• One of Detroit's favorite rides is given a makeover
  • New transmission, new engine, new interior tweaks
  • Looks (a bit) different, sounds (a lot) better

The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee represents a mid-generation revamp for this stalwart of the premium SUV class. Making its debut at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, in comes new technology, new transmission, a new trim level and a new engine choice.

In the center console sits a new 8.4-inch touchscreen, while the instrument cluster is now a user-programmable display. Functions like internet radio, Wi-Fi and voice-to-text are part of Jeep/Chrysler's well-received Uconnect Access infotainment system.

At the very top of this built-in-Detroit range is a new trim level, the aptly named Summit -- joining Laredo, Limited and Overland. The Summit's front seats have heating, ventilation and memory. Joining the leather upholstery is a faux-suede headliner. And the final touch that makes a Grand Cherokee Summit more inviting than the average living room is a 19-speaker, 825-watt Harmon Kardon audio system with surround sound.

All 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee models, including the crazy powerful SRT8, get a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Having two extra ratios (in some cases, three) compared with the outgoing model means more efficiency and better fuel consumption. For example, an all-wheel-drive 2013 GC with the 3.6-liter V6 engine is EPA-rated at 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway. A 2014 equivalent is expected to achieve 17/25 mpg.

Yet its towing capacity has grown by 24 percent to 6,200 pounds. The 5.7-liter V8's towing chops remain the same at a still impressive 7,400 pounds (in rear-drive form).

However, there's a way of getting 21/30 mpg and being able to tow 7,400 pounds. By going down the diesel road. For the first time in the United States, Jeep offers the Grand Cherokee with a 3.0-liter V6 turbocharged diesel engine, dubbed the EcoDiesel. Output is 240 horsepower and a mighty 420 pound-feet of torque.

And torque, that wave of acceleration from low revs, is what diesel engines do best. They're a perfect fit in sport utility vehicles because getting the weight moving is more important than top speed. And Jeep anticipates that even an all-wheel-drive variant will get 20/28 mpg.

Observant Jeep geeks will also notice a slight change to the GC's design for 2014. The upper grille is shorter, the headlamps are thinner and the rear end has a larger, more aerodynamically efficient spoiler. Jeep also claims improved rearward visibility thanks to a redesigned tailgate.

What it means to you: Big picture: Jeep was the number-one SUV seller in the United States in 2012, so that means a relatively healthy company in a recovering economy. Small picture: potential Grand Cherokee buyers have more choice and the reassurance that this could be a smart purchase.

See all Detroit Show News

What do you think of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee? Let us know in the comments below. 

author photo

Colin Ryan has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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