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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