Back in April of this year I had a very brief drive in the Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel for half an hour or so. I came away thoroughly impressed by its performance and by how quiet it was. I couldn’t wait to see how it would be in everyday driving over the course of a week.
As a brief re-cap, the 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee is Chrysler Group’s first diesel-powered, full-size SUV ever to be offered in North America. Previously only available in European markets, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel delivers a combination of performance and fuel economy. Thanks to Chrysler’s partnership with Daimler, they are able to source the extremely popular Mercedes-Benz V-6 diesel engine as it is offered in Europe. This new clean diesel engine will provide Jeep owners with an increase in low-end torque, an average of 30% better fuel efficiency and a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide (Co2) emissions when compared to an equivalent gasoline engine. Under loads such as towing, diesel engines can provide improvements in fuel economy of up to 40%! For the past couple of years the Jeep Liberty has been available with a 2.8 Litre diesel engine, however, because of tougher new 2007 emission standards it had to be discontinued.
While the North American public only see diesel engines in the Dodge Ram pickups (other than the Jeep Liberty), Chrysler has been offering diesel engines in many other models around the world – among them are the Chrysler 300C, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Compass, as well as the all-new 2007 Dodge Caliber and 2007 Jeep Wrangler. More than 60% of Chrysler Group vehicles sold in Western Europe are diesel-powered.
So why are we North Americans deprived of diesel power in passenger vehicles? While the diesel engines of the late 1970’s and early 80’s were noisy and smelly, newer engines are as quiet as regular gasoline engines. Hopefully, with the introduction of low-sulfur diesel fuel in North America, we’ll see more and more diesel engines available – because these are truly excellent machines. If you’ve never had the opportunity to drive a diesel-powered vehicle, you can’t truly appreciate the torque that is available at incredibly low rpm’s. Think of a Hemi V-8 engine and you’ll kind of get the idea.
“With Daimler/Chrysler’s global leadership in clean diesel technology offered in popular Jeep and Dodge products, we believe we can help expand the consumer popularity of diesel technology throughout Canada” said Reid Bigland, President and Chief Executive Officer of DaimlerChrysler Canada.
Starting the engine was uneventful, with the quiet clatter of the diesel engine being some-what removed. Giving the gas pedal a steady push, I could feel the torque of the diesel engine immediately, and while the sound level increased a little bit – it wasn’t as loud as many gasoline-powered vehicles. Compared to the racket a Chevy Astro minivan makes, the Jeep was downright quiet. The only indication that there was a diesel under the hood was when you worked at getting your speed up – when taking off at a stoplight for example. Driving at regular speeds, the engine was silent, but giving it a bit of gas brings about instantaneous response, and speed increases quickly. Like the Grand Cherokee diesel I tested in April, I found the brakes to be rather touchy and a little overly-boosted, however, they brought the Jeep to a very quick stop with no fuss.
The suspension is tight – certainly, more on the sport-tuned side than other luxury or near-luxury SUV’s. Blasting around a sharp right-hand turn to enter the freeway, the Grand Cherokee was very well balanced and felt solidly planted – almost sporty (oddly enough, a couple of days later it was a completely different story…I’ll explain more later). Stomping on the go pedal brought the clatter of the diesel – a little more prominent, but no more so than a traditional engine that’s being used to its maximum. Getting up to speed was quite effortless, however, the sensation of increasing speed is quite noticeable, and any thoughts of having trouble catching up to cars already on the freeway were put to rest as I blasted past them. Once settling into cruising speed there was no indication that this wasn’t a regular Grand Cherokee.
Inside, similarities continue, and the Grand Cherokee diesel is no different from the regular model. The very comfortable 8-way power-operated leather seats come with a memory function, manual adjustable lumbar and two-stage heated seats that work incredibly well. While I usually appreciate seats with a memory function, I found it to be a bit of an annoyance in the Grand Cherokee. The driver’s seat always slides back when the engine is turned off (to aid exit and entry), so you can’t take full advantage of the cargo capacity – it also makes the rear passenger foot and leg room completely disappear. We found we had to be very careful when loading the vehicle to capacity with all of our photography gear – if we positioned our equipment too close to the driver’s seat we ran the risk of damaging either the seat or the equipment – this is definitely a feature that could use some amendment. The front passenger gets by with a 4-way power seat, but it, unfortunately, doesn’t fold flat for additional cargo space while transporting longer items. Unlike most SUV’s, the Grand Cherokee has a tailgate that allows the rear window to open independently. We found it slightly more difficult than usual to enter and exit the rear seats since the bottom of the door is considerably smaller than a typical door – even those with small feet and short legs found themselves getting caught up in the footwell/ door jam when climbing in and out.
Rear seats fold quickly and easily, and offer a 60/40 split as well as a completely flat floor when folded. Cargo capacity with the seats up is a reasonable 34.5 cu-ft and 67.4 cu-ft with them folded. I measured 32” x 44” x 29” and 69” x 44” x 39” respectively.
For the most part I really enjoyed driving the Grand Cherokee, but on a couple of occasions, it felt a bit unstable. For example: going over railroad tracks – I usually drive over them as fast as possible to see how a vehicle manages them, but on one occasion I was just driving normally and the Jeep actually jumped to the right and shuddered like a convertible. I had to make a concerted effort to stay on the road even though I wasn’t traveling very fast. On another couple of occasions I was driving through the “lovely” city of St Catharines, Ontario (If you ever want to test your suspension – this is the city to do it, but be warned – I’ve bent more than a couple of rims on the pot-holed streets of the “Garden City.”) where the instability of the Grand Cherokee became more apparent with imperfections of the road. I was surprised that the vehicle didn’t seem to take it all in stride, but rather it wobbled. Other than these few occasions I had no issues with the chassis.
