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Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Jeep Grand Cherokee

You can’t have an SUV competition without a Jeep. Chrysler brought along two Jeeps to play at Mudfest in the luxury and off-road classes. The Grand Cherokee was the luxury entry, glowing with a fresh face, smaller headlights, updated tail lights, and a new infotainment system. Gone is the chrome grille, too, replaced by a body-colored one that retains the iconic seven-slot Jeep design. 

One of the most notable updates to the Grand Cherokee is the available Uconnect Access system, which our well-equipped Overland 4x4 model included. We first saw Uconnect Access in the Dodge Viper at CES 2013, but it’s now making its way to the rest of Chrysler’s line-up. This is a notable evolution because Uconnect Access runs the latest version of QNX's operating system with Web connectivity and mobile Wi-Fi hot spot capabilities.

Uconnect seemed nice from our brief time with it in the Grand Cherokee. But we have a detailed review planned for later. Our testing revealed no compatibility issues with Apple’s Lightning connector or Bluetooth pairing with the HTC Droid DNA. The system read text messages, but did not allow us to send replies, although it supposedly supports this capability. Jeep also includes an SD card reader that lets you play back music or view images. This is a nice addition we wish all cars came with.

The Grand Cherokee we drove had a seven-inch multiview display that replaced the speedometer with an LCD, too.

The Trail Rated Jeep receives power from a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that gets its job done with authority. Chrysler pairs the Hemi with its latest eight-speed automatic transmission, which it says delivers better mileage from the thirsty V8. Our Grand Cherokee came with the optional Off-Road Adventure II group that sends power to all four wheels through Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II 4WD system operating full-time with an electronic limited-slip rear differential. Selec-Terrain traction control enables presets for various driving conditions, including snow, sand, mud, and rock. A low-range gear button is available for those that require 4-low.

On the road test, the Grand Cherokee handled well. It’s a big and heavy SUV, but still responsive. It’s not as sporty as the BMW X1 or X3. However, it maintains great traction for a nearly 5300-pound machine. For our dirt testing, we set the Selec-Terrain system to mud and jacked the air suspension up as high as it’d let us. The results were pleasing. We drove over the ruts, mud, and gravel comfortably with the heated seat and steering wheel warming away. Unfortunately, the Grand Cherokee was not qualified for the hard off-road course, so we didn’t get to really push its off-road prowess.

Other notable features on our well-equipped Overland 4x4 included adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with mitigation, and blind-spot and rear cross path detection.

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Trim levelOverland
Engine5.7 L HEMI V8 with MDS, VVT, Fuel Saver technology
TransmissionEight-speed automatic
DrivetrainQuadra-Drive II
InfotainmentChrysler UConnect Access
Notable featuresAdaptive cruise controlForward collision warning with mitigationBlind spot and rear cross path detectionOff-road Adventure II packageRear-view cameraQuadra-lift air suspension
Fuel economy14 city, 20 highway, 16 combined MPG
MSRP$51,875
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.

    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    10969315 said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.

    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    10969432 said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.

    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    Reply
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.

    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply