If you're looking for a midsize SUV that's focused on fuel economy, you don't have many options. If you go the hybrid route, there's the Toyota Highlander Hybrid -- and little else. Today's diesel market consists almost entirely of the Volkswagen Touareg TDI. And while a few midsize SUVs offer gas-saving options, the gain in fuel economy usually comes at the expense of horsepower. But for the 2014 model year, Jeep has rolled out a new choice for the fuel-conscious midsize SUV shopper: the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel.
What Is It?
At a quick glance, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel is a lot like any other Grand Cherokee. But under the hood, it's a world apart thanks to a 3-liter turbodiesel V6 that makes 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. While that makes the EcoDiesel less powerful than the gas-powered Grand Cherokee V6, the new engine has more torque than the Hemi-powered Grand Cherokee V8. In other words: It won't feel slow when you put down your foot. It will also return 21 miles per gallon city and 28 mpg highway -- far better than the V6's 17 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.
So the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel offers two main benefits: torque and fuel economy. But with that relatively low power figure, many shoppers may be concerned about how it drives. Our suggestion: Don't be.
That's because the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel drives just like the typical Pentastar-powered Grand Cherokee in most typical driving situations. In fact, it seems even quicker than the traditional V6 in city driving conditions, such as pulling away from a stoplight. Maybe its only drawback is on the highway, where passing can feel a bit labored. But the new 8-speed automatic -- also now standard in the V6 -- helps to take care of that issue.
Of course, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel's main purpose is fuel economy -- and that's where it shines brightest. While the Environmental Protection Agency says it's capable of 28 mpg in 2- or 4-wheel-drive guise, we were able to beat 30 mpg while hypermiling on the highway -- a tactic that involves easing on to the brake and gas while staying at consistent cruising speeds.
But while the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel can save you money at the pump, it's not so wallet-friendly in the showroom. The problem: Jeep charges a $4,500 premium over the V6 engine and $2,300 extra on top of the V8. To make matters worse, the EcoDiesel powerplant isn't offered with the base-level Laredo trim. That means drivers who want diesel have to step up to the luxurious Limited model, making the price of entry more than $41,000 with shipping.
For that money, drivers could have a Highlander Hybrid, which boasts better fuel economy and 3-row seating -- an important feature still not available in the Grand Cherokee. And while the Jeep will be better equipped, the Highlander comes standard with all-wheel drive, which is a pricey option in the Grand Cherokee.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel is a highly capable entry in the world of fuel-efficient SUVs. Unfortunately, it's priced closer to a luxury SUV than a regular midsize model. For drivers who don't mind the $41,000-plus price tag, we suggest adding it to your shopping list. But for those who want to save money at the gas pump and at the dealership, we recommend shopping around.