The diesel engine and the 5-speed AutoStick transmission combination are truly outstanding. In most cases when an AutoStick (or similar in other vehicles) is available in an SUV, I tend to try it out and then just leave it in normal Drive mode. However, with this diesel engine, I found I utilized it quite often – especially when climbing hills – it works a treat! There are a couple of steep hills to climb en route to my home – in some vehicles it can be a bit of a challenge – but not in the Grand Cherokee – I actually looked forward to it each time! Thanks to the maximum torque of the diesel coming in at 1,600 to 2,800 rpm, it just flew up the hills with not even the slightest of hesitation or loss of momentum. I hope Chrysler/Jeep are motivated to install this engine/transmission into more vehicles in North America, because it doesn’t get any better than this!
Unlike Europe, we here in North America pay a premium for diesel engines over the standard gasoline engine. So how much extra will the diesel Jeep cost over its traditional gasoline counterpart? Surprisingly, not much – In fact with savings versus extra cost, you will break-even in just 2 ½ years (based on only 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometres) per year). The more you drive, the sooner you break-even.
According to Chrysler: “The Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0L Diesel pricing strategy is to offer more value than the competition by delivering 4×4 leadership, a host of safety features, performance, great towing characteristics and good fuel economy. The base model nets the customer a 3.0-litre Mercedes-Benz V-6 turbo-diesel engine in a Jeep Grand Cherokee outfitted with heated leather seats, power sunroof, SIRIUS™ Satellite Radio and Quadra-Drive II, and comes with standard safety equipment such as Electronic Stability Program and side-curtain airbags. The Grand Cherokee Diesel is just $2,010 (Overland Edition) or ($2,855 Limited Edition) over the HEMI®-equipped Grand Cherokee. In Canada, it’s a flat $1,500 Cdn more”
For more information visit: www.Jeep.com or www.Jeep.ca
Bumper To Bumper and powertrain warranty for 3 years/36,000-miles. In Canada, it’s 3 years/60,000 kms Bumper To Bumper, plus a 5-year/100,000 kms powertrain. Roadside assistance is also included for 3 years 60,000 miles [100,000 kms]. Towing capacity is a maximum of 7,400 lbs. (Same as the HEMI V-8)
Usefulness is somewhat limited since the Grand Cherokee is one of the smaller SUV’s available, even though it is a premium SUV. Having said that, my wife didn’t think it would swallow a bunch of stuff that we were transporting, yet it took that with plenty of room leftover. As for carrying passengers, rear seating is quite poor with respect to leg and knee room, and with the floor being quite high, knees ended up closer to the chins of the passengers that I’d find uncomfortable. With almost no foot space for those of larger (size 9+) shoes, it’s not ideal to be relegated to the back seat.
Pricing for the 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel:
Base price: $45,025 [$53,775 Cdn] (Laredo – unique to Canada – starts at $48,510 Cdn)
As tested: $45,025 [$55,805 Cdn]
Destination & Delivery: $695 U.S. / $1,200 Canada
Fuel Consumption: [Diesel Fuel]
The 3.0 Litre V-6 Diesel is listed at 19.6 mpg City [12.0 L/100 km] and 26 mpg Highway [9.0 L/100 km]
I averaged 20.5 mpg [11.5 L/100km] in mostly highway driving.
To help customers determine their actual fuel savings, a calculating tool has been added to www.Jeep.ca . The 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee is also available with a flex-fuel capable 4.7-litre SOHC V8 engine, which gives customers the ability to use a fuel with an 85% concentration of ethanol (E85) in their vehicles.
The benefits of a diesel engine without paying an exorbitant premium for it
Great gas mileage with the added bonus of much cheaper fuel
The Grand Cherokee isn’t exactly a big SUV – it’s actually smaller than the Dodge Nitro inside
Automatic sliding front seat with memory hinders maximizing cargo capacity
Would I Spend My Money On It?
To be perfectly honest – I’m not sure. Rear seat capacity hinders the Grand Cherokee too much for me – otherwise definitely I’d say: Yes.
Back Seat Driver Test: 6 out of 10
It’s reasonably easy to get in and out of, but the door is a little narrow. The seats are comfortable but there’s an extreme shortage of foot, knee and leg room because of the driver’s seat. Head, shoulder and hip room is very good for two, but a squeeze for three.
At the moment there is no competition – remember – it’s a diesel
By The Numbers…
Powertrain: 3.0 Litre Mercedes-Benz V-6 turbo diesel engine, 5-Speed automatic transmission with AutoStick, Quadro Drive II automatic 4WD
Horsepower: 215 @ 3,800 rpm
Torque: 376 @ 1,600 – 2,800 rpm
0 – 60 mph: 8.9 seconds
10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
8 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
10 – Driving Features (Climate Control/Moonroof/SatNav etc.)
8 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
8 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls
8 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish
10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
8 – Ride & Handling
9 – Bang for the $$
9 – Fuel Economy
138 Total / 150
Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text & Images: Iain Shankland
Also Published at: PaddockTalk.com