The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee can trace its roots to when the merger between Chrysler and Mercedes was still alive and well. As a result, the Grand Cherokee benefits by having its platform and some suspension parts shared with the rock-solid Mercedes-Benz ML. This odd union has created a Grand Cherokee unlike any before it, with a rigid chassis, meticulously tight-fitting body panels and an interior that can finally compete with overseas rivals. To cover all its bases, Jeep gives the Grand Cherokee shopper a choice of potent engines -- including a new turbodiesel V6 -- and three different 4-wheel-drive systems.

Statistics tell us less than 10 percent of SUV owners take their 4x4 vehicles off-road. Most seem quite content with a simple all-wheel-drive system that will get them through snow or aid when pulling a boat up a slippery ramp. So why did Jeep endow the 2013 Grand Cherokee with so much off-road-capable equipment when the numbers say owners will likely never use it? Well, if they didn't, the Grand Cherokee just wouldn't be a Jeep. And, to many owners, it's the ability to go off-road (or through deep snow or loose sand) that draws them to this legendary 5-passenger SUV.

What's New for 2014?

The 2014 Grand Cherokee gets an exterior makeover, a turbodiesel V6 engine, an 8-speed automatic transmission and an updated interior as well.

What We Like

Superior off-road capability; first-rate build and interior quality; good driving dynamics; torquey and fuel-efficient turbodiesel; it's a Jeep

What We Don't

Poor fuel economy with all-wheel drive; no third-row seat; pricey upper-level models; narrow interior

How Much?

$29,790 to $64,190

Fuel Economy

Sporting an 8-speed automatic transmission across the board, the Grand Cherokee starts with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that's good for 290 horsepower and 17 miles per gallon city/25 mpg hwy with rear-wheel drive.

Optional on most models is a new 3.0-liter turbodiesel rated at 240 hp and a serious 420 lb-ft of torque. Efficiency is expected to approach 30 mpg on the highway, but Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimates were not available as of this writing.

The available 5.7-liter V8 pumps out 360 hp but still manages 14 mpg city/22 mpg hwy with rear-wheel drive (14 mpg city/20 mpg hwy with 4-wheel drive).

Finally, the SRT8's extreme 6.4-liter V8 churns out 470 hp and gets a dismal 13 mpg city/19 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee is available in five trim levels -- Laredo, Limited, Overland, Summit and SRT8.

The Laredo ($29,790) might be the entry-level model, but its interior shows no sign of cost-cutting. The dash, door panels and seats are covered in premium materials, and the standard equipment roster looks like some competitors' high-end options lists.

Move to the Limited ($36,790) or Overland ($44,190) trims and the Grand Cherokee offers an interior to rival the best from BMW, Audi or Land Rover. Available features worth noting include a power rear lift gate, heated rear seats, a panoramic glass moon roof, Garmin navigation, adaptive cruise control, front park assist and ventilated front seats.

The Summit ($48,990) comes standard with practically every luxury available, including 20-inch wheels and a 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

The performance-oriented SRT8 ($64,190) boasts a ridiculous 6.4-liter V8 and an array of go-fast goodies, including a lowered suspension that ironically makes this Jeep practically useless off-road.

Options include a rear-seat entertainment system with Blu-ray capability and a towing package.

Safety

The Jeep Grand Cherokee has front-side impact, side curtain airbags, and electronic traction and stability control. Available features include a blind-spot warning system, radar-based Forward Collision Warning and Rear Cross Path Detection system and a brake system that helps dry the rotors when it's wet outside.

In government crash tests, the Grand Cherokee scored four stars out of five, including four stars for frontal protection and five stars for side protection.

Behind the Wheel

On paved roads, the Grand Cherokee delivers a solid driving experience, with excellent marks in ride comfort, handling, acceleration and driver feedback. Its independent rear suspension not only improves the Grand Cherokee's handling, it allows for greater vertical wheel travel when off-roading. Another off-road plus is the Jeep's narrow body, which allows easier maneuvering in tight spots. You can even tow up to 7,400 pounds with the 5.7-liter V8.

The Grand Cherokee can be ordered as a rear-wheel-drive-only vehicle or equipped with one of three 4-wheel-drive systems. Laredo trims feature Quadra-Trac I, which is essentially a permanent all-wheel-drive system. Optional on the Laredo and standard on the Limited and Overland is the Quadra-Trac II system, which features a 2-speed transfer case, hill-descent control and the Selec-Terrain system. V8-equipped Grand Cherokees use the Quadra-Drive II, which adds an electronic limited-slip rear differential. The SRT8 gets its own version of the Selec-Terrain system with settings for Auto, Sport, Tow and Track.

Other Cars to Consider

Ford Edge -- The Edge offers a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine nearly as powerful as the Jeep's V6 and with much better fuel economy. Unlike the Grand Cherokee, the Edge is not a true off-road vehicle, and its tow rating is limited to 3,500 pounds.

Toyota Highlander -- The Highlander isn't off-road capable and doesn't offer the same level of sophistication or the Grand Cherokee's V8 engine. Conversely, the Highlander can seat seven, has superior resale history and offers a high-mileage hybrid model.

Land Rover LR4 -- The Land Rover offers the same advanced off-road technology as the Grand Cherokee, and it carries the added bragging rights of being a luxury SUV. But for less money as a base LR4, you can get a loaded Overland with more features, a better ride, better resale and better fuel economy.

AutoTrader's Advice

If venturing off-road is one reason you're buying a Grand Cherokee, we'd take a turbodiesel model with the optional Quadra-Trac II and Selec-Terrain systems. We'd probably throw in the navigation and upgraded audio systems. If luxury is more important to you than rock climbing, go with the Overland model. We'd avoid the V8 engines (they're just too fuel-thirsty) unless you need to tow large items -- and unless your year-round weather precludes ever seeing snow, we'd also advise against the rear-wheel-drive models. After all, a Jeep is meant for tackling snow and mud, and going off-road. If you're only driving on dry paved roads, plenty of vehicles make better sense (and get better fuel economy) than the Grand Cherokee.

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