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Walkaround and Interior
The basic panels on the Grand Cherokee didn't change for 2014 but body-color trim around the wheels and revised door sills clean up the profile view. Front lighting, wheel sizes and styles, and body-end sections vary among the Jeep models. See below for SRT specifics.
Although the same size as its predecessor, the 2014 Grand Cherokee looks a bit trimmer, lighter, cleaner, less inflated. The whole thing flows better and shows you can build a capable looking utility without resorting to excessive fender flaring or-plastic ramp bumpers. The clearances required for off-highway travel front, rear and underneath remain good. Note that some of the critical off-highway dimensions Jeep claims are with the front air dam removed, a few-minute job before you hit the nastier terrain.
The front end utilizes two headlight and two foglight designs, with premium models getting LED running lights and turn-following bi-xenon headlamps. With the black plastic trim on the inside edge we thought Jeep pulled them off the Chrysler 300 but they are unique to the Grand Cherokee.
Jeep's trademark seven-slot grille is now seven slots cut into a panel rather than a single grille, with black slats on most and the Summit's lined with chrome mesh to mimic Bentley and every other pretender. There's plenty of chrome on upper trims, while the entry model's simpler appearance looks more apropos Jeep's mission statement. Some have dark tow hooks, the Overland gets chrome and the Summit doesn't have any.
At the other end all Grand Cherokees get LED-ring taillights that echo the headlights, with clear-lens signals and backup lights that actually help the camera view. Replacing the big broad chrome name strip beneath the window with an inset Jeep badge cut the pudgy factor notably. Rear lighting is very good, the bumper scuff panels vary in color and some models have a nicely integrated cover for the tow hitch.
The hatch is easy to open, powered on higher trim levels but more an advantage for those who can't reach it open or as a convenience than in effort saved as the manual version is easy, also. The glass in the hatch does not open separately as on some utilities. Laredos run a single exhaust outlet while the other models get two, regardless of engine.
The bodywork between the wheels below the door sills is stamped No Step at the rear edge as it looks an inviting place to stand for roof loading. Better to put a foot on the rear tire, on the door scuff plates, or the rear bumper cover.
Everything below the glass on an SRT looks at least a little bit different. Side sills are more aggressive and fenders filled better by 10-inch wide forged alloy wheels (and those filled with big brakes). The lights have darkened housings, the front running lights are strips in the bumper and the chin spoiler is more prominent. A bulging hood has dual air outlets to release heat, and you'll see the hot air wafting out sitting at a traffic light.
At the back a larger hatch spoiler and big black chrome exhaust barrels back up the SRT badge.
The interior has arguably become the most important part of a Grand Cherokee. It's become first and foremost a wagon or sedan replacement, off-road adventurer secondary, a wee conundrum since the best 4WD equipment comes only with the heated leather upholstery.
A price doubling across the range means a base Laredo will neither look nor feel like a top-line Summit inside, but the Laredo has the same five-passenger seating and cargo space. More important, the materials and finishes in the Laredo seem better suited to Jeepin' and don't have the disparity between the Summit's suede-like headliner, stitched dashboard, natural-finish wood, perforated leather and plastic panels on the doors and console sides.
After hours in both, we found no appreciable difference in comfort between Laredo cloth and Summit leather upholstery, the Laredo's cloth absorbing temperature extremes almost as well as the Summit's seat heat/cooling. Space is more than adequate, headroom remains sufficient with either moonroof.
The split-fold rear seats offer slightly less room but anyone less than six feet should fit comfortably. Many of them recline slightly, some are heated, and some have power points and dual USB ports.
Ahead of the driver is a dog-bone shaped instrument panel with conventional rev-counter on one side and fuel level/coolant temperature on the other. Between is a 7-inch configurable display for speed and a host of lesser data, and the only drawback to a digital representation of an analog speedometer is minor needle ratcheting, like a quartz watch's second hand only faster, as it rises and falls. Virtually everything in this display is controlled by steering wheel switches or redundant from the central infotainment screen.
The 8-speed transmission necessitated a change in shifter, now an inverted putter-head on the left of the console. It requires a more delicate touch than the old gated unit, doesn't move from Drive to Neutral as you might at long lights or crossings without the button, and the lighted icons are not easy to see in daylight, so it's better to look at the dash display.
To choose amongst the forward gears, there are now shift paddles, little levers atop the horizontal spokes on the steering wheel. This isn't a new concept but it is joined with audio controls on the back sides of the same spokes so more than once we changed volume or station when we wanted a gear change.
The LED lighting in the cabin works well, to erase the yellow harshness of the old days. There's an optional giant dual-pane panoramic sunroof that opens wide to the sky. So you can see the stars, maybe better than you can see out the windows or through the rearview mirror. The generous windshield pillars, sloped backlight and rear headrests pinch the space for visibility.
The location and operation of things on the center stack, such as the electronic switchbank and HVAC controls, is all good. Chrysler's Uconnect systems, big touch-screen and voice control work quite well, and as a bonus you can engage seat and steering wheel heaters before “OK”-ing the distracted driving warnings.
An SRT comes with most luxuries and features standard (get the 19-speaker sound system because it weighs less than the standard stereo). However, it gets unique, thick-bolster front seats, a really hefty steering wheel (oar-thick on the bottom half), different graphics and finishes, and the displays offer more information catered to the enthusiast driver.
Cargo space is rated at 36 cubic feet with rear seats up and 68 with them folded; add a bit more for longer items over the fold-flat front seat. That's about par for the midsize SUV class, but it's also within a cubic foot of a Ford Escape (34/68) and smaller than a Honda CR-V (37/71), showing that mid-size SUVs don't necessarily have more room than do the compact SUVs.
There's an abundance of storage pockets and bins, including two bins under the cargo floor surrounding the spare. That spare may be a temporary-use model or full-size but you won't have to lie in the snow of mud to get it out.