The diesel engine’s frugal nature and the fuel’s lower price (in some markets) make it popular choice in Europe. With the rest of the world pinching our pennies, we’re going to start seeing a lot more diesel engines in the U.S.
Unfortunately for the companies bringing these new diesel cars, it may take a little education to get the U.S. to understand the new definition of a diesel engine. Gone are the days of black smoke and high-polluting; in its place is the best fuel economy going. Also gone is the loud rumbling engine; leaving almost no noise in its place. What remains from the old diesel image is the toughness. Diesel engines have fewer moving parts, operate at lower RPMs, and are historically the most reliable kind of engine out there.
One of the great places to have these torque-happy engines are trucks and SUVs. That’s why we’re taking a look at a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4 with a 3.0-liter diesel engine.
There isn’t really anything on the outside that will differentiate a diesel Grand Cherokee from gasoline models. So the look is still unmistakably Jeep.
Jeep takes an idea from Porsche that car design should be evolutionary rather than evolutionary. Our car looks thoroughly modern, but its linage to the first generation from over fifteen years ago is also instantly recognizable. The car has also grown ten inches longer and about four inches wider over the three generations.
Because this is a limited model, we don’t need to add many options. The car already comes with features HID-headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, skid plates, and fog lamps.
Just like the outside, the interior doesn’t change its attitude because of the diesel engine. Instead this is where the Limited trim shows its value. Two-tone leather seats, Boston Acoustics sound system, automatic climate control, sunroof, satellite navigation, power seats, as well as many other features come standard on our car. All the materials feel good to the touch and the contrasting grey tones (known as “dark slate” and “greystone”) match very well. Black instrument inserts and faux wood trim round out the entire package.
This is where the diesel makes the difference. Our Grand Cherokee makes 215 hp and 376 lb-ft. of torque from the 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 engine. While there are other engines in the Jeep lineup that have more horsepower, but the only engine that can top this diesel’s torque is the 420 lb-ft. in the 6.1-liter Grand Cherokee SRT8 . Since that engine is more than double the size of our diesel, it won’t be able to match our 17 MPG city and 22 MPG highway.
One thing that has sometimes made U.S. buyers weary of diesel engines is that they historically been bad for noise and vibration. The case is not true with the new generation of diesels. Our Grand Cherokee idles like its in church. In fact all the perceived stigmas of diesel engines (including waiting for glow plugs and black smoke) are not present in this Jeep.
The diesel is exactly the kind of engine needed for a Jeep that’s going to see time off road. The extra torque over the gas models gives SUV a lot more grunt to pull stumps and get over rocks. On-road the extra torque means the car finds its power fast and makes up for the horsepower difference between the diesel and gas engines.
On-road our Grand Cherokee’s manners are fine and absorbs the bumps without problem. But the real test is off-road because, after all, this is a Jeep. Once this SUV leaves the pavement it comes alive. The suspension has plenty of travel for uneven ground. Jeep makes sure the bodywork has good approach and departure angles for traversing hills. Most importantly, the full-time four-wheel drive system also has a low range feature. This combined with the torque-happy diesel engine make this a great choice for going over large rocks or up steep hills.
We had fun with this Grand Cherokee because we got to throw plenty of things at it including mud, sand, gravel and passengers. The diesel is what makes the difference. The new face of diesel offers MPGs and power without the downfalls of old diesel.
All this luxury and off-road ability doesn’t come cheap. Our Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4 starts at about $40,000, and with extra options like our diesel, we tipped the scales at $43,220. But those who need a Jeep handle everything from people to boulders, and do it in style, will find real value with this Grand Cherokee.