In our last episode with the Grand Cherokee, we had the opportunity to drive the EcoDiesel-powered SUV on- and off-road in Texas. We drove the topline Summit in and around Austin and, after a bit of convincing, the guys at Jeep let us take that same Grand Cherokee on a road trip to California.

The day we hit the road, the weather was blustery and cold. We had left Texas' Hill Country fairly early that morning, in the hopes of getting to California as quickly as possible. So it came as no surprise that on day one, driving through small towns (lots of stop-and-go traffic), elevation changes, driving as fast as was safe, and dealing with a nasty headwind, our fuel economy was below the EPA's 21 city/28 highway numbers. We knew we weren't going to get near the vehicle's 730-mile range, but we were still happy with the comfort of traveling hundreds of miles without seeing the needle on the fuel gauge move all that much. The low point for the current fuel economy readout on the gauge was 18.8 mpg; on the other hand, we saw 31.1 mpg on the same gauge later on. Leaving Austin with a full tank, we didn't fill up again until stopping briefly in Pecos, Texas, about 420 miles away, and that tank yielded 19.8 mpg. We covered a lot of ground on the first day, driving more than 800 miles before landing, exhausted, in Willcox, Arizona.

We didn't fill the tank again until the next day, when we stopped in Benson, Arizona. That tank was noticeably better: We had clocked 440 miles, and fuel economy was 23.4 mpg. It may have been that the headwind was not as bad, that there weren't as many elevation changes as on the first tank, or that we were seeing firsthand what it's like when a diesel engine breaks in. That trend continued on the fourth tank. We filled up in Southern California, 544 miles from Benson, and that tank showed a fuel economy of 25.8 mpg. Our overall fuel economy was 22.9 mpg for the trip, which was within the EPA's range, but lower than we had hoped for. Yet looking at the pattern of improving economy with each tank, it may well have continued to go up with each fill-up, if we had gone farther than 1400 miles.

The drive back to California confirmed things we had seen at the introduction in Texas: You can hear some of the diesel engine's noise at idle, but it is better muted at regular speeds, such as when driving in the city or on the freeway. However, it could use a little more noise isolation. There is no question that the Jeep is heavy -- our tester weighed 5401 pounds -- but the 420 lb-ft of torque made climbing hills a breeze. The eight-speed automatic is fantastic; you can use the paddle shifters, but you won't feel a need to. It always seems to be in the right gear. One thing that had been a concern on the Jeep event was that in direct sunlight, it was hard to tell what gear the Grand Cherokee was in by looking at the shifter. That, plus the difficulty getting a feel for what gear the Jeep was in (it is an electronic shifter, without a traditional gate) meant taking extra care when parking and preparing to back up. After a little time, we got it. It's equally difficult to see which option is lit in Selec-Terrain, but that's clearly more of a problem when off-road.

It's very easy to live in the Grand Cherokee for long stretches of time. Considering we filled up after putting more than 400 miles on each tank, which was very conservative on our part, there were times when we didn't get out of the vehicle (and they could've easily been longer). There were plenty of creature comforts that eased the trip, such as several USB ports, the cool Uconnect system, and the on-board Wi-Fi hot spot. We could find meal spots with ease, had plenty of music sources to choose from, and used the Jeep's wireless to surf the web while on the move. The new interior is functional, but is also quite attractive. Jeep may be the first brand out there to use copper as an accent color in the cabin, and it looks good.

Arriving in California, it was time for the second part of the Grand Cherokee's evaluation: at the track. The Jeep was shod in 20x8-inch wheels, wrapped in Goodyear Fortera rubber, and reached 60 mph in 7.8 seconds. It finished the quarter mile in 16.0 seconds at 83.3 mph. Braking from 60 mph took 122 feet. As a reference, the last time we tested a diesel Grand Cherokee was in 2007. That was, of course, before the days of a diesel exhaust fluid tank. Back then, the diesel engine put out 215 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, for a vehicle weighing 4733 pounds. It rode on 17-inch wheels, also wrapped in Goodyear Forteras, went 0-60 in 7.5 seconds, and got through the quarter in 15.7 seconds at 83.5 mph. Braking from 60 took 145 feet in 2007. It's amazing to think that this vehicle gained nearly 670 pounds in 6 years, but a lot has changed in that time, especially when it comes to safety and emissions regulations. It's also worth noting that the 2007 4WD diesel had EPA fuel-economy ratings of 17 mpg city, 22 highway -- a far cry from today's greatly improved numbers.

Jeep continues to take its Grand Cherokee upscale, something it has done with every successive generation. Yes, the sticker price of this topline Summit is $56,990, but it has the best interior materials and design of any Grand Cherokee to date, as well as a slew of luxury amenities. That combination means it has the off-road prowess to keep Jeep fans happy, it has the fuel range to allow drivers to fill up less often, it can tow more than 7000 pounds, and it offers an interior that makes it a valid rival of European diesel SUVs. Those who want a diesel Grand Cherokee, but want to shell out a little less with each monthly payment, can get into a diesel for $40,295 by choosing the Limited trim instead. This is truly a luxury workhorse.


2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4 EcoDiesel
BASE PRICE $51,990
PRICE AS TESTED $56,990
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.0L/240-hp/420-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5401 lb (52/48%)
WHEELBASE 114.8 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 189.8 x 84.8 x 69.3 in
0-60 MPH 7.8 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.0 sec @ 83.3 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 122 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.74 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.8 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 21/28 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 182/137 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.94 lb/mile