It's definitely a premium SUV, but without a luxury-brand badge. Updated this year, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee keeps improving year after year, and this new Summit trim level is the fanciest one of the group.
It's not the most expensive, mind you; that claim is reserved for the monstrous 470-hp 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Rather, the Summit rounds up almost every feature Jeep has to offer and wraps them up in an elegant yet sporty exterior shape.
Among other things, you get polished 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in P265/50R20 rubber, adaptive bi-xenon headlights and LED driving lights as well as a tasteful array of chromed trim on the bumpers, side sills, grille and mirrors. Our tester looked exceptionally good with its Deep Cherry Red paint job.
With the Summit, you can also choose between three interesting engines. A 290-hp, 3.6L V6 is standard, and that's the one on duty under the hood of the Grand Cherokee Summit we drove. A very nasty yet fuel-swilling 5.7L V8 that develops 360 hp is a no-charge option, while a 3.0L turbo-diesel V6 that belts out 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque is offered at extra charge.
They're all mixed with an eight-speed automatic and get their power sent to the pavement with one of three drivetrains. Quadra-Trac I is a full-time system that requires no driver intervention, and Quadra-Trac II adds a two-speed transfer case and the ability to shift up to 100% of engine power to either the front or the rear wheels.
The Summit gets Quadra-Drive II, which includes an electronic limited-slip differential at the rear and smarter torque split management, and should provide the best off-road capability of the bunch. It's also bundled with the Selec-Terrain system that allows the driver to choose between various types of surfaces for optimal traction.
The Pentastar V6 is a hard worker, providing the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee with swift acceleration and a throaty exhaust note – although the latter is nowhere near as menacing as the HEMI V8's. The compromise is obviously better fuel economy; we averaged 12.5 L/100km, and you can expect at least 25% more with the V8, about 15% less with the turbodiesel V6. The Pentastar-equipped Jeep can also tow up to an impressive 6,200 lbs.
Not only can the Grand Cherokee shine off the beaten path, but its road manners also as impeccable. With a well-controlled ride, great steering feel and a quiet cabin, this Jeep makes road trips so much more enjoyable. The Summit trim also includes Chrysler's recently-introduced air suspension which features five height settings in the Grand Cherokee.
Inside, you get the full complement of luxury-vehicle amenities, such as leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, dual-zone climate control, a power-adjustable steering column and a power panoramic sunroof. While the silver-painted plastic on the centre stack and console doesn't look too upscale, the stitched leatherette dash covering and the porous, genuine wood trim largely compensate.
You also benefit from Chrysler's excellent Uconnect 8.4AN touchscreen infotainment system. Its display is truly responsive and offers big button zones, so it's easy to use and operates quickly. To top things off, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit's 19-speaker, 825-watt harman/kardon sound system should definitely please audiophiles.
On the other hand, I'm not a fan of this Jeep's spring-loaded T-handle gear lever. It's too easy to shift from drive to reverse when you were aiming for park, or from park to neutral when you simply wanted to engage reverse. With a conventional shift gate, you can intuitively manage the lever around without looking, but not this one.
For a midsize SUV, the Grand Cherokee offers a good amount of interior room, even if it's not the most spacious. Cargo volume is slightly better than in other five-passenger SUVs such as the Volkswagen Touareg and the Nissan Murano, but lower than in seven-seat midsizers like the GMC Acadia and the Honda Pilot.
While the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee starts out at an affordable $40K, the Summit edition isn't, retailing at $60,895 before freight and delivery charges. In comparison, a loaded Touareg Execline costs virtually the same, while a Murano Platinum – which isn’t nearly as well equipped – lists for $45,598. For that $60K sum, you could also slip into stripped-down versions of the Porsche Cayenne, the Mercedes-Benz ML 350 and the Audi Q7.
On the other hand, you end up with a Grand Cherokee that leaves no feature behind, that's comfortable for five adults, that can conquer almost any terrain and that provides good performance. And think about this: if you're running a business, or you're in sales and are on the road meeting customers, this Jeep could be the ideal vehicle for you. It's posh enough for people to perceive you as being successful and having good taste, but it lacks that prestige badge that might give your clients the impression that you're making a lot of money, and possibly overcharging them.
Simply put, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the top midsize SUVs you can buy right now.