do their jobs with flair. But I was particularly keen to check out this test car because it came equipped with Jeep’s optional 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6. Jeep plus diesel sounds like a match made in Moab to me, yet somehow I’d never managed to sample one.
I wasn’t disappointed. One step on the gas, and immediately I began to grin the way you do when you’re blessed by a perfect breeze. It just feels good. Ahhhh, that smooth, effortless flood of turbo-boosted torque—420 lb-ft peaking at just 2,000 rpm. Never mind that this top-trim Summit edition weighs 5,400 pounds. With the EcoDiesel on board, the mass just seems to disappear under the engine’s broad shoulders. Add the superb eight-speed ZF automatic, and the powertrain is never out of breath, never straining, never anything but calm and collected. Diesel clatter? It’s there—but just enough to whisper “you’ve got the Terminator up front, the one that can tackle anything and keep coming back for more.” It’s no more intrusive than the sounds from the standard 3.6-liter gas V-6.
The EcoDiesel—sourced from Italy via Jeep’s Fiat Chrysler parents—delivers other virtues as well. In 4×4 trim, highway fuel economy is an outstanding 28 mpg (the 4×2 version gets 30 mpg). In addition, the all-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee’s maximum towing rating is a prodigious 7,200 pounds—the same as that delivered by the 4×4 5.7-liter gas V-8 (which delivers just 22 mpg highway). Range? You got it. Under ideal conditions, you could drive the GC 4×4 diesel for more than 680 miles without stopping for a fill-up. On such a relentless march, it’s up to you whether you want to follow the advice of a guy well-known for lengthy stints behind the wheel, NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr.: “If you can’t hold it, you go.”
In other respects, the Grand Cherokee is much the same as it’s been since its last revision for the 2015 model year. And that’s not a criticism. On the contrary, the GC delivers excellent visibility, nicely weighted steering (an electric system is new for 2016), and—thanks in part to the Quadra-Lift air suspension standard on the Summit—a pleasant ride. The package just feels right too—big enough for bona-fide SUV chores but not so big that it’s a hassle to maneuver through urban traffic. On this test I didn’t locate any off-road pathways anywhere near challenging enough to push the GC’s optional Quadra-Drive II AWD system hard, but I’ve driven enough Grand Cherokees in the past to know that, especially in 4×4 trim, they’re all but unstoppable in even the roughest stuff.
There’s nothing rough about driving a Summit. The GC’s top trim level (excluding the fire-breathing SRT models), the Summit boasts about every luxury and convenience you could want. Leather, nav, keyless entry and go, Harmon-Kardon premium audio with 19 speakers and subwoofer, ventilated front seats, dual-pane panoramic sunroof—it’s all there and much more. Worth special mention is the 8.4-inch touchscreen display. It’s one of the simplest, most intuitive, and easy to use interfaces I’ve experienced. Hats off to the design team on this one.
The GC Summit is also loaded with safety tech. Standard features include blind-spot and cross-traffic detection, adaptive cruise control with automated stopping, a Parkview rear back-up camera, and forward-collision warning that emits audible and visual alerts if an object is approaching too rapidly—and it will also automatically apply the brakes if a collision is imminent.
None of this top-line Jeep goodness comes cheap. Base price for the fully loaded Summit 4×4 is $53,70. The EcoDiesel package, which also adds a heavy-duty alternator, heavy-duty brakes, an electronic rear limited slip, and the top-level Quadra-Drive II AWD system, costs another $5,000. My tester also boosted the glam with the Southern California package, adding 20-inch satin-carbon wheels, lots of body-color exterior pieces, and gloss-back and platinum-chrome front grilles. Total cost: $60,575.
That may be a gulp-worthy price tag for a vehicle bearing the Jeep badge, but to its credit the GC Summit justifies that sticker somewhat with a drive that feels thoroughly luxurious and ready for any mission. And if you love the diesel as I do but don’t need all the extras, the engine is available in the GC Limited (and above models), which starts at $38,560.
Well done, Jeep. Now … some more good news: Word is the next-gen, 2017 Wrangler will offer the EcoDiesel/eight-speed auto combo too.
I need to celebrate this long-awaited Jeep development. Somebody get me some Champagne. And a hot dog.
2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4×4 Specifications
|Price:||$53,790/$60,575 (base/as tested)|
|Engine:||3.0L turbocharged DOHC 24-valve diesel V-6/240 hp @ 3,600 rpm, 420 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA Mileage:||21/28 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||189.8 x 76.5 x 63.9 in|
|0-60 MPH:||8.0 sec (est)|
|Top Speed:||115 mph (est)|