Chrysler may have gone big with the redesigned 2013 Ram 1500, but when it came time to put together the updated 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Auburn Hills decided to keep things more subdued. As a result, the popular SUV makes do with just a handful of cosmetic changes and several significant powertrain updates.

The big news is the updated fuel economy. Thanks to the addition of an eight-speed automatic as standard equipment, the Grand Cherokee's 3.6-liter V-6's fuel economy gets a bump to 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, an improvement of 1 mpg in the city for the 4x2 models, and a 2 mpg highway improvement for all models. The 5.7-liter V-8-powered model gets a 1 mpg bump in both city and highway fuel economy to 15 mpg city for 4x2 models and 14 mpg for 4x4 models, with highway fuel economy going up to 21 mpg combined. Fuel economy isn't the only thing that improves. Maximum towing capacity on the V-6 model goes up to 6200 pounds, while the bad-boy SRT model goes from an unremarkable 5000 pounds to 7200.

More significant for the 2014 Grand Cherokee's fuel economy is the arrival of the long-awaited diesel model. It's powered by a 3.0-liter, turbodiesel V-6 sourced from Italy's VM Motori that's good for 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, which comes at just 2000 rpm. Like the gasoline models, it's mated to eight-speed automatic. The powertrain combination results in impressive fuel economy figures of 21/30 mpg city/highway for 4x2 models and 20/28 mpg city/highway for 4x4 models. It can also tow up to 7400 pounds. On the technical side, the engine features a 60-degree cylinder bank angle for optimum balance, a high-pressure 29,000 psi common-rail injection system, and a water-cooled turbocharger. It is B5 compliant. It also gets a fluid-based SCR catalyst system to make it Tier II, Bin 5 emissions-compliant, meaning that the diesel Grand Cherokee will for the first time be available in all 50 states.

To optimize efficiency even further, the 2014 Grand Cherokee offers an available Eco Mode. On models equipped with the air suspension, it lowers ride height at speeds above 56 mph and optimizes the transmission's shift schedule. On the Hemi model, it also engages cylinder deactivation more aggressively to save fuel.

That air suspension system, dubbed Quadra-Lift, also gives the driver the choice of three ride-height settings. The normal setting gives the vehicle 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Off-Road 1 lifts the vehicle 1.3 inches for a total of 10 inches of clearance, and Off-Road 2 raises it another 1.3 inches for 11.3 inches of clearance. Aero mode lowers the vehicle 0.6 inches below normal ride height for optimal aerodynamics. The three four-wheel drive systems, Quadra-Drive I, Quadra-Drive II and Quadra-Trac II carry over from 2013, with Quadra-Trac II adding an electronic limited-slip rear differential.

Cosmetically, changes are numerous enough to make the 2014 Grand Cherokee stand out as a new model. Up front, it gets thinner-profile front light clusters with bi-xenon HID headlights and LED driving light surrounds standard on the Overland and new Summit trim, and optional on the Limited trim level. The fog lights have been repositioned and get new surrounds for a more upscale look.

In the back, all 2014 Grand Cherokees get LED taillights, and the Jeep logo on the tailgate is moved up and enlarged as a stand-alone detail. The Summit model adds additional exterior accents in the form of a mesh grille and unique exterior badging. The high-po SRT model gets a menacing blackout grille treatment to help it stand out from its non-performance-oriented siblings.

Interior changes are limited. All 2014 Grand Cherokee models get the stubby T-bar electronic shifter first seen in the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, plus a new three-spoke steering wheel, with the SRT getting a unique flat-bottomed version. All come with paddle shifters. The SRT also receives a launch control feature for optimum power and acceleration.

It all adds up to a seemingly minor yet quite substantial update that should give the Grand Cherokee a significant sales boost. We can't wait to get behind the wheel and on the trail with the 2014 Grand Cherokee, especially the new diesel model. Stay tuned.

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