SEATLLE, WA, August 8, 2013 — Jeep, a brand that’s about as American as stars and stripes, has come a long way during the past decade ushering in some very worthy vehicles. The 2014 Grand Cherokee “Trail Rated” Overland edition is about as high-end as you can find in a capable, American, off-road worthy SUV.
What is meant by “off-road worthy”? It simply means that unlike many SUVs on the road, it is not a “pavement princess” that ignores serious off-road capability.
This test model is priced at $51,000, which puts it in the premium SUV market but still less pricey than the likes of the Land Rover LR4 and in many ways, just as capable.
What really distinguishes this SUV from the pack is the power from the available HEMI V8, its adjustable height suspension, and overall quality of interior comfort and amenities.
Under the hood there are two engines available, either the default Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 with 290hp/260ft-lb of torque or the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 that develops 360hp and 390lb-ft of torque. Both engines are virtually unchanged from 2013.
Our test model had the V8, which is capable of towing up to 7,200 lbs on this 4×4 version of the Overland. Those who opt for the V6 will be limited to 6,200 lbs — up quite a bit over the 2013 V6 cap at 5,000 lbs, thanks to a new gearbox design.
Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and at the appropriate times. Never did it seem to “hunt around” for the right gear when upshifting or downshifting. This smooth response helps aid the engines in their fuel economy. Put the shifter into Sport mode and the vehicle reacts with more aggressive shift points, which is something fun to finesse.
Jeep bills the V8 as having “fuel saver technology” featuring an “ECO” button on the dash that the driver can enable. However, the huge impact of fuel savings is not necessarily clear. What ECO mode does manage is to deactivate some cylinders on the flat, open road. The EPA rates the Overland with the V8 at 14 mpg around the city and up to 20 mpg on the highway with a combined number of 14 mpg on average.
During our time with it, we saw an average of around 16 mpg.
Jeep’s Quadra-Trac II 4-wheel drive system is at the top of its game, the technology into it is better than ever. As seen in the Land Rover vehicles, Quadra-Trac II has a smart monitoring system that keeps track of wheel spin and automatically adjusts power to the wheels that are getting traction. Combined with the driver-selectable height adjustment the Trac allows Jeep to deliver a good off-road experience.
Quadra-Trac II is augmented by a Selec-Terrain adjustment dial on the middle console. This informs to Quadra-Trac II of what kind of surface the car is driving on; there are options for rock, snow, sand, mud and fully automatic mode.
Inside, Jeep does not disappoint with all the amenities available on the Overland edition. Nappa leather seats, classy stitched leather, cruise control, wood-grain on the steering wheel, heated steering wheel, a large 8.4-inch touch display and heated front seats. It is one of the nicest interiors around in any SUV, much less one that’s as capable off-road.
Overall sound quality from the audio system is very clear and impressive for an SUV of this class. Support for satellite radio, CD, mp3/wma, AM/FM, USB port and Bluetooth audio provide a wide array of source material. It uses a 506-watt amplifier that powers nine speakers, one of which is the subwoofer. Voice commands and Bluetooth are handled by the latest iteration of Uconnect, a system now vastly improved since it first came out a few years ago.
Its on-board navigation system works well, and never came across as delayed or hesitant. While it will still require dealer updates to its maps from time to time, most users should find it easy to use and rather accurate.
Ride quality is also an area that shines. The on-road “feel” was smooth yet adequately firm, as one would expect from a SUV. There wasn’t excessive body roll. Dampening, too, was nearly spot-on. The V8 provided a ton of power right from the start and remained relatively quiet at freeway speeds. Its low-end torque is just what is needed for both towing and going off-road onto trails or rocks.
How does the Overland stack up against its competition? It pretty much crushes it. It’s a better value than Range Rover, offers more power than many of its peers and provides all the luxury and off-road capability that Cherokee lovers have come to appreciate and expect.
There are four models of the Cherokee to consider: Laredo, Limited, Overland and Summit.