While diesel technology is popular in Europe, it suffers in the US from the old-school perception that it is still noisy, dirty, and unrefined. To the contrary, today’s diesel is as clean and more efficient than many gas-powered engines, while also delivering more low-end, pulling power for practical uses. Some automakers have acknowledged these virtues and implemented diesel power into their vehicle line-ups. Jeep is one of them. Jeep offered one of the first diesel-powered midsize SUVs in the form of the Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD—designed for real off-road capability (unlike the recent spate of meek crossover SUVs designed for suburban use). Unfortunately, the car-buying republic didn’t repond to Jeep’s diesel offering. Chrysler discontinued the diesel option for the North American market, although there are probably quite a few still available on the lots.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been one of America’s quintessential SUVs for more than a decade and a half. It is versatile enough to be everything from a roomy and comfortable family car, to a competent daily driver, to a trail-rated rough-rider, ready to handle outdoor adventure. Its popularity and wide range of use makes it an excellent candidate for diesel power.
Under the hood lies a 3.0-liter V6 Common Rail Turbo Diesel engine (denoted by ‘CRD’), which is built by Mercedes Benz, one of the few other automakers that has been ardently promoting the diesel movement in America. This clean burning powerplant requires the ultra–low sulfur fuel that is now available at most gas stations nationwide. It produces 20 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than standard gas engines, and allows the CRD to be 42-state legal. It does not, however, pass the stringent air quality standards of California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
In terms of efficiency, the Grand Cherokee CRD is 30 percent more efficient than its gas-powered counterpart. EPA ratings for this SUV are 18 city/23 highway, with a combined everyday fuel economy of 20 miles per gallon. That may not cause your jaw to drop, but it is a significant improvement over the standard gas-fueled V8’s expected 14 miles per gallon.
The Grand Cherokee CRD also boasts spirited performance on pavement. It can hustle from 0 to 60 in 7.8 seconds, due to its quick, off-the-line jump and initial acceleration, one of the several benefits diesel power offers with its inherent torque-driven characteristics. For this reason, the Grand Cherokee has a commanding presence in traffic.
And for those who vie for towing and off-pavement capabilities, the Grand Cherokee again does not disappoint. Offering two 4X4 packages, combined with the diesel engine’s axle-twisting 376 pound-feet of torque, the Cherokee CRD can handle high degrees of dirt, sand, mud, and rock, as well as being able to tow up to 7,400 pounds of trailer.
Though the Grand Cherokee CRD’s build-quality is high, it should be noted that the long-standing gas-powered Grand Cherokee has suffered from a spotty repair record. Furthermore, the Jeep brand, overall, is historically known for having reliability issues.
Regardless, The Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD makes a strong case for modern diesel technology on several fronts. Available in three trim levels—Laredo, Limited, and the uplevel Overland—this highly sought-after SUV is now cleaner, greener, and more work-capable than ever.
The exterior of the Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD is identical to its well-known and familiar gas-powered counterpart. It’s defined by the same classic Jeep design cues, like a seven-slot grille and trapezoidal wheel flares. The only discernible differences lay under the hood and in the badging.
There are, however, minor variations between the three individual models (Laredo, Limited, Overland). For instance, the Overland comes equipped with tow hooks and fog lamps.
All CRD models offer standard 17-inch aluminum wheels, roof rack rails, and auto dimming headlamps.
Inside, the Grand Cherokee CRD, is again, no different from the non-diesel version. The cabin is handsome and sophisticated, offering a near-luxury level of comfort. It’s easy to forget that this is a Jeep. Amenities include leather seats with heat, dual-zone climate control, and a premium Boston Acoustics sound system.
The fully loaded Overland model comes standard with Back-up camera, Park Assist, and Navigation. All of these features are optional on the other two trim levels.
But the cabin is configured so that most of the room falls to the front of the cabin. The result is a rear seat that provides space for three, but is short on legroom. And the 60/40 split folding feature is helpful, but doesn’t make up for the limited total cargo capacity of 67.4 cubic feet. Compare that to the much smaller Honda C-RV, which has a total cargo volume of 72.9 cubic feet.
Passenger safety results from six airbags with roll protection sensing.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD is unquestionably a more efficient and economical vehicle than the standard gas-powered version. Despite the higher cost of diesel fuel, the CRD’s 30 percent better fuel economy (18 city/ 23 highway) more than makes up for the premium in price. And as low-sulfur diesel fuel becomes more widespread and available, the inconvenience factor becomes less of an issue.
Furthermore, the additional price for a diesel powertrain in the Grand Cherokee is insignificant compared to the overall advantages. The Laredo CRD is an extra $3,235 over the gas engine, with a base price of $34,420. In the more heavily-equipped Limited model, the CRD overage is $1,655, bringing the base sticker to $38,315. And the top level Overland CRD adds only $1,010 more, starting at $45,145.
For a buyer looking for a refined and capable SUV, the Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD is worth a hard look. For the price, it is a better, more logical choice than virtually all gas-fueled SUVs in its class. Direct competitors are the Volkswagen Touareg TDI, and the upcoming Mercedes Benz Bluetec SUVs, all of which are much loftier in cost.
“Simply put, diesels are awesome.”
Car and Driver
“…true off-road capability, agile on pavement…”
“Jeep has sold over 11,000 diesel-powered Liberty models, and we expect the Grand Cherokee to easily surpass that mark.